Despite the fact that the name of Faust was overgrown with a huge number of legends and myths, both oral and literary, such a person existed in real life. Was Faust a powerful sorcerer who sold the soul to the devil, or simply a charlatan? Data on the life of historical Faust is extremely scarce.
He was born, apparently, around 1480 in the city of Knittlingen. Later, with the help of Franz von Sickingen, he received the teacher’s place in Kreutnach, but was forced to flee from there because of the persecution of his fellow citizens.
As a warlock and astrologer, he traveled around Europe, posing as a great scientist. In 1507, the Alchemist and philosopher Tritemius wrote in his message to Johann Virdung, the court astrologer of the courtesan of Palatine:
It is said that Master George Sabellikus, Faust Jr., a necromancy deposit, an astrologer, a successful magician, a palmist, an airman, a pyromancer and a successful hydromancer, argued that the miracles that Christ did were not so surprising, and that he himself was able to repeat everything this. Meanwhile, the teacher’s place was vacated, and he was appointed to the position of Franz von Sickingen’s patronage.
The letter of Tritemia is interesting not only by mentioning Faust and comparing his deeds with the deeds of Christ, but also by the fact that one of the mighty personalities of that time, the leader of the “Free Knights”, who raised the revolt against the pope and the bishops, was named patron.
It is also astonishing that Franz von Sickingen will become one of the main characters of the dramatic poem “Gets von Berlichingen” written by the main literary father of Faust, Johann Wolfgang Goethe. In addition, the letter also names the full name of Faust – George Sabellicus.
If you dig into the documents of that period, you can meet the mention of George more than once, again again in the same combination with the name Faust. Someone Conrad Mutsian Ruf claimed that he met him, heard him “rant at the inn,” and that he seemed to him “just a braggart and a fool.”
In the account book of the bishop of Bamberg, there is a record of the payment of a fee for the horoscope “philosopher to Dr. Faust.” Further, the census in Ingolstadt recorded the presence of “Dr. Jorg (George) Faust von Heideleberg”, who was deported from the city. The record says that the aforementioned Dr. Faust before the expulsion allegedly claimed that he was a knight of the Order of St. John and head of one of the branches of the order from Carinthia – the Slavic province of Austria.
In addition, there are testimonies of citizens that he acted with astrological forecasts and predicted the birth of the prophets. Moreover, in their memoirs he was called Georgi Faust of Helmstedt, that is, from the town of Helmstedt. Looking through the same records of the University of Heidelberg, you can easily find a student who received a master’s degree, who came to study from the place and had the same name.
Faust’s path is not lost in the wilds of history and does not disappear in the desert of time, as it happens with almost all the characters of the Middle Ages. Four years after his predictions of the prophets, he emerges in Nuremberg. In the municipal book the burgomaster’s firm hand says:
Doctor Faust, a famous sodomite and connoisseur of black magic in a security letter of denial.
Very revealing record. Quite calmly mentioned on a par with that he sodomite, that he is also a black magician. Not with a yelp and screams “At the stake!”, But simply with a dry language with the resolution “in the protection letter of denial.”
Two years later, new documents appeared on the investigation of the uprising in Münster, when the city was captured by the sectarians who declared the city this New Jerusalem and its leader, the King of Zion. Local princes of the uprising suppressed and recorded the entire investigative process in this case. It is here that the ever-present Dr. Faust comes up again, but without any connection with the insurrection or with any otherworldly forces. Just one phrase: “The philosopher Faustus hit the mark, because we had a bad year.”
Obviously, the real Faust existed with an amazing ability to survive and adapt, for each time, after experiencing a shame and defeat, once again surfaced. With blissful carelessness, he handed out to the right and left business cards of the following content:
The great medium, the second among the magicians, the astrologer and palmist, is wondering about the fire, the water and the air.
In 1536, at least two famous clients tried to look into the future with his help. The Senator from Würzburg wished to receive an astrological prediction about the outcome of the war of Charles V with the French king, and the German adventurer, who was going to South America in search of Eldorado, tried to find out the chances of the success of his expedition.
