Since the early 16th century, a tragic and sinister story has weaved its way through western culture and even today in pop culture and science—the legend of a man who makes a pact with the devil and then has to come to terms with the contract he signed. It’s the legend of Johannes Faustus. Faustus makes a deal with the devil to gain more intellectual enlightenment even though he is at the top of his intellectual studies in society’s standards but for some reason, it did not satisfy him. The main logistics of the deal was that the devil would serve Faust while he is alive to help him find this enlightenment and in return Faust would have to give up his soul and be the devil’s servant in hell.
And yet, both versions of Faustus present us with a highly unconventional representation of both the sinner/sorcerer (Faust) and the devil in the figure of Mephistopheles. He is a malevolent force, yet brings about good despite himself. Aware of this, he still performs his duty in Faust’s corruption, and in his eventual salvation (or damnation in later accounts). This devil-as-savior motif is perplexing from the standpoint of traditional Christian doctrine, though it did correspond with contemporary but radical ideas expressed in the writings of William Blake (1757-1827) and Lord Byron (1788-1824). Unsurprisingly, Faustus has a lot of crypto-gnostic underpinnings.
Yet to truly understand the role that Mephistopheles plays in Faust we must look deeper still, into the shadowy light of the alchemical and Gnostic sources that were so influential in the crafting of these legends. Mephistopheles is inextricably connected to the Ouroboros serpent, the alchemical motif of a snake devouring its own tail. We find this in Cleopatra the Alchemist’s Chrysopoeia as well as the Ophite cabalistic-like diagram described by Celsus and Origen. This interpretation not only helps us to understand Mephistopheles’ individual role in the drama of Faust but can shed new light on the entire structure of the Faustian narrative.
But before we explore Mephistopheles, we must examine Faustus himself. Since Faustus has already exhausted the known sciences, he wishes to obtain, with the assistance of Mephistopheles, a complete knowledge of the universe. It is in the black arts that he finds what he believes will satisfy his search for the ultimate gnosis, as well as the power that he believes will accompany it:
These metaphysics of magicians And necromantic books are heavenly; Lines, circles, letters, characters- Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires. O, what a world of profit and delight, Of power, of honor, and omnipotence Is promised to the studious artisan!
Faustus was apparently a historical character who lived in Germany during the early 16th century. A student of divinity, Faustus claimed to have extraordinary powers. In his imagination, he was a necromancer (someone who communicates with the dead) and a practitioner of black magic and sorcery. Although this version of Faustus was nothing more than a braggart and a charlatan, his legend flourished.
The earliest collection of the tales of Faust came in 1587 in an anonymous work titled the Historie of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Dr. John Faustus. The legend was soon picked up by English playwright Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth. According to rumor, Marlowe was an agent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service—much like John Dee, the pious and famous Renassiance man who would engage in various occult operations in channeling “angels”. Marlowe’s version of Faust’s story, the play The Tragicall History of D. Faustus (1604), soon became the model for the many versions of Faust’s story that followed. It is the story of a man who trades his soul to the devil in exchange for a period of ultimate knowledge and power.
The original story of Johannes Faust, was first translated into English by an unknown author in 1592. As it is known that the author of Faustus, Christopher Marlowe studied with English Catholics at Rheims (possibly spying on them), as references are to the Latin Vulgate (also called St. Jerome, after its original translator in the fifth century) and the Catholic Douay-Rheims version. It is also possible that he used the Protestant Geneva Bible, but all the references he makes are to Jerome.
Marlowe’s Faust is not simply a charlatan. He is a tragic hero, a superman, the archetype of the Renaissance man. Where did Marlowe get the idea to depict Faust as a powerful sorcerer whose willingness to do anything for knowledge and power leads him to the dark side? Perhaps from the apocryphal legends of Simon Magus, the first-century magician who challenged God (like Lucifer) and clashed with Peter in magical feats of sorcery. This connection may derive from Simon’s use of the Latin sir-name Faustus, meaning the “favored one,” meaning that he was the “chosen one” to continue John the Baptist’s tradition, according to the Clementine’s.
