Faustian Dreams

In its spiritual life, the human soul is confronted with two options, to seek the realization and actualization of its divine nature, or to be overwhelmed and rendered inert by the lower, transient things of the world. The 4th century Greek theologian St. Gregory of Nyssa once observed,

For those who look towards the true God receive within themselves the characteristics of the divine nature; so too, those who turn their minds to the vanity of idols are transformed into the objects which they look at, and become stones instead of men.

Saint Gregory never received the chance to witness the idols of modernity, which have far surpassed the the old stone and marble images of classical antiquity in their destructive transformational effects on the human spirit. Instead modern man has seized upon often-violent revolutionary ideologies and the sanctification of technology as the new idols he erected in the temple of his heart. In the last century, modern man found himself pursuing the ressentiment-driven mass violence of the Bolsheviks and methodical brutality of fascism. In our present era, meanwhile, he has settled razing entire countries to the ground in the name of freedom and democracy, and destroying ancient social traditions and institutions in the name of equality and social justice. The nihilistic revolutionary in this case does not become merely as stone, but something far worse, the “demons” described by the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky.

St. Gregory of Nyssa

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Proud modern man pursues his Faustian deal with the technological Mephistopheles, hoping that he’ll be saved from death, or at the very least saved from the expansive boredom and emptiness of the modern world.  Enthusiastically he adapts himself to his electronic gods, not just in his social dealings, but spiritually as well, becoming the biological android so desired by transhumanist charlatans like Ray Kurzweil.

So in his technological and scientific progression, man is continuously becoming less of himself, or at least less of what he could potentially be were he to pursue his higher self. Indeed, similar to the companions of Odysseus who were transformed into swine by the witch Circe, modern men are reduced to a slothful and bestial state, the spell cast by their over-reliance on technology and an accompanying spirit of mindless consumerism.

The original scam artist at work.

The original scam artist at work.

Such is the condition of modern man, who has cast God out from his heart and pressed forward his technocratic society. We must grapple with a condition in many ways far worse than anything endured by an ancient nature-worshiping pagan, who still had at least some vague awareness of transcendent reality. Yet Faust’s spiritual heirs, holding aloft their banner of sacred scientism, will tolerate no dissent even in their conscience; their souls are as dead as the matter that dominates their arbitrary empiricism.

Contemporary man can no longer face God, because, as the British author and theologian C.S. Lewis pointed out, he no longer has a face, merely a void-gazing simulacrum. And that is the crux of the matter. Until he finds his lost face, the divine image buried deep in his afflicted soul, he will forever be turning from one false idol, one false form to the next, never able to escape the cave in which he has imprisoned himself.

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13 thoughts on “Faustian Dreams

  1. Pingback: Faustian Dreams | Neoreactive

  2. Nice article. I am assuming the intent of the phrase realizing the soul’s divine nature means a participation, capax, by grace. Would to God society saw the true good is God who transcends every good.

  3. In the ancient world man was conceived to have a three fold nature: body, soul, and spirit. Over the centuries in the West it was whittled down to two natures, body and soul. In the modern era it became a monism, only body. It corresponds to the evolution of consciousness from the participation mystique with nature of the primitive to the modern consciousness that is rooted in nothing else and exists in alienation.

    But the Gods did not die, they were withdrawn from external objects back into the individual and still live and act in our personal and collective unconscious. This was the discovery of Carl Jung.

    Modern man thinks he is beyond religion but doesn’t realize that the psychological religious function animates his beliefs and thinking. He can’t see that his belief in technology and science is religion.

    Animation of much thinking and thought comes from the psychological Self (another Carl Jung discovery). It is here that the great danger for modernism lurks: the more that consciousness denies the reality of the Self (which Jung called the archetype of God) the more that the demonic (or negative) aspect of the Self animates consciousness.

    This danger of modernism is most advanced in the West. In just the last two decades the West has turned the opportunity to create a northern hemisphere of peace and prosperity into restarting the Cold War and danger of nuclear war, it has collapsed into chaos multiple countries in the MENA, it inches closer to provoking China and Russia, it has directly caused the violent death of over four millions and the spilling of rivers of blood. Being animated by the negative side of the Self the West presses on unable to reflect on its folly.

    The problem is that the West is not whole, that is, it doesn’t know or acknowledge the reality of its Self. And in its unconscious desire to be whole it acts out bringing wholeness to the whole world to rule the earth by force in its extroverted distorted image of wholeness.

    • But the Gods did not die, they were withdrawn from external objects back into the individual and still live and act in our personal and collective unconscious. This was the discovery of Carl Jung.

      Would you please care to share more or direct me to the relevant reading? Thank you in advance; also thank you to Daniel Spaulding for the beautiful, thought provoking, soul kindling article.

  4. Thank you! Interesting commentary!
    This dualism inspired many great thinkers. Goethe is certainly among them. Through the character of Faust he displayed the duality of human nature. N.Berdyaev wrote about Goethe, about his Faust. He also noted that”morality in our world implies dualism of good and evil”.We crave for ”new sensations”but soon become indifferent to them. ”The wonders of yesterday are today common occurrences”. Berdyaev described our reality as ” a living in nightmare of falsehoods” and suggested to those” very few who are aware and awake to see things as they are: to clear away illusions and recover a sense of reality, to recover the truth about ourselves and the world in which we live, and thereby to gain the power of keeping this world from flying asunder”.
    We all need to have some kind of an ideal which will guide us and bring fulfillment. It isn’t material. It could be the faith( religion- as a positive, liberating force from material bonds), art, science or other. What matters is that it works as immaterial force.Objectification ( rational, moral, aesthetic) is our ‘’burden’’. Especially the moral one. It confines man to this imperfect, restrictive, ‘’fallen’’ world.

  5. Thank you for your labor of love. They are many ways to warn our brethren..and they are all necessary… to remind people of our biblical reality and of the Promise which words cannot begin to describe.

  6. What a beautiful description of the plight of modern man besotted by the promise of technological immortality. He appears alert, but is asleep. He appear active, but is inert. He appears purposeful, but he has lost his way.

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