The Glass Bead Game


The Glass Bead Game by Hermann HesseAuthor: Hermann Hesse (translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston)
Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics (1984) [first published in 1943 as Der Glasperlenspiel]
Number of Pages: 519
How long it took me to read: 1 month, 2 weeks
Where I bought this book: A birthday present, December 2010.
ISBN: 0-14-003438-2

Like a Moth to a Flame

When I received this book for my birthday, I immediately placed it near the top of my tottering ‘to read’ pile.  I’d gorged on a steady diet of Hermann Hesse books about six years ago, beginning with Steppenwolf (which will always remain one of my favourite works of literature, what with its magical mix of intellectualism, mystery and wildness) and continuing on through Gertrud, The Prodigy, Narziss and Goldmund and Siddhartha. I’d always intended to read The Glass Bead Game during this phase as the descriptions of it in these other books had suggested a return to the Germanic magic realism of Steppenwolf, but I’d never managed to get hold of a copy. Time moved on, new interests hooked me  and I forgot all about the book until I saw it on the Amazon website last year.  I craftily added it to my wishlist and began dropping hints about it just in time for my birthday.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “In some periods interviews with well-known personalities on current problems were particularly popular… Noted chemists or piano virtuosos would be queried about politics, for example, or popular actors, dancers, gymnasts, aviators, or even poets would be drawn out on the benefits and drawbacks of being a bachelor, or on the presumptive causes of financial crises, and so on.  All that mattered in these pieces was to link a well-known name with a subject of current topical interest.” (p.23)

4. “In the centre of the quadrangle, arranged like the five on a die, five enormous, stately trees raised their dark cones to the sky.” (p.65)

3. “ ‘…In short, I had to pass through one of those crises in which all studies, all intellectual efforts, everything that we mean by the life of the mind, appear dubious and devalued and in which we tend to envy every peasant at the plough and every pair of lovers at evening, or every bird singing in a tree and every cicada chirping in the summer grass, because they seem to us to be living such natural, fulfilled, and happy lives.’ ” (p.97)

2. “Once Knecht confessed to his teacher that he wished to learn enough to be able to incorporate the system of I Ching into the Glass Bead Game.  Elder Brother laughed.  ‘Go ahead and try,’ he exclaimed. ‘You’ll see how it turns out. Anyone can create a pretty little bamboo garden in the world.  But I doubt that the gardener would succeed in incorporating the world in his bamboo grove.’ ” (p.125)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “ ‘There is truth, my boy.  But the doctrine you desire, absolute, perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist.  Nor should you long for a perfect doctrine, my friend.  Rather, you should long for the perfection of yourself.  The deity is within you, not in the ideas and books.  Truth is lived, not taught.’ ” (p.80)

New Words

Words are wondrous creatures. Put them together and they paint a picture. Rearrange them and the scene changes. But to be able to see what they are saying, we must first know what they mean.

New Word: vade mecum (noun)

Definition (Source: Dictionary.com): 1) something a person carries about for frequent or regular use; 2) a book for ready reference
Synonyms: manual, handbook
Origins: 1620–30; Latin vāde mēcum literally, ‘go with me’
As in: “The calendar was intended as a vade mecum for still inexperienced Masters in their first years in office…” (p.227)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“A good way for authors to capture my interest in their books is to begin them by criticising the vacuous nature of our modern lifestyle. Hesse’s narrator describes our contemporary times as ‘The Age of the Feuilleton.’   A quick scrabble through my online dictionary of choice revealed that a feuilleton was ‘part of a European newspaper devoted to light literature, fiction, criticism, etc’. The first of my selected quotes above reveals what Hesse is using this term to suggest.  For us, a more familiar term might be the ‘cult of personality’—the idea that the opinion of anyone famous should be sought on any subject, regardless of how beyond their realm of expertise it is.  Because this entertains so, so many people (for reasons that are beyond my ability to psychoanalyse), it ensures they will then spend their money on the kind of newspapers that print these articles.  The quality of the opinion or the advice they are receiving in return for this daily worship is of no importance as long as it is provided by a recognizable name, face or, in some cases, body.  The fact that Hesse wrote this introduction in 1943 and yet our global society, nearly 70 years later, has only become further entrenched in ‘The Age of the Feuilleton’ underlines his message.  After all, Hesse won a Nobel prize for this book, yet it seems that not enough people have since deemed his words significant enough of a warning to take heed.”

