Faust is a famous German legend telling the tale of a man who sold his soul to the devil in a deal. The legend has been retold in many forms, in both literary and artistic forms, with the most famous versions being Christopher Marlowe’s and Goethe’s. The story goes as follows:
Faust was a very knowledgeable scholar who grew bored and disappointed of earthly knowledge. To seek more knowledge, he summons the devil, Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles proposes a deal to Faust, suggesting that he will serve Faust with his magical powers and with knowledge beyond this world. In exchange, after a certain amount of time has passed he would seize Faust’s soul and send him to damnation for eternity.
After making this pact, Faust proceeds to satisfy his wants by using the devil’s powers. Eventually he seduces a beautiful, innocent girl by the name of Gretchen, but ends up destroying her life instead of living a happy life with her. However, she is saved by her innocence and ascends to heaven.
Faust, with his term now over and about to burn in the eternal inferno of Hell, is saved by God’s grace via his constant striving. It is also said that his salvation is largely brought on by Gretchen, now a symbol of the Eternal Feminine, pleading to God to save Faust.
Although this is the tale that is familiar in modern times, earlier versions of the Faust story end in damnation, with the devil carrying away Faust’s irrevocably corrupt soul. Faust accepts his sins and his punishments, regretting making a pact with the devil and destroying the life of his beloved Gretchen.
Faust serves to remind us that although every person has a right to be happy and satisfy their wants, there are boundaries that must be followed. By satisfying one’s needs and wants by destroying someone’s life and causing harm, one is subject to eternal punishment.
It is fascinating to see that one could go to such length to attain more knowledge. Is ultimate knowledge worth your soul being damned to eternity? Or is it wiser to accept that the only way to gain true knowledge is by continuously learning and thinking rather than finding a shortcut?