This week's Question started its emergence a couple of days before Brian sent the actual Question. I was reading the latest post in Ted Gioia's Substack: Death: A Literary Guide, in which Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game is cited as
...the best account I've ever read about a good death—although I'm sure that some will bristle at the notion that such a thing is possible. And it's about as non-denominational as they come. I'm referring to the lengthy section of The Glass Bead Game dealing with the final years of the protagonist's mentor, an old music master. This is as profound as anything I've ever read in modern literature about aging and death.THAT caught my eye. I know Ted Gioia primarily as a very interesting writer on Music (Music: A Subversive History is marvelous, and unique). I'd read ANYTHING he writes/wrote, even if I thought the nominal subject matter had little to do with what I thought I was interested in, music-wise. Again and again I've been brought to realization of that my arrogant opinions and mappings of 'interesting' are ill-informed and simplistic... and a way forward to better understanding is vouchsafed. Gioia Rocks.
I had never read The Glass Bead Game, though my friend John Cordell recommended it to me ca. 1970. I don't know if I'd have grasped the book's message(s), or been able to relate its narrative to my own life, somewhere in my mid-20s, if I had set out to read it. So I got it via Kindle... and in the Introduction I found myself in a remarkable description of Life in 2023, but written in the mid-1940s, about the time we were being born... and suddenly The Glass Bead Game absorbed my consciousness, and seemed to cast interesting light on everything else I was engaged with. Can't ask much more of any book.
And it was just about then that Brian's Question arrived, and his marvelous apple tree piece, and I read them with TGBG coloring my attention. I fastened on the notion of adversity, and struggled a bit to retrieve cases of people I've known who have transcended adversity, or whose lives were transformed by some difficulty or crisis overcome, but most cases of adversity or trauma that I can think of didn't then produce a positive transformation, and (as usual) I can't find anything of the sort in my own life.
And, as Questions often encourage, I went slightly off the rails, and I started to wonder if one can voluntarily CHANGE one's life, or set out to CHANGE, to 'rewire', to become different/more Evolved/grateful... and yes, of course, but what (again, in the context of TGBG) are some possible pathways to transformation?
And isn't that 'rewiring' in fact what happens in adversity: you have to decide how to respond. Among the various alternatives:
One means to Change is to submit yourself to a Discipline, to start on a path toward becoming an Adept in a Tradition (again, TGBG exemplifies); that is likely to lead to institutional entanglements, with ambition and jealousies and other emotional baggages in self and others, and usually hierarchies... (Such encumbrances abound in TGBG).
And just about then in came a post from Maria Popova: The Universe and the Soul: Richard Jefferies on Nature as Prayer for Presence, another candidate as a Pathway to self-transformation.
I was breathing full of existence; I was aware of the grass blades, the flowers, the leaves on hawthorn and tree. I seemed to live more largely through them, as if each were a pore through which I drank. The grasshoppers called and leaped, the greenfinches sang, the blackbirds happily fluted, all the air hummed with life. I was plunged deep in existence, and with all that existence, I prayed... I prayed that I might have a soul more than equal to, far beyond my conception of, these things of the past, the present, and the fullness of all life. Not only equal to these, but beyond, higher, and more powerful than I could imagine. That I might take from all their energy, grandeur, and beauty, and gather it into me. That my soul might be more than the cosmos of life.
(and William James comments:)
Life is always worth living, if one have such responsive sensibilities. But we of the highly educated classes (so called) have most of us got far, far away from Nature. We are trained to seek the choice, the rare, the exquisite exclusively, and to overlook the common. We are stuffed with abstract conceptions, and glib with verbalities and verbosities; and in the culture of these higher functions the peculiar sources of joy connected with our simpler functions often dry up, and we grow stone-blind and insensible to life's more elementary and general goods and joys.
And co-incidentally, in came Margareta Magnusson's The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly: Life Wisdom from Someone Who Will (Probably) Die Before You (she of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning), and the notion of "cherished pain" (an clumsy approximation to kärt besvär), which includes this:
There seems to be no other choice than to see every nuisance as something I must find a way to cherish.
...and this quote from Seneca appeared on my screen...