In 1540, late autumn night, a small hotel in Württemberg was shaken by the roar of falling furniture and footsteps, followed by heartbreaking cries. Later, local residents claimed that on this terrible night a storm broke out in the clear sky, a flame of blue burst out from the chimney of the hotel several times, and the shutters and doors in it began to clap on their own.
Cries, moans, strange sounds lasted at least two hours. Only in the morning the frightened master and servants dared to enter the room, where all this came from. On the floor of the room, among the pieces of furniture, lay the man’s corpse. It was covered with monstrous bruises, grazes, one eye was punctured, the neck and ribs were broken. It was the disfigured corpse of Dr. Johann Faust. The townspeople claimed that the demon Mephistopheles had broken the neck of the doctor, with whom he had contracted for 24 years. At the end of the term, the demon killed Faust and condemned his soul to an eternal curse.
From Germany, the glory of Faust began to spread with the speed of a forest fire, in part because of the publication of a collection of fairly primitive legends, titled “The Story of Dr. Faust” (1587). To the legends also added a few artless humorous scenes in which the target for ridicule was the people fooled by Faust.
Nevertheless, certain passages, such as the description of eternal torments in hell, possessed the power of true conviction, and the image of Mephistopheles as the worst enemy of the human race and Faust as a mortally frightened sinner unerringly acted on the public, touching the sensitive strings of readers.
During the next century, two new, revised editions of the book appeared, which enjoyed no less success. Meanwhile, the oral tradition of stories about the sorcerer’s amazing abilities has not lost its strength. His alliance with Satan, judging by these stories, manifested itself even in everyday life. So, it was worth Faust to knock on a simple wooden table, and from there began to beat the fountain of wine, or at his order in the midst of the winter appeared fresh strawberries.
In one legend, a very hungry sorcerer swallowed a whole horse with a cart and hay. When he was bored with a hot summer, dark forces poured snow so that he could ride on a sleigh. It was also said that one night in a zucchini during a drunken raging Faust noticed four stout men who were trying to roll out of the cellar a heavy barrel.
“What a fool! He cried. “Yes, I alone can do it!” Before the eyes of the astonished visitors and innkeeper, the sorcerer descended the stairs, mounted a barrel and triumphantly went up the steps to the hall.
The first legend about Dr. Faust in literary creativity was used by the English playwright Christopher Marlowe. In 1592 he wrote The Tragic History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faust, where his character is presented in the form of a powerful epic hero, overwhelmed by a thirst for knowledge and willing to bring their light to people.
The drama Marlo combined the funny and serious, and modern British society was subjected to severe criticism. Faust Marlo is not just a fool or a devil’s instrument, he resorts to the help of Satan to explore the boundaries of human experience. Faust himself perished, unable to withstand the condemnation of fellow citizens who did not accept his bold impulses to master the universal knowledge.
The most famous product of the XX century, dedicated to the legendary character, was the novel of the German writer Thomas Mann “Doctor Faustus.” By this name, the novelist named the brilliant composer Adrian Leverkun, who made a deal with the devil in order to create music that could leave an outstanding mark in the national culture.
So where did the well-known parable of the connection between Faust and Satan come from so well? Rumors about the contract between the doctor and the devil come mainly from Martin Luther. Even when the real George Faust was alive, Luther made statements in which the doctor and the warlock were declared accomplices of otherworldly forces. It was based on this accusation, and writers wandered.
But why is this great reformer Martin Luther suddenly turned his attention to the inconspicuous and ordinary petty quack and sorcerer? For Luther such alchemists and apologists of magic as Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Reichlin, Agrippa were the tops, which he could not aim to aim at.
Especially in the people and the higher circles there was a stubborn opinion that their possession of natural magic allows them to unimpededly remove any obstacle and all the more so any person standing in the way. And then Luther fell upon Faust with all the heat of his propaganda skill:
Simon Magus tried to fly to heaven, but Peter’s prayer caused him to fall … Faust tried to do the same in Venice. But he was thrown to the ground with force.
It is clear that Faust never flew and was not dropped to the ground, but in the minds of the people he was already counted among the devil’s accomplices. His name George was forgotten and was replaced by Johann.
