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When the name Faust is mentioned, the majority of educated people at once think of Gounod's presentations upon the stage. Some admire the music, but the story itself does not seem to particularly impress them. As it appears there, it seems to be the unfortunately all too common story of a sensualist who betrays a young unsuspecting girl and then leaves her to expiate her folly and suffer for her trustfulness. The touch of magic and witchery which enters into the play is thought of by most people as only the fancies of an author who has used them to make the sordid, everyday conditions more interesting.
When Faust is taken by Mephistopheles to the underworld and Marguerite is borne to heaven upon angelic wings at the conclusion of the play, it appears to them to be just the ordinary moral to give the story a goody-goody ending.
A small minority know that Gounod's opera is based upon the drama written by Goethe. And those who have studied the two parts of his presentation of Faust, gain a very different idea from that presented by the play. Only the few who are illuminated mystics, see in the play written by Goethe the unmistakable hand of an enlightened fellow Initiate, and realize fully the great cosmic significance contained therein.
Be it very clearly understood that the story of Faust is a myth as old as mankind. Goethe presented it clad in a proper mystic light, illuminating one of the greatest problems of the day, the relation and struggle between Freemasonry and Catholicism, which we have considered from another viewpoint in a former book.
We have often said in our literature, that a myth is a veiled symbol containing a great cosmic truth, a conception which differs radically from the generally accepted one. As we give picture books to our children to convey lesson beyond their intellectual grasp, so the great Teachers gave infant humanity these pictorial symbols, and thus, unconsciously to mankind, an appreciation of the ideals presented has been etched into our finer vehicles.
As a seed germinates unseen in the ground before it can flower above the visible surface of the Earth, so these etchings traced by the myths upon our finer, invisible vestures have put us into a state of receptivity where we readily take to higher ideals and rise above the sordid conditions of the material world. These ideals would have been submerged by the lower nature, had it not been prepared for ages by the agency of just such myths as Faust, Parsifal, and kindred tales.
Like the story of Job the scene of the Faust myth has its beginning in heaven at a convocation of the Sons of Seth, Lucifer among them. The ending is also in heaven as presented by Goethe. As it is very different from that which is commonly presented upon the stage, we stand face to face with a gigantic problem. In fact, the Faust myth depicts the evolution of mankind during the present epoch. It also shows us how the Sons of Seth and the Sons of Cain each play their part in the work of the world.
It has always been the custom of the writer to stick as closely to his subject as possible, so that any phase of the philosophy under consideration might receive the full force of concentrated illumination so far as was possible to give it. But sometimes circumstances justify departure from the main trend of the argument, and our consideration of the Faust myth is one of them. Were we to discourse upon this subject only in so far as it has a bearing upon the problem of Freemasonry and Catholicism, we should have to return to the subject later, in order to illuminate other points of vital interest in the unfoldment of soul as the work of the human race. We therefore trust that digressions may not be criticized.
In the opening scene, three of the Sons of God, Planetary Spirits, are represented as bowing before the Grand Architect of the Universe, singing songs of the spheres in their adoration of the Ineffable Being who is the source of life, the author of all manifestation. Goethe represents one of these supernal Spirits of the stars as saying:
"The sun intones its ancient song,
'Mid rival chant of brother spheres,
Its predestined course it speeds along,
In thund'rous march throughout the years."
Modern scientific instruments have been invented, whereby in laboratory tests light waves are transmuted to sound, thus demonstrating in the Physical World the mystic maxim of the identity of these manifestations. That which was patent formerly only to the mystic who was able to raise his consciousness to the Region of Concrete Thought, is now also sensed by the scientist. The song of the spheres, first publicly mentioned by Pythagoras, is not therefore, to be regarded as an empty idea originated in the too vivid imagination of poetical minds nor as the hallucination of a demented brain.
Goethe meant every word he said. The stars have each their own keynote, and they travel about the Sun at such varying rates of speed, that their position now cannot be duplicated until twenty-seven thousand years have passed. Thus the harmony of the heavens changes at every moment of life, and as it changes, so does the world alter its ideas and ideals. The circle dance of the marching orbs to the tune of the celestial symphony created by them marks man's progress along the path we call evolution.
But it is a mistaken idea to think that constant harmony is pleasing. Music thus expressed would become monotonous; we should weary of the continued harmony. In fact, music would lose its charm were not dissonance interspersed at frequent intervals. The closer a composer can come to discord without actually entering it in the score, the more pleasing will be his composition when given life through musical instruments. Similarly in the song of the spheres, we could never reach individuality and the selfhood towards which all evolution trends, without the divine discord.
Therefore, the Book of Job designates Satan as being one of the Sons of God. And the Faust myth speaks of Lucifer as also present in the convocation, which takes place during the opening chapter of the story. From him comes the saving note of dissonance which forms a contrast to the celestial harmony; and as the brightest light throws the deepest shadow, Lucifer's voice enhances the beauty of the celestial song.
While the other Planetary Spirits bow down in adoration when they contemplate the works of the Master Architect as revealed in the universe, Lucifer sounds the note of criticism, of blame, in the following words directed against the masterpiece of God, the king of creatures, man:
"Of suns and worlds I nothing have to say,
I see alone man's self-inflicted pains;
That little world god still his stamp retains,
As wondrous now as on the primal day.
Better he might have fared, poor wight,
Had You withheld the heavenly light;
Reason he names it, but doth use it so,
That he more brutish than brutes doth grow."
This from the viewpoint of former generations may sound sacrilegious, but in the greater light of modern times we can understand that even in so exalted a being as that designated by the name of God, there must be growth. We can sense the striving after still greater abilities, the contemplation of future universes offering improved facilities for those evolutions of other Virgin Spirits, which are a result of the imperfections noted in the scheme of manifestation by its exalted Author. Furthermore, as "in Him we live and move and have our begin," so the discordant note sounded by the Lucifer Spirits would also rise within Him. It would not be an outside agency which called attention to mistakes or took Him to task, but His own divine recognition of an imperfection to be transmuted into greater good.
In the Bible we read that Job was a perfect man, and in the Faust myth the bearer of the title role is designated a servant of God, for naturally the problem of unfoldment, of greater growth, must be solved by the most highly advanced. Ordinary individuals, or those who are lower in the scale of evolution, have still that part of the road to travel which has already been covered by such as Faust and Job, who are the vanguard of the human race, and who are looked upon by ordinary humanity in the same way that Lucifer describes them, namely as fools and freaks:
"Poor fool, his food and drink are not of earth,
An inward impulse hurries him afar;
himself, half conscious of his frenzied mood;
From heaven claimeth he the fairest star,
And from the earth he craves the highest, best;
And all that's near and all that's far,
Can never still the cravings of his breast."
For such people a new and higher path must be opened to give them greater opportunities for growth; hence the answer of God:
"Though in perplexity he serves me now,
I soon will lead him where the light appears;
When buds the sapling doth the gardener know,
That flow'r and fruit shall grace its coming years."
As exercise is necessary to the development of physical muscle, so development of the moral nature is accomplished through temptation. The Ego being given choice, may exercise it in whatever direction it chooses, for it learns just as well by its mistakes as by right action in the first place, perhaps even better. Therefore, in the Job myth, the devil is permitted to tempt; and in the Faust myth he makes the request:
"My Lord, if I may lead him as I choose,
I wager Thou him yet wilt lose."
To this the Lord replies:
" 'Tis granted thee! Divert
This spirit from its primal source,
Him mayst thou seize, thy power exert,
If he will go the downward course.
But stand ashamed when thou art forced to own,
A good man in his darkest aberration
Still knows the path that leadeth to salvation.
Go, thou art free to act without control.
I do not cherish hate for such as thee;
Of all the spirits of negation
The cynic is least wearisome to Me.
