Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Faust (1808, 1831)

I was introduced to Goethe via the writings of Albert Schweitzer during my freshman year at Columbia. Since then, Goethe has become my spiritual mentor. He was not only a great poet and dramatist, but a scientist as well. I bought Rudolf Steiner's Goethe, the Scientist, the first time at Anthony's American Brahmin bookstore. I attended a Cornell student's backyard picnic party where Tony was invited. They played the guitar and took turns singing popular songs. When it was my turn, I admitted that I didn't know any song by heart but could recite some verses from Goethe's Faust which I'm quoting below. Tony was impressed, saying, "Peter bought a book from me about Goethe the first time we met. I didn't know that he knew Goethe by heart." Tony told me to be more sociable and attend the weekend gathering at his home in Seneca Falls— "We relax and chat, I play some classical music. My wife Ella May serve some homemade vegetarian soup." Tony invited me to stay overnight at his house before I left Cornell for my postdoc research at Brandeis (Sept. 1970). He introduced me to Beethoven's Last Quartets and deepened my appreciation for his spiritual mentor, Paul Brunton, whom I had the pleasure to interview during my visits to Europe. I've included Goethe's verses in the Prologue of my Ph.D. Thesis "Calorimetric Heat of the Helix-Coil Transition of Poly-L-Lysine" because Goethe's message spoke to me as I embarked on Buddha's spiritual path of enlightenment. Goethe's Chorus Mysticus at the end of Faust summarized the importance of the "Eternal Feminine" in leading us above. This is the message of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching and also Dante when Beatrice (intuition & insight) and not Virgil (intellect & logic) guided him to Paradise. (Peter Y. Chou)

Faust (Part I, 1808)

Behind me, field and meadow sleeping,
I leave in deep, prophetic night,
Within whose dread and holy keeping
The better soul awakes to light.
The wild desires no longer win us,
The deeds of passion cease to chain;
The love of Man revives within us,
The love of God revives again.

Ah, when, within our narrow chamber
The lamp with friendly lustre glows,
Flames in the breast each faded ember,
And in the heart, itself that knows.
Then Hope again lends sweet assistance,
And Reason then resumes her speech:
One yearns, the rivers of existence,
The very founts of Life, to reach.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust
     Part I, Scene III: The Study
     translated by Bayard Taylor (1870),
     Random House, NY, 1950, pp. 41-42
     eBook of Faust


Faust (Part II, 1831)

Chorus Mysticus
All things corruptible
Are but a parable;
Earth's insufficiency
Here finds fulfilment;
Here the ineffable
Wins life through love;
Eternal Feminine
Leads us above.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust
     Part II, Act V, Closing Lines
     translated by Philip Wayne,
     Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1959, p. 288)

     Paul Weigand, Problems in Translating the Song
     of the Chorus Mysticus in Goethe's Faust II
     The German Quarterly (1960)

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email: (2-19-2007)