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Faust, Great Sodomite and Necromancer

Ioan P. Couliano The origin of the Faust myth, such as it appears in the Protestant Volksbuch of 1587, is ancient. It is already present in several late antique sources like the novel of Clement of Rome and the legends of Cyprian of Antioch and Theophilus of Adana. On the other hand, the history of Faust's myth continues well after the Volksbuch, both in religion and in literature. Analysing several versions of Faust across the ages, the author intends to evince their religious content and to show that myth is nothing but a hollow narrative pattern which can be filled up at will with the most disparate messages. Consequently, myth should not be envisaged as a semantic, but as a merely narrative category. The Faust Volksbuch of 1587, which is also the first version of the legend and is not a Volksbuch at all, being, on the contrary, the product of a vulgar but learned evangelical compiler, is concocted by the book, being a perfect expression of late 15th century orthodox evangelical theology. Before we discuss the sources of the story and the stereotype of the character of the magician, let us emphasize this usually neglected aspect of the Faust myth: it is originally a typical product of evangelical propaganda. Its main character accumulates the traits of a Renaissance philosopher. He is condemned because he pushes scientific curiosity beyond the limits of immediate necessity, a tendency chastised at every step by the moralizing author, and even better by the Gentleman P.F., the English translator of The Historie of the damnable life, and deserved death of Doctor Iohn Faustus. Had not I desired to know so much, I had not been in this case, says P.F., quoting a Faust who, in the Volksbuch, was less explicit. And elsewhere:
Doctor Faustus...fell to be a kalender maker, by help of his Spirit; and also in short time to be a good Astronomer or Astrologian: he had learned so perfectly of his Spirite the course of the Sunne, Moone, and Starres, that he had the most famous name of all the Mathematicks that lived in his time.

Mephistopheles, his devil servant, means knowledge: knowledge of heaven and earth, of stars and countries, of gods and important men, of Paradise and Hell. Luther himself had fulminated more than once against the scientific exploration of invisible causes:
...Dear friend, let the natural sciences be. If you do not know what power is in every stone, star, piece of wood, animal or any other creature- knowledge that the natural sciences strives for- then be content with what your experience and common knowledge teach you. It is enough for you to know that fire is hot, water cold and wet; that summer's work is different from winter's; and to know how to attend to fields and cattle, house and children; this is enough scientific knowledge for you. For the rest, consider only how you shall come to knowledge of Christ; he will show you yourself, who you are and what you are capable of.

Curiosity, nevertheless, would not be enough to lead Faust to damnation. There has to be some other powerful reason that would explain why a merciful God is so angry with one of His subjects as to throw him in the everlasting fire of Hell. The Volksbuch and the English Historie are very explicit on this point: Faust is damned

because he does not believe in God's forgiveness. Whereas this popular viewpoint does not seem to do justice to Luther's own position concerning the unfathomable problem of predestination, it relects orthodox evangelical theology by the end of the 16th century. As a matter of fact, in December 1525, Luther replied to the treatise De libero arbitrio of the humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam, published earlier during the same year, through a polemic work bearing the suggestive title De servo arbitrio. Echoing Augustine, Luther states that man is beforehand chosen, by a mysterious divine verdict, to belong either to the numerus praedestinatorum, which is equal to the number of the fallen angels and thus restricted, or to the unlimited massa perditionis. Man being necessarily a sinner, his will is necessarily unfree. He has, nevertheless, a certain dispositio ad gratium, and can be transfigured by God's free gift of grace into a new man. From Luther's own viewpoint, Dr. Faust is either condemned or saved from the beginning, and whatever he would do is not enough to change God's secret decision. This is not the perspective of the Volksbuch. Indeed, on this topic, as on several others, orthodox evangelism proceeds from Melanchthon, not from Luther himself. Melanchthon, who was Erasmus' disciple and Luther's closest friend, attempted an aborted conciliation of the two clashing views of the matter. Starting in a Lutheran spirit, he ended up as an almost perfect Erasmian, and thus a Catholic. In 1525, he claimed that the doctrine of predestiation was too obscure and too deeply surrounded by mystery for the simple man of the people to understand. Accordingly, in his Commentary on Colossians of 1527, he made the bold Catholic statement that man has freedom to do good and avoid evil, but this freedom is hindered by the devil: This is important to know, that the people may learn how weak and wretched a man he is who does not seek help from God. In his Apology, printed in April 1531, Melanchthon further emphasized the importance of man, his resistance to God's Word, and his trust in his own power. In order not to confuse simple souls, he declined to write on predestination. So important to him was the tenet of God's forgiveness upon repentance, that he made it into the most basic evangelical dogma in his Repetition of the Augsburg Confession of 1551: I believe in the forgiveness of sins. Melanchthon was apparently wrong in thinking that simple minds could not cope with such a formidable problem as predestination. Simple minds can cope with everything: John Calvin was to give this a brilliant confirmation. In his beautiful essay on Faust, Gilles Quispel has tried to establish a connection between English Calvinism and the theology of Christopher Marlowe's Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faust. The question is whether the Tragical History has a theology of its own. Douglas Cole, discussing the nature of Faust's fall, comes to the conclusion that Marlowe's speculation on sin has an authentically Augustinian flavor and might have been influenced by someone like Peter Baro, the Lady Margaret Professor of Theology at Cambridge during Marlowe's studies there. On the other hand, Marlowe and the person or persons who helped writing the longer version of the Tragical History, do not show any intention of changing the theological framework offered by P.F.'s translation of the Volksbuch, except for two items: the debate between the Good and the Evil Angel, and some obscure

