Manifestophilis: Ritual, Medium, Turnings

Patrick Higgins: Moving to the topic of ritual and summoning, I’m curious what you have to say about such a topic from the perspective of the one summoned, rather than from the view of the summoner.

Mephistopheles: Naturally, mine is an underrepresented voice. This is really an overlooked topic in general. Consider that “Summon” comes from the Latin “sumonnere”: to give a hint, or to advise. Built of Sub and Monere: “secretly” and “warn.” So to summon is not simply to call upon, but to call to: to advise, or give a hint.

PH: As you stated before, the presence of ritual seems to be a part of this calling or giving-a-hint.

M: There is a tribute there – a tribute to the medium of the summoning. It is it’s own performance, it has it’s own markers, and if done correctly I have the responsibility to respond. To fail to respond is to fail the medium of the ritual itself – to let the communication, the manifestation of communication, die.

PH: But the purpose of the Devil in such a ritual is to also provoke a destructive force, yes?

M: Of course, is it any wonder that “manifest” should come from “manus” and “infestus” – a striking of the hand? And “manifesto” – the same, but preceded by an “o,” not encased, but followed by a circle and enclosing. A circle who’s power rests, not in the emptiness it contains, but in its following-in-sequence of the letters to its side. A power in its transformation of the word. A work, then, is always enacted – made by hand. Hence the signing of blood either with a pen or some other act. There is a need for violence – an acknowledgement of the violence of the writing itself, that cuts and clears like a blade through a jungle.

PH: The notion of a diabolic contract is, itself, somewhat paradoxical isn’t it? Marlowe’s Faust is a difficult character to sympathize with because he should be able to turn away from his deal with the devil at any moment, but he never does. The power of the devil is only actualized with the absence of God. Faust could find his salvation by simply praying to God for forgiveness and forsaking his pact. The breaking of the contract, in and of itself, would save Faust from the very repercussions of breaking the contract.

M: Well, that’s only if you assume that asking for forgiveness is simply a matter of speaking the worlds “forgive me.” Once one uses magic to summon a Devil, one encounters a power that defines their existence. To accept that power once is to think about it eternally. Even if one renounces it, the possibility of that power colors life afterwards. And this is not unique to Faust – consider Goethe’s Gretchen. In his variation of the story, the mere presence of Faust, his seduction that is performed with both lust and love, is enough to ruin her. At the Cathedral she is followed by an Evil Spirit, and not necessarily one like me. It is a spirit of doubt, one whose greatest threat is “Feel God’s wrath!” To seek forgiveness, even from a figure that must be all forgiving, is to acknowledge a wrong, to acknowledge shame, but – most importantly – to acknowledge that there is still an alternative to the figure one must seek forgiveness from.

PH: What do you think of this notion of text as a labyrinth? An exploration through, following the threads and the lines? These markings – labyrinths, threads, a searching for a center – are indicative of the myth of Ariadne and Theseus?

M: Indeed, but these figures shift and interact differently with only a few changes as an author sees fit: the properties of the story can change and become an entirely different fabula altogether.

PH: So how does Theseus become Faust?

M: The goal of Theseus is to destroy the Minotaur – to destroy the Other – to render the Labyrinth obsolete and useless in finding and conquering its center. The thread he carries is used to map every corridor solely so that, once the center is found, he can remove himself from the Labyrinth and never look back.

PH: And Faust?

M: Faust doesn’t seek to destroy the Other, but gains his power, his drive from a dialogue with it – a dialogue that ultimately has no conclusion. For Faust, going into the Labyrinth, going away from Society, is a choice for himself – he wants to make himself a home of the Labyrinth, impose its difference upon what he sees as the banal world he leaves behind. He doesn’t lay down thread in order to follow it back, he takes the avenues of exploration and weaves them together to make a new center for himself. A nest if you will.

PH: But Faust never leaves behind the mortal world. His search for power and fulfillment is predicated upon him changing that very same world he abandons by going to the Labyrinth.

M: It is this anxiety that gives Faust his energy, and what lets me provoke him so: wherever Faust stands, ready to go forward, he is also looking back. The center he builds for himself is ever in motion: it is founded in this turning, a going around and around. As he twists the hallways of the labyrinth, so too is he twisting the foundations outside the labyrinth. Again, look at Faust and Gretchen. After seducing the girl, he runs off to a cave in a forest, to a “labyrinth of valleys.”  He seeks “new vitality … from this sojourn in desolate solitude,” but still reels “between desire and enjoyment, and in enjoyment languish[es] for desire.” His rest is not a rest. It is a breaking down, hence it is my duty to tell him he is “wearing out again” before he is “broken down completely.”

PH: Is this anxiety what provokes Faust to myth-seeking? Is his story a story of man in search of a myth?

M: Well, consider when I tell Faust that Gretchen “is not the first.” The great irony is that, if Gretchen is not the first, then neither is Faust, nor am I. We are already part of “an old story” that’s being retold.

PH: But then was there a first? A first Faust?

M: Myth is there to make origins, but if you can’t find an origin to the myth you have an origin without place. An origin that lacks origin. This is the anxiety: Faust wishes to make his own story for himself, even if its based upon another, for the sake of having his own origin.

PH: Then is this why you say that another mythic figure, like Theseus, can also be a Faust? Can enact a different fabula entirely?

M: A myth is usually an origin story, it tells of becoming. But here we also must speak of myth as used by Jung and Hillman. So myth is an origin – and Faust can be a story told as myth in this sense – but it is not simply an origin because it can be enacted again and again with new results. It is a future as much as a past. To live the story of Faust defines your future because it is about becoming.

 

 

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