Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877 - August 9, 1962) was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. His best known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game (also known as Magister Ludi) all of which explore an individual's search for spirituality.
- See also: Journey to the East
- Oh, love isn't there to make us happy. I believe it exists to show us how much we can endure.
- Peter Camenzind (1904)
- That's the way it is when you love. It makes you suffer, and I have suffered much in the years since. But it matters little that you suffer, so long as you feel alive with a sense of the close bond that connects all living things, so long as love does not die!
- Peter Camenzind (1904)
- However, I do know that if there is a state of bliss and a paradise, it must be an uninterrupted sequence of such moments, and if this state of bliss can be attained through suffering and dwelling in pain, then no sorrow or pain can be so great that one should seek escape from it.
- Gertrude (1910)
- But every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world's phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again. That is why every man, as long as he lives and fulfills the will of nature, is wondrous, and worthy of consideration. (from the Prologue)
- The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God's name is Abraxas.
- I do not consider myself less ignorant than most people. I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me.
- I realize today that nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself.
- Each man had only one genuine vocation — to find the way to himself.
- Now everything changed. My childhood world was breaking apart around me. My parents eyed me with a certain embarrassment. My sisters had become strangers to me. A disenchantment falsified and blunted my usual feelings and joys: the garden lacked fragrance, the woods held no attraction for me, the world stood around me like a clearance sale of last year's secondhand goods, insipid, all its charm gone. Books were so much paper, music a grating noise. That is the way leaves fall around a tree in autumn, a tree unaware of the rain running down its sides, of the sun or the frost, and of life gradually retreating inward. The tree does not die. It waits.
- I had grown a thin mustache, I was a full-grown man, and yet I was completely helpless and without a goal in life.
- I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?
- Then came those years in which I was forced to recognize the existence of a drive within me that had to make itself small and hide from the world of light. The slowly awakening sense of my own sexuality overcame me, as it does every person, like an enemy and terrorist, as something forbidden, tempting, and sinful. What my curiosity sought, what dreams, lust and fear created – the great secret of puberty – did not fit at all into my sheltered childhood. I behaved like everyone else. I led the double life of a child who is no longer a child. My conscious self lived within the familiar and sanctioned world; it denied the new world that dawned within me. Side by side with this I lived in a world of dreams, drives and desires of a chthonic nature, across which my conscious self desperately built its fragile bridges, for the childhood world within me was falling apart [...] It was my own affair to come to terms with myself and to find my own way, and like most well-brought-up children, I managed it badly.
- We aren't pigs as you seem to think, but human beings. We create gods and struggle with them, and they bless us.
- If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.
- People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.
- The world, as it is now, wants to die, wants to perish -- and it will.
- But there is no dream that lasts forever, each dream is followed by another, and one should not cling to any particular one.
- We can understand each other, but each of us can only interpret himself.
- Love does not entreat; or demand. Love must have the strength to become certain within itself. Then it ceases merely to be attracted and begins to attract.
- When you throw a rock into the water, it will speed on the fastest course to the bottom of the water. This is how it is when Siddhartha has a goal, a resolution. Siddhartha does nothing, he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he passes through the things of the world like a rock through water, without doing anything, without stirring; he is drawn, he lets himself fall. His goal attracts him, because he doesn't let anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal. This is what Siddhartha has learned among the Samanas. This is what fools call magic and of which they think it would be effected by means of the daemons. Nothing is effected by daemons, there are no daemons. Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.
- They knew a tremendous number of things — But was it worthwhile knowing all these things if they did not know the one important thing, the only important thing?
- There is, so I believe, in the essence of everything, something that we cannot call learning. There is, my friend, only a knowledge — that is everywhere, that is Atman, that is in me and you and in every creature, and I am beginning to believe that this knowledge has no worse enemy than the man of knowledge, than learning.
- Atman is a term used for Hindu and Buddhist concepts of the soul.
- You are like me; you are different from other people. You are Kamala and no one else, and within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself, just as I can. Few people have that capacity and yet everyone could have it.
- Siddhartha to Kamala
- A true seeker could not accept any teachings, not if he sincerely wished to find something. But he who had found, could give his approval to every path, every goal; nothing separated him from all of the other thousands who lived in eternity, who breathed the Divine.
