Many have heard of Faust in one way or another. A “Faustian Bargain” is one where an agent trades away the future for a boon in power during the present. What accounts for this story’s persistence? I think it is because readers are gripped by the fantasy of humans possessing divine powers, engaging in adventures and magical exploits, and trafficking with the greatest of evils.
Many view the Faust tradition from the perspective of magus literature. Their searches for Faust’s beginnings often turn up magicians. The historical Johann Faustus, a sixteenth-century charlatan who wandered across Germany and exercised a "minimum of pharmaceutical knowledge…with a maximum amount of malice,” was himself a magician (Magus 122).
E. M. Butler, in The Myth of the Magus, links Faust with a broad number of magicians extending back to Moses and others (Magus 29). Other scholars, seeing the Faust legend as a Christian story, seek Faust's roots in a more limited way. Here the consensus identifies Simon Magus as the earliest real Faust figure not only because of Simon's heretical and magical activities but because, apparently, Simon had a disciple called Faustus and consorted with a woman named Helen. Between Simon Magus and Faustus the magicians most frequently cited in the research literature include Apollonius of Tyana,...
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...as a violation of God's law, the story of Eden exposes the vanity of equating knowledge with virtue. The Faust legend highlights the conflict between intellect and morality by making the worst of sins in Christianity, competition with God, the act of an intellectual genius. Perhaps that is why it is hard not to like the Great Doctor.
Butler, E. M.. The Myth of the Magus. Cambridge [Eng.: University Press;, 1948. Print.
Butler, E. M.. Ritual Magic. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. Print.
"History of Doctor Johann Faustus." History of Doctor Johann Faustus. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2014.
Marlowe, Christopher, and Sylvan Barnet. Doctor Faustus. New York: New American Library, 1969. Print.
The Holy Bible: King James Version.. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004. Print.
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