“The Two Powers”
Number 2118.—September 13, 2023
Dear Unknown Friends:
Here is the third part of Eli Siegel’s 1970 lecture How Effective Are We? The lecture is great—great in its comprehension of life, economics, the self of everyone, and literature.
How Effective Are We? is about power—and the fact, described by Aesthetic Realism, that there are two kinds of power, one good and one bad. In the present section, Mr. Siegel is in the midst of discussing Christopher Marlowe’s Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, a play about the legendary scholar who wanted a power which, he felt, scholarship and trying to understand would not give him. It was a power over reality itself: to get—quickly—and manage anything he pleased. And he sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for it.
It has been felt for centuries that the power gone after by Faustus is wrong. But just what is wrong with it wasn’t explained, either by Marlowe or those commenting on his play. There was only the idea that such power has been forbidden by God, that there is, as John Gassner writes in his Treasury of the Theatre, “a transgression” in it. Aesthetic Realism explains: bad power, like all injustice, is bad because it is impelled by, and is a going after, contempt, the “false importance or glory from the lessening of things not oneself.” The seeing of what that means is part of the magnificent study of Aesthetic Realism….Read more
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