The Faust Myth: Religion and the Rise of Representation by David Hawkes (auth.)

By David Hawkes (auth.)

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The Roman position was that the ultimate cause of the sacrament’s efficacy was God’s will, but Luther pointed out that ecclesiastical practice was consistent with the magical view that it was the ritual itself that produced grace. The ceremonial actions of the priest were fetishized as a “finished work,” an opus operatum, that could be—and frequently was—sold on the market like any other piece of commodified labor so that, as Luther puts it, “this sacred testament of God has been forced into the service of an impious greed for gain .

13 According to Baron, the Historia should be considered a semiofficial proclamation concerning the true nature of witchcraft: “Spies was . . ” Other recent critics agree. ”14 As such, it was a highly topical work, as Spies remarks in his preface: “Everywhere, at parties and social gatherings, there is great inquiry for a history of this Faustus” (5). The evidence that has come down to us offers only hints regarding the reasons for this curiosity. ”15 In 1513, the canon of the church of St. Mary’s in Gotha called Faust “a mere braggart and fool” (87), but in 1520 he was paid ten guilders by the bishop of Bamberg for a “horoscope or prognostication” (89).

Words, in so far as they signify something, have no power except as derived from some intellect; either of the speaker, or of the person to whom they are spoken. . Now, it cannot be said that these significative words uttered by magicians derive efficacy from the intellect of the speaker. For . . man’s intellect is . . of such a disposition that its knowledge is caused by things, rather than that it is able by its mere thought to cause things. . 5 Magical spells and incantations, says Aquinas, are performative with regard not merely to the speaker’s own subjective actions (as in “I declare this bridge open”) but also with regard to the objective things of the world (as in “open sesame”).

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