Man is too prone, activity to shirk,
And undisturbed in rest he fain would live;
Hence this companion purposely I give
Who stirs, excites, and must as devil work.
But ye, O faithful Sons of God, none wronging,
Rejoice in all of everliving beauty,
The everliving, evergrowing, and becoming;
Now gird yourselves about with love and duty."
Thus the plot is ready and Faust is about to become enmeshed in the snares which beset the path of every seeking soul. The following lines show the beneficent purpose and the necessity of temptation. The Spirit is an integral part of God; primarily innocent, but not virtuous. Virtue is a positive quality developed by taking a firm stand for the right in temptation, or by the suffering endured in consequence of wrongdoing. Thus the prologue in heaven gives to the Faust myth its highest value as a guide, and its encouragement to the seeking soul. It shows the eternal purpose behind the earthly conditions which cause pain and sorrow.
Goethe next introduces us to Faust himself, who is standing in his darkened study. He is engaged in introspection and retrospection:
"I have, alas! philosophy, medicine, and law,
Theology I too have studied, pshaw!
Now here I stand with all my love,
A fool no wiser than before.
I Thought to better humankind,
To elevate the human mind;
I have not worked for goods nor treasure,
Nor worldly honor, rank, nor pleasure.
With books I all my life have striven,
But now to magic I am given;
And hope through spirit voice and might,
Secrets veiled to bring to light.
That I no more with aching brow,
Need speak of what I nothing know.
Woe's me! Still prisoned in the gloom
Of this abhorred and musty room,
Where heaven's dear light itself doth pass
But dimly through the painted glass.
Up! forth into the distant land.
Is not this book of mystery
By Nostradamus' magic hand,
An all sufficient guide? Thou'lt see
The courses of the stars unrolled,
When Nature doth her thoughts unfold
To thee. Thy soul shall rise and seek
Communion high with her to hold."
A lifetime of study has brought Faust no real knowledge. The conventional sources of learning prove barren in the end. The scientist may think God a superfluity; he may believe that life consists in chemical action and reaction—that is, when he starts. But the deeper he delves into matter, the greater the mysteries that beset his path, and at last he will be forced to abandon further research or believe in God as a Spirit whose life invests every atom of matter. Faust has come to that point. He says that he has not worked for gold "nor treasure, nor worldly honor, rank, nor pleasure." He has striven from love of research and has come to the point where he sees that a spirit world is about us all; and through this world, through magic, he now aspires to a higher, more real knowledge than that contained in books.
A tome, written by the famous Nostradamus is in his hand, and on opening it he beholds the sign of the macrocosm. The power contained therein opens to his consciousness a part of the world he is seeking, and in an ecstasy of joy he exclaims:
"Ah! at this spectacle through every sense,
What sudden ecstasy of joy is flowing;
I feel new rapture, hallowed and intense.
Now of the wise man's words I learn the sense:
Unlocked the spirit world is lying,
Thy senses shut, thy heart is dead;
Up, scholar! lave with zeal undying
Thine earthly breast in morning red.
How all that lives and works is ever blending,
Weaves one vast whole from Being's ample range,
See powers celestial rising and descending,
Their golden buckets' ceaseless interchange.
Their flight on rapture breathing pinions winging,
From heaven to earth the rhythm bringing."
But again the pendulum swings back. As an attempt to gaze directly into the brilliant light of the Sun would result in shattering the retina of the eye, so the audacious attempt to fathom the Infinite results in failure and the seeking soul is thrown from the ecstasy of joy into the darkness of despair:
"A wondrous who, but ah! a show alone.
Where shall I grasp thee, infinite nature, where?
Ye breasts, ye fountains of all life whereon
Hang heaven and earth, from which the withered heart
For solace yearns. ye still impart
Your sweet and fostering tides; where are ye—where?
Ye gush, and I must languish in despair."
We must first understand the lower before we can successfully aspire to a higher knowledge. To rant and rave of worlds beyond, of finer bodies, when we have little conception of the vehicles with which we work every day and the environment in which we move, is the height of folly. "Man, know thyself" is a sound teaching. The only safety lies in climbing the ladder rung by rung, never attempting a new step until we have made ourselves secure, until we are poised and balanced upon the one where we stand. Many a soul can echo from its own experience the despair embodied in the words of Faust.
Foolishly he has started at the highest point. He has suffered disappointment, but does not yet understand that he must begin at the bottom; so he commences an evocation of the Earth Spirit:
"Earth Spirit, Thou to me art nigher,
E'en now my strength is rising higher,
Courage I feel, abroad the world to dare,
The woe of earth, the bliss of earth, to bear;
With storms to wrestle, brave the lightning glare,
And 'mid the crashing shipwreck not despair.
Clouds gather o'er me, obscure the moon's light
The lamp's flame is quenched with darkness of night.
Vapors are rising, flashing and red,
Beams of them dartingly, piercing my head;
I am seized with a sickening, shuddering dread.
Spirit, prayer-compelled, 'tis Thou
Art hovering near, unveil Thyself now.
My heart I gladly surrender to Thee;
Thou must appear, if life be free."
As we have said in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, and as we have further elucidated in the Rosicrucian philosophy relative to a question concerning the Latin ritual in the Catholic Church, a name is a sound. Properly uttered, no matter by whom, it has a compelling influence over the intelligence it represents, and the word given in each degree of Initiation gives man access to a particular sphere of vibration, peopled by certain classes of Spirits. Therefore, as a tuning fork responds to a note of even pitch, so when Faust sounds the name of the Earth Spirit, it opens his consciousness to that all pervading presence.
And be it remembered that Faust's experience is not an isolated instance of what may happen under abnormal conditions. He is a symbol of the seeking soul. You and I are Fausts in a certain sense, for at some stage in our evolution we shall meet the Earth Spirit and realize the power of His name, properly uttered.
In the Star of Bethlehem, a mystic fact, we endeavored to give students a glimpse of a certain phase of Initiation. Most of us walk about upon Earth and see only a seemingly dead mass, but one of the first facts revealed in our consciousness by Initiation is the living reality of the Earth Spirit. As the surface of our body is dead compared to the organs within, so the outer envelope of the Earth, being encrusted, gives no idea of the wonderful activity within. Upon the path of Initiation nine different layers are revealed, and in the center of this rolling sphere we meet the Spirit of the Earth face to face. It is actually true that it is "groaning and travailing" in the Earth for the sake of all, working and anxiously waiting for our manifestation as Sons of God so that, as the seeking soul which aspires to liberation is released from its dense body, the Earth Spirit also may be liberated from its body of death in which it is now confined for us.
The words of the Earth Spirit to Faust, as given by Goethe, offer splendid material for meditation, for they represent mystically what the candidate feels when he first realizes the actual reality of the Earth Spirit as a living presence, ever actively laboring for our uplift.
"In the currents of life, in the action of storm
I float and wave with billowy motion;
Birth and the grave, a limitless ocean;
A constant weaving, with change still rife,
A restless heaving, a glowing life,
Time's whizzing loom I've unceasingly trod;
Thus weave I the living garment of God."
Of course, the Earth Spirit is not to be thought of as a larger man, or as having physical form other than the Earth itself. The vital body of Jesus, in which the Christ Spirit was focused prior to its actual ingress into the Earth, has the ordinary human form; it is preserved and is shown to the candidate at a certain point in his progression. Some day in the far future it will again house the benevolent Christ Spirit upon His return from the center of the Earth, when we shall have become etheric, and when He is ready to ascend to higher spheres, leaving us to be taught of the Father, whose religion will be higher than the Christian religion.
The esoteric truth that when a spirit enters by a certain door, it must also return the same way, is taught by Goethe in connection with the initial appearance of Mephistopheles to Faust. Faust is not upon the regular path of Initiation. He has not earned admission nor the help of the Elder Brothers; he is seeking at the wrong door because of his impatience. Therefore he is spurned by the Earth Spirit and when having seemingly attained, is plunged from the pinnacle of joy to the pit of despair where he realizes that he has in reality failed.
