Hidden Mutualities: Faustian Themes from Gnostic Origins to the Postcolonial

Hidden Mutualities: Faustian Themes from Gnostic Origins to the Postcolonial

Hidden Mutualities: Faustian Themes from Gnostic Origins to the Postcolonial

Hidden Mutualities: Faustian Themes from Gnostic Origins to the Postcolonial

Excerpt

The genesis of this book is a performance. The scene opens in a school hall, with the play about to begin, the audience quietening as the lights go down. In the darkness noises can be heard: grunts, groans, moans, screeches, the rattle of cages. A candle is lit, then another, dimly illuminating, on either side of steps leading up to the stage, a figure in white at a white desk, writing, and another – a twin – in black. Music, imitating the groans, can now be heard, and a vague light grows. It reveals, in cages in front of the stage, human creatures making animal sounds, rattling the bars. On the stage there is a tall phallic bookcase standing in the centre. To the right, in a pool of light, lies a girl dressed in old-fashioned clothes with a long skirt. She rises, and, as the music echoing the groans, sighs and shouts increases in chaotic intensity and speed, she approaches the bookcase, which can now be seen to stand in front of an outline of a painted human figure, in a circle, with a pentagram and magic symbols superimposed upon it. Just as the girl nears the bookcase, however, two shadowy male figures step out to intercept her, thrusting her back from the books. Twice she is repulsed, but the third time the men transform her: as the music rises to a frenzy, they place a cape round her shoulders, strip away her skirt, put a cap on her head, and she is revealed in the male costume of a medieval savant. The music stops. A clear light falls on the bookcase. Her way to it is open.

One by one she selects books to consider the relative merits of the disciplines they treat, rejecting in turn Aristotle (on kai me on), Galen (medicine), Justinian (law) and Jerome (divinity) before finally choosing the magic arts. As she gives her reasons, the wordless creatures in the cages, the Seven Deadly Sins, react to the motivations which reflect their natures in a kind of sympathetic resonance, like the sympathetic strings of some musical instru-

This design, more familiar from drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, is based on an
illustration in Agrippa of Nettesheim's De Occulta Philosophia.

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