Strive to be the noble spirit who, though ready and alert,...again, clearly relevant to my reading(s) of Brian's Question.
has gladly placed himself in the hands of fate;
not the weak and degenerate spirit who sees nothing right in the way the universe is ordered,
and would rather reform the gods than reform himself.
But there I was, starting to read The Glass Bead Game, and this sentence smacked me across the chops:
Like every man of importance he had his daimonion and his amor fati...and I realized that neither term was clear to me. Demons and daemons I had some notion of, but I knew not what/which Hesse meant.
Wikipedia to the rescue:
...an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one's life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary....or, as I might re-cast it, as something from which to learn, and upon which to re-center one's life. And it came to me that this has everything to do with Brian's Question. Kaye Gersch's discussion of 'Amor Fati' will greatly enlarge the reader's sense of this great notion.
So I'm continuing to read and listen to TGBG, and of course being diverted into the usual landscape of rabbit holes... Here are some of the links I'll be exploring:
The Glass Bead Game is a way of playing with the ideas of human culture; it uses them like a painter paints with the colors on the palette. The insights of the world's great scholars and artists have been reduced to core topics, with which the Glass Bead Game player plays. It is up to us to design and perfect the game. Theoretically this game can contain the entire knowledge of the universe.
...a game of comparisons and analogies across different subject areas. These connections may be in the tradition of Pythagoras, Lull, Kepler, Kircher and others who searched for the unifying principles of all knowledge, poets and artists such as Bashō, Eisenstein, and Duchamp who applied techniques of recontextualization and re-expression in their creative process, philologists and anthropologists tracing homologies within Vedic, African, and indigenous American and Oceanic ritual and society, or philosophers and linguists such as Peirce, Husserl, de Saussure and Karcevskij who explored the effects of varying and comparing forms and meanings.
To play the glass bead game supposes the gift of linking apparently unrelated disciplines (for instance, medieval music and gardening, or Bach and mathematics) into a higher, sublimely spiritual synthesis...
...(Castalia) is a postmodern form of purely spiritual collective existence, as Hesse places his order in a period consecutive to modernism, which is defined in the book as "the Age of the Feuilleton,"—that is, the period of a sketchy and hyper-personalized, exacerbated form of culture, entirely dominated by the urge of novelty, which does not allow ideas to solidify and structure into eternal and universal strata...
...The modernist period—the historians of Castalia used to say—had deepened collective unrest by privileging wars, politics, sport, and entertainment. In contrast, the future province would be built on abstract, purely spiritual—that is, universal—humanistic values, concentrated in a superior but necessarily cloistered cultural body...
The Glass Bead Game itself is also strange in the sense that it involves no glass beads. Readers never get a full explanation of the game, but we do find out that it's evolved over the years (it used to have glass beads), and now involves a complex synthesis of human ideas, from music to philosophy. The game is, essentially, about making elegant and new connections between concepts. Can an intellectual do more good by engaging and becoming more practical, or by removing themselves and focusing on big-picture understanding?
All of that is interesting, and there are various technical ways that the plot and language serve to draw readers in, which is all worth exploring. It's a different topic than what I want to dive into, however, which is the main character and how he shows us some of the struggles artists and intellectuals face when it comes to interacting with societies.
a science-fiction novel that alights on some of the key ideas that run through the podcast: the dichotomy of work and play, the limits and affordances of institutional life, the obscure boundary where certainty gives way to mystery... Throughout his literary career, Hesse wrote about people trying to square their inner and outer selves, their life in the spirit and their life in the world. The Glass Bead Game brings this central concern to a properly ambiguous and heartbreaking conclusion. But the novel is more than a brilliant work of philosophical or psychological literature. It is also an act of prophecy -- one that seems intended for us now.
...there is the zeitgeist of what could be called The American Way of Play. The genealogy of this way surely has a lineage going back to the US being "The New World," being a young nation, a nation born of revolution and breaking with tradition, and with exploration, adventure, and risk. But it also has to do with Hollywood, Disney, Baseball, Football, and Capitalism — all of which are uniquely Americana and squarely in the gaming spirit of illusion, agon, and ilinx. America's superficiality, its frivolity, its trifling — from "The Simple Life" with Paris Hilton to the Buffoonery of Donald Trump, from the ubiquity of video games to the gambling of venture capitalism — is all of a piece with its underlying ethos of games, play, and fun. The Beach Boys to Bretton-Woods, for Americans it's all make believe. American ingenuity says, "If it fails, just start over."