There were many sources available to Marlowe concerning the life of Simon Magus. Probably the most important was The Golden Legend (Legende Aurea), a popular collection of tales of the saints by the 13th-century archbishop of Genoa, Jacobus de Voragine.
Simon, of course, is portrayed as a sorcerer who fooled Samaria into believing his divine powers and at one point even claimed he was the holy trinity, being the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We already saw in a previous post that, according to Justin Martyr’s Apologia, he went to Rome in the time of Claudius (who was the fourth Emperor of the Roman Empire and ruled between 41 and 54 BCE) and was so convincing at being a God, the nebulous “they” erected a statue to him, under the god “Semo Sancus” being the equivalent to Mithra, Apollo or Helios. He follows Phillip around for a bit before running into Peter and John for trying to bribe them for Holy Spirit power and apostleship (Simony) but those two chastise Simon rather severely before heading back to Jerusalem. But as we’ve already saw in Johnny Mercury, this story seems suspect and reads more like a parody of a Simonian anointing ritual than a genuine account. But, if what Irenaeus says is true about Simon feigning to be the Holy Trinity then this is probably tantamount to blasphemy.
As literary critic Beatrice Daw Brown in Marlow, Faustus, and Simon Magus writes, the careers of the two magicians, Simon Magus and Marlowe’s Faust, follow the same pattern, and their lives have many parallels. Both are extremely powerful sorcerers able to withstand fire, to move objects without touching them and, most importantly, to evoke the spirits of the dead. Both defy God in their own way, Faust with his pact with the Devil and Simon with his arch-heresy of proclaiming himself the Christ and the Standing One. Both travel to Rome, both perform their miracles before the emperor and both have demons at their beck and call. Simon Magus has demons who aid and carry him (shown licking and tormenting him in a relief from the St. Sernin Cathedral in Toulouse, France).
Faust has Mephistopheles, a servant of Lucifer, who gives him the power to do his magical acts. Simon Magus and Faust both attempt to fly, Faust in Venice and Simon at Rome, and both fail.
(Mephistopheles peers menacingly over Faust’s shoulder in the statue from the Villa Borghese in Rome, celebrating Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who penned his own version of the Faust legend.)
Faust like Simon, has a semidivine female companion, who is also named Helen. According to many church fathers, Helena is a reincarnation of Helen of Troy. In the Faust legends, she is also Helen of Troy. In Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and in the famed poetic drama of Goethe, Mephistopheles employs the most beautiful woman in antiquity to seduce Dr. Faust into the occult realms in Faust’s search for wisdom. Thus Marlowe writes:
“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?”
And finally Simon Magus and Faust both meet an inglorious and violent death. Simon Magus tries to fly but crashes to the ground with broken limbs. Faust’s body is found the morning after his pact ends, mangled and torn to pieces.
In Marlowe’s play, Faust’s final soliloquy, the most moving of the entire work, evokes the fall of Simon Magus. In the last hour before his payment comes due, Faust laments:
“The starres move still, time runs, the clocke wil strike, / The deuil wil come, and Faustus must be damned / O Ile leape up to my God: who pulles me downe?”
Faust is also reminiscent of the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost by John Milton. In a way, Eve’s mistake of eating the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil to gain more knowledge is somewhat similar to the Faustian Bargain. First, in both cases, the serpent initialized the interactions with the humans. In later traditions, as in Revelation of St. John the Divine and the Books of Adam and Eve, Satan manifests a form of a snake with Eve and in a dog and a nobleman for Faust. In Paradise Lost, it was more to tempt God’s precious recreations to sin for vengeance. By offering the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Eve did gain knowledge (cabbalists would say sexual knowledge which led to birth and death in the world), but in return, she and Adam were also banished from Garden of Eden for her disobedience to God, in which they were no longer under the rulership of Jehovah and his gods.
In Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled, we wrote:
In Genesis 3:22, Jehovah declares, clearly to other gods (or Elohim divine council found in Psalms 82:1), that “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Jehovah expresses fear, “lest he reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” The creator seems concerned that, with the wisdom they gained from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve will realize that he’s not the only god, and also that, if they gain immortality by eating from the Tree of Life, they will become gods as well, no longer under his control.