"I, God's own image, from this toil of clay
Already free, who hailed
The mirror of eternal truth unveiled,
'Mid light effulgent and celestial day,
I, whose unfettered soul
With penetrative glance aspired to flow
Through nature's veins, and still creating know
The life of gods . . . how am I punished now,
one thunder word has hurled me from the goal!
Spirit, I dare not lift me to thy sphere;
What though my power compelled thee to appear,
My art was futile to detain thee here.
Fiercely didst thrust me from the realm of thought,
Back on humanity's uncertain fate!
Who'll teach me now? What ought I to forego?"
He thinks the sources of information are exhausted and that he may never attain to the real knowledge. And fearing the dull monotony of a plodding, ordinary existence, he grasps a phial of poison and is about to drink, when songs without, proclaim the risen Christ for it is Easter morning. At the thought, new hope stirs his soul. He is also further disturbed in his purpose by the knocking of Wagner, his friend.
Walking with the latter, Faust voices the cry of agony wrung from every aspiring soul in the awful struggle between the higher and lower natures. So long as we live worldly lives without higher aspirations, there is peace in our breasts. But once we have sensed the call of the Spirit, our equipoise is gone, and the more ardently we pursue the quest of the Grail, the fiercer is this inner struggle. Paul thought of himself as a wretched man because lower desires in the flesh combated the higher spiritual aspirations. Faust's words are of similar import:
"Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And struggle there for undivided reign;
one to the Earth with passionate desire
And closely clinging organs still adheres,
Above the mists the other does aspire
With sacred ardor unto purer spheres."
But he does not realize that there is no royal road to attainment, that each one must walk the path to peace alone. He thinks that Spirits can give him soul power ready for use:
"Oh, are there spirits in the air,
Who float 'twixt heaven and earth dominion wielding?
Stoop hither from your golden atmosphere;
Lead me to scenes, new life and fuller yielding.
A magic mantle did I but possess,
Abroad to waft me as on viewless wings.
I'd prize it far beyond most costly dress,
Nor change it for the robe of kings."
Because of this looking to others he is doomed to disappointment. "If thou art Christ help thyself," is the universal rule, and self-reliance is the cardinal virtue which aspirants are required to cultivate in the Western Mystery School. No one is allowed to lean on masters, nor to blindly follow leaders. The Brothers of the Rose Cross aim to emancipate the soul that come to them; to educate, to strengthen, and to make them co-workers. Philanthropists do not grow on every bush, and whoever looks to a Teacher to do more than point the way, will meet disappointment. No matter what their claims, no matter whether they come in the flesh, or as Spirits, no matter how spiritual they seem, Teachers positively cannot do for us the good deeds requisite to soul growth, assimilate them, nor give us the resulting soul power ready to use, any more than they can impart to us physical strength by eating our food. True, Faust the seeking soul, attracts a Spirit ready to serve him, but it is a Spirit of an undesirable nature, Lucifer. When Faust asks his name, he replies:
"The Spirit of Negation; the power that still
Works for good though scheming ill."
People or Spirits who offer to gratify our desires usually have an end in view.
Now we come to a point involving an important cosmic law which underlies various spiritualistic phenomena and also supports the unique Rosicrucian Teachings (and the Bible), that Christ will not return in a dense body but in a vital body. It also shows why He must return. Students will therefore do well to read very carefully:
Attracted by the mental attitude of Faust, Lucifer follows him into his study. On the floor just inside the door is a five pointed star with the two horns nearest the door. In the ordinary process of Nature the human Spirit enters its dense body during antenatal life and withdraws at death by way of the head. Invisible Helpers who have learned to transmute their sex force to soul power in the pituitary body, also leave and enter the dense body by way of the head; therefore, the pentagram with one point upward, symbolizes the aspiring soul who works in harmony with Nature.
The black magician, who has neither soul nor soul power, also uses the sex force. He leaves and enters the body by way of the feet, the silver cord protruding from the sex organ. Therefore, the pentagram with two points upward is the symbol of black magic. Lucifer had no trouble in entering Faust's study, but when he wishes to leave after speaking with Faust, the single point bars his way. He requests Faust to remove the sign and the latter queries:
Faust: The pentagram your peace does mar,
To me you, son of hell, make clear,
How entered you, if this your exit bar?
Where is the snare,
Why through the window not withdraw?
Lucifer: For ghosts, devils, 'tis a law,
Where we stole in, there we must forth;
The first to choose, but to the second
slaves are we.
Before A.D. 33 Jehovah guided our planet in its orbit and mankind on the path of evolution from without. On Golgotha, Christ entered the Earth which He now guides from within, and will until a sufficient number of our humanity have evolved the soul power necessary to float the Earth and guide our younger brothers. This requires ability to live in vital bodies, capable of levitation. The vital body of Jesus through which Christ entered the Earth is His only avenue of return to the Sun. Hence the Second Advent will be in Jesus' vital body.
The Faust myth presents a curious situation in the meeting of the hero, who is the seeking soul, with different classes of Spirits. The Spirit of Faust, inherently good, feels drawn to the higher orders; it feels akin to the benevolent Earth Spirit, and bemoans the inability to detain it and learn from it. Face to face with the spirit of negation, who is only too willing to teach and to serve, he finds himself master in a certain sense, because that spirit cannot leave, over the symbol of the five pointed star in the position it is placed upon the floor. But both his inability to detain the Earth Spirit and obtain tuition from that exalted Being, and his mastery over the spirit of negation, are due to he fact that he has come into contact with them by chance and not by soul power evolved from within.
When Parsifal, the hero of another of these great soul myths, first visited the Castle of the Grail, he was asked how he had come there, and he answered "I know not." He just happened to enter the holy place as a soul sometimes gets a glimpse of the celestial realms in a vision; but he could not stay in Mount Salvat. He was forced to go out into the world again and learn his lesson. Many years later he returned to the Castle of the Grail, weary and worn with the quest, and the same query again was asked: "How did you come here?" But this time his answer was different, for he said, "Through search and suffering I came."
That is the cardinal point which marks the great difference between persons who happen to come in contact with Spirits from superphysical realms by chance or stumble upon the solution of a law of Nature, and those, who by diligent research and particularly by living the life, attain to conscious Initiation into the secrets of Nature. The former do not know how to use this power intelligently and are therefore helpless. The latter are always masters of the forces they wield, while the others are the sport of anyone who wishes to take advantage of them.
Faust is the symbol of man, and humanity was first led by the Lucifer Spirits and the Angles of Jehovah. We are now looking to the Christ Spirit within the Earth as the Saviour to emancipate us from their selfish and negative influence.
Paul gives us a glimpse of the further evolution designed for us, when he says, that after Christ has established the kingdom, He will turn it over to the Father, who will then be all in all.
Faust, however, first seeks communication with the macrocosm, who is the Father. Like the heavenly centaur, Sagittarius, he aims his bow at the highest stars. He is not satisfied to begin at the bottom and work his way up gradually. When spurned by that sublime Being, he comes down one step in the scale and seeks communion with the Earth Spirit who also scorns him, for he cannot become the pupil of the good forces until he has conformed to their rules, so that he may enter the path of Initiation by the true door. Therefore, when he finds that the pentagram at the door holds the evil Spirit, he sees a chance to drive a bargain. He is ready to sell his soul to Satan.
As said before, however, he is too ignorant to successfully retain the mastery, and spirit power quickly clears away the obstructions and leaves Lucifer free. But though he departs from the chamber of Faust, he soon returns ready to barter for the seeking soul. He paints before Faust's eyes glowing pictures of how he may live his life over, how he may gratify his passions and desires. Faust, knowing that Lucifer is not disinterested, inquires what compensation he requires. To this, Lucifer answers:
"I pledge myself to be thy servant here,
At every beck and call alert to be;
But when we meet in yonder sphere,
Then shalt thou do the same for me."
