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Meditation 333
Faustian Bargains

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The joke of the day in a desk calendar I have is:

Did you hear about the dyslexic devil-worshipper?

He sold his soul to Santa.

It's a silly joke, isn't it. But it got me wondering why there are so many stories about selling one's soul to Satan. The Faust myth, named for the basic tale in which a medieval alchemist sells his soul to the devil, seems to be one of the fundamental stories in Western culture, told and retold over the centuries. Some scholars take the origin back to Zoroastrianism, others regard it as a reworking of the Prometheus myth.

But what is the attraction for the concept?

It really requires three assumptions:

But if there actually was a Satan wandering around offering to buy people's souls, would it not actually serve to substantiate the existence of God, Heaven and Hell? Would it not tend to push doubters into belief? Admittedly there are those who really would be prepared to sell their soul to the devil - just check some of the web sites of those who fancy themselves to be Satanists. But if there is a Satan, he would not be buying those souls; he would own them already.

I can see no reality behind the myth. There is no devil out there buying anyone's soul.

Some might reply "Of course there is no reality. The Faust myth is an allegory for our acceptance of the crass materialism of day to day life instead of concentrating on our spiritual needs."

Perhaps. But the allegory breaks down on the concept of repentance. The sale of a soul to the devil is supposedly an unbreakable contract. But, much Christian teaching permits repentance at any point prior to death thus breaking any implicit contract we supposedly enter into with our acceptance of materialism.

The Faust myth has a religious veneer complete with souls, God and the Devil, Heaven and Hell; but like religion, when examined, it makes no sense.