In another chapter, we also note:
In mythology, there is an archetypal scenario in which a person travels from one realm to another, and becomes stuck there upon eating the food of the other realm. This happened to the Greek figure of Persephone when she ate the food of the underworld. Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge and it changed the universe, or perhaps it created a new universe, and she became trapped in it. Jesus told us to eat his flesh and drink his blood to live forever in the New Jerusalem (the “Kingdom of God”) after death. In the New Jerusalem everyone drinks of the waters of life from the rivers of Paradise and becomes immortal. So perhaps there are other recipes involving similar ingredients that likewise could affect the universe around you upon consumption.
Satan, according to some interpretations, is God’s firstborn son, who came before Adam. But Adam was his favorite, and when his firstborn son refused to honor his younger brother, God sacrificed or expelled him. Satan embodied the forbidden wisdom that Adam was not allowed to have, and God told him not to eat of that “tree.” Was this “fruit” the product of sexual union? The carnal knowledge that Eve was endowed with, according to the cabalistic legends, came from her having carnal knowledge of the Serpent, which bred Cain (and perhaps others, according to some stories). What happens when a human and a spirit of the chaos realm mate? Better yet, what happens when you eat the child that was born of such a union?
And so, Adam and Eve were sent away and their children would be born with, according to Catholic tradition, the “original sin”. In this sense, the serpent gave Eve what he promised her: knowledge, but Eve did not know that in the end she would become a person under the authority of the Serpent or Satan and entered in a new universe of sex, birth and death (which is symbolized as the Ouroboros) because of her disobedience to God or the Elohim, the angels of order and creation. In Genesis (1:28), it is Adam who originaly has managerial authority over the world and perhaps even the universe:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
John Milton would write in Paradise Lost:
“Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruit / of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste / Brought death into the world, and all our woe” (1.1-5).
As Sherman Hawkins in The Education of Faust points out, “Faustus’s sin is that of Adam – he seeks by knowledge to be as God.” In fact, the Bad Angel that tempts Faustus to pursue the dark arts says:
“Go forward Faustus, in that famous art Wherein all nature’s treasure is contained. Be thou on earth as Jove is in the sky, Lord and commander of these elements!” (Marlowe).
This statement is a parallel for the serpent who tempts Eve by telling her, “God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything both evil and good” (Genesis 3:4-5). Eve and Adam became the followers of the Serpent and yet their relationship is wholly antagonistic as history flows from their deed. This is personified as the “Seed of the Serpent.”
In Gnostic parody accounts, the Serpent was sent by Sophia to awaken Adam and Eve, and in Manichaean accounts, the Serpent was actually an incarnation of Jesus, the Splendor (this is probably connected to John 3:14). According to Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies (V. 14), the Sethians equated the Serpent with the Logos in which it entered the virgin womb and produced the perfect man of Jesus Christ:
The perfect Word of supernal light being therefore assimilated (inform) to the beast, (that is,) the serpent, entered into the defiled womb, having deceived (the womb) through the similitude of the beast itself, in order that (the Word) may loose the chains that encircle the perfect mind which has been begotten amidst impurity of womb by the primal offspring of water, (namely,) serpent, wind, (and) beast. This, he says, is the form of the servant, and this the necessity of the Word of God coming down into the womb of a virgin. But he says it is not sufficient that the Perfect Man, the Word, has entered into the womb of a virgin, and loosed the pangs which were in that darkness.
In Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve was the representation of humanity as they were the first to be created by God. They committed a sin and that is why every infant, according to Orthodox tradition is said have that original stain of sin and have to be baptized because under the laws of God, we are their descendants.
The Faustus story much like Paradise Lost, is about the “temptation” and desire, which is not different from any other human cravings of being more than human. His sinful wish is not different from that of Adam and Eve, only his channels are dissimilar. Faustus conjures up the Devil himself, that is why it is quite doubtful to speak about a real temptation in his situation. We can risk saying that Faustus is already a “fallen angel” or rather a “fallen man” at the beginning of the drama.