Faust himself, adds a seemingly singular condition, regarding the time when the service of Lucifer shall terminate and his own earth life come to an end.
Strange as it seems, we have in the agreement of Lucifer and the clause proposed by Faust basic laws of evolution. By the Law of Attraction we are drawn into contact with kindred Spirits both here and hereafter. If we serve the good forces here and labor to lift ourselves, we find similarly minded company in this world and in the next, but if we love darkness rather than light, we find ourselves associated with the underworld here and hereafter also. There is no escape from this.
Furthermore, we are all "temple builders" working under the direction of God and His ministers, the divine Hierarchies. If we shirk the task set us in life, we are placed under conditions which will force us to learn. There is no rest nor peach upon the path of evolution and if we seek pleasure and joy to the exclusion of the work of life, the death knell soon comes. If ever we come to a point where we are ready to bid the passing hour stay, where we are so contended with conditions that we cease our efforts to progress, our existence is quickly terminated. It is a matter of observation, that people who retire from business to live only for the enjoyment of that which they have accumulated, soon pass out; while the man who changes his vocation for an avocation generally lives longer. Nothing is so apt to end an existence as inactivity. Therefore, as has been said, the laws of Nature are enunciated in the bargain of Lucifer and the condition added by Faust:
"If e'er I be content in sloth or leisure,
Then be that hour the last I see.
When thou with flattery canst cajole me
Till self-complaisant I shall be;
When thou with pleasure canst befool me,
Be that the final day for me.
Whenever to the passing hour
I say, 'Oh stay, thou art so fair!'
Then unto thee I give the power
To drag me down to deep despair.
Then let my knell no longer linger,
Then from my service thou art free;
Fall from the clock the index finger,
Be time all over then for me."
Lucifer requests Faust to sign with a drop of blood. And when asked the reason, he says cunningly, "Blood is a most peculiar essence." The Bible says it is the seat of the soul.
When the Earth was in process of condensation the invisible aura surrounding Mars, mercury and Venus penetrated the Earth and the Spirits of these planets were in peculiar and close relation with humanity. iron is a Mars metal, and by the admixture of iron with the blood, oxidation is made possible; thus the inner heat required for the manifestation of an indwelling Spirit was obtained through the agency of the Lucifer Spirits from Mars. They are therefore responsible for the conditions under which the Ego is immured in the physical body.
When blood is extracted from the human body and coagulates, every particle is of a peculiar form not duplicated by the particles of any other human being. Therefore, the one who has blood of a certain person has a connecting link with the Spirit that built the blood particles. He has power over that person if he knows how to use this knowledge. That is the reason why Lucifer required the signature in Faust's blood, for with the name of his victim thus written in blood, he could hold the soul in bondage according to the laws involved.
Yes, indeed! Blood is a very peculiar essence, as important in white magic as in black. All knowledge in whatever direction used, must necessarily feed on life which is primarily derived from the extracts of the vital body: that is to say, the sex force and the blood. All knowledge that is not thus fed and nurtured, is as dead and as powerless as the philosophy Faust extracted from his books. No books are of themselves sufficient. only in the measure that we take that knowledge into our lives and nourish it and live it, is it of real value.
But there is this great difference: that while the aspirant in the schools of the Sacred Science feeds his soul on his own sex force and the lower passions in his own blood which he thus transmutes and cleanses, the adherents of the black school live as vampires on the sex force of others and the impure blood drawn from the veins of victims. In the Castle of the Grail we see the pure and cleansing blood working wonders upon those who were chaste and aspired to high deeds, but in the Castle of Herod, the personification of voluptuousness, Salome, causes the passion filled blood to race riotously through the veins of the participants, and the blood dripping from the head of the martyred Baptist served to give them the power they were too cowardly to acquire through suffering, by cleansing themselves of impurities.
Faust aims to acquire power quickly by the aid of others, hence he contacts the danger point, just as everyone does today, who runs after self-styled "adepts" or "masters," who are ready to pander to the lowest appetites of their dupes—for a consideration—as Lucifer offers to serve Faust. But they can give no soul powers no matter what they claim. That comes from within, by patient persistence in well-doing, a fact which cannot be too often reiterated.
Being in a reckless mood, Faust answers contemptuously the demand of Lucifer for his signature in blood to the pact between them, with the following words:
"Be not afraid that I shall break my word.
The scope of all my energy
Is with my vow in full accord.
Vainly have I aspired too high;
I'm on a level but with such as thou;
Me the Great Spirit scorned, defied.
Nature from me herself doth hide.
Rent is the web of thought; my mind
Doth knowledge loathe of every kind.
In depths of sensual pleasure drowned
Let us our fiery passions still;
Enwrapped in magic's veil profound
Let wondrous charm our senses thrill.
Having been scorned by the powers which make for good and being thoroughly inflamed with a desire for first-hand knowledge, for real power, he is ready to go to any length. But God is represented as saying in the prologue:
"A good man in his darkest aberration,
Still knoweth the way that leadeth to salvation."
Faust is the aspiring soul, and the soul cannot be permanently diverted from the path of evolution. The statement by Faust of his purpose bears out the assertion that he has a high ideal, even when wallowing in mire—he wants experience:
"The end I aim at is not joy.
I crave excitement, agonizing bliss,
Enamored hatred, quickening vexation.
Purged from the love of knowledge, my vocation.
The scope of all my powers henceforth be this:
To bare my breast to every pang, to know
In my heart's core all human weal and woe,
To grasp in thought the lofty and the deep;
Man's various fortunes on my breast to heap."
Before anyone can be truly compassionate, he must feel, as Faust desires to feel, the depth of the sorrows of the human soul as well as its most ecstatic joys; for only when we know these extremes of the human passion can we feel the compassion necessary for those who would aid in the uplift of humanity. By the help of Lucifer, Faust is able to learn both joy and sorrow, and thus Lucifer is indeed, as he says,
". . .The pow'r that still
Works for good, though scheming ill."
By the interference of the Lucifer Spirits in the scheme of evolution, the passions of mankind were aroused, intensified and led into a channel which has caused all the sorrow and sickness in the world. Nevertheless, it has awakened the individuality of man and freed him from the leading strings of the Angels. Faust, also, by the help of Lucifer, is led out of the conventional paths and becomes thereby individualized. When the bargain has been concluded between Faust and Lucifer we have the replica of the Sons of Cain, who are the progeny and charges of the Lucifer Spirits as we have seen in "Freemasonry and Catholicism."
In the tragedy of Faust, Marguerite is the ward of the Sons of Seth, the priesthood described in the Masonic legend. Presently the two classes represented by Faust and Marguerite are to meet, and between them the tragedy of life will be enacted and out of the sorrows encountered by each in consequence, the soul will grow wings that will raise it again to realms of bliss whence it came. In the meanwhile Lucifer conducts Faust to the witches' kitchen where he is to receive the elixir of youth, so that rejuvenated, he may become desirable in the eyes of Marguerite.
When Faust is presented upon the stage, the witches' kitchen is full of instruments supposed to be used in magic. A hell-fire burns under a kettle wherein love potions are brewed and there is much else which is fantastic. But we may pass by the inanimate objects without even mentioning them, and consider with profit what is meant by the family of apes which we find there, for they also represent a phase of human evolution.
