Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Goethe's version of Faust corresponded to the modern enlightenment

Goethe, Poet of Eros

It is well known, that Goethe was heartlessly indifferent to the fate of the nation, and Solon's wise law certainly applied to him. At the time when Germany was threatened with utter defeat under the assault of Napoleon's imperialist war campaigns, Goethe, unmoved, wrote the Affinities, a rather uninteresting piece about an exchange of partners, which appears in a favorable light only in comparison with today's soap operas. In 1811 he was still praising Napoleon, while during the entire scope of the Liberation Wars, he had nothing to say about this most sublime moment in German history, and remained utterly cut off from the general excitement. What was the reason for this coolness toward ideals, for which the heart of every ardent patriot was enflamed?

Goethe is the perfect example of an extraordinarily gifted person, who had the talent to become a genius, but who lacked the moral strength to realize this potential. What stood in his way was, quite simply, his vanity. The beauty of many of his lyric poems is incontestable, but what source does this beauty draw on? It was love, but not in the sense of Agape, but of Eros. According to Goethe's view, informed by his study of antiquity, Eros was the heavenly, productive power of life, the drive for pleasure and pain, to whose impulses one must at once surrender, as if to a higher authority. [...]

That Goethe worked up the legend of Faust in this way, rather than doing it differently, is doubtlessly a reflection of his character, for the story had been known for a good 300 years, and was originally intended to be a comparison with the fall of Lucifer, in which Faust ends in disgrace. In the second part of Faust, Goethe abolishes just this disgrace, saves Faust in a mystical way, and lets Faust challenge God with impunity, and even glorifies the deed.

Goethe's version of Faust thus corresponded directly to the philosophy of the modern enlightenment, but also that of the romantics, which was aimed not only at exterminating the moral influence of the church, but also the image of mankind of so-called German idealism, based on similar principles.

Already in the legendary version, Faust represented intellectually anti-church science and education, a trait which was to become dominant in Goethe's version. Goethe thereby created one of the most crucial points of reference for the gnostic satanism of today, and since then the battle between humanism and scientific materialism, or so-called "pure" science, has taken on many forms. It appeared, though not for the last time, in the form of Nazi ideology against the German classics, but just as much in the form of communism against Christianity.

The crucial point at issue in all of these succeeding forms is that of the image of man and the question of morality in social life, as well as in politics. Either the person is moved by Agape, and acts as a beautiful soul for the improvement of the conditions of mankind, or he lets himself be driven by Eros, and does everything to satisfy his own self-love — even if he has to sell his soul to the devil. How present this problem is, becomes abundantly clear from an interview which the liberal Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany gave on the subject. There still are people, Genscher said, who speak of the Soviet Union as "the Empire of Evil," but the Germans have something Faustian about them in any case, and so they might as well try to make a deal.

The fateful question for the German nation today can indeed be put in the following context: whether we decide, under extremely pecarious circumstances, to enter a Faustian pact with the devil; or whether there is still an echo of the greatness of Schiller among us, and whether moral resistance stirs in us, precisely in these times of need, from which alone that heroic courage can emerge, which is necessary to save a nation which has succumbed.

It is occasion of hope, that the power of love is richer than the poverty of self-love, and we owe it to our Schiller, that we not prove to be a small species in this situation. SCHILLER INSTITUTE Poetry and Agape: Reflections onSchiller and Goethe By Helga Zepp-LaRouche, Chairman, Schiller Institute (1988) Related Articles

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