To recap, because it has been a couple of weeks: Don Quixote, as the simple man, enjoys his secure relationship to life until he realizes, near death, that it has all been a fantasy. Hamlet, the 3-dimensional man, is worried, anxious, driven, and deeply unhappy. As he dies, he realizes that had he faced his problems, his shadows, he might have ended life differently.
Faust, which is basically a thinly disguised autobiography by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is about the enlightenment of the the three-dimensional man. Hamlet refused to deal with his shadow or the dark side of his life. Faust, on the other hand, chooses to interact with his shadow, in this case represented by Mephistopheles, until they both have been redeemed.
A lá the Book of Job, Faust begins with a wager between God and The Devil. The Devil wishes to divert Faust from “the path that is true and fit.” God maintains that that “Faust will not succumb to your temptations. He will stay true.” The Devil thinks not.
We find Faust, at the beginning of the book, despairing because he has reached the pinnacle of his success, and finds himself alone and his life meaningless.
“Goethe once commented,” Robert A. Johnson writes, “that if a man raises his head to the stars, then the clouds play with his feet. When one’s ‘reality function–the ‘feet-on-the-ground’ ability–is threatened, an encounter with the dark side, Mephistopheles, is the corrective.”
Faust has always feared that he would reach this point, and had kept, in the back of his desk drawer, a vial of poison, to end the pain of loneliness and meaninglessness. Having explored discipline and self-consciousness only to find them a dead end, Johnson says, Faust must make the next step in his evolution.
“This exploration is absolutely essential in one’s evolution,” Johnson writes, “and the man who has not trodden that road is not eligible for the moment of despair that is also the moment of redemption and enlightenment.”
This is the “Dark Night of the Soul,” the experience of the intelligent man who has reached the goal of modern consciousness. Johnson says only the best men reach this point.
“Lesser men take refuge in guilt at their inadequacy, or blame their environment, or find yet another set of windmills to vanquish,” he writes, “anything but face the terror of seeing that three-dimensional consciousness is not bearable, no matter how finely developed it is.”
Once the ego-centered man realizes his failure, he can go on to redeem that failure. A genius might find the process inspirational, Johnson says, but for most of us who reach this point, it is pure torture. But, if you can reach this point, and it doesn’t break your life, you may wrestle with your shadows and find redemption.
Next Week: Faust–The Black Poodle