Filled with a passion instilled by the Lucifer Spirits, or fallen Angels, mankind broke away from the angelic host led by Jehovah. As a consequence of the hardening power of desire, "coats of skin" soon enveloped them and separated them from each other. Egotism supplanted the feeling of brotherhood as the nadir of materiality was approached. Some were more passionate than others, hence their bodies crystallized to a greater extent. They degenerated and became apes. Their size also dwindled as they approached the line where the species must be extinguished. They are, therefore, the especial wards of the Lucifer Spirits. Thus the Faust myth shows us a phase of human evolution not included in the Masonic legend, and gives us a fuller and more rounded view of what has actually happened.
Once, all mankind stood at the point where the scientist believes the missing link to have been. Those which are now apes, degenerated from that point while the human family evolved to its present stage of development. We know how indulgence of the passion brutalizes those who give way to them, and we can readily realize that at a time when man was yet in the making, unindividualized, and under direct control of cosmic forces, this indulgence would be unchecked by the sense of selfhood which guards us in a measure today. Therefore, the results would naturally be more far-reaching and disastrous.
Some time the aspiring soul must enter the witches' kitchen as Faust did, and face the object lesson of the consequence of evil as represented by the apes. The soul is then left to meet Marguerite in the garden, to tempt and be tempted, to choose between purity or passion, to fall as Faust did, or to stand staunchly for purity, as did Parsifal. Under the Law of Compensation it will then receive its reward for the deeds done in the body. Indeed, luck is twin to merit, as Lucifer points out to Faust, and true wisdom is only acquired by patient persistence in well-doing.
"How closely luck is linked to merit
Does never to the fool occur.
Had he the wise man's stone, I swear it,
The stone had no philosopher."
True to his purpose to study life instead of books, Faust demands that Lucifer procure for him admittance to the home of Marguerite, and proceeds to win her affections by a princely gift of jewels smuggled into her closet by Lucifer. The brother of Marguerite is away fighting for his country. Her mother is unable to decide what is best to do with the gift and takes it to the spiritual adviser in the church. The latter loves the shining stones more than the precious souls entrusted to his care. He neglects his duty for a necklace of pearls, more eager to secure the gems for the adornment of an idol, than to guard the child of the church against moral dangers lurking around her. Thus Lucifer gains his point and quickly reaps a reward of blood and human souls, for in order to gain access to Marguerite's chamber, Faust induces her to give her mother a sleeping potion which results in the death of the parent. Valentine, the brother of Marguerite, is killed by Faust. Marguerite is cast into prison and sentenced to suffer capital punishment.
When we remember that the blood is the seat of the soul, and that it clings to the flesh of a person who meets a sudden and untimely end with the same tenacity as the kernel adheres to the flesh of an unripe fruit, it is easy to see that there is considerable torture connected with such a death. The Lucifer Spirits revel in the intensity of feeling and evolve by it. The nature of an emotion is not so essential as the intensity, so far as the purpose is concerned. Therefore, they stir the human passions of the lower nature, which are more intense in our present stage of evolution than feelings of joy and love. As a result, they incite to war and bloodshed, and appear evil now but in reality they act as stepping-stones towards higher and nobler ideals, for through sorrow and suffering such as are engendered in the breast of Marguerite, the Ego rises higher in the scale of evolution. It learns the value of virtue by a misstep in the direction of vice.
It was with true appreciation of this fact that Goethe wrote:
"Who never ate his bread in sorrow, Who never spent the midnight hours, Weeping, waiting for the morrow, He knows ye not, ye heavenly powers."
"The wages of sin is death," says the Bible, and when we sow to the flesh we must expect to reap corruption. Neither should we be surprised that one who is negative of character, like the class described as the Sons of Seth, represented by Marguerite in the Faust myth, falls a prey to this law of nature at an early date after his measure of sin has been filled. The speedy apprehension of Marguerite for the crime of matricide is an illustration of how the law works. The holy horror of the church that was remiss in not guarding her while there was yet time, is an example of how society seeks to cover up its negligence, and holds up its hands, shocked by the crimes for which it is itself, in a great measure, responsible.
Had the priest sought the confidence of Marguerite instead of coveting the jewels, he might have protected her from the fate that befell her, and though she might have suffered by losing her lover, she would have remained pure. It is, however, through the intensity of sorrow that the suffering soul finds its way back to the source of its being, for we have all as prodigal sons left our Father in Heaven; we have wandered afar from the realms of spirit, to feed upon the husks of matter, to gather experience and to gain individuality.
When we are in the slough of despair we begin to realize our high parentage and exclaim, "I will arise and go to my Father." Membership in churches, or the study of mysticism from an intellectual point of view, does not bring the realization of the whither, which is necessary before we can follow the Path. But when we are bereft of all earthly support, when we are sick and in prison, we are nearer and dearer to the Saviour than at any other time. Therefore, Marguerite in prison and under the ban of society, is closer to God than the innocent, beautiful and pure Marguerite, who had the world before her when she met Faust in the garden.
The Christ has no message for those who are satisfied and love the world and its ways. So long as they are in that condition of mind he cannot speak to them nor can they hear His voice. But there is an infinite tenderness in the words of the Saviour: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." the sinning soul symbolized by Marguerite in her prison cell, standing alone, ostracized by society as a moral and social leper, is impelled to turn her eyes heavenward and her prayer is not in vain. Yet, even to the last moment, temptations beset the seeking soul. The gate of hell and the gate of heaven are equally close to the prison cell of Marguerite, as illustrated by the visit of Faust and Lucifer who endeavor to drag her from prison and impending death to a life of shame and bondage. But she stands firm; she prefers prison and death to life and liberty in the company of Lucifer. She has thus stood the test and qualified for the Kingdom of God.
Solomon was the serf of Jehovah and as a Son of Seth he was bound to the God who created him and his ancestors. But in a later life, as Jesus, he left his former Master at the Baptism and then received the Spirit of the Christ. So every Son of Seth, must some day leave his guardians and take a stand for Christ, regardless of the sacrifice entailed thereby, even though life be the price.
Marguerite in her prison cell takes that important step and qualifies for citizenship in the New Heaven and the New Earth, by faith in Christ. Faust, on the other hand, remains with the Lucifer Spirit for a considerable time. He is a more positive character, a true Son of Cain, and though the wages of sin must eventually bring him death, salvation may come through a purer conception of love and through works.
In the second part of Faust we find the hero broken in spirit over the disaster which has befallen Marguerite through his instrumentality. He realizes his fault and begins to climb the road of redemption. He uses the Lucifer Spirit, bound to him by the bargain of blood as a means of attaining his end. He becomes an important factor in the affairs of state of the country whither he has journeyed, for all the Sons of Cain delight in statecraft as the Sons of Seth love churchcraft.
Not content, however, to serve another, under existing conditions, Faust sets the diabolical forces under his command to create a land, to raise it out of the sea and make a New Earth. He dreams a Utopian dream of how this free land shall be the home of a free people who shall dwell there in peace and contentment living up to the highest ideals of life.
These ideals are generated in his soul by the love of a character called Helen, which is a love of the loftiest and most spiritual nature, entirely separate from the thought of sex and passion. In the course of time he sees this land rise from the sea but his eyes are growing blind, for he is shifting this gaze from an earthly to a heavenly condition. While he thus stands looking at the forces marshalled by Lucifer, toiling at this behest day and night, Faust realizes that he has made real the claim of Lucifer, to be
"The power that still Works for good though scheming ill."
He sees his work with the lower forces nearing completion, but his sight grows dimmer, and with that intense longing which comes to the soul to see the fruitage of its works, he desires to retain his sight until all shall have been accomplished and his Utopian dream shall have become a reality. Therefore, as the vision before him—the land rising from the sea and the happy people who live upon it in good fellowship—fades from his sightless eyes, he utters the fateful words named by him in his bargain with Lucifer;
"Whenever to the passing hour
I say, 'Oh stay! thou art so fair,
Then unto thee I give the power
To drag me down to deep despair.
Then let me knell no longer linger,
Then from my service thou art free;
Fall from the clock the index finger,
Be time all over then for me."