For this attitude Americans are admired and despised the world over. However, hate the spirit of levity or love it, it has been exported to all corners of the world, making sport of seriousness and finding entertainment in extremities...
...Set in the twenty-third century, Hesse depicts a civilization that has survived the "Century of Wars" and other catastrophes. Another name for this historical era of crisis is the "Age of the Feuilleton," presumably due to the proliferation and popularity of flatulent writing of the time...
...it is only by playing the Game that the rules of the Game are learned and there does not appear to be any set of instructions on how to play it. Presumably this is because, on my interpretation at least, the Game itself is the "game" of interpretation, exegesis, analysis, synthesis, hermeneutics, and semiology. Thus, if there was a Glass Bead Game instruction book, it would be subject to Gödel's incompleteness theorem — it would be interpreted according to certain rules not included in the rulebook or it would presume knowledge of the rules of the rulebook in order to be read and understood.
Like Gödel's incompleteness theorem, the Glass Bead Game plays with ideas, but is also itself an idea. As the Introduction says, "like every great idea, [the Game] has no real beginning; rather, it has always been at least the idea of it."...
Deep waters, as you can see... and again and again bits of the text appear that seem to have been written for me, illuminating something that I've been puzzling over, and sometimes being right in the crosshairs of Brian's Question. It can't hurt to quote a few, though I've retained them here for my own perusal and review, because they ignited something in me as I read. I'm not at all sure that they would be useful as a precis of the book for somebody else:
The Glass Bead Game is an act of mental synthesis through which the spiritual values of all ages are perceived as simultaneously present and vitally alive. (pg 8)
These rules, the sign language and grammar of the Game, constitute a kind of highly developed secret language drawing upon several sciences and arts, but especially mathematics and music (and/or musicology), and capable of expressing and establishing interrelationships between the content and conclusions of nearly all scholarly disciplines. The Glass Bead Game is thus 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 colors on his palette. (pg 25)
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 property — on all this immense body of intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe. (pg 26)
the dream of capturing the universe of the intellect in concentric systems, and pairing the living beauty of thought and art with the magical expressiveness of the exact sciences. (pg 27)
we suspect, although we cannot prove this by citations, that the idea of the Game also dominated the minds of those learned musicians of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries who based their musical compositions on mathematical speculations. (pg 28)
the Age of the Feuilleton, by which name it has been known ever since. Such tags are pretty, but dangerous; they constantly tempt us to a biased view of the era in question. (pg 29)
it is easy and foolish to sneer at the mistakes or barbarities of remote ages. (pg 30)
in the course of the aforementioned Age of the Feuilleton, men came to enjoy an incredible degree of intellectual freedom, more than they could stand. For while they had overthrown the tutelage of the Church completely, and that of the State partially, they had not succeeded in formulating an authentic law they could respect, a genuinely new authority and legitimacy. (pg 31)
we cannot provide an unequivocal definition of those products from which the age takes its name, the feuilletons. They seem to have formed an uncommonly popular section of the daily newspapers, were produced by the millions, and were a major source of mental pabulum for the reader in want of culture. They reported on, or rather "chatted" about, a thousand-and-one items of knowledge. It would seem, moreover, that the cleverer among the writers of them poked fun at their own work. Ziegenhalss, at any rate, contends that many such pieces are so incomprehensible that they can only be viewed as self-persiflage on the part of the authors. Quite possibly these manufactured articles do indeed contain a quantity of irony and self-mockery which cannot be understood until the key is found again. The producers of these trivia were in some cases attached to the staffs of the newspapers; in other cases they were freelance scriveners. Frequently they enjoyed the high-sounding title of "writer," but a great many of them seem to have belonged to the scholar class. (pg 31)
we feel surprise that there should have been people who devoured such chitchat for their daily reading; but what astonishes us far more is that authors of repute and of decent education should have helped to "service" this gigantic consumption of empty whimsies. Significantly, "service" was the expression used; it was also the word denoting the relationship of man to the machine at that time. (pg 32)
