In “Setting the Stage,” Fradon lays out the background of the Faustus tale. Reading The Gnostic Faustus, I am most interested in Fradon’s interpretation. The historical and literary information in the Introduction is key. I read Faust in high school. I imagine most of Fradon’s readers will at least be familiar with the story, if they have not read a version. No matter how many versions one has read, a review is always helpful. I am grateful for Fradon’s careful introduction, on which he does not dwell excessively. 

Out of many metaphors for alchemy, Fradon chooses to use sexual innuendos for the alchemical process. The excerpts from Gnostic texts discuss the spillage of semen in ways similar to the Zohar’s portrayal of Lilith. Sexual acts are both exaggerated and feared. 

In “Chapter 16: How Doctor Faustus Journeyed Up To the Stars,” Fradon turns from sexual to astrological metaphors. This comparison continues until “Chapter 19: Concerning the Stars,” where Fradon unwinds the plot of Faustus through the development of constellations. 

Although the sexual metaphors are present in Mediterranean and Hebrew texts, Fradon emphasizes them more than necessary. The Faustus myth is rich with spiritual/esoteric symbolism, drawing on Cabala, astrology, and numerology. I prefer Fradon’s chapters on astrology. 

The Gnostic Faustus includes Fradon’s hard-earned life lessons, as pertaining to Faustian literature. Each chapter contains Fradon’s original writing and excerpts from the Faust Book or Pistis Sophia

The Gnostic Faustus informs the reader’s intellectual understanding of Craft. Familiarity with the book can improve one’s magic because it includes basic esoteric concepts and their application. Fradon focuses on Faust, drawing on several magical systems. Several similar books could be written, with other stories at the spine. For example, Baghavad Gita, William Blake, H.P. Lovecraft, and Grimms’ Fairy Tales could form the mythical paradigm for occult lexicons. 

review by Michelle Mueller

Author: Ramona Fradon

Inner Traditions, 2007

pp. 337, $19.95

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