passages suggesting that, according to Mephistopheles, this present world would already be Hell. This is not enough to make of Marlowe a Calvinist. The exact identification of Faust's sin in the play is a debatable matter. D. Cole thinks that his sin is the sin of the angels who want to imitate God's power. So, knowledge after all. Others prefer to speculate upon the sin against the Holy Ghost, which might represent a borrowing from Calvin. According to the latter, this sin without remission consists of choosing against the Christian message, although not being ignorant of it: Illi in Spiritum blasphemare dicuntur: quandoquidem adversus illuminationem (quae opus est Spiritus sancti) lucantur. But this was already Lutheran doctrine. One can trace it back to the Volksbuch and to P.F.'s translation. Marlowe's Faust is not Calvinistic. To make it such, the whole logic of Faust's fall should have been reinterpreted according to the Lutheran doctrine of predestination, kept up by Calvin, indeed made so popular by him that, despite his injunction never to investigate into individual predestination, there are still Dutch communities where people eternally debate whether their neighbors are going to be saved or damned. And they say that this would also explain that utmost mysterious reason why Dutch houses have such big windows and no curtains: this is the only way to show your neighbors that you are rich and well off, and, thus, that you are not damned. Non enim pari conditione creantur omnes: sed aliis vita aeterna, aliis damnatio aeterna praeordinatur. According to Luther's own doctrine and to that of Calvin, Faust had no need of the devil to be damned: God could have damned him as well since times immemorial. Also, whatever he would or would not have done, would not have prevailed upon God's primordial decision. The Calvinist flock, of course, would interpret this doctrine in a petty spirit, showing much rage for order and chastising the slightest deviation within the community. But it was predictable how an educated, faustian, Calvinist could use this doctrine to justify all sorts of abuses. Both the pious, immovable, peasant, and the flying Dutchman with his cargo of African slaves were Calvinists to the same extent. English Puritans and Dutch Calvinists were apparently satisfied with evangelical ideology, as propagated by numerous puppet plays, in which emphasis was laid not on predestination, but on Faust's deadly thirst for forbidden knowledge, symbolized by his compact with Mephistopheles. The mass-success of Faust enhanced the probability that a Catholic author would take over the topic and put it into complete agreement with contemporary theology. After all, as it will soon become apparent, the Catholic church at the beginning of the 17th century was scarcely more favorable to science than the Reformers themselves. Fortunately, it was not an insignificant writer who adapted Faust's legend for the Catholic audience, but Pedro Calderon de la Barca himself (1600-81), the Spanish playwright, who had been educated in the famous Imperial College run by the Jesuits (1609-14). According to modern biographers, Calderon spent the years 1623 to 1625 in the South Netherlands on His Majesty's service. There he probably attended a Faust show set up by some English company. Calderon did not understand either English or Dutch; but what he might have seen was enough to make him establish an erudite connection with the late antique legend of Cyprian, the magician of Antioch, and the enchanting Christian young girl Justina. Both of whom, despite the former's undoubtedly wrong start, ended up as martyrs and saints. More on the play's sources will be said later. For the moment, let us consider the messages conveyed by Calderon to the to the masses: here the Faust myth was put to the service of an