- Although he had reached a high stage of self-discipline and bore his last wound well, he now felt as if these ordinary people were his brothers. Their vanities, desires, and trivialities no longer seemed absurd to him; they had become understandable, lovable, and even worthy of respect.
- These people were worthy of love and admiration in their blind loyalty, in their blind strength and tenacity. With the exception of one small thing, one tiny little thing, they lacked nothing that the sage and thinker had, and that was the consciousness of the unity of all life.
- When Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, to the song of a thousand voices; when he did not listen to the sorrow or laughter, when he did not bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it in his Self, but heard them all, the whole, the unity; then the great song of a thousand voices consisted of one word:Om — perfection.
- From that hour Siddhartha ceased to fight against his destiny. There shone in his face the serenity of knowledge, of one who is no longer confronted with conflict of desires, who has found salvation, who is in harmony with the stream of events, with the stream of life, full of sympathy and compassion, surrendering himself to the stream, belonging to the unity of all things.
- Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish... Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.
- Everything that is thought and expressed in words is one-sided, only half the truth; it all lacks totality, completeness, unity. When the Illustrious Buddha taught about the world, he had to divide it into Samsara and Nirvana, illusion and truth, into suffering and salvation. One cannot do otherwise, there is no other method for those who teach. But the world itself, being in and around us, is never one-sided. Never is a man or a deed wholly Samsara or wholly Nirvana; never is a man wholly a saint or a sinner. This only seems so because we suffer the illusion that time is something real.
- Listen my friend! I am a sinner and you are a sinner, but someday the sinner will be Brahma again, will someday attain Nirvana, will someday become a Buddha. Now this "someday" is illusion; it is only a comparison. The sinner is not on his way to a Buddha-like state; he is not evolving, although our thinking cannot conceive things otherwise. No, the potential Buddha already exists in the sinner; his future is already there. The potential hidden Buddha must be recognized in him, in you, in everybody. The world, Govinda, is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment; every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people — eternal life.
- I had to strive for property and experience nausea and the depths of despair in order to learn not to resist them, in order to learn to love the world, and no longer compare it with some kind of desired imaginary world, some imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it. These, Govinda, are some of the thoughts in my mind.
- Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish. And yet it also pleases me and seems right that what is of value and wisdom to one man seems nonsense to another.
- Here is a doctrine at which you will laugh. It seems to me, Govinda, that Love is the most important thing in the world. It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect.
- One day I would be a better hand at the game. One day I would learn how to laugh. Pablo was waiting for me, and Mozart too.
- When two cultures collide is the only time when true suffering exists.
- I sped through heaven and saw god at work. I suffered holy pains. I dropped all my defences and was afraid of nothing in the world. I accepted all things and to all things I gave up my heart.
- As a body everyone is single, as a soul never.
- MAGIC THEATER
ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY
I tried to open the door, but the heavy old latch would not stir. The display too was over. It had suddenly ceased, sadly convinced of its uselessness. I took a few steps back, landing deep into the mud, but no more letters came. The display was over. For a long time I stood waiting in the mud, but in vain.
Then, when I had given up and gone back to the alley, a few colored letters were dropped here and there, reflected on the asphalt in front of me. I read:
FOR MADMEN ONLY!
- Haller’s sickness of soul, as I now know, is not the eccentricity of a single individual, but the sickness of the times themselves, the neurosis of that generation to which Haller belongs, a sickness, it seems, that by no means attacks the weak and worthless only but rather those who are strongest in spirit and richest in gifts
- The sacred sense of beyond, of timelessness, of a world which had an eternal value and the substance of which was divine had been given back to me today by this friend of mine who taught me dancing.
- Eternity is a mere moment, just long enough for a joke.
- A mere nothing suffices — and the lightning strikes.
Narcissus and Goldmund (1930)
- It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other's opposite and complement.
- We fear death, we shudder at life's instability, we grieve to see the flowers wilt again and again, and the leaves fall, and in our hearts we know that we, too, are transitory and will soon disappear. When artists create pictures and thinkers search for laws and formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something that lasts longer than we do.
- All existence seemed to be based on duality, on contrast. Either one was a man or one was a woman, either a wanderer or sedentary burgher, either a thinking person or a feeling person-no one could breathe in at the same time as he breathed out, be a man as well as a woman, experience freedom as well as order, combine instinct and mind. One always had to pay for one with the loss of the other, and one thing was always just as important and desirable as the other.