The main difference between a sinful human being and a “fallen angel” is in the later one’s incapacity to regret. Both Dr. Faustus (and even Shakespeare’s Macbeth) are in a situation where repentance is almost impossible. Faustus for example is unable to step further to the next station of penitence, namely humiliation. Consequently, he commits the sin of hardening of heart, which is gradually followed by the futile agony of despair. Faustus’ lack of belief in his salvation, his incapacity to regret, which makes him similar to “fallen angels.” Faustus’ free will plays an important role in the tragedy, since if he was predestined to be damned, we would not have any right to speak about tragedy at all.
Mephistopheles makes a vow with the Lord that he himself as the Devil can win the soul of Faust. Many have dealt with the Faust legend dating from Marlowe to Berliez. Faustus was a man who like Shakespeare and Emanuel Swedenborg was well versed in almost every art and science. This story more than likely originates in Job of the Old Testament where Satan challenges Jehovah he can steal the soul of Job.
The Old Testament also condemns the pagan gods of competing religions in the surrounding areas of the Mediterranean. It condemns sacrifice to them, divination and prophecy through those gods, worshiping them, etc. But if you closely scrutinize Yahweh/Jehovah, he operates virtually identically to the pagan gods. He makes pacts with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and Moses: they worship Yahweh in exchange for material blessings on themselves and their descendants. He demands animal sacrifices and burnt sacrifices. He demands submission. He wants temples and altars erected in his honor. And if the descendants of those who originally made the pacts, i.e., the Jews, renege on those pacts, he takes away everything that he has blessed them with and curses them. Sounds an awful lot the Faustian Devil, doesn’t it? Jehovah really isn’t that much different than Faust’s Mephistopheles.
In a sense, Christ’s death on the cross can be considered a “contract” between the Father (according to Marcion is above Jehovah) and Satan for the souls of mankind, signed with Christ’s own blood. This is very much like how Faustus signs his own contract with blood, a contract in which Dr. Faustus is in fact promising his soul to Satan. Mephistopheles tells Faustus that he “must bequeath it solemnly And write a deed of gift with thine own blood, For that security craves Lucifer.”
Marlowe makes the connection between Faustus and Christ again when Faustus says, “Consummatum est!” Here Faustus quotes Christ’s dying words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) when he has signed his own contract with Satan, and in doing so, his contact is compared to Christ’s shed blood on the cross. Images of the alchemical crucified serpent also come to mind. Edmund Siderius in Faust and Alchemy, specifically connects Mephistopheles with the alchemical serpent of the Ophite Gnostics:
In the first part of Faust, Mephistopheles is twice directly connected with the serpent, in the Prolog im Himmel and then in Wald und Höhle. In the Prolog im Himmel he brags that he will quickly return to heaven and declare his victory. No doubt; it’s a short journey anyway.
“/ I’ll win my wager without much delay. / And when I do, then, if I may, / I’ll come back here and boast of my success. / I’ll make him greedy fort he dust, the way / The serpent was, my famous ancestress!”
For Alice Raphael, author of “Goethe and the Philosophers’ Stone”, this is the first indication that we should see Mephistopheles’ role as something other than that of the traditional devil, but rather as that of the Ouroboros in both its destructive as well as constructive qualities. According to her, Goethe knew of the Gnostic Naassenes, or Ophites, probably through Geschichte der Schlangenbrüder by J.L. von Mosheim. As she says, they worshiped the Naas, which in Hebrew was Nachash (serpent) and was the numerological equivalent of Messiah. The serpent as savior motif comes from texts like On the Origin of the World and assorted Manichaean texts. In this regard the Naas was:
“…in primitive times a cult object, later a matriarchal power, and finally a symbol of wisdom. [There is a hidden reference to the Serpent in Faust, Part I] not as the traditional temptress of Genesis, but as ‘Frau Muhme,’ Goethe’s allusion to the female divinity of the Ophites.”
In this scene Mephistopheles describes his motion as circular (from heaven to earth to heaven), and his serpent ancestor’s hunger for dust. On the one hand this could be seen as referring to the bible, yet given his later confession that he seeks to specifically destroy all matter it could instead be interpreted in terms of the Ouroboros’ symbolic role of breaking down matter in the alchemical vessel into prime matter, so that it may be purified.
