By Mike Gleason
The Gnostic Faustus: The Secret Teachings behind the Classic Text, by Ramona Fradon
Inner Traditions, 9781594772047, 370 pp., 2007
This is not a book for the casual reader. Without a basic understanding of Gnostic literature, alchemy and/or the Faust legend you will rapidly find yourself playing catch-up.
This book is predominantly a comparison, section by section (and sometimes line for line) between the original “Faust book” (Anonymous, circa 1570) and major Gnostic and alchemical writings, many of which were known only by reputation until the late 19th century and later. Each chapter is introduced with a short overview, and then the reader is left to read the document (in a series of side-by-side columns) and to make his own comparisons and draw his own conclusions.
Written by an author who has devoted almost three decades to her investigation of the Faust legend, this book should be a valuable addition to the libraries of those individuals interested in any of the major topics covered. It is not a book I would recommend for someone just beginning their studies, however.
The imagery contained in the Faust legend is thoroughly explored, and some aspects are brought forward which have not, to my knowledge, been discussed in works available to a general readership – and that is the best thing about this book.
While a basic background is necessary, the reader need not be a specialist in medieval literature to be able to make sense of it.