- How mysterious this life was, how deep and muddy its waters ran, yet how clear and noble what emerged from them.
- If I know what love is, it is because of you.
- Without a mother, one cannot love. Without a mother, one cannot die.
The Glass Bead Game (1943)
- There were entertaining, impassioned, or witty lectures on Goethe, say, in which he would be depicted descending from a post chaise wearing a blue frock-coat to seduce some Strassburg or Wetzlar girl; or on Arabic culture; in all of them a number of fashionable phrases were shaken up like dice in a cup and everyone was delighted if he dimly recognized one or two catchwords.
- The "music of decline" had sounded, as in that wonderful Chinese fable; like a thrumming bass on the organ its reverberations faded slowly out over decades; its throbbing could be heard in the corruption of the schools, periodicals, and universities, in melancholia and insanity among those artists and critics who could still be taken seriously; it raged as untrammeled and amateurish overproduction in all the arts.
- When an orchestra of the Journeyers first publicly performed a suite from the time before Handel completely without crescendi and diminuendi, with the naïveté and chasteness of another age and world, some among the audience are said to have been totally uncomprehending, but others listened with fresh attention and had the impression that they were hearing music for the first time in their lives. In the League's concert hall between Bremgarten and Morbio, one member built a Bach organ as perfectly as Johann Sebastian Bach would have had it built had he had the means and opportunity.
- The young people who now proposed to devote themselves to intellectual studies no longer took the term to mean attending a university and taking a nibble of this or that from the dainties offered by celebrated and loquacious professors who without authority offered them the crumbs of what had once been higher education. Now they had to study just as stringently and methodically as the engineers and technicians of the past, if not more so. They had a steep path to climb, had to purify and strengthen their minds by dint of mathematics and scholastic exercises in Aristotelian philosophy. Moreover, they had to learn to renounce all those benefits which previous generations of scholars had considered worth striving for: rapid and easy money-making, celebrity and public honors, the homage of the newspapers, marriages with daughters of bankers and industrialists, a pampered and luxurious style of life.
- Let us say that the freedom exists, but it is limited to the one unique act of choosing the profession. Afterward all freedom is over. When he begins his studies at the university, the doctor, lawyer, or engineer is forced into an extremely rigid curriculum which ends with a series of examinations. If he passes them, he receives his license and can thereafter pursue his profession in seeming freedom. But in doing so he becomes the slave of base powers; he is dependent on success, on money, on his ambition, his hunger for fame, on whether or not people like him. He must submit to elections, must earn money, must take part in the ruthless competition of castes, families, political parties, newspapers. In return he has the freedom to become successful and well-to-do, and to be hated by the unsuccessful, or vice versa.
- To be capable of everything and do justice to everything, one certainly does not need less spiritual force and èlan and warmth, but more. What you call passion is not spiritual force, but friction between the soul and the outside world. Where passion dominates, that does not signify the presence of greater desire and ambition, but rather the misdirection of these qualities toward an isolated and false goal, with a consequent tension and sultriness in the atmosphere. Those who direct the maximum force of their desires toward the center, toward true being, toward perfection, seem quieter than the passionate souls because the flame of their fervor cannot always be seen.
- 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 ideas and books. Truth is lived, not taught.
- It had its pleasant and flattering side; it satisfied ambition and strengthened self-confidence. But it also had another, a dark and terrifying side. For there was something bad and unpalatable about the attitude one took toward these schoolmates so eager for advice, guidance, and an example, about the impulse to despise them for their lack of self-reliance and dignity, and about the occasional secret temptation to make them (at least in thought) into obedient slaves.
- How alien our country has become from her noblest Province and how unfaithful to that Province's spirit; how far body and soul, ideal and reality have moved apart in our country; how little they know about each other, or want to know.