“To be fair, my stilted progress through the first 150 pages of the story itself proves this book to be a hardy challenge. I imagine there are many who would flounder at the task of appreciating it.  It’s not that the language is inaccessible (in fact, as far as I can tell, this translation does an excellent job of conveying the immense detail of Hesse’s vision without losing any of its subtleties) but after the initial sting of the introduction, the book labours into a slow, methodical biography of the main character, Joseph Knecht.  I’ve reached page 188 now and am beginning to question where the story is going, or if it is going anywhere at all.  My previous experiences of Hesse might be partly to blame for this (Steppenwolf held my attention for its full, admittedly much shorter, length) as could my hopeful (though false) expectations that a story set in the future about a game played by scholars might echo either the surrealistic dreamscapes of J. G. Ballard or the dystopian technophobia of Philip K. Dick.  I also suspect that my own impatience is having a hand in it.   It’s obstinately insisting that the plot should be taking a more definite direction towards some point, some message, that reverberates with the observations in the introduction.  Hesse would apparently have disagreed with this, and what right does my impatience have to keep arguing with his magnum opus?

The Glass Bead Game is set in Castalia, one enormous academic institution spread out over multiple continents, existing in almost total separation from the functional lives of the population.  To truly appreciate this, I feel I need to know more about its relationship with the outside world. So far, this has only been introduced in the character of Plinio Designori (a non-Castalian visiting student), who publicly debates with Knecht over the purpose and worth of Castalia. But their arguments are not examined in enough depth to provide a sense of how the two worlds interact.  Perhaps this is to keep it a mystery from the reader, just as it is to Knecht, who has never experienced life outside the confines of this academic realm. The only other ‘outside’ view of Castalia we are given comes at the monastery where Knecht spends his sabbatical, but which is equally isolated from the rest of society, both physically and ideologically.  I’m certain that Hesse will have to address this relationship between Castalia and society in more detail for his story to deliver on its early themes, but I’m worried that it will arrive too late to be fully developed.  The fact that I’m still reading, suggests that I care enough to find out, although I’m surprised by this as I feel less invested every night.  The book feels like a dream I sink into before falling asleep and have no recollection of when I wake in the morning.”

“Here we are, several centuries in the future, and no consideration is made at all of technological or scientific advances.  There is an historical gap between the first half of the twentieth century and the time of the story that is barely broached. What has happened to halt the human progress that Hesse must have seen around him in his lifetime? There is the occasional mention of cars but Castalia itself seems to adopt no technology in its teaching at all.  In fact, the pedagogic methods used by the teachers are left almost entirely to the reader’s imagination, save for their dialogue with students. This is surprising, not because the story in any way requires it, but because of the detail Hesse has given to all other areas, the determination he has to show this world that he’s created from every possible direction – particularly the relationships between the characters.”

“This is a book in which you have to immerse yourself.  You can tell that Hesse was a devotee of meditation, as that is exactly what this whole story appears to be: a measured, thorough yet contemplative epic, not rigorous or over-dramatised.  It is as if the reader eventually has to submit and merge into the author’s own trance, in which he is considering the substance of academia through a projected simulation.  There’s an interesting quote to illustrate this that seems more appropriate here than in the list at the top: ‘The purpose of meditation, after all, is adaptation of the individual to the hierarchy, and application in it might very well have cured him of his neurasthenia.’  As a teenager, I experimented briefly with meditation in the hope of discovering some external enlightenment or universal truth, (just as the young Joseph Knecht naively hopes to with the Glass Bead Game, which is no more than a long-evolved contrivance of human culture). Perhaps if I’d understood that meditation is more about the taming of the self, it would have made more sense and proved more effective*, as, had I surrendered my ‘self’ and allowed it to hypnotise me a little sooner, might also be true of the first two hundred pages of this book.”