All that mattered in these pieces was to link a well-known name with a subject of current topical interest. (pg 32)
(a prescient description of today's social media swamp)
...no doubt a goodly dash of irony was mixed in with all this busy productivity; it may even have been a demonic irony, the irony of desperation — it is very hard indeed for us to put ourselves in the place of those people so that we can truly understand them. But the great majority, who seem to have been strikingly fond of reading, must have accepted all these grotesque things with credulous earnestness. If a famous painting changed owners, if a precious manuscript was sold at auction, if an old palace burned dow, if the bearer of an aristocratic name was involved in a scandal, the readers of many thousands of feature articles at once learned the facts. What is more, on that same day or by the next day at the latest they received an additional dose of anecdotal, historical, psychological, erotic, and other stuff on the catchword of the moment. A torrent of zealous scribbling poured out over every ephemeral incident, and in quality, assortment, and phraseology all this material bore the mark of mass goods rapidly and irresponsibly turned out. (pg 32)
A long disquisition by Ziegenhalss on the curious subject of "Crossword Puzzles" describes the phenomenon. Thousands upon thousands of persons, the majority of whom did heavy work and led a hard life, spent their leisure hours sitting over squares and crosses made of letters of the alphabet, filling in the gaps according to certain rules. But let us be wary of seeing only the absurd or insane aspect of this, and let us abstain from ridiculing it. For these people with their childish puzzle games and their cultural feature articles were by no means innocuous children or playful Pheeacians. Rather, they dwelt anxiously among political, economic, and moral ferments and earthquakes, waged a number of frightful wars and civil wars, and their little cultural games were not just charming, meaningless childishness. (pg 33)
...although it is easy to fit any given segment of the past neatly and intelligibly into the patterns of world history, contemporaries are never able to see their own place in the patterns (pg 35)
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. (pg 36)
the allegation that the culture he had only yesterday been proud to possess was no longer alive, that the education and art he revered could no longer be regarded as genuine education and genuine art, seemed to the bourgeois as brazen and intolerable as the sudden inflations of currency and the revolutions which threatened his accumulated capital. (pg 36)
In that feuilleton world they had constructed of paper, people postulated the total capitulation of Mind, the bankruptcy of ideas, and pretended to be looking on with cynical calm or bacchantic rapture as not only art, culture, morality, and honesty, but also Europe and "the world" proceeded to their doom. Among the good there prevailed a quietly resigned gloom, among the wicked a malicious pessimism. The fact was that a breakdown of outmoded forms, and a degree of reshuffling both of the world and its morality by means of politics and war, had to take place before the culture itself became capable of real self-analysis and a new organization. (pg 37)
capacity, based on ancient secret exercises, for mystic identification with remote ages and cultural conditions. Among them, for example, were itinerant instrumentalists and minstrels who were said to have the ability to perform the music of earlier epochs with perfect ancient purity. Thus they could play and sing a piece of music from 1600 or 1650 exactly as if all the subsequent modes, refinements, and virtuoso achievements were still unknown. This was an astonishing feat in a period in which the mania for dynamics and gradazione dominated all music-making, when the music itself was almost forgotten in discussions of the conductor's execution and "conception." (pg 38) Nowadays, for example, we do not think much of the theology and the ecclesiastical culture of the eighteenth century, or the philosophy of the Enlightenment; but we consider the cantatas, passions, and preludes of Bach the ultimate quintessence of Christian culture. (pg 40)
Perfect music has its cause. It arises from equilibrium. Equilibrium arises from righteousness, and righteousness arises from the meaning of the cosmos. Therefore one can speak about music only with a man who has perceived the meaning of the cosmos. (pg 41)
"Decaying states and men ripe for doom do not, of course, lack music either, but their music is not serene. Therefore, the more tempestuous the music, the more doleful are the people, the more imperiled the country, the more the sovereign declines. In this way the essence of music is lost. (pg 42)
Beginning with rhythm (clapping of hands, tramping, beating of sticks and primitive drums), it was a powerful, tried-and-true device for putting large numbers of people "in tune" with one another, engendering the same mood, co-ordinating the pace of their breathing and heartbeats, encouraging them to invoke and conjure up the eternal powers, to dance, to compete, to make war, to worship. (pg 43)