The next time Mephistopheles makes an appearance alongside a serpent he does so in his role as instigator and agitator of yet more circular action in the play. Faust, after a moment of calm reflection, is yet again driven by the “fire” of desire to pursue the maiden Gretchen for his pleasure. Before he does so, however, he curses Mephistopheles for disturbing his quietude with the insult: “Snake! Snake!”
This in and of itself will come as no surprise, for even in orthodox Christianity the serpent is seen as being a sign of the devil. What is perhaps more telling in this scene is its thematic circularity, a circularity which, when seen in light of the whole work, is a fundamental component of Faust’s redemption. It occurs almost immediately after Faust, in a high point of spiritual reflection, muses to the Erdgeist, the earth spirit:
“You added a companion, who already / Is indispensable to me, although / With one cold mocking breath he can degrade me / In my own eyes, and turn your gifts to nothing.”
The image of the serpent as savior, in the most blatant of alchemical formulations, had already appeared in Goethe’s Das Märchen, published in 1795, thirteen years before the publication of Faust: One. According to Ronald Gray in his text Goethe the Alchemist, Goethe encountered the destructive-creative principle of the Ouroboros in numerous forms. As he says:
“The self-destruction implicit in the rotating serpent was identical with the ‘putrefaction’, or death to self, spoken of elsewhere. Only when man’s lust had completely consumed itself ‘by revolution’ […] could he appear again in his former angelic splendor […]. It was necessary to yield all personal desires and become one with the universe.”
Seen in this light, the excesses that Mephistopheles leads Faust to on Walpurgisnacht can be made sense of in terms of the logic of the Ouroboros, for only when Faust’s lust has consumed itself will he able to become “one with the universe” or “Mr. Microcosm”, his soul purified like alchemical matter through a successive series of decompositions and reconstitution.
We must stop here to comment. In the Hymn of the Pearl, it presents things like the serpent, the sea and Egypt as symbols of worldly bondage. The serpent for the Ophites was a pneumatic symbol, but to the authors of Hymn of the Pearl and the Pistis Sophia, the serpent is presented as an earth-encircling dragon from the original chaos, the ruler or evil principle of this world. This is the same as the Babylonian Tiamat, the chaos-monster slain by Marduk in the history of creation. Hans Jonas in The Gnostic Religion, quotes a little known text called The Acts of Kyriakos and Julita and comments on this situation:
The closest gnostic parallel to our tale is to be found in the Jewish apocryphal Acts of Kyriakos and Julitta (see Reitzenstein, Das iranische Erlosungsmysterium, p. 77), where the prayer of Kyriakos relates, also in the first person, how the hero, sent out by his Mother into the foreign land, the “city of darkness,” after long wandering and passing through the waters of the abyss meets the dragon, the “king of the worms of the earth, whose tail lies in his mouth. This is the serpent that led astray through passions the angels from on high; this is the serpent that led astray the first Adam and expelled him from Paradise. . . .” There too a mystical letter saves him from the serpent and causes him to fulfill his mission.
Egypt as a symbol for the material world is very common in Gnosticism (and beyond it). The biblical story of Israel’s bondage and liberation lent itself admirably to spiritual interpretation of the type the Gnostics liked. But the biblical story is not the only association which qualified Egypt for its allegorical role. From ancient times Egypt had been regarded as the home of the cult of the dead, and therefore the kingdom of Death; this and other features of Egyptian religion, such as its beast-headed gods and the great role of sorcery, inspired the Hebrews and later the Persians with a particular abhorrence and made them see in “Egypt” the embodiment of a demonic principle. The Gnostics then turned this evaluation into their use of Egypt as a symbol for “this world,’* that is, the world of matter, of ignorance, and of perverse religion: “A11 ignorant ones [i.e, those lacking gnosis] are ‘Egyptians,'” states a Peratic dictum quoted by Hippolytus (V. 16. 5).