“The ending comes abruptly, just as it promises to fulfil my hopes for a finer comparison of Knecht’s life within Castalia with his broader experience of the outside world.  Does the story still require an exploration of the relationship between these two distinct worlds to fulfil its aims?  I’m not sure, as I have no clear idea of what Hesse’s own conclusions were from this meditation.   The following one hundred pages of poems and stories written by Knecht himself (a testament to Hesse’s accomplished imagination of the character) only pile more questions on me.  Even now, while writing this review, the book stares at me accusingly, sighing that there’s more to learn within its pages and challenging me to pick it up and read it again.  The damn thing didn’t even appreciate me gluing its old, wearing coversheet back on.  One day, I’ll get back to you, I promise, and on that day, I might understand a little more of what you’re trying to tell me.  I fear I may be too much a product of the Age of the Feuilleton to truly appreciate your secrets, no matter how much I protest it.”

*Okay, I have to admit this is doubtful – I’ve rarely seen the benefits of simply ‘fitting in’ with anything, especially not in our accepted hierarchy!

Gareth Long

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13 Comments

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  2. Clive says:

    ‘Pre Internet days I had this Utopian dream myself, well to be precise it was a yearning, but this is a dream which the we it eb is making a more likely prospect’
    My Apologies this last bit was a mistake .

  3. Clive says:

    The Glass Bead Game

    I know I’m going to come in for some criticism here but I’ve not read this book, but I heard a radio adaptation of it just yesterday. Despite that I‘m still going to express some opinions on it. I listened to it because I was intrigued about the subject matter, but after a while I felt concerned about what I listening to. Alarm bells sounded in my head when there appeared to be no clear explanation of what this ‘Game’ actually was. It seemed clear that it was just a plot device for Hesse to talk about the meaning of life and fictionally how the game was a way to unify all the many various strands of mainly academic knowledge to help us find a closer understanding of what life was all about.
    In these internet days were there is a much more open sharing of knowledge, it seems hard to realise how compartmentalised academic knowledge was in the past. So Hesse dreamed up a vague scenario in the future where knowledge was shared by academics and intellectuals in a much more open minded way. The game’s elegant aesthetic merging of disparate information is just an expression of scientific philosophy, that proofs and truths have beautiful streamline logic to them, so as you get closer to the ‘Truth’, knowledge becomes more ‘beautiful’ and hence more ‘spiritual’ so the players of the Game end up blurring the lines between the Priest and the Scientist.
    I think Hesse also observed that academic life ironically often ends up diluting your own personal quest for knowledge by being immersed in the messy world of internal politics and bitter rivalries. It’s the main reasons why human knowledge progresses in such a slow and awkward fashion. So in fiction he jumped ahead to hopeful endgame of science and philosophical thought where that dream of enlightenment was much closer to actualisation. But even in fiction he could not shake of the reality that institutions and organisations always end up diluting and distorting the things they examine. So in the end, the world of ‘The Glass Bead Game’ was also tainted, because academics and intellectuals always end up being disconnected from ‘the world’ which is ironically the thing they wish to understand. ‘
    Although all this sounds interesting, good fiction it does not necessarily make. I simply thought the game itself was a bit of literary fluff, a kind of Hitchcockian MacGuffin. And that might have worked, but for me most of the story that revolved around didn’t had much of any dramatic interest. It all seemed as dry and dusty as the intellectual academic world, that it was critically examining. In the end it was a bit like an episode of the Twilight Zone, a kind of wooly ”What if’ story.

  4. […] taking far more of my concentration to write about something this whimsical than it did Hesse’s Glass Bead Game or Lewis’ Babbitt. These are tiny little puffs of story, carrying me up into the clouds then […]

  5. Samson Philipo says:

    I have just finished reading the TGBG. It is one of the best books I have ever read. Someone suggested it to me and I picked it from a second hand book shop after some time. I have lots of books waiting to be read, its being reviewed here has piqued my interest and made me read it.

    As I see it HH is TGBG player par excellence. He is doing nothing but playing a game and the book is his playing ground and his playthings are life and death, instinct and intellect, love and war, youth and age, the stars and the earth, yin and yang. It is shot through contradictions. According to my reading the central message of the book is: there is no contradiction. It is illusion. It is Maya.

    He created Castalia which brings to mind – a moat and a fortress- and made it the incubator of the life of the mind. Then he made it by far outstrip the outside world to a level where there is hardly any understanding between them. This disconnect is observed by the Magister Ludi who tendered his resignation. The erudite Magister Ludi uproots their ‘castle’ with a bulldozer of history. It reminded me of a powerful sentence from Peter Elbow’s book Embracing Contraries: it is with reason that the individual outvotes the majority. The Magister Ludi outvotes the whole Order- with cool reason. This incident makes you think TGBG is the most intellectual anti-intellectual book. The ML shoots down intellect and champions instinct. He is not for truth but for truth impregnated with power- reality.