By terms of that bargain, when Faust has uttered the fateful words the forces of hell are loosed from bondage to him, and he in turn becomes their prey: at least so it would seem. But Faust did not desire to stay the march of time for the purpose of enjoying sensual pleasures nor of gratifying selfish desires, as contemplated by the bargain. It was for the realization of an altruistic and a noble ideal that he wished to stay the passing hour. Therefore, he is really free from Lucifer, and a battle between the angelic forces and the hosts of Lucifer finally results in the triumph of the former, who carry the seeking soul to the haven of rest in the kingdom of the Christ, while they utter the following words:
"Saved is the noble soul from ill,
Our spirit peer. Whoever
Strives forward with unswerving will
Him can we aye deliver.
And if with him celestial love
Hath taken part, to meet him
Come down the angels from above;
With cordial hail they greet him."
Thus the Faust of the myth is an entirely different character from the Faust of the stage; and the drama which begins in heaven where permission was given Lucifer to tempt him, as Job was tempted in ancient times, also ends in heaven when the temptation has been overcome and the soul has returned to its Father.
Goethe, the great mystic, fittingly ends his version with that most mystic of all stanzas found in any literature:
"All that is perishable,
Is but a likeness.
Here is accomplished.
Here it is done.
The Eternal Feminine
Draws us on."
This stanza puzzles all who are not able to penetrate into the realms where it is supposed to be sung, namely heaven. It speaks of all that is perishable being but a likeness, that is to say, the material forms which are subject to death and transmutation are but a likeness of the archetype seen in heaven. "The unattainable here is accomplished"—that which seemed impossible on Earth is accomplished in heaven. No one knows that better than one able to function in the realm, for there every high and lofty aspiration finds fruition. The indescribable longings, ideas and experiences of the soul, which even it cannot express to itself are clearly defined in heaven; the Eternal Feminine, the great Creative Force in Nature, the mother God, which draws us along the path of evolution, becomes there a reality. Thus the Faust myth tells the story of the World Temple, which the two classes of people are building and which will be finally the New Heaven and the New Earth prophesied in the Book of Books.
As we look about us in the material universe we see a myriad of forms and all these forms have a certain color and many of them emit a definite tone; in fact all do, for there is sound even in so-called inanimate Nature. The wind in the tree tops, the babbling of the brook, the swell of the ocean are all definite contributions to the harmony of Nature.
Of these three attributes of Nature, form, color, and tone, form is the most stable, tending to remain in status quo for a considerable time and changing very slowly. Color on the other hand, changes more readily: it fades, and there are some colors that change their hue when held at different angles to the light; but tone is the most elusive of all three; it comes and goes like a will-o'-the-wisp, which none may catch or hold.
We also have three arts which seek to express the good, the true and the beautiful in these three attributes of the World Soul: namely, sculpture, painting and music.
The sculptor who deals with form seeks to imprison beauty in a marble statue that will withstand the ravages of time during millenniums; but a marble statue is cold and speaks to but a few of the most evolved who are able to infuse the statue with their own life.
The painter's art deals pre-eminently with color; it gives no tangible form to its creations; the form on a painting is an illusion from the material point of view, yet it is so much more real to most people than the real tangible statue, for the forms of a painter are alive; there is living beauty in the painting of a great artist, a beauty that many can appreciate and enjoy.
But in the case of a painting we are again affected by the changeableness of color; time soon blots out its freshness, and at the best, of course, no painting can outlast a statue.
Yet in those arts which deal with form and color there is a creation once and for all time; they have that in common, and in that they differ radically from the tone art, for music is so elusive that it must be recreated each time we wish to enjoy it, but in return it has a power to speak to all human beings in a manner that is entirely beyond the other two arts. It will add to our greatest joys and soothe our deepest sorrows; it can calm the passion of the savage breast and stir to bravery the greatest coward; it is the most potent influence in swaying humanity that is known to man, and yet, viewed solely from the material standpoint, it is superfluous, as shown by Darwin and Spencer.
It is only when we go behind the scenes of the visible and realize that man is a composite being, Spirit, soul and body, that we are enabled to understand why we are thus differently affected by the products of the three arts.
While man lives an outward life in the form world, where he lives a form life among other forms, he lives also an inner life, which is of far greater importance to him; a life where his feelings, thoughts and emotions create before his "inner vision" pictures and scenes that are everchanging, and the fuller this independent life is, the less will the man need to seek company outside himself, for he is his own best company, independent of the outside amusement, so eagerly sought by those whose inner life is barren; who know hosts of other people, but are strangers to themselves, afraid of their own company.
If we analyze this inner life we shall find that it is twofold: (1) The soul life, which deals with the feelings and emotions: (2) the activity of the Ego which directs all actions by thought.
Just as the material world is the base of supply whence the materials for our dense body have been drawn, and is pre-eminently the world of form, so there is a world of the soul, called the Desire World among the Rosicrucians, which is the base from whence the subtle garment of the Ego, which we call the soul, has been drawn, and this world is particularly the world of color. But the still more subtle World of Thought is the home of the human Spirit, the Ego, and also the realm of tone. Therefore, of the three arts, music has the greatest power over man; for while we are in this terrestrial life we are exiled from our heavenly home and have often forgotten it in our material pursuits, but then comes music, a fragrant odor laden with unspeakable memories. Like an echo from home it reminds us of that forgotten land where all is joy and peace, and even though we may scout such ideas in our material mind, the Ego knows each blessed note as a message from the home land and rejoices in it.
This realization of the nature of music is necessary to the proper appreciation of such a great masterpiece as Richard Wagner's Parsifal, where the music and the characters are bound together as in no other modern musical production.
Wagner's drama is founded upon the legend of Parsifal, a legend that has its origin enshrouded in the mystery which overshadows the infancy of the human race. It is an erroneous idea when we think that a myth is a figment of human fancy, having no foundation in fact. On the contrary, a myth is a casket containing at times the deepest and most precious jewels of spiritual truth, pearls of beauty so rare and ethereal that they cannot stand exposure to the material intellect. In order to shield them and at the same time allow them to work upon humanity for its spiritual upliftment, the Great Teachers who guide evolution, unseen but potent, give these spiritual truths to nascent humanity, encased in the picturesque symbolism of myths, so that they may work upon our feelings until such time as our dawning intellects shall have become sufficiently evolved and spiritualized so that we may both feel and know.
This is on the same principle that we give our children moral teachings by means of picture books and fairy tales, reserving the more direct teaching for later years.
Wagner did more than merely copy the legend. Legends, like all else, become encrusted by transmission and lose their beauty and it is a further evidence of Wagner's greatness that he was never bound in his expression by fashion or creed. He always asserted the prerogative of art in dealing with allegories untrammeled and free.
As he says in Religion and Art: "One might say that where religion becomes artificial, it is reserved for art to save the spirit of religion by recognizing the figurative value of the mythical symbol, which religion would have us believe in a literal sense, and revealing its deep and hidden truths through an ideal presentation. * * * Whilst the priest stakes everything on religious allegories being accepted as matters of fact, the artist has no concern at all with such a thing, since he freely and openly gives out his work as his own invention. But religion has sunk into an artificial life when she finds herself compelled to keep on adding to the edifice of her dogmatic symbols, and thus conceals the one divinely true in her, beneath an ever-growing heap of incredibilities recommended to belief. Feeling this, she has always sought the aid of art, who on her side has remained incapable of a higher evolution so long as she must present that alleged reality to the worshiper, in the form of fetishes and idols, whereas she could only fulfill her true vocation when, by an ideal presentment of the allegorical figure, she led to an apprehension of its inner kernel—the truth ineffably divine."
