Just as Faust is about to drink the poison and end his suffering, he has a vision of Easter music sung by a heavenly choir. That music is always there, according to Robert Johnson, but it usually takes a great crisis of the ego before we can actually hear it.
The vision is enough to give Faust pause. Forgetting the poison, he leaves his study to join the festival crowd outdoors. He dances with a peasant girl, drinks a stein of beer and become one with the world once again.
“If you can wait just a little longer when you reach the terrible moment of the dark night of the soul,” Johnson writes, “the Easter music will burst forth.”
Unfortunately, this is the point where suicide is actually common, and it is easy to slip into despair or madness. Our culture has lost most of its guidelines for people at this point in their evolution, Johnson says. But Faust can be used to teach us these guidelines.
In the book, the festival is only a momentary reprieve for Faust. Rather than using this new found energy to grow, Faust instead allows his assistant to call him back to work and he returns to the place from which his descent into despair began.
But this time there is one major difference, as Faust and Wagner reenter the study, a stray black poodle follows them in. The poodle is a physical representation of Faust’s shadow.
“We are conditioned,” Johnson says, “to think that a great vision will bring angelic experience, creativity, delight; it does, but its most salient effect is to constellate the shadow! The conscious hope is for angelic things, peace, love, creativity; but it is the shadow that brings the energy to live as a human being. No one can be anything but a partial being, ravaged by doubt and loneliness, unless he had close contact with his shadow. The shadow consists of those aspects of your character that belong to you but that have not been given any conscious place in your life.”
Assimilating one’s shadow is the art of catching up on those facets of life that have not been lived out adequately, he says. In Faust, the black poodle with its energy and paradox, makes redemption possible.
Setting back to work (a regression to his old way of life) on a new translation of the Gospel according to Saint John, Faust finds change beginning when he realizes that it should read “In the beginning was the Act” rather than “the Word.” Having lived a life of words, Faust now opens himself up to a life of action, which brings about a whole new dimension to his life.
The poodle reacts to this change by racing around the room leaving footprints of flame. It disappears behind the stove and reemerges as Mephistopheles.
“When your shadow finally becomes incarnated,” Johnson writes, “there is often a huge influx of energy.” There is a return to vitality. But this is only the beginning. If the change were complete, then Mephistopheles would not have the need to announce himself as “part of the part which was once whole.”
The story is just beginning, and wholeness cannot be accomplished by going back to an earlier stage of consciousness.
“You must go forward from the Garden of Eden,” Johnson writes, “through the painful time of transformation, to the heavenly Jerusalem, which is a symbol for the wholeness of man restored.”
Next Week: Faust–The Pact