And so Egypt, being the well-spring and source for Alexandrian mysticism that greatly inspired many Gnostic sects is also (ironically) symbolic of the dark world that all lost souls inhabit. It is this serpent’s circle that we find ourselves entrapped in, as a sort of Eternal Reoccurrence, as the atheist philosopher Nietzsche often wrote about. Again, Edmund Siderius successfully connects the Encircling Serpent with Mephistopheles:
…it is possible to gain a better grasp of Mephistopheles’ role, and where it may have come from. If we see Mephistopheles as the Ouroboros of the Alchemists and Gnostics (and not merely as the Christian Satan) he maintains the traditional associations of the devil, such as destruction, the obsession with the material, fire and the serpent, but gains all the other roles he plays in Faust. The destruction he brings is inextricably bound with creation, which is purified through cycles of fire, be they physical or metaphorical. These cycles tend to be brought about either directly though his catalyzing acts or through pharmakon which share in his inherent ambiguity. It is in this way that Mephistopheles as the Oroborus can serve Faust as Vergil did Dante, allowing him to explore the whole circle of creation: “And with swift steps, yet wise and slow. [Go] [f]rom heaven, through the world, right down to hell”!
So, if Faustus is simply modeled after the Simon Magus myth, then it is Simon, who makes a deal with the Ouroboros for knowledge and occult powers (like Eve and Adam), much like how Paul makes a deal with Satan in 1 Corinthians 5. And as Amanda Myers writes in Biblical Parallels in Marlow’s Faustus, there are parallels between St. Paul and Faustus and even Mephistopheles:
Mephistophilis is first summoned by Dr. Faustus, he quotes St. Paul’s query upon converting to Christianity: “What wouldst thou have me do?” (Holy Acts 4:9). By putting the words of a venerated saint into the mouth of a devil, Marlowe contrasts Paul’s decision to accept Salvation with Faustus’ decision to reject it (O’Brien 4). Later, when Marlowe has Faustus ask, “When Mephistophilis shall stand by me What power can hurt me?” (Marlowe 19), which is an adaptation of Romans 8:31’s “…If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”, he points out the grave error in Faustus’ thinking. By replacing “God” with “Mephistophilis,” Faustus deludes himself into thinking that through a minor devil he could access the omnipotence of God.
The Clementine Homilies (XXXII) also presents many of Simon Magus’ magical abilities which includes shape-shifting into a serpent as well as a goat, reminding us the imagery associated with Baphomet. (Please see our book for more surprising connections between Simon Magus and Baphomet). Simon also has the ability to cast illusory banquets. According to Celsus, Christ could summon banquets and in the medieval grimoires, one can do exactly this by the aid of demons.
Aquila having thus spoken, I Clement inquired: “What, then, are the prodigies that he works?” And they told me that he makes statues walk, and that he rolls himself on the fire, and is not burnt; and sometimes he flies; and he makes loaves of stones; he becomes a serpent; he transforms himself into a goat; he becomes two-faced; he changes himself into gold; he opens lockfast gates; he melts iron; at banquets he produces images of all manner of forms.
The name “Faustus” also belongs to the two twin brothers (Faustus and Faustinianus) as well as the father, of Pope Clement, the supposed author of the Clementines. The name Faustus also is given to a Manichaean Bishop who debates St. Augustine in Confessions and Reply to Faustus the Manichaean over various theological issues, much like how Simon debates Peter in the Clementines.
Throughout the play, Dr. Faustus sins deliberately over and over again. And yet he also doubts his commitment to the devil, but always deliberately and systematically rejects God and reaffirms his contract with Satan:
“What boots it then to think on God or heaven? Away with such vain fancies, and despair Despair in God and trust in Belzebub!”
Faustus’ heart is so hardened that he rejects outright the guidance of the Good Angel, the wise and sympathetic Old Man, and even the warnings of Mephistopheles himself, who describes his own eternal damnation to Faustus:
“Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. Think’st thou that I who saw the face of God And tasted the eternal joys of heaven Am not tormented with ten thousand hells In being deprived of everlasting bliss?”
There is a part in Marlowe’s Faust where Faust asks Mephistopheles how it is possible that a demon can manifest itself on earth, since demons have been condemned to hell, and Mephistopheles explains that earth is merely an extension of hell. This is not so dissimilar to how the Gnostics viewed the world.