- It is a pity that you students aren't fully aware of the luxury and abundance in which you live. But I was exactly the same when I was still a student. We study and work, don't waste much time, and think we may rightly call ourselves industrious — but we are scarcely conscious of all we could do, all that we might make of our freedom. Then we suddenly receive a call from the hierarchy, we are needed, are given a teaching assignment, a mission, a post, and from then on move up to a higher one, and unexpectedly find ourselves caught in a network of duties that tightens the more we try to move inside it. All the tasks are in themselves small, but each one has to be carried out at its proper hour, and the day has far more tasks than hours. That is well; one would not want it to be different. But if we ever think, between classroom, archives, secretariat, consulting room, meetings, and official journeys — if we ever think of the freedom we possessed and have lost, the freedom for self-chosen tasks, for unlimited, far-flung studies, we may well feel the greatest yearning for those days, and imagine that if we ever had such freedom again we would fully enjoy its pleasures and potentialities.
- I had tasted the bait and knew that there was nothing more attractive and more subtle on earth than the Game. I had also observed fairly early that this enchanting Game demanded more than naive amateur players, that it took total possession of the man who had succumbed to its magic. And an instinct within me rebelled against my throwing all my energies and interests into this magic forever. Some naive feeling for simplicity, for wholeness and soundness, warned me against the spirit of the Waldzell Vicus Lusorum. I sensed in it a spirit of specialism and virtuosity, certainly highly cultivated, certainly richly elaborated, but nevertheless isolated from humanity and the whole of life — a spirit that had soared too high into haughty solitariness. For years I doubted and probed, until the decision had matured within me and in spite of everything I decided in favor of the Game. I did so because I had within me that urge to seek the supreme fulfillment and serve only the greatest master.
- Ordinarily, when he thought back upon those days, let alone upon his student years and the Bamboo Grove, it had always been as if he were gazing from a cool, dull room out into broad, brightly sunlit landscapes, into the irrevocable past, the paradise of memory. Such recollections had always been, even when they were free of sadness, a vision of things remote and different, separated from the prosaic present by a mysterious festiveness.
- It was as if by becoming a musician and Music Master he had chosen music as one of the ways toward man's highest goal, inner freedom, purity, perfection, and as though ever since making that choice he has done nothing but let himself be more and more permeated, transformed, purified by music — his entire self from his nimble, clever pianist's hands and his vast, well-stocked musician's memory to all the parts and organs of body and soul, to his pulses and breathing, to his sleep and dreaming — so that he was now only a symbol, or rather a manifestation, a personification of music.
- We were picking apart a problem in linguistic history and, as it were, examining close up the peak period of glory in the history of a language; in minutes we had traced the path which had taken it several centuries. And I was powerfully gripped by the vision of transitoriness: the way before our eyes such a complex, ancient, venerable organism, slowly built up over many generations, reaches its highest point, which already contains the germ of decay, and the whole intelligently articulated structure begins to droop, to degenerate, to totter toward its doom. And at the same time the thought abruptly shot through me, with a joyful, startled amazement, that despite the decay and death of that language it had not been lost, that its youth, maturity, and downfall were preserved in our memory, in our knowledge of it and its history, and would survive and could at any time be reconstructed in the symbols and formulas of scholarship as well as in the recondite formulations of the Glass Bead Game. I suddenly realized that in the language, or at any rate in the spirit of the Glass Bead Game, everything actually was all-meaningful, that every symbol and combination of symbols led not hither and yon, not to single examples, experiments, and proofs, but into the center, the mystery and innermost heart of the world, into primal knowledge. Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with a meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, holiness is forever being created.
- My instinct as an individualist and artist has always warned me most urgently against this capacity of men for becoming drunk on collective suffering, collective pride, collective hatred, and collective honor. When this morbid exaltation becomes perceptible in a room, a hall, a village, a city, or a country, I grow cold and distrustful; a shudder comes over me, for already, while most of my fellow men are still weeping with rapture and enthusiasm, still cheering and venting protestations of brotherhood, I see blood flowing and cities going up in flames.
- My watercolours are a sort of poem or dream, they carry only a distant memory of reality, transforming it according to personal feelings or need.
- The more individuals capable of watching the world theater calmly and critically, the less danger of monumental mass stupidities — in first of all, wars.
- Brief biography at Kirjasto (Pegasos)
- Works by Hermann Hesse at Project Gutenberg
- Hermann Hesse Page - in German and English, maintained by Professor Gunther Gottschalk
- Hermann Hesse Portal
- Community of the Journeyer to the East - in German and English
- Concise Biography - originally published by the Germanic American Institute, by Paul A. Schons