The Gnostic Faustus

The Secret Teachings behind the Classic Text


About The Book

The Faust legend seen as a transmission of core Gnostic teachings disguised as a morality tale

• Shows the 16th-century Faust text to be a coded, composite Gnostic creation myth

• Identifies the many Hermetic, alchemical, and Tantric symbols found in Faust that signify worship of the divine feminine through sacramental sexual practices

• Reveals a mystical process of spiritual salvation, as distilled from esoteric traditions

In The Gnostic Faustus, Ramona Fradon shows the legend of Doctor Faustus to be a composite Gnostic creation myth that reveals the process of spiritual salvation. Nearly every element of the original 16th-century text is a metaphor containing profound spiritual messages based on passages of Coptic and Syrian Gnostic manuscripts, including the Pistis Sophia and The Hymn of the Pearl. Fradon identifies many Hermetic, alchemical, and Tantric symbols in the Faust Book that accompany the story of Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, whose troubled journey to salvation is a model for human spiritual development. Extensive line-by-line text comparisons with these Gnostic manuscripts show that Faustus’s corruption by the Devil and his despair parallel Sophia’s transgression and fall, and that his tragic death is a simple reversal of her joyful rebirth, so written in order to make an otherwise heretical story palatable to Church authorities at that time.

Fradon demonstrates that the Faust legend is a vehicle for transmitting antiquity’s secret wisdom. It provides an account of spiritual initiation whose goal is ecstatic revelation and union with the divine. The elements of alchemy, sacramental sex, and worship of the divine feminine that are encoded in the Faust Book reveal the same hidden goddess-worshipping tradition whose practices are hinted at by the writings of Renaissance magi such as Cornelius Agrippa and Giordano Bruno.


from Chapter 1

Of His Parentage and Youth

Highlights from the Tripartite Tractate, the Hymn of the Pearl, and the Apochryphon of John underlie this opening chapter and introduce the two mythological themes that shape the Faust Book plot. The Tripartite Tractate launches the composite creation myth by describing the first principle the Gnostics called Father--the unfathomable, illimitable world of Light that encompasses all potential and will emanate all of creation.

The Hymn of the Pearl introduces the composite drama of the fallen cosmic soul whose repentance and return to grace is a model for human spiritual development. In this case it is a hero savior who descends into the realm of matter to rescue the lost Pearl of Wisdom--the spark of divinity that lies forgotten in each of us and must be discovered. He fails in his mission, however, for when he crosses the boundary from the world of Light and assumes a material body, he succumbs to its desires, forgets his divine nature, and abandons his soul-saving mission.

Other texts with other divine souls will pick up this story in subsequent chapters, for whether it is Sophia from the Pistis Sophia and the Apochryphon of John, the Logos from the Tripartite Tractate, Primal Man from the Mani myth, or this particular hero savior, all assume the burden of incarnation and fall into “sleep,” “drunkenness,” or “ignorance.” All forget their heavenly origin and must be called to remembrance by a Logos or otherwise awakened in order to return to the world of Light.

In the Apochryphon of John, the doubting disciple reappears and continues to be reproached by the Pharisee for succumbing to Jesus’s teaching. He will soon receive a revelation from the Holy Spirit, however, a revelation that includes an account of the cosmic creation, a version of Sophia’s myth and secrets of divine and human salvation. For the disciple, access to these mysteries is equivalent to the divine soul’s awakening.

At the start of this text comparison, a description of Faustus’s virtuous parents is matched with lines from the Tripartite Tractate praising the “good, faultless,” and “perfect” Father. Then, as Faustus abandons his faith and sinks into depravity, his fall is matched with the hero savior’s in the Hymn of the Pearl who “puts on the body” and forgets his heavenly origin. Finally, Faustus’s friends are condemned for inclining him to magic and other forms of deception. They are compared to Jesus in the Apochryphon of John, whom the Pharisee accuses of seducing the disciple with “deception” and “lies.”

Quite aside from its relevance to the underlying texts, Faustus’s search for forbidden knowledge reflects the spiritual development of a Tantric disciple. We will be following his progress throughout this book, using as our guide an informed summary of the Tantric process by Mookerjee and Khanna in The Tantric Way. Their book and others supply physiological details about specific Tantric practices, which we will compare to some of Faustus’s peculiar actions as well as to certain unusual images and events that appear in the Faust Book.

In their summary, Mookerjee and Khanna identify a series of “sharply defined phases” of the Tantric process. They characterize the first as “an unwinding” of expansive “inner energies” or the emergence of an impulse “in the newly awakened man” to uncover his “unlimited potential.” Thus he breaks the bounds that confine him and seeks out sacred or hidden knowledge. When Faustus abandons his conventional studies, “strays from his godly purpose” and develops a wide-ranging curiosity about magic and other black arts, he is parodying this expansive impulse.

He finds his vocation in sorcery, necromancy, and other forbidden arts in the same way the aspirant “discovers and accepts a belief system--in this case Tantra--in which (he) is going to be actualized.” While the belief system Faustus has adopted consists of the devil’s Arcana and will contribute to his undoing in the surface story, the practices and beliefs for which it is a metaphor will ultimately “actualize” or transform the Tantric disciple and he will acquire the godlike attributes he desires.

The magical “figuroe” and “incantaciones” Faustus studies evoke the tantrist’s sacred yantras and the potent syllables or mantras they chant to effect their transformations. The “conjuraciones” and “nigromantiae” he practices suggest the powers attributed to Tantric adepts who are said to produce plasmic forms out of mind stuff through the projection of sexual energy, to teleport and become clairvoyant. Faustus will master these Tantric practices and acquire many more as the story progresses.

The magical system he adopts is condemned by the Faust Book author as foreign and blasphemous, labels that have also been applied to Tantra, whose worship of the goddess through exotic rituals and explicit sexual techniques clearly run counter to orthodox norms.

Condemned in India by the conservative Brahmans and driven underground in the West by the patriarchal Church, news of Tantra has surfaced in this speculative environment of alchemy and Gnosticism. Indeed, as we shall see, Tantric practices indicated in the “heretical” Faust Book fit comfortably into alchemy’s framework and the structure of the Gnostic myth.

About The Author

Ramona Fradon has been investigating the Faust legend since 1978 in order to decipher the mysteries of its spiritual framework. She has also practiced astrology and energy healing and studied shamanism and hypnotherapy. She is a visual artist with extensive illustration credits in the comics industry. She was the artist for Aquaman, Metamorpho, and the comic strip Brenda Starr. In 2006, she was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. She lives in upstate New York.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (November 12, 2007)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781594772047

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

“Fradon’s comparative study of the hidden origins of the ‘original’ Faust tale not only illuminates the gnostic, hermetic, and alchemical substrata that have been hinted at by previous scholars but also breaks new ground in pointing out uncanny tantric resonances in what superficially appears as a lurid sixteenth-century German chapbook.”

– Michael Moynihan, author of Lords of Chaos and The Secret King

"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."

– Michael Gleason,, Dec 2007

"The historical and literary information in the Introduction is key. . . . Familiarity with the book can improve one's magic because it includes basic esoteric concepts and their application."

– Michelle Mueller, Facing North, Feb 2008

" The Gnostic Faustus is one of those books in which every other paragraph is so illuminating that you want to jot down notes so as to not forget anything. Fradon's style is mature and she frames these gems of insight in a way that everyone can understand."

– Jeff Arrow, Parallel Perspectives, Jan 2008

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images