ideology which, though in agreement with the evangelical in so far as the condemnable character of thirst for knowledge was concerned, was far more optimistic and led to an opposite conclusion. As a matter of fact, inspired probably by the contemporary theologian Francisco de Toledo, Calderon knows that the power of the devil is not unlimited: he can well work on human imagination (in this case, on Justina's, in whom he tries to stir up the hellish fires of the senses, subdued by her Christian glacial fervor), but he is never able to influence free will. The example of Justina, triumphant over the demon, is so devastatingly convincing to Cyprian, that the former magician, who had been unable to bring her as far as his bed in view of a carnal union, will climb on a far more uncomfortable log bed, in order to be burnt together with the holy virgin, united to her in all eternity. Faust saved by the holiness of a woman, this message would seem progressive indeed, if it were not implicitly based on the assumption common to the whole epoch, that it is the woman who leads man into temptation. In the case at hand, the solution is homeopathic: a fire is consumed by another fire, the fire of sensuality by the fire of religion. What is common between the variants of the story we have briefly hinted at? Part of the plot, and above all the covenant between Faust/Cyprian and the devil, who tries to arrange the eternal damnation of the former's soul in exchange for worldly goods. In the late Protestant versions, there is a whole range of deeds Faust is able to perform with the aid of Mephistopheles, among which the acquisition of the ghostly body of the gorgeous Helen of Troy. In the Catholic tragedy, the body of the magnificent virgin Justina is the only object coveted by the magician, who is so impressed by her successful resistance to the assaults of the demon, that he gives expression to his admiration for the impregnable lady of his desires by letting himself be burnt at the stake. This plot, that some might (wrongly, I think) call myth, is a hollow scheme serving to convey at least two very distinct messages: 1/ As a result of his unwholesome curiosity, Faust is driven into a compact with the devil and is going to be perpetually damned because of his failure to believe in God's mercy. 2/ As a result of his infatuation with a young girl, the Faustian Cyprian enters a covenant with the demon, who promises to fetch her body to him but fails to do so. He renounces the demon and becomes a convert thanks to the unflinching chastity of the young girl. The two messages contain a common warning, that can be summarized in the following words: Believe in God and stay away from the investigation of nature. By 1637, the year when Calderon's play was shown in the city of Yepes, Protestants and Catholics alike would agree on this basic tenet of religion. The English Puritans would, however, actively encourage pure technology, causing thus a shift in vocational interests whose importance has not been matched ever since by any revolution, not even by the computer revolution. There are several ironies surrounding the Faust legend. One of the most significant of them regards Faust's magical exploits, several of which are borrowed from a tradition concerning a very ambiguous Renaissance monk, the abbot Trithemius of Wurzburg in the Palitinate (1462-1516). Faust is said to have conjured before the emperor Charles V the ghosts of Alexander the Graet and of his paramour and to have shown to some students the fair Helen of Troy, who, obviously, inflamed their hearts. Wherefore a man may see that the Devil

blindeth and enflameth the heart with lust oftentimes, that men fall in love with Harlots, nay even with Furies, which afterward cannot lightly be removed. Later on, Dr. Faustus made the Spirit of fayre Helena of Greece his own Paramour and bedfellow one year before the expiration of the devilish covenant, which was supposed to last 24 years. The apparition of Alexander's lady friend was true to nature to a blotch on her neck. In 1539, Martin Luther already knew of an unnamed magician who had shown the emperor Maximilian the ghost of Alexander the Great. In his Bedenken von der Zauberey, Augustin Lercheimer of Steinfelden (1522-1603) ascribes to Trithemius himself the conjuring of the spirit of Mary, daughter of Charles of Burgundy and late wife of the emperor Maximilian, true to life to the wart on her neck. Moreover, Lercheimer claimed that Trithemius had a demon servant who was able to provide him with a fine meal in a French inn where there was nothing to eat, much to the distress of a German imperial counselor, hungry eyewitness to the miracle. Both the historical Faust and the character of the legend were credited with the capacity to produce exquisite and rare fowl or wine out of nowhere. Where is the irony, then? Our first source on the historical Faust, according to which the latter's name was Georgius Sabellicus and surname Faust iunior, is a letter of 2 April 1507, of the abbot Trithemius to his friend, the astrologer John Virdung of Hasfurt. Trithemius's personality is so complicated for present-day unsophisticated people, that this letter is very difficult to understand. In fact, the abbot was both one of the foremost magicians of his time and one of the most ferocious adversaries of magic. We have analyzed his ambiguities elsewhere. In this particular case, one hesitates whether to attribute Trithemius's contempt for Faust to the witch-hunter or to the professional wizard out to unmask imposture in the field of magic. On the other hand, Trithemius was such a pious Catholic, that several scholars made of him an important forerunner of the Reformation. This might be taken for a joke or a mot d'esprit by those who fail to recognize Reformation for what it is, namely a Catholic fundamentalist trend. It is, nevertheless, the pure truth. Several of Trithemius's friends were gathered into a Brotherhood of Joachim, headed by the Carmelite friar Arnold Bostius of Gent, whose purpose was to defend the idea of the immaculate conception of St Anne. Reformation itself was full of ambiguities. One is astonished to notice that Philip Melanchthon, mentioning Faust's two dogs who were supposed to be demons, does not fail to remember that Agrippa of Nettesheim (1446-1535) also used to carry around the demon in dog's shape. The Protestant physician John Weir, who had been Agrippa's disciple, dismisses the information as pure slander. But the irony is that Melanchthon would contemptuously call Agrippa a swine for being the author of the treatise On the uncertainty and idleness of sciences and techniques. There was hardly by that time a work that would better fit into the spirit of Luther's Reformation, in so far as it disapproved of all forms of knowledge except for that which derives from God's grace. Obviously, this was not likely to please Melanchthon, grand nephew of the Kabbalist Reuchlin-Capnio and a consummate humanist at the age of 21. There were limits to the evangelical antiintellectual rage after all. Thus, Melanchthon, in a sweep, would get rid of Faust for being a sodomite and a necromancer and of Agrippa for being a necromancer and a reformer of the wrong sort. Faustus, which is clearly a pseudonym according to Trithemius, seems to go back

