Something that is faustian refers to a wider interpretation of things that happen in Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In part one of Goethe’s Faust, the central character’s pact with the devil allows him to have energy, life and youth unless he becomes so entranced by the passing moment that he wishes that things will never change. When Faust stumbles unthinkingly into that wish, his world and his life are forfeit to Mephistopheles.
Faustian may be:
- A work of fiction, or a fictional character, may be cited as being “Faustian” if it involves a literal or proverbial “deal with the devil”, such as that portrayed in the story of Faust. Such dealings are often referred to as “Faustian deals”, and as such there is usually short term gain (e.g. fame, fortune) for long term pain (i.e. the person’s soul). A recent example is the movie Star Wars: Episode III, where the hero Anakin Skywalker agrees to become the apprentice of the evil Darth Sidious in order to save his wife, only to lose his soul and his humanity and kill her.
- In history, since Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West the faustian society is synonymous with the western world. The word is chosen since Spengler believed the entire western society follows a trajectory similar to that of Faust.
- In sociology for example in the writings of Marshall Berman faustian refers to the short-time perspective of society in modernity. It also refers to Faust’s desire in the second part of Goethe’s Faust, especially act V, to defeat the forces of nature and create a mechanical heaven on earth by draining the seabed and using it for farming.