The greatest contribution to the creation of the image of Faust as the great disciple of the devil was made by Martin Luther’s beloved ally Philip Melanchthon, the chief ideologue of the Reformation. He wrote a biography of Johann Faust, which received such popularity that this bestseller was reprinted at that time nine times. According to the plot, Faust was constantly accompanied by the evil spirit of Mephistopheles, but he was not disembodied, but appeared in the guise of a black dog.
So what is the reason for Luther’s hatred of him and his entourage? Why is the ordinary black magician Faust rejected and accused of all mortal sins? Why is the focus of propaganda directed at him as a typical representative of the mystical forces and magical societies of the Middle Ages?
The cause of the curse is not at all a contract with Satan and not a thirst for power. In any story about Dr. Faust, including the latest version of Goethe, the main motivating motive of the protagonist is the thirst for knowledge. It is this thirst that puts on it the stigma of the “sinner” and it is precisely this cause for condemnation. After all, from the point of view of the Renaissance, the era of the transition of a mystical civilization into a realistic one, the desire to cognize, in fact, was sinful.
This is really a diabolical need, since knowledge in the era of rationalism should not be a penetration into the harmony of the cosmos, but a limited set of symbols and concepts that the authorities offer.
What figures of that time represented a real threat to the coming Reformation carrying with it a mundane philosophy of ration? Firstly, it is Tritemia, the author of the sensational book “Shorthand”, in which the methods and methods of telepathy were discussed in detail.
About telepathy, everything was soon safely forgotten, but the book was still the main basis of cryptography, a certain tool for spies in the part of cryptography, the rapid study of foreign languages and “many other subjects not subject to public discussion.” Tritemi’s works on magic and alchemy have so far remained unsurpassed.
Other targets of the Protestants were those who, by their practical activities, denied the rationalism of Martin Luther – Pico of the case of Mirandola, Agrippa and Paracelsus. It was against them that the weapons of the sermons of Luther and Melanchthon were sent in the form of the condemnation of Dr. Faustus.
However, apparently, the accomplice of the devil and the friend of the black dog Mephistopheles was not so simple, about the life and the fall of which hundreds of pages were written. And Faust got the highest satisfaction due to the fact that he became the prototype of the immortal work of Goethe, where he is a positive hero.
Disappointed in science and intellectual pursuits, he is ready to give his soul to the devil for just one moment of such experience, which will bring him full satisfaction. “Low” pleasures are not able to satiate Faust’s soul, he finds the meaning of life in the true love of a simple girl, whom he seduced and left.
The final salvation, however, is bestowed on Faust because he seeks to create a better society for all mankind. Thus, Goethe argues that a person can achieve virtue and spiritual greatness, despite the nature inherent in his nature.
Hector Berlioz composed a dramatic cantata “The Condemnation of Faust”, still performed on the opera stage, and “Faust” by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) became one of the most loved by the audience of operas of all time.
In Russia, the legend of Faust paid tribute to A. S. Pushkin in his remarkable “Scene from Faust”. With the creation of the Russian genius, Goethe met and sent to Pushkin his pen, which he wrote “Faust”. The echoes of Goethe’s “Faust” are found in Don Juan by AK Tolstoy and in the story in letters “Faust” by IS Turgenev.
Why did the murder of a pathetic charlatan attract the attention of so many brilliant artists? Why do their works remain popular to this day?
Perhaps the answer is in the inscription on the memorial plaque of the hotel in Württemberg, where it is said that Faust, even if convicted as a result of eternal torment, for 24 whole years enjoyed the power and pleasures granted by the forbidden knowledge of the satanic secrets. Forbidden, but so enticing.
Dr. Faust lived in the 16th century. He was considered a sorcerer and a warlock. After his mysterious death he left a diary that contained a lot of inexplicable to the reader of that time.
From the book History of Doctor Johann Faust: So I saw more than I wished. Some of the stars were more than half-earth, planets as large as the earth, and where there was air, spirits were gathered …
It is unfortunate that there is no explanation for what exactly these “spirits” are. But the presence of air on some planets today there is no point in challenging. It is worth noting that Faust speaks only of some planets. As is known to date, the atmosphere is not on every planet. However, there was no reason to assert this at that time.
Going down I saw the earth. And it seemed to me that the land occupies no more than a bucket, and the water exceeds it twice …
Quite correct description of our planet. The land, as we now know, actually occupies 1/3 of the surface of the earth.