The Pre-Death Thoughts of Faust

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (1874 – 1948) was a Russian religious and political philosopher.

Following is an excerpt of Berdayaev’s thoughts on Christianity, Faust, Goethe, Spengeler and the end of Western Civilization:


The Pre-Death Thoughts of Faust (1922 – #59)

The fate of Faust — is the fate of European culture. The soul of Faust — is the soul of Western Europe. This soul was full of stormy, of endless strivings. In it there was an exceptional dynamism, unknown to the soul of antiquity, to the Greek soul. In its youth, in the era of the Renaissance, and still earlier, in the Renaissance of the Middle Ages, the soul of Faust sought passionately for truth, they fell in love with Gretchen and for the realisation of his endless human aspirations it entered into a pact with Mephistopheles, with the evil spirit of the earth. And the Faustian soul was gradually corroded by the Mephistophelean principle. Its powers began to wane. What ended the endless strivings of the Faustian soul, to what did they lead? The Faustian soul led to the draining of swamps, to the engineering art, to a material arranging of the earth and to a material mastery over the world. Thus we find spoken towards the conclusion of the second part of Faust:

Ein Sumpf zieht am Gebirge hin,
Verpestet alles schon Errungene;
Den faulen Pfuhl auch abzuziehn,
Das letzte waer das Hoechsterrungene,
Eroeffn ich Raeume vielen Millionen,
Nicht sicher zwar,
doch taetig-frei zu wohnen.

Nigh the mountain a swamp doth stretch,
Pollutes there every advancement;
To drain off the foul pool,
Would be the utmost highest achievement,
I’d open up space for many a million,
Not indeed secure, but active-free to be.

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