to the historical character himself, who, in adopting this name, was claiming to be young Faustus, i.e., the famous magician Simon of Samaria reborn. If this is so, then it is not surprising that the Volksbuch would ascribe to Faust different episodes from Simon's career, well known down to the 16th century. In particular, according to the Pseudo-Clemtine Recognitions, Simon, a magician well trained in Greek literature, was appointed to the board of the sect of another Samaritan, Dositheus, where he met a woman-fellow Helena-Selene-Luna, and fell in love with her. According to other sources, this female character of noble spiritual lineage had once been Helen of Troy and had been brought out from a brothel by Simon. Different sources also ascribe to Faust the aborted attempt to fly through the air, another episode borrowed from Simon's legend. One should neither dismiss all this information as irrelevant to the case in point, nor overrate it. Actually, its significance is limited to the fact that the learned tradition concerning the archheretic and vile necromancer Simon the Magician, who was supposed to be a contemporary of the apostles, was used by the evangelical compilers to emphasize the wickedness of a nearly contemporary character, Dr. Faust. The term nearly should be emphasized: Faust belongs to a period prior to the Reformation, indeed identifies himself with this period, and the name modern scholars give that period is Renaissance. Through the necromancer Faust, the recent past of the church is condemned, that has allowed so many personalities to be actively engaged in magic. And the church hastens to repent: in 1586, one year before the Vilksbuch was in print, Pope Sixtus V puts a final curse on astrologers in his bull Coeli et Terra Creatuor Deus. It had taken the church 102 years to complete this process of destruction of magic, started in 1484 by the bull Summis desiderantes affectibus of Innocent VIII, famous for being considered in general as the immediate cause of the great witch-craze that actually started only one century later. Pope Innocent, spurred by a zealous troublemaker, Henry Istorius, inquisitor fpr Upper Germany, and worried by the unwholesome astrological predictions concerning the birth of a German religious reformer, loosened this excited bull with the intention to bring things in order in Germany and nowhere else. He could not yet know, by then, that his greatest ally, Martin Luther, was being born. Modern scholars tend to consider the Volksbuch of 1587 as literaty rubbish. Its compiler was nevertheless perceptive enough not to insist on one of the traits the sources almost unanimously ascribed to the historical Faust: that he was a homsexual. It was enough to make him a disreputable necromancer, a vagabond, a quacker, a swindler, a villain and a ghost-lover. One wonders why actually the author would neglect to exploit the theme of his bisexuality. If he deliberately did so, it was a clever move on his part: to frighten the huge audience of the Faust story, he had to be careful enough to leave some room for identification of the man in the street with Faust himself. Making a homosexual of the latter, who was actually famous for being such, would have endangered his message. People might have thought that he was a devious wizard because he was a freak, whereas they were supposed to understand that he was a magician because of an impious and criminal curiosity in the words of Philip Camerarius, Melanchthon's closest friend and biographer. There is no better way to understand Reformation, the greatest turn in the history of modern humankind, than analyzing the Faust-Volksbuch and its derivates. Two of its late antique sources are actually far more significant than the Simon-novel: the