Turning to a consideration of the drama of Parsifal we find that the opening scene is laid in the grounds of the Castle of Mount Salvat. This is a place of peace, where all life is sacred; the animals and birds are tame, for, like all really holy men, the knights are harmless, killing neither to eat nor for sport. They apply the maxim, "Live and let live," to all living creatures.
It is dawn and we see Gurnemanz, the oldest of the Grail Knights, with two young squires under a tree. They have just awakened from their night's rest, and in the distance they spy Kundry coming galloping on a wild steed. In Kundry we see a creature of two existences, one as servitor of the Grail, willing and anxious to further the interests of the Grail Knights by all means within her power; this seems to be her real nature. In the other existence she is the unwilling slave of the magician Klingsor and is forced by him to tempt and harass the Grail Knights whom she longs to serve. The gate from one existence to the other is "sleep," and she is bound to serve him who finds and wakes her. When Gurnemanz finds her, she is the willing servitor of the Grail, but when Klingsor evokes her by his evil spells he is entitled to her services whether she will or not.
In the first act she is clothed in a robe of snake skins, symbolical of the doctrine of rebirth, for as the snake sheds its skin, coat after coat, which it exudes from itself, so the Ego in its evolutionary pilgrimage emanates from itself one body after another, shedding each vehicles as the snake sheds its skin, when it has become hard, set and crystallized so that it has lost its efficiency. This idea is also coupled with the teachings of the Law of Consequence, which brings to us as reapings whatever we sow, in Gurnemanz's answer to the young squire's avowal of the distrust in Kundry:
Under a curse she well may be
From some past life we do not see,
Seeking from sin to loose the fetter,
By deeds for which we fare the better.
Surely 'tis good she follows thus,
Helping herself while serving us.
When Kundry comes on the scene she pulls from her bosom a phial which she says she has brought from Araby and which she hopes will be a balm for the wound in the side of Amfortas, the King of the Grail, which causes him unspeakable suffering and which cannot heal. The suffering king is then carried on stage, reclining on the couch. He is on his way to his daily bath in the near-by lake, where two swans swim and make the waters into a healing lotion which assuages his dreadful sufferings. Amfortas thanks Kundry, but expresses the opinion that there is no relief for him till the deliverer has come, of whom the Grail has prophesied, "a virgin fool, by pity enlightened." But Amfortas thinks death will come before deliverance.
Amfortas is carried out, and four of the young squires crowd around Gurnemanz and ask him to tell them the story of the Grail and Amfortas' wound. They all recline beneath the tree, and Gurnemanz begins:
"On the night when our Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus, ate the Last Supper with his disciples He drank the wine from a certain chalice, and that was later used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch the lifeblood which flowed from the wound in the Redeemer's side. He also kept the bloody lance wherewith the wound was inflicted, and carried these relics with him through many perils and persecutions. At last they were taken in charge by Angels, who guarded them until one night a mystic messenger sent from God appeared and bade Titurel, Amfortas' father, build a castle for the reception and safe-keeping of these relics. Thus the Castle of Mount Salvat was built on a high mountain, and the relics lodged there under the guardianship of Titurel with a band of holy and chaste knights whom he had drawn around him. It became a center whence mighty spiritual influences went forth to the outside world.
"But there lived in yonder heathen vale a black knight who was not chaste, yet desired to become a Knight of the Grail, and to that end he mutilated himself. He deprived himself of the ability to gratify his passion, but the passion remained. King Titurel saw his heart filled with black desire, and refused him admittance. Klingsor then swore that if he could not serve the Grail, the Grail should serve him. He built a castle with a magic garden and populated it with maidens of ravishing beauty, who emitted an odor like flowers, and these waylaid the Knights of the Grail (who must pass the castle when leaving or returning to Mount Salvat) ensnaring them to betray their trust and violate their vows of chastity. Thus they became the prisoners of Klingsor and but few remained as defenders of the Grail.
"In the meantime Titurel had turned the wardenship of the Grail over to his son Amfortas and the latter, seeing the serious havoc wrought by Klingsor, determined to go out to meet and to do battle with him. To that end he took with him the holy spear.
"The wily Klingsor did not meet Amfortas in person, but evoked Kundry and transformed her from the hideous creature who appeared as the servitor of the Grail to a woman of transcendent beauty. Under Klingsor's spell she met and tempted Amfortas, who yielded and sank into her arms, letting go his hold upon the sacred spear. Klingsor then appeared, grasped the spear, inflicted a wound upon the defenseless Amfortas, and but for the heroic efforts of Gurnemanz he would have carried Amfortas a prisoner to his magic castle. He has the holy spear, however, and the king is crippled with suffering, for the wound will not heal."
The young squires spring up, fired with ardor, vowing that they will conquer Klingsor and restore the spear. Gurnemanz sadly shakes his head, saying that the task is beyond them, but reiterates the prophecy that the redemption shall be accomplished by a "pure fool, by pity enlightened."
Now cries are heard: "The swan! Oh, the swan!" and a swan flutters across the stage and falls dead at the feet of Gurnemanz and the squires, who are much agitated at the sight. Other squires bring in a stalwart youth armed with bow and arrows, and to Gurnemanz's sad enquiry, "Why did you shoot the harmless creature?" he answers innocently, "Was it wrong?" Gurnemanz then tells him of the suffering king and of the swan's part in making the healing bath. Parsifal is deeply moved at the recital and breaks his bow.
In all religions the quickening spirit has been symbolically represented as a bird. At the Baptism, when Jesus' body was in the water the Spirit of Christ descended into it as a dove. "The Spirit moves upon the water," a fluidic medium, as the swans move upon the lake beneath the Yggdrasil, the tree of life of Norse mythology, or upon the waters of the lake in the legend of the Grail. The bird is therefore a direct representation of highest spiritual influence and well may the knights sorrow at the loss. Truth is many sided. There are at least seven valid interpretations to each myth, one for each world, and looked at from the material, literal side, the compassion engendered in Parsifal and the breaking of his bow mark a definite step in the higher life. No one can be truly compassionate and a helper in evolution while he kills to eat, either in person or by proxy. The harmless life is an absolute essential prerequisite to the helpful life.
Gurnemanz then commences to question him about himself: who he is, and how he came to Mount Salvat. Parsifal displays the most surprising ignorance. To all questions he answers, "I do not know." At last Kundry speaks up and says: "I can tell you who he is. His father was the noble Gamuret, a prince among men, who died fighting in Arabia while this child was yet in the womb of his mother, Lady Herzleide. With his last, dying breath his father named him Parsifal, the pure fool. Fearing that he would grow up to learn the art of war and be taken from her, his mother brought him up in a dense forest in ignorance of weapons and warfare."
Here Parsifal chimes in: "Yes, and one day I saw some men on shapely beasts; I wanted to be like them, so I followed them for many days till at least I came here and I had to fight many manlike monsters."
In this story we have an excellent picture of the soul's search for the realities of life. Gamuret and Parsifal are different phases of the life of the soul. Gamuret is the man of the world, but in time he became wedded to Herzleide, heart affliction, in other words. he meets sorrow and dies to the world, as all of us do who have come into the higher life. While the bark of life floats on summer seas and our existence seems one grand, sweet song there is no incentive to turn to the higher; every fiber in our bodies cries, "This is good enough for me," but when the billows of adversity roar around us and each succeeding wave threatens to engulf us, then we have wedded heart affliction and become men of sorrows, and are ready to be born as Parsifal, the pure fool or the soul who has forgotten the wisdom of the world and is seeking for the higher life. So long as a man is seeking to accumulate money or to have a good time, so miscalled, he is wise with the wisdom of the world; but when he sets his face toward the things of the Spirit, he becomes a fool in the eyes of the world. He forgets all about his past life and leaves his sorrows behind him, as Parsifal left Herzleide, and we are told that she died when Parsifal did not return to her. So sorrow dies when it has given birth to the aspiring soul that flees from the world; he may be in the world to perform his duty but is not of the world.
