Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa

Authored by: Wouter J. Hanegraaff

The Occult World

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415695961
eBook ISBN: 9781315745916
Adobe ISBN: 9781317596769

10.4324/9781315745916.ch5

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Abstract

In the opening scene of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust tragedy, we meet a scholar in despair. The aging Johannes Faust has spent his life studying philosophy, law, medicine, ‘and theology too, unfortunately’ – but sitting now in his study surrounded by dusty books, he must admit that it has been all in vain. None of the human arts and sciences has brought him the knowledge and certainty he has been looking for. ‘So now there I stand, poor fool that I am – still as ignorant as before.’ Finally, as a last resort, he decides to try magic, hoping that perhaps some spirit may reveal to him the secrets of existence: ‘that I may learn the innermost power that holds the world together, behold its active powers and seeds, and no longer need to babble mere words.’ He proceeds to evoke the Spirit of the Earth, but with doubtful result: the spirit does appear, but treats him as an ignorant earthworm and departs in contempt. Eventually, however, there comes an answer to Faust’s desperate attempts at contacting the mysterious realm of the occult. During a walk through the fields he is approached by a black poodle who follows him back to his study, where he transforms into his true shape: Mephistopheles, the Devil, who proceeds to offer Faust what he wants in return for his soul.

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