“We can say that Faustus makes a choice, and that he is responsible for his choice, but there is in the play a suggestion—sometimes explicit, sometimes only dimly implicit—that Faustus comes to destruction not merely through his own actions but through the actions of a hostile cosmos that entraps him. In this sense, too, there is something of Everyman in Faustus. The story of Adam, for instance, insists on Adam’s culpability; Adam, like Faustus, made himself, rather than God, the center of his existence. And yet, despite the traditional expositions, one cannot entirely suppress the commonsense response that if the Creator knew Adam would fall, the Creator rather than Adam is responsible for the fall; Adam ought to have been created of better stuff.”
But as Amanda Myers reveals, Faustus, in the end, is actually saved—at least in Marlowe’s version:
And just as Jesus forgave the thief on the cross, telling him, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise,” Marlowe provides subtle evidence that Dr. Faustus, too, is saved. Many would find it hard to believe that Faustus could obtain salvation after consciously selling his own soul to the devil, but despite his previous transgressions, “what Faustus has dared or done, seems now irrelevant, because, according to doctrine, he need only repent and have faith to be saved” (Ornstein 1380). And that is exactly what he does. Upon a hasty reading of the play, it would appear that this is not so. The final scene is most commonly interpreted as describing the fulfillment of Faustus’ contract with Satan: as the clock strikes twelve, the devils enter and drag a screaming Faustus away. But a careful reading reveals several instances where Mephistophilis threatens “I’ll in piecemeal tear thy flesh” (Marlowe 73), and Dr. Faustus expresses his fears that the devil will in fact “tear me into pieces if I named God” (Marlowe 77).
What Amanda Myers does not acknowledge is that although Faustus’ final act of repentance nullified his contract with Satan, the Devil is forced to act on his threat to tear Faustus apart:
“His faith is great. I cannot touch his soul. But what I may afflict his body with I will attempt, which is but little worth.”
And so because Faustus finally repented at the 11th hour, such an act will guarantee entrance into paradise. This is very much like how St. Paul inflicts a magical death curse upon a member of his own congregation in 1 Corinthians 5, as we saw in the previous post. And so we come to the end to this sordid tale and realize that it doesn’t take a seminary student to realize Marlow’s Dr. Faustus is still a very powerful work and morality cum tragedy play that reminds its readers to consider their own convictions about the soul, eternity, and God.
The occult legends of Faustus and similar tales associated with Cornelius Agrippa and the Knights Templars with Baphomet may also be compared to the sin of Sophia in the Gnostic Gospels, since occultism, in many ways (as demonstrated in the Faustus story), separates the occultist from God because they are dedicated to gratifying the self or self-worship instead of unifying with God by rendering yourself in obedience to his will. This also seems to the prevalent attitude in Western culture as of 2016, especially in the United States (in various forms)—which indicates to me it is on the verge of cultural collapse. We also see a wide variety of rumors associated with Hollywood celebrities, musicians and gangsta rappers who sell their souls for success to the “Illuminati” and sacrifice the non-compliant as well.
In the Gnostic myth, Sophia wanted to separate from the Monad and be her own goddess, and as a result, she was expunged from the pleroma and birthed the demiurge. Even most of the great Christian occultists throughout history, like Cornelius Agrippa, Eliphas Levi and John Dee, eventually realized this and disowned it. Agrippa makes a chilling renunciation of it all in the vanity of arts and sciences. But fear not, there is still time to reflect on your spiritual life and see the Light. This is what the Holy Grail cycle is ultimately about. Here are some parting words taken from the Apocryphon of John:
And I said to the savior, “Lord, will all the souls then be brought safely into the pure light?”
He answered and said to me,”Great things have arisen in your mind, for it is difficult to explain them to others except to those who are from the immovable race. Those on whom the Spirit of life will descend and (with whom) he will be with the power, they will be saved and become perfect and be worthy of the greatness and be purified in that place from all wickedness and the involvements in evil. Then they have no other care than the incorruption alone, to which they direct their attention from here on, without anger or envy or jealousy or desire and greed of anything. They are not affected by anything except the state of being in the flesh alone, which they bear while looking expectantly for the time when they will be met by the receivers (of the body). Such then are worthy of the imperishable, eternal life and the calling. For they endure everything and bear up under everything, that they may finish the good fight and inherit eternal life.”