Love And Form
Faust learned that a kinship existed between power and the word.
Likewise, he had to learn that there existed a kinship between love,
beauty, and form. For Faust, sensuality was never an end in itself,
and because of that, Gretchen’s love was his reward. Seeking a higher
ideal, and lifted by sensuality into a real and penetrating love,
Faust found temporary happiness. Unfortunately, he made mistakes along the way; mistakes that contributed to the deaths of his beloved
Gretchen and the child that he conceived with her. Out of that
tragedy, Faust learned the difference between love and sensuality,
and, if one were to ask Mephistopheles, his participation in that
tragedy earned him a place in Hell.
The condemnation of Faust was–and remains, arguable. Knowledge is not free, and the death of Gretchen and her baby was an extreme example of just how unjust the price of knowledge can sometimes be. After that major tragedy, Faust was transported (we are not told by what magic) to the Greek Classical Period; there, he met and fell in love with Helen of Troy. The first time he set eyes on Helen, she was a captive enemy being lead away by the victorious Greeks after the sack of Troy. Helen’s beauty went to the core of her very being. She was proud, but not too proud. She was nobody’s prisoner; restricted by circumstances, yes, but never bowed. She represented human dignity at its highest level. Faust was totally smitten by her comely presence and beauty. He fell straight away in love with her, but when he reached out for her she vanished into thin air, and, thus began Faust’s quest for a love that would deliver him unto that place where love, beauty, and form merge. In order to find Helen, and get to that place, Faust had to pay a visit to the mythical Mothers.
The Mothers were mysterious and terrifying. They practiced magic and, best I could tell from the reading, they were like witches, but not of this world. Many had encountered the Mothers, but only those
who could endure total resignation survived to tell the story. A pure
heart and absolute sincerity were required to survive. For Faust,
going to the Mothers, was his only chance to find and win Helen. Failure in this quest meant certain death, but Faust was not deterred.
Mephistopheles could not accompany Faust to the Mothers. In the Devil’s bag of tricks, resignation was eternally absent. Upon Faust’s successful return, Mephistopheles influence over Faust greatly diminished. Before the Mothers, the two were comrades, although reluctant ones, and after the Mothers, a gaping distance separated them. “In your nothingness I hope to find everything,” said Faust to Mephistopheles, and so it was; after the Mothers, Faust became free to follow his own instincts.
Faust was stronger and more determined now. He also acquired the
information he needed to find Helen. Faust’s Mothers encounter, and
Goethe’s lack of description of it, I suppose was meant to allow one’s
imagination to fill in the blanks. The Mothers experience permanently
changed Faust, and Heidegger, I believe, offers up an answer to why!
When one confronts his/her non-relational, not to be outstripped, possibility of Dasein (the anticipation of death), one becomes free for resoluteness. After the Mothers experience, Faust became free from Mephistopheles, and in that freedom, it seems to me, he discovered his authenticity. Acting authentically, acting as if each breath was a final breath, Faust was able to look deep into the conditional nature of care and free himself from Mephistopheles. However, before Faust could deny care’s relational nature (one’s attachment to desire), before he could totally abandon Mephistopheles, he had to learn an additional lesson. One must find his/her work and do it! That lesson was a hard one for Faust to learn, but it was even harder for him to learn that it was not enough to do the work; how one did his/her work was just as important. In other words—“When does the means justify the ends?”