The Second Puer–Homunculus

While Faust was away, Wagner has been busy with his alchemy through which he creates a homunculus or a man the size of a thumb. This is the second puer aeternis, and it has the ability to guide Faust back to ancient Greece where there is no real concept of evil. This means there is no real place for Mephistopheles.

He finally comes up with a concept for ugliness, which is the closest he can get to his own nature and comes along with Faust as a hideous old hag with one tooth and one eye.

Once there, the homunculus, as it is a magical creation of man, explodes when it encounters the Greek idea of beauty. None of our human ideas of beauty and nobility hold up in the face of archetypal beauty, Robert Johnson explains.

The Third Puer–Euphorion

Awakening in ancient Greece, Faust once again seeks out Helen of Troy, the ultimate expression of feminine beauty. This time he is more cautious, and he is allowed a brief marriage with Helen in which they produce a full-grown youth, Euphorion, who is the patron of art.

“His energy can produce inspiration and artistic expression,” Johnson writes. This is now the third appearance of the “eternal boy” or puer aeternis in Faust. Euphoric flies up to the heavens in order to acquire the tools of the poet for Faust. But, like Icarus, he flies to close to the sun and hurtles back to earth.

“The puer has again tried to help,” says Johnson, “but his limitations and his vulnerability to inflation and egocentricity are now clear.”

According to Johnson, it is the universal experience of one on the path to self actualization to grasp at the tools of genius when he encounters these sublime realms. He says that pain often compels us to think, “Nothing personal has worked in my life, so I will write. That will be a realm where I can express myself.”

This is essentially true, but in fact the old self, the three-dimensional man, will always go about this in an egocentric way and therefore doom his efforts. This does not mean that one should not express himself through writing or other forms of art while on the path to wholeness, but rather that one should be aware that the first attempts will be contaminated by the ego, and so will “catch fire and fall into the sea like Euphorion.”

Fortunately, Faust has been learning through his experiences, and now a sublime event occurs. As he embraces Helen of Troy, she slips from his grasp and Mephistopheles whispers to him, “Hold onto her garment, which will carry you above the commonplace.”

Helen vanishes, the great archetypal vision fades, but she has left enough of herself to active the artistic, visionary faculty in Faust. This lesser way of possessing the archetype of beauty is not too much for mortals to bear.

“When you know at what level and in what manner you can relate to the impersonal archetypal world,” Johnson writes, “you are truly safe. Then creation can begin.”

While this may seem but a sliver of your first vision, he says, it is quite enough to bring into the everyday world.

“Many an artist has failed his calling because he refused a limited, less-than-perfect expression of his original vision,” he writes. “A man cannot handle the great artistic tools of boy-god Euphorion, and he many not be able to embrace the superhuman vision of pure beauty, Helen of Troy, but a man can touch Helen’s garment, which is sufficient to bring a small part of his artistic vision into creation. To do more would burn us up in gigantic inflation.”

Next Week: Reclaiming the Land from the Sea