Relevant to Goethe, Faust, and Science

If you have any relevant quotations, please send them.

Goethe's Faust:

"Faust has been seen as the paradigmatic text of modernity almost since its conception." — Jane Brown (in Shape, Cambridge Comp. Goethe, 84)

"No other literary work since Dante's Divine Comedy provides such a comprehensive and authoritative image for the challenge of individual existence in modern Western culture.  Goethe's Faust serves as a gatway to the full complexity of life in the modern world.  No other literary work offers an equal challenge to readers or such powerful and diverse insight after sustained and sympathetic inquiry." — Cyrus Hamlin (Norton Crit. Ed., Faust, xi)

"Goethe's Faust should be regarded as a companion along life's way, continually challenging productive thought in the ironic and often perverse manner of the devil who accompanies Faust on his ill-fated quest-journey." — Cyrus Hamlin (Norton Crit. Ed., Faust, xii)

"For as long as our culture continues to struggle between religious and scientific conceptions of its own existence Faust will continue to represent our own modernity." — Jane Brown (in Shape, Cambridge Comp. Goethe, 100)

"Goethe's Faust surpasses all others in the richness and depth of its historical perspective, in its moral imagination, its political intelligence, its psychological sensitivity and insight.  It opens up new dimensions in the emerging modern self-awareness that the Faust myth has always explored.  Its sheer immensity, not only in scope and ambition but in genuine vision, led Pushkin to call it “an Iliad of modern life.”" — Marshall Berman (All That's Solid Melts Into Air, 39)

"Goethe's protagonist is representative of modern man who, through science, seeks to subjugate nature and to build up a new economic realm of freedom and prosperity. …  Goethe not only reveals how Faust, the representative modern man, realizes this massive project of economic progress, but also shows the existing and potential dangers associated with it." — H. C. Binswanger (Science, Vol 281, Issue 5377, 640-641, 31 July 1998)

"Goethe's Faust has a relevance for our time that we can scarcely grasp.  Of all the plays written to this day it is, I would argue, the most modern, since it highlights a subject that dominates our age more than any other: the fascination created by the economy. … [Goethe] explains the economy as an alchemical process: the quest for artificial gold.  Out of this quest develops an addiction that ensnares forever the individual who has “sold his soul.”  Whoever fails to understand this alchemy, the message of Goethe's Faust conveys, cannot grasp the gigantic dimension of the modern economy." — H. C. Binswanger (Money and Magic: A Critique of the Modern Economy in the Light of Goethe's Faust, 1)

"Faust is the most recent pillar in that bridge of the spirit which spans the morass of world history … It seems to me that we cannot meditate enough about Faust, for many of the mysteries of the second part are still unfathomed.  Faust is not of this world and therefore it transports you; it it as much the future as the past and therefore the most living present." — C. G. Jung (Letters)

"The real problem, it seemed to me, lay with Mephistopheles, whose whole figure made the deepest impression on me, and who, I vaguely sensed, had a relationship to the mystery of the Mothers.  At any rate Mephistopheles and the great initiation at the end remained for me a wonderful and mysterious experience on the fringes of my conscious world.
    "At last I had found confirmation that there were or had been people who saw evil and its universal power, and—more important—the mysterious role it played in delivering man from darkness and suffering.  To that extent Goethe became, in my eyes, a prophet." — C. G. Jung (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 60)

"The second part of Faust, too, was more than a literary exercise.  It is a link in the Aurea Catena [Golden Chain] which has existed from the beginnings of philosophical alchemy and Gnosticism down to Nietzsche's Zarathustra.  Unpopular, ambiguous, and dangerous, it is a voyage of discovery to the other pole of the world." — C. G. Jung (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 189)

"I regard my work on alchemy as a sign of my inner relationship to Goethe.  Goethe's secret was that he was in the grip of that process of archetypal transformation which has gone on through the centuries.  He regarded his Faust as an opus magnum or divinum.  He called it his “main business,” and his whole life was enacted within the framework of this drama.  Thus, what was alive and active within him was a living substance, a suprapersonal process, the great dream of the mundus archetypus (archetypal world).
    "I myself am haunted by the same dream, and from my eleventh year I have been launched upon a single enterprise which is my “main business.”  My life has been permeated and held together by one idea and one goal: namely, to penetrate into the secret of the personality.  Everything can be explained from this central point, and all my works relate to this one theme." — C. G. Jung (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 206)

"In the days when I first read Faust I could not remotely guess the extent to which Goethe's strange heroic myth was a collective experience and that it prophetically anticipated the fate of the Germans.  Therefore I felt personally implicated, and when Faust, in his hubris and self-inflation, caused the murder of Philemon and Baucis, I felt guilty, quite as if I myself in the past had helped commit the murder of the two old people.  This strange idea alarmed me, and I regarded it as my responsibility to atone for this crime, or to prevent its repetition." — C. G. Jung (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 234)

"Goethe's Faust is a “document of the soul” of major importance for the psychological understanding of modern man.  It is perhaps the central “collective dream” of the Western psyche during the final quarter of the Christian eon. … Faust was Jung's life-long companion.  He identified profoundly with Faust and took Faust's fate upon himself, thus providing a paradigm for others who belong to the Jungian eon." — Edward F. Edinger (Goethe's Faust, 9)

"We are a Faustian age determined to meet the Lord or the Devil before we are done, and the ineluctable ore of the authentic is our only key to the lock." — Norman Mailer (1971)

"To know Goethe's Faust is to know the humanities.  No other poet and no other work of literature present the modern human being better than Goethe and his Faust do." — Donald J. McMillan (Appr. Teach. Goethe's Faust, xi)

Goethe's Philosophy of Science:

"Indeed, if Goethe's approach extends our modern-day vision of nature to include a greater sense of dignity, respect, and purposefulness, so too may it extend our vision of man.  In the words of the physicist Werner Heisenberg, whatever other value we may cull from Goethe's method, “Even today we can still learn from Goethe that we should not let everything else atrophy in favor of the one organ of rational analysis; that it is a matter, rather of seizing upon realiity with all the organs that are given to us, and trusting that this reality will then also reflect the essence of things, the ‘one, the good, and the true.’”" — David Seamon ("Goethe's Approach to the Natural World: Implications for Environmental Theory and Education," 247–8)

More to come!

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Last updated: 2005-02-13.