legends of Cyprian of Antioch and Theophilus of Adana. According to a Greek variant of the former, the maiden Justa from Antioch near Daphne hears by chance the winged word of God through the open window, as it was spoken by a deacon nearby. Her father, blessed with a vision of Christ the same night, leads wife and daughter to conversion. This causes the gorgeous virgin, christened Justina, to go frequently to the church. To this effect she has to walk in the streets, something young girls very seldom would do. From this, temptation arises in the soul of the noble man Aglaides, who is not easily convinced that she is betrothed to a certain Jesus Christ and tries to abduct her. The lovely girl defends her own free will with such an energy, that she almost tears her pretender apart: And with her fist she beat his ribs and face black and blue, tore his garments and sent him away conquered. But the young man is stubborn ehough to resort to the talents of the magician Cyprian, whom he pays to capture the virgin by magic. The demon at Cyprian's command causes ardent desire to arise in the veins of Justina. But Christ helps her against the spirit of lust, who is obliged to acknowledge his defeat. The same happens to a stronger demon. As a consequence of all this, Cyprian makes a decision, reasonable by all standards: since Christ is more powerful than the spirits, then it is obviously better to serve him than the latter. In this version, he becomes a bishop after conversion and makes Justina mother of a convent, but this happy ending is inspired by the life of a far better-known Cyprian, bishop of Carthage. The character Aglaides becomes unecessary in other variants, in which Cyprian himself covets the beautiful Justina, burning in the concupiscience of her. The demon, unable to fetch him the actual young girl, transforms himself in her likeness, melting in smoke as soon as Cyprian pronounces the name of Justina. Note that this is an unsophisticated legend, dated by G. Quispel back to approximately 200 CE, but actually datable to those times beyond any chronology when the first Christian young girl felt demonic desire rising in her veins and tried to cope with her anguish by calling Christ, the spiritual lover, to her escue. Legends would tell only about those cases when Christ showed up to help her master her desire, leaving us in complete ignorance as to what would happen when he did not show up. Things are far better documented in so far as Spanish habits in the first half of the 17th century are concerned, when Calderon wrote his version of the legend, inspired by the Faust play. In matters of morality, Spain was undoubtedly the leading country in Europe, and, though most of the innovations that took place over there were eagerly adopted by Protestant countries, some would remain exclusively confined to Iberian soil. Fashion belongs to the former: from Madrid to Amsterdam to Vienna to London, with the exception of Rome, womanly charms are chastised by robes of unequalled strictness in European history, black, longer than the stature, with sleeves longer than the arms, neck and hands being covered by lace. From London to Vienna women are supposed to have an ascetic, male, appearance, to acheive which they would not hesitate to mutilate themselves in various ways. The Spanish recipe to prevent breasts from growing is the most spectacular: as soon as they show up, they are covered with lead plates and kept as flat as a sheet of paper. (Only witches have unleaded breasts and wholesome behinds, appearing attractive by present-day standards and devilish by the standards of the epoch. But one is entitled to assume that males, from judges to monks to torturers to humanists took a secret pleasure in leafing through books

intended to warn against the danger of witchcraft.) Several other methods to keep breasts down, less painful, are used in other parts of Europe-incidentally, in Germany they are still recommended down to the nineteenth century. In France, one case among many became famous because it led to a long polemic on exorcism. Elisabeth de Ranfaing, a young widow of Nancy possessed for seven years (1618-25) by lascivious devils who would speak in tongues (unknown) and move her through the air, had previously felt the urge to mutilate her face and hands because they were desirable and could have led men into temptation. This was the climate in which Faust's story was created, these were the people supposed to get its message. Most of them eagerly did. Before we make the point, let us have a look at the last early example used by the maker of the Volksbuch, the legend of Theophilus of Adana, originally written in Greek between 650 and 850 CE. According to one of its most common versions, Theophilus was a distinguished steward of the church of Adana, second district of Cicilia. At the death of the bishop, under popular pressure, Theophilus was summoned by the metropolitan, in order to be nominated for the vacant seat. Theophilus refused with obstinacy, a fact that some of my illustrious colleagues would interpret as disguised lust for power. Actually, more than one case is known of ascetics who would regard a nomination as the greatest calamity that could befall them. Even a forerunner of Van Gogh circulated in this happy Christian world, the Egyptian monk Ammonios (end 4th century), who cut off one of his ears in order to avoid having to become a bishop. It was the wrong thing to do, since the patriarch ferociously persecuted him and his three brothers for being Origenists, i.e., more ascetic than the church would tolerate. Things did not improve for Theophilus: his humility being exchanged for pride, he was removed from his function, upon which, incited by the demon, he sought out the help of a Jewish necromancer. The story is strongly antisemitic, being a good match to the much later Volksbuch, that inspired Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Theophilus denies Christ and His mother before the devil, and making a written statement and putting wax on it, he sealed it with his own ring. As a result, the next day he is reinstated in his function. But the matter is not left there. God inspired him to repentance and Theophilus fasts for forty days, after which Our Lady appears to him and eventually delivers unto him the covenabt he had made with the devil. Theophilus goes to the bishop and confesses his sin, taking care to indict that execrable and pernicious Jew and sorcerer and to produce the text of the criminal compact. At the end of a glorious mass, Theophilus becomes a saint, his face shining like the sun. Three days after, he dies in peace. These two stories contain the principle motifs occurring in Faust's legend: the use of magical means to obtain what appears to be only the ghost of a coveted woman, and the covenant with the devil. But the similarity of narrative patterns does not fail to unmask profound differences of intention. Thus, the story of Cyprian is using an argument in favor of conversion that was certainly plausible during the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE: evidence showing that Christ is stronger than all the pagan demons, this is enough to lead the magician to conversion. The logic behind this is that a magician should always serve the god who proves to be the most powerful. The use Calderon makes of this story is far subtler. In one of the versions of the play, Justina's name before she is christened is Faustina, i.e., she is a female endowed with such natural beauty that she transforms Cyprian into Faust, a learned scholar into a covetous magician, an operator of desire. This totally antifeministic