Gurnemanz has now become imbued with the idea that Parsifal is to be the deliverer of Amfortas and takes him along to the Grail Castle. And to Parsifal's question, "Who is the Grail?" he answers:
That tell we not; but if thou has of Him been bidden,
From thee the truth will not stay hidden
Methinks thy face I rightly knew.
The land to Him no path leads through,
And search but severs from Him wider,
When He Himself is not its guider.
Here we find Wagner bringing us back into pre-Christian times, for before the advent of Christ, Initiation was not free to "whosoever will" seek in the proper manner, but was reserved for certain chosen ones such as the Brahmins and the Levites, who were given special privileges in return for being dedicated to the temple service. The coming of Christ, however, wrought certain definite changes in the constitution of mankind, so now all are capable of entering the pathway of Initiation. Indeed, it had to be so when international marriages took away caste.
At the Castle of the Grail, Amfortas is being importuned on all sides to perform the sacred rite of the Grail service, to uncover the holy chalice that the sight of it may renew the ardor of the knights and spur them on to deeds of spiritual service; but he shrinks, from fear and pain the sight will cause him to feel. The wound in his side always starts to bleed afresh at the sight of the Grail, as the wound of remorse pains us all when we have sinned against our ideal. At last, however, he yields to the combined entreaties of his father and the knights. He performs the holy rite, though the while he suffers the most excruciating agony, and Parsifal, who stands in a corner, feels sympathetically the same pain, without realizing why, and when Gurnemanz eagerly asks him after the ceremony what he saw, he remains dumb and is thrust out of the castle by the angry, because disappointed, old knight.
The feelings and emotions unchecked by knowledge are fruitful sources of temptation. The very harmlessness and guilelessness of the aspiring soul renders it often an easy prey to sin. It is necessary to soul growth that these temptations come in order to bring out our weak points. If we fall, we suffer as did Amfortas, but the pain evolves conscience and gives abhorrence of sin. It makes us strong against temptation. Every child is innocent because it has not been tempted, but only when we have been tempted and have remained pure, or when we have fallen, repented and reformed are we virtuous. Therefore Parsifal must be tempted.
In the second act we see Klingsor in the act of evoking Kundry, for he has spied Parsifal coming towards his castle, and he fears him more than all who have come before, because he is a fool. A worldly-wise man is easily entrapped by the snares of the flower girls, but Parsifal's guilelessness protects him, and when the flower girls cluster around him he innocently asks, "Are you flowers? You smell so sweet." Against him the superior wiles of Kundry are necessary, and though she pleads, protests and rebels, she is forced to tempt Parsifal, and to that end she appears as a woman of superb beauty, calling Parsifal by name. That name stirs in his breast memories of his childhood, his mother's love, and Kundry beckons him to her side and commences to subtly work upon his feelings by recalling to his memory visions of his mother's love and the sorrow she felt at his departure, which ended her life. Then she tells him of the other love, which may compensate him, of the love of man for woman, and at last imprints upon his lips a long, fervent and passionate kiss.
Then there was silence, deep and terrible, as if the destiny of the whole world hung in the balance at that fervent kiss, and as she holds him in her arms his face undergoes a gradual change and becomes drawn with pain. Suddenly he springs up as if that kiss had stung his being into a new pain, the lines on his pallid face become more intense, and both hands are clasped tightly against his throbbing heart as if to stifle some awful agony—the Grail cup appears before his vision, and then Amfortas in the same dreadful agony, and at last he cries out: "Amfortas, oh, Amfortas! I know it now—the spear wound in thy side—it burns my heart, it sears my very soul. * * * O grief! O misery! Anguish beyond words! the wound is bleeding here in my own side!"
Then again, in the same awful strain: "Nay, this is not the spear wound in my side, for this is fire and flame within my heart that sways my senses in delirium, the awful madness of tormenting love. * * * Now do I know how all the world is stirred, tosses, convulsed and often lost in shame by the terrific passions of the heart."
Kundry again tempts him: "If this one kiss has brought you so much knowledge, how much more will be yours if you yield to my love, if only for an hour?"
But there is hesitation now; Parsifal has awakened; he knows right from wrong, and he replies: "Eternity were lost to both of us if I yielded to you even for one short hour; but I will save you and also deliver you from the curse of passion, for the love that burns within you is only sensual, and between that and the true love of pure hearts there yawns an abyss like that between heaven and hell."
When Kundry at last must confess herself foiled she bursts out in great anger. She calls upon Klingsor to help, and he appears with the holy spear, which he hurls against Parsifal. But he is pure and harmless, so nothing can hurt him. The spear floats harmlessly above his head. He grasps it, makes the sign of the cross with it and Klingsor's castle and magic garden sink into ruins.
The third act opens on Good Friday many years after. A travel stained warrior, clad in black mail, enters the grounds of Mount Salvat, where Gurnemanz lives in a hut. He takes off his helmet and places a spear against a nearby rock and kneels down in prayer. Gurnemanz coming in with Kundry, whom he had just found asleep in a thicket, recognizes Parsifal with the holy spear and, overjoyed, welcomes him, asking whence he comes.
He had asked the same question of Parsifal's first visit and the answer had been: I do not know." But this time it is very different, for Parsifal answers: "Through search and suffering I came." The first occasion depicts one of the glimpses the soul gets of the realities of the higher life, but the second is the conscious attainment to a higher level of spiritual activity by the man, who has developed by sorrow and suffering, and Parsifal goes on to tell how he was often sorely beset by enemies, and might have saved himself by using the spear, but refrained because it was an instrument of healing and not for hurt. The spear is the spiritual power which comes to the pure heart and life, but is only to be used for unselfish purposes; impurity and passion cause its loss, as was the case with Amfortas. Though the man who possesses it may upon occasion use it to feed five thousand hungry people he may not turn a single stone to bread to appease his own hunger, and though he may use it to stay the blood that flows from the severed ear of a captor, he may not use it to stay the lifeblood that flows from his own side. It was ever said of such: "Others he saved; himself he could not (or would not) save."
Parsifal and Gurnemanz go into the Grail Castle, where Amfortas is being importuned to perform the sacred rite, but refuses in order to save himself the pain entailed in viewing the Holy Grail; baring his breast he implores his followers to kill him. At this moment Parsifal steps up to him and touches the wound with the lance, causing it to heal. He dethrones Amfortas, however, and takes to himself the wardership of the Holy Grail and Sacred Lance. Only those who have the most perfect unselfishness, coupled with the nicest discrimination, are fit to have the spiritual power symbolized by the spear. Amfortas would have used it to attack and hurt the enemy. Parsifal would not even use it in self-defense. Therefore he is able to heal, while Amfortas fell into the pit he had dug for Klingsor.
In the last act Kundry, who represents who lower nature, says but one word: Service. She helps Parsifal, the Spirit, to attain by her perfect service. In the first act she went to sleep when Parsifal visited the Grail. At that state the Spirit cannot soar heavenward except when the body has been left asleep or dies. But in the last act Kundry, the body, goes to the Grail Castle also, for it is dedicated to the higher self, and when the Spirit as Parsifal has attained, he has reached the stage of liberation spoken of in Revelation: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the house of my God: he shall go out thence no more." Such a one will work for humanity from the higher worlds; he needs no physical body any more; he is beyond the Law of Rebirth, and therefore Kundry dies.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his beautiful poem, "The Chambered Nautilus," has embodied in verse this idea of constant progression in gradually improving vehicles, and final liberation. The nautilus builds its spiral shell in chambered section, constantly leaving the smaller ones, which it has outgrown, for the last built.
Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last found home, he knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap forlorn,
From they dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul!
As the swift seasons roll
Leave thy low-vaulted past,
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!
Contemporary Mystic Christianity
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