    You wouldn’t know that HH is preparing you for a rude surprise. Again and again he intensifies reality only to explode it with a bang. It isn’t instinct that trumps at the end but intellect. In fact, this isn’t the whole truth. The truth is: they are mutual- yin and yang. Time and context shift the degree of importance from one to another. You just take note that HH is a reactionary, in the blink of an eye he shapeshifts into a revolutionary. HH is an incarnation of contradiction- a fool and a sage.

    HH deftly draws out life from death and death from life, he binds the stars, the moon and the soil with cords of rain. TGBG anticipates Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King. The goal of TGBG is revealing the simple pattern the holds matter or the universe together. He succeeds to some extent. Reincarnation is one of the agents of pattern. The art of the rainmaker which evolved into meteorology also fits here as a way of reading pattern. Is the confessor also reading pattern? Eternity stands out as the supreme agent of pattern – the big bang and its reverse.

    This isn’t all that can be said about the book. I think his integration of insights from Europe, Africa and Asia -Gondwanaland- is symbolic of the theme of the book- unification.

    HH is more of a short story writer. The book proper isn’t as good as- in art of the novel – as the appended superb three short stories.

    What books did he read? Literature is a discourse that runs through generations. Does he point us to Saint Augustine? What he made of canonization is so amazing!

  6. Brian says:

    To comment on the division of Castalia from “secular” society, Castalia serves two primary purposes. First, it apparently provides outside society with all of its teachers and educators, presumably barring actual vocational instructors. The future societies of this novel (by no means all societies, as the book notes that the Order is not found in all countries) apparently decided that education was vitally important, and that educators needed to be the best of the best.

    The second, equally important function of Castalia and the Order (at least in their eyes) is to preserve the purity of culture. To members of the Order, the hallmark, and maybe cause, of any degenerate society is a degeneration of that society’s culture and art. See, for example, the ancient Chinese fables about the forbidden musical keys that Hesse describes (which I’m convinced Hesse invented himself, since I can’t find references to these fables anywhere else). The Order feels that in order to preserve the health of society at large, the purity of culture and pure academics must be maintained.

    This is problematic, as the novel itself admits. First, the concerns raised here about the value of the Order and the whole Castalian system is a perennial problem raised by people in the outside world (we get glimpses of that through third-person omniscient narration, Designori’s arguments, and Knecht’s private concerns). People may have a point when they argue that allowing someone to devote his life to studying the pronunciation of Latin in 15th century Italian universities is a waste of resources.

    Second, the attitude of the Order towards the creation of new art (with one exception) is frankly hostile, which strikes me as unnatural (although I believe that Hesse intended this). The Order apparently believes that the age of creativity is over; they see themselves as the keepers and appreciators of art and culture that is essentially a closed book. Presumably people in the outside world still create new art and music, but the Order has no apparent interest in that and likely views it as worthless. The one exception, of course, is the Glass Bead Game, which apparently serves as the artistic outlet (among many other things) for members of the Order. They apparently view the creation of new art as unnecessary, since the Game subsumes all art and human endeavor. Of course, this isn’t quite true either…as the Elder Brother points out, the Game could never incorporate the I Ching, for example.

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  8. I’ve been fascinated by Hesse’s Glass Bead Game for more than 25 years, and what has interested me the most has been the idea of the game itself, rather than the social

    “The Glass Bead Game is a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colours on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.”

    The quest for deep connections between maths, music, architecture, astronomy goes back to Pythagoras, Lull, Kepler, Kircher and many others who searched for the unifying principles of all knowledge, and the tangible results formed the backbone of the European system of education for nearly two thousand years.

    In Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game the positions, and correspondences between them, might tell us something about humanity, the world we’re living in, and the universe: something within the human mind or human condition which led to similar structures being formed, something in the world or the universe which made them necessary. This process of enlightenment, amazement and epiphany is what Hesse’s Glass Bead Game is about for me.