stand is, I am afraid, at the very core of the reformation. Expressed in the words of the Hammer of the Witches, it says that woman is an evil of nature endowed with beautiful colors. Only if she is chastised, mutilated to look ugly, duly covered with black cloth from tip to toe, is man able to engage on the path of virtue. Being that here the viewpoint of monks is adopted by the lay world, one could talk, in terms borrowed from Max Weber, of intramundane asceticism. Similarly, Theophilus's story contains, besides the anti-semitic message, a warning against magic and, above all, the idea that repentance (and not ripeness) is all. Faust's legend makes use of a reversed plot leading to an inverse result: after entering the covenant with the devil, Faust fails to repent and therefore is damned. The most common comment on the fact that ancient Christian stories are used in the Volksbuch is that its compiler was certainly a learned man. This is undoubtedly true, but not enough. The Reformation was actually conceived as a restoration of authentic Christian values. People went directly to the sources, exhumed pious examples endowed with the prestige of antiquity. In the beginning there had been lots of magicians and they repented. The same way, Renaissance man, who was essentially a magician, was supposed to be led to repentance by the spirit of the Reformation. Those who resisted this offer impossible to refuse, got either their head turned face backward by the demon and their skin tanned by the fire of hell, or otherwise an attractive tan at the stake. It should be emphasized that this happened on both sides of the Reformation. One of the most famous examples from the Catholic camp concerns the impenitent magician Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), burnt in Rome in February 1600. Giordano Bruno was a perfect Faust: he was a vagabond, a lunatic, excommunicated, a lascivious defrocked monk who believed in magic, practiced and defended it. Had he lived one century earlier, he would most certainly have been a distinguished and respectable Platonic scholar like Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), actively engaged in magic, or a highly influential abbot like Trithemius, whose knowledge of popular magic was probably exceeded by none. At the end of the 16th century, Bruno fitted so perfectly into the pattern of the hated magician, that one would indeed be surprised if he had met a different kind of death. A rapid overview of the Faust materials shows us that, despite similar plots, the meanings carried over by each one of them are very different. A mere analysis of narrative structures is, of course, possible. But it is comparable to the analysis made by an illiterate of different types of carburetors, without knowing what they serve for, how a car works, and, not in the least, what a car is. Are these hollow plot-sequences myths? And, if so, are all myths alike? Someone who would hold the view that myth is a narrative about the origins of the world or parts of it would dismiss the Faust stories as not being myths, But every student of myth knows that there are many myths completely unrelated to any account of creation, that they have many variants, and that the only way to cope with their disconcerting variety is to integrate them into a mythical system whose sequences are differently tuned in to the whole, according to their own semantic potential. The Faust story, implicitly containing a view of creation, is perfectly comparable with this kind of myths. We have been able to show that it has been used as a hollow plot to convey different messages. We have hinted at some of them, and there is more to come. But where is myth in all this? If we

abide by Occam's razor, we should not create unnecessary concepts, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. Having already a plot, and different messages depending on social contexts, why should we use a third category to describe the process? There might be a good reason to do so: because the plot is repeated. Myth is simply tantamount to repetition of a hollow plot conveying different messages. Anthropology is doomed to perpetuate ad infinitem the analysis of the hollow plot, unrelated to any historical context; but it is the foremost task of history to perceive the variation of myth as a result of its being the product of different sets of social concerns and ideas. The converse of this situation is that myth, being a privileged conveyor of social meaning, is also the best tool to decipher the more or less hidden purposes of society. I was compelled too many times to analyze myth as an organic part of a system in fieri, not to know that such a procedure is possible, exciting, and can lead to very important results. But, as Mircea Eliade once wrote, all depends on the scale one uses, and I think that frequent shifts of scale are very important in all historical disciplines. Scale reduction is very sharp in the case of system analysis, like the one I performed on all the myths of dualistic trends that affected Christianity, from Gnosticism to Catharism. We should use it when we can do no better. But we definitely can do better when enough data are available concerning the precise purport of mythical invention. After all, history of religions, history of Christianity as a special religion, are intended to highlight the obscure interaction of the most basic sets of social meaning, relating to the image a society has of itself, of its origin, purpose and ends. In all possible forms of society, those that ever have existed and those that will ever exist,this fundamental human purport is expressed in myth. To this extent, there is no society without religion. And there is no religion that cannot be studied in its historical implications, provided that an intention to study, and maybe some skills, are at hand. After this methodological intermezzo, let us go back to the myth of Faust, i.e., to the repetition of similar narrative patterns used to convey a huge range of variable social messages. The main shift in the interpretation of the Faust-legend is ascribed to G. E. Lessing (1729-81). Only a few fragments remain of his allegedly lost work, and several summaries of tentative plots. Lessing obviously could not understand any more the precise references of the legend to the sinful Renaissance engaged in magical practices and the pious Reformation that chastised it, literally and figuratively. If subsequent ages would understand historical references, there would be no repetition, and, thus, no myth. Myth is precisely based on oblivion. It is not a remedy to oblivion, though, but a mechanism of make-believe intended to establish some perfectly arbitrary and thus illusory continuity in the otherwise tricky and everchanging world. As a typical representative of that set of ideas called Enlightenment, Lessing disagreed with the anti-intellectual attitude of the Reformation. Faust could thus not be damned because of his thirst for knowledge, and the devil, who symbolized knowledge, could not be as black as the pious evangelicals had painted him. This is essentially the message Lessing intended to convey by means of his Faust. Goethe, to mention only the most important author in a whole series that would