    I’ve explained more about my ideas of the how the game might be played in practice on my site at http://tiny.cc/beadgame, and I’ve deliberately modelled my game on the glimpses we get from Hesse’s book. I’ve recently started experimenting with tweeting glass bead game moves at @justknecht – though I haven’t decided if this is too much of a head on collision with the feuilleton culture Hesse railed against in the introduction to his novel, and which you mentioned in your analysis Gareth. Perhaps it’s all the more interesting for that tension… It remains to be seen.

    Anyway, though we’ve been interested and focused on different aspects of the book, what’s for certain is this is one of the defining books of my life!

  9. Reinhard Beck says:

    I’ve just finished it and I’m on the internet to find out if there is anyone who can tell me what I have just read. It is a long book and it’s not a difficult read. But. BUT…what is it about? He’s writing about an imaginary world that exists in a vaccum. Two things that jabbed me like a sharp stick. 1) This fanatsy world is, i imagine the best of all possible worlds. if you are an intellictual and a member of ‘the elite’. the bliss available to these people is, presumably out of reach of the plebs like me who have to work for a living. 2) every character is so sweet and adorbale and admirable in every way loved and admired to the point of veneration.
    HH has reacted a world and a philosphy that I just can’t believe in because it’s a world that I don’t have access to. It’s a world exclussively for the benefit of the intellectual aristocracy. And why does Knecht leave Castalia? Because he wants to experience real life; a life full of risk, uncertainty, doubt and danger. He knew that the perfect world created by HH lacked something; it lacked a cutting edge. In Castalia everything is handed to you on a plate Knecht left because he wanted to know if he had the balls to fight for what he wanted (and believed in). So he packed his bags and went out into the real world – and it killed him.

    • Gareth Long says:

      Hello Reinhard

      Many thanks for your comment. It’s always enlightening to read someone else’s experience of the book. I’m not sure I am equipped to make the book any less of a mystery for you – I have to admit that it still is something of a mystery to me. I haven’t read any commentary on it other than the introduction to the edition, which, in my mind, has now dissolved within the voluminous substance of the narrative itself. Also, I do not know what HH’s own intentions were for the book, only my own experience of it. However, I would like to address a few of the points you have made.

      Firstly, the idea that Castalia is an ‘imaginary world that exists in a vacuum’. To a certain extent, I agree with this and share the aggravation of it! TGBG appears to be a book about the relationship between the academic realm of Castalia and the society outside, but it concentrates on Castalia and only allows occasional glimpses of life outside. From this we can assume that HH wants to focus the reader on Knecht’s own experience, and how he comes to his decision. We are also led to believe that the revered, and presumably heavily-subsidised, Castalia has no application in the real world. Nothing is exported or conveyed – no knowledge, no books, no music. So what does society gain from it, and what does it consist of? I’m still trying to work out the former myself, but we do know that external society seems more concerned with business and industry while Castalia is committed to the study of so-called ‘higher’ culture, predominantly music and philosophy. Surely these two worlds must inform one another to survive? From Knecht’s point of view, it does not seem so. We also are given very little history between the Age of the Feuilleton and the time in which the book is set. I’m not even sure if it’s mentioned how much time has passed, let alone what events have taken place to divide and shape these two worlds. In this sense, it does appear to exist in a vacuum, but then, much of academia does.

      I would argue that Castalia isn’t set up or seen by HH as a utopia, but rather it is the notion of academia taken to its extreme. There is no suggestion that this is anyone’s idea of a perfect society – even of a perfect academic society, although it is definitely shown as being a far more desirable status quo for than the Age of Feuilleton that came before it. Humanity itself seems no longer be involved in any kind of conflict, and that Castalia is based over various continents suggests some kind of global unification. As much as we may recognise elements within this that our current-day civilisation aspires to, we are also shown that being a member of Castalia is highly competitive, that they are expected to work hard, with few diversions and little leisure time, and that this lifestyle comes at a great cost of both experience and emotional attachment with others. There is no family and no affection (other than filial) for the residents. (Indeed, it might even be accused of misogyny, as there are no women mentioned in Castalia at all!). The residents are emotionally stunted because their lives revolve around learning and creative output, without anything else to necessitate, drive or inform them. This cycle of education is self-perpetuating – not bound up with any external requirements for survival. It is also –over-protective, leading not only to good-natured, mutual veneration but also a naivety that would likely be fatal outside of Castalia (something that Knecht and the reader only learn at the last). The elders and students are ill-equipped to comprehend or nurture any individuals whose thoughts and prerogative range beyond their walls. We see this with both the characters who are most influential on Knecht’s decision: Tegularius, who is never comfortable with simply accepting the expectations of Castalia’s elder’s, despite remaining a dedicated servant to it, and Designori, who shows the passion that is lacking in Castalian-based students when debating the need for the two worlds to co-exist.

      The ‘game’ is the ultimate activity in self-perpetuation and isolation. It exists only to further compound relationships between academic fields of study, fusing them and twisting them into something exotic and intellectually provocative, but entirely without application or function. It is the grandest luxury of academic life, and something entirely inaccessible to a stranger of that world (hence, I imagine, the vague rules and descriptions HH assigns it). As someone who has worked in Universities for many years (though not as an academic) it brings to mind a lot of academic research I have encountered that exists purely because of the shared personal interests of both researchers and funding bodies, regardless of any real social merit!

      As you point out, Knecht’s decision to abandon everything he knows is very brave indeed, and it is also the first decision he has made that is driven purely by emotion. He did not believe he was the right person to remain as Magister Ludi, despite having proved he was more than capable of it. There was no ‘logical’ basis for this decision, rather a sense that this self-perpetuating academia was not enough for him, that he was missing some necessary aspect of life that he had to experience, regardless of what it costs him.

      I also agree that this is not a difficult book to read. It’s a testament to HH’s mastery of language that the images, events and ideas within have lodged themselves so stubbornly in my mind (despite the author’s full intentions remaining far from transparent) to the point where this response to your comment has threatened to turn into yet another review! As I wrote before, this is definitely a text that requires and deserves more than one reading, as well as further study of other critical responses and Hesse’s own circumstances, in order to fully appreciate.

      With that in mind, I’m sorry if this comes across as another lengthy stream of consciousness rather than a direct response to your post!

      • Kat Kiddles says:

        Although I haven’t read the book, both of you have certainly inspired me, as has this site on The Glass Bead Game Project: http://www.glassbeadgame.com/. I wasn’t aware that there were even Glass Bead Game Schools.

        Your reflections make me wonder if the limited view of the ‘outside world’ was Hesse’s way of saying that if we want to pursue ‘higher knowledge,’ we have to disconnect from the external. Perhaps “Castalia has no application in the real world” because Castalia is actually the closest thing to the real world; the rest is just…noise.

        Maybe the lack of reference to timelines is reflective of Hesse’s belief that the concept of time is largely irrelevant to the development of one’s Self. I wonder though, whether the pursuit of ‘higher knowledge’ versus ‘academic’ knowledge are synonymous, or whether they are two very distinct worlds within Castalia.

        • Gareth Long says:

          I’d be surprised if it was Hesse’s intention that Castalia appear isolated because it was in some way more ‘real’ than the rest of society, but to explain why may ruin the plot for you more than we probably already have!

          I’d say you should give the book a read at some point when you have time, Kat. It would be interesting to read your reactions to it. It it one of those books that, I think, will provoke a very personal response from each individual reader.

          For example, it’s likely that Hesse and I have very different priorities in terms of academic study, which will have affected my reading of it. While I have a great love of music and have devoted quite a lot of my life to it, I do not see it as anything more than an over-complication of human sonic response. It is not the goal in any search for ‘higher knowledge’ (a term that suggests to me an understanding of the universe external to human behaviour and culture) even though it may inspire great thinking, or be the result of meticulous artistry.

    • Eldon James says:

      I am about 100 pages of finishing The Glass Bead Game. I find so many meanings in it that I am not sure if I am starting to imagine them. One main theme seems to be the lack of “connection” in society. The intellectuals are separated from the Church; the Church is estranged from the common people. I think Hesse believed that so much of what we have, do, produce, is wasted because it is internalized within groups. If you think about it the name “Knecht” pronounced “Necht” in German would be “Ka-Necht” if you stuttered the K.

      I have found so many bits of wisdom that may seem obvious after reading Hesse’s views on them. For instance, his passage about History being non-existent without the presence of evil. History is nothing more that egotism and lust for power and the poor and powerless are forced over and over to submit to it. Also, that art’s are only an escape from the tyranny of man vs. man. That is beauty and to me opens up an entire new mental thread on all history.

      I will write more when I am finished but for now this book, and Hesse, have opened an entire new world to me.

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