constantly reelaborate on Faust, took also, in the second part of his tragedy (published in 1832 shortly after his death), the Catholic stand of having Faust pardoned because of his socially useful works. Albeit reluctant to admit that his play could be reduced to a unique message, Goethe himself had nevertheless underlined two verses uttered by Angels in the Vth act of the second part: Wer immer strebend sich bemuht// Den konnen wir erlosen, in the Everyman translation: Him can we save that tireless strove//Ever to a higher level. This is a very peculiar view of the purpose of man (a completely neurotic view thought C.G. Jung), making perfect sense if one goes back to the strange terms of the covenant between Faust and the Devil: In the Everyman version, somewhat unhappily: If on the bed of sloth I loll contented ever, Then with that moment end my race, Canst thou delude me with thy glazing Self-pleased, to put my grief away, Canst thou my soul with pleasures cozen, Then be that day my life's last day! That is the wager. The verse Im Anfang war die Tat, In the beginning was action' is expressive of the same urge toward unrest. Adolf Hitler, who did not like Goethe, was disposed to forgive him much for the sake of this verse: Ich liebe Goethe nicht. Aber um des einen Wortes willen bin ich bereit ihm vieles nachzuehen: Im Anfang war die Tat. The production of new Fausts is sped up after the turn of the 19th century. No need to summarize here the great work that has been done on 20th century Fausts by Andre Dabezies. Toward World War I, Faust is the national hero of German propaganda: he is der deutche Mensch. With Oswald Spengler, whose book appeared in the ruins of defeated Germany, Faust becomes the incarnation of Western man in general. By that time, Faust's popularity in Germany had reached the bottom, which might explain why the former corporal Hitler disliked Goethe so strongly. After all, faustian Germany had been defeated, which is tantamount to say that Faust had not been pardoned according to Goethe's promise, but damned as in the evangelical Volksbuch. And Hitler did not know to what extent he was going to be caught in the whirlpool of the same myth. After 1919, bitter criticism is bestowed on Goethe's conception from every corner. In particular, his Faust is accused of being the prototype of every crazy self-made man, mobster, doped or ego-tripper. Despite the negative attitude of the Third Reich toward Goethe, Nazi propaganda made Faust again into a national hero. By that time, several socialist Fausts were being born, to culminate with Hanns Eisler's opera of 1952, that failed to obtain the approval of the party bosses of the German Democratic Republic for not being nationalistic enough. This example shows that Communism is probably the greatest present day myth-maker, through the emphasis it lays on continuity, even when this is in flagrant contradiction with historical reality. It would be, of course, far easier to decipher the overt messages of ideological literature around and about Faust. But this would add nothing to what we already know, i.e., that the hollow plot can be put to any imaginable use, and Faust can be anything, from a pimp to a benefactor of humanity. On the contrary, the subtlest

Faust story of modern times, Thomas Mann's novel Doktor Faustus (1947), is challenging for several reasons, one of which consists of the multiple reading of its orchestration. The birth of the novel is fascinating in itself. Thomas Mann took two German composers and a philosopher of the nineteenth century, the three of which had been marked both by genius and by the unhappy ending of their lives, due to the progression of the same disease: syphilis. Robert Schumann (1810-1856) got the infection at 19, his insanity became patent 25 years later, in 1854. Friedrich Nietzche (1844-1900), unsuspiciously dragged along by a practical joker to a brothel in 1865, would belong, according to his biographer Paul Deussen, to those who never touched a woman, mulierem nunquam attigit. It is however probable that his legitimate curiosity brought him again to the brothel not after 1866, bearing unfortunate fruits by 1889, when the philosopher of the Ubermensch, shedding bitter tears, took the defense of a horse savagely beaten by his master: 23 years after. A third case, whose incubation period was not investigated by Mann, was that of the composer Hugo Wolf (1860-1903), whose dark years started in Vienna in 1897. According to a famous episode of the Volksbuch of 1587, the covenant signed by Faust with its blood gives him 24 years during which the devil is going to be at his disposal. In the materials pertaining to the birth of the novel, Thomas Mann notes: The 24 devilish years (Teufelsjahre) of Faust correspond to the incubation period of syphilitic paralysis. In the whole history of the Faust myth, Thomas Mann's product is undoubtedly the most ambiguous, or to put it in other words, polysemantic. From his Hungarian admirer Karoly Kerenyi, who belonged to Carl Gustav Jung's circle, Thomas Mann had probably learned that myth is a bud that never blooms. Adrian Leverkuhn's life history is a blending of Nietzche's and Wolf's with some Schumann added; but it is also the history of faustian Germany whose covenant with the Nazi party led first to enthusiasm and then to disaster. Despite the conventional narrative, written from the viewpoint of a biographer having ostensibly nothing of an artist about himself, the reader soon gets confused by the many facets of irony and parody, to the point that, indeed, the myth of genius paid for through awful suffering reveals itself as a bud whose meaning never comes to full blossom. Many critics attacked Mann's vision for being anti-German, others reproached it unwholesome pessimism. And yet, this supposes an identification of both the reader and the author with the fictitious character of the biographer, Serenus zeitblom. It is according to the latter that both his friend and Germany had been sold by the devil some great time of jubilation, followed by folly and catastrophe. Leverkuhn is unable to express his own viewpoint, but many of the lesser culprits of the Nazi adventure were still left to say that they regret nothing. After all, what both the artistic genius and the world conqueror had got was not mere time (bloss so Zeit); it was great time, a hell of a time, in which one gets high up and beyond. All past and present, actual or alleged damnations of Western man come to an explicit or implicit expression in Mann's Faust, from dope to the dark, generous prostitute with a big mouth, Hetaera Esmeralda, whose infectious disease comes in to tell the most profound message of the novel and one of its possible epitomes: that all beauty is poisonous. But is it? Is Christ more powerful than the demons? Is man's repentance enough to bring about salvation?

Is thirst for knowledge the greatest danger for humankind? Is denial of God's mercy the greatest possible sin? Are incessant activity and hasty social work so greatly appreciated by God, i.e., by that supreme instance that gives a sense to the world's existence? Or is this pure neurosis? Is Germany great? Is beauty poisonous? The answers are up to the reader. Suffice it to say that the myth of Faust replied many times with yes and many times with no to all these questions and other hundreds or maybe thousands of them. One is amazed how much can be achieved by means of a hollow plot. All this is mythical activity, and there is undoubtedly much need for it, since Faust's story has been resumed so many times, and in so many contexts, from 1587, no from approximately 200 AD, to date. At the very moment I am concluding these pages, new Fausts are being born, perhaps too many of them. Maybe a Faust movie is being made, a play, an opera, a novel or a poem. What is myth in all this tireless striving? In current research, myth is supposed to be a piece of narrative occurring in many variants. This pragmatic approach cuts only too easily the knot of logical contradiction when it says that there is a myth and there are variants: actually, there are only variants, myth is a non-entity. Being rather a plot, it is neither the totality of its variants, nor the elements they have in common, nor a basic tale, as the misguided sometimes believe. Myth has, at all levels, a dim, puzzling, existence, somehow like that of subatomic particles, unseizable for being far quicker than thought, indeed, some say, dependent in some mysterious way on the observer's thinking. Myth is rather a will to repeat a piece of narrative submitted to continuous reinterpretation, even in the happy case that it is transmitted in its integrality and unchanged through the ages, like the Vedas or the Torah. It is neither the narrative itself, nor its multifarious, everchanging, semantic rearrangements and readjustments. In the case in point, a reformed branch of an old religion is in need of a powerful means of propaganda intended to emphasize its worldview, characterized by intramundane asceticism, and to evince as well its allegiance to the original spirit of the old religion, to the pure, uncontaminated beginnings of the latter. This will to show continuity is myth, and, by 1587, there is a myth of Faust, which is not to be identified with the Volksbuch, or with the late antique materials melted into the narrative. Using the hollow plot forged at the end of the 16th century, thousands of reinterpretations have been invented ever since. Not one of them is, strictly speaking, myth, nor is their totality. In all these changing appearances, myth is looming but never blooming. Consequently, there is no describable myth of Faust: but there is a will to make the Faust story into a myth, into a recurrent plot that, despite the completely divergent messages it conveys, is intended to show that there is continuity in the world. Though many will find this view of the matter repellant, some might agree with its

applicability to Christian and Western history of ideas in general, but will probably deny its validity as far as non-Western myth is concerned. I will take the risk to disappoint them by saying that the dynamic view of myth as a process as opposed to its current interpretation as a narrative applies, according to me, to all myths, without any exception, since all myths are involved in continuous social changes. This complex phenomenon is far better observable in the case of Western religious history, the latter being inevitable better documented and better studied than any other. It is also obvious that changes in western ideas are far faster than those occurring in other places, for which it is a wrong but by no means unintelligent assumption to believe that Western man is more faustian than others or simply faustian while others are not. Now, I do not mean to say that there is no danger and deception looming in the West's devastating velocity. But the situation is too complex to make any prediction about its future developments.