The Game was at first nothing more than a witty method for developing memory and ingenuity among students and musicians. And as we have said, it was played both in England and Germany before it was "invented" here in the Musical Academy of Cologne, and was given the name it bears to this day, after so many generations, although it has long ceased to have anything to do with glass beads. (pg 44)
rather elaborate game they used to play. One would call out, in the standardized abbreviations of their science, motifs or initial bars of classical compositions, whereupon the other had to respond with the continuation of the piece, or better still with a higher or lower voice, a contrasting theme, and so forth. It was an exercise in memory and improvisation quite similar to the sort of thing probably in vogue among ardent pupils of counterpoint in the days of Schiütz, Pachelbel, and Bach—although it would then not have been done in theoretical formulas, but in practice on the cembalo, lute, or flute, or with the voice. (pg 44)
The mathematicians brought the Game to a high degree of flexibility and capacity for sublimation, so that it began to acquire something approaching a consciousness of itself and its possibilities. This process paralleled the general evolution of cultural consciousness, which had survived the great crisis and had, as Plinius Ziegenhalss puts it, "with modest pride accepted the fate of belonging to a culture past its prime, (pg 45)
Having passed from the musical to the mathematical seminaries (a change which took place in France and England somewhat sooner than in Germany), the Game was so far developed that it was capable of expressing mathematical processes by special symbols and abbreviations. The players, mutually elaborating these processes, threw these abstract formulas at one another, displaying the sequences and possibilities of their science. This mathematical and astronomical game of formulas required great attentiveness, keenness, and concentration. Among mathematicians, even in those days, the reputation of being a good Glass Bead Game player meant a great deal; it was equivalent to being a very good mathematician. (pg 45) ...The analytical study of musical values had led to the reduction of musical events to physical and mathematical formulas. Soon afterward philology borrowed this method and began to measure linguistic configurations as physics measures processes in nature. The visual arts soon followed suit, architecture having already led the way in establishing the links between visual art and mathematics. Thereafter more and more new relations, analogies, and correspondences were discovered among the abstract formulas obtained in this way. Each discipline which seized upon the Game created its own language of formulas, abbreviations, and possible combinations. (pg 46)
a form of concentrated self-awareness for intellectuals. (pg 46)
The world had changed. The life of the mind in the Age of the Feuilleton might be compared to a degenerate plant which was squandering its strength in excessive vegetative growth, and the subsequent corrections to pruning the plant back to the roots. 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. (pg 47)
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. The writers with heavy sales, Nobel Prizes, and lovely country houses, the celebrated physicians with decorations and liveried servants, the professors with wealthy wives and brilliant salons, the chemists with posts on boards of directors, the philosophers with feuilleton factories who delivered charming lectures in overcrowded halls, for which they were rewarded with thunderous applause and floral tributes—all such public figures disappeared and have not come back to this day. (pg 47)
the paths to honors, riches, fame, and luxury now no longer led through lecture halls, academies, and doctoral theses. The deeply debased intellectual professions were bankrupt in the world's eyes. (pg 48)
Those talented persons whose desires tended more toward glory or comfortable living had to turn their backs on the intellectual life, which had become so austere, and seek out occupations which still provided opportunities for comfort and money-making. (pg 48)
People know, or dimly feel, that if thinking is not kept pure and keen, and if respect for the world of the mind is no longer operative, ships and automobiles will soon cease to run right, the engineer's slide rule and the computations of banks and stock exchanges will forfeit validity and authority, and chaos will ensue. It took long enough in all conscience for realization to come that the externals of civilization—technology, industry, commerce, and so on—also require a common basis of intellectual honesty and morality. (pg 49)
There was a passionate craving among all the intellectuals of his age for a means to express their new concepts. They longed for philosophy, for synthesis. The erstwhile happiness of pure withdrawal each into his own discipline was now felt to be inadequate. Here and there a scholar broke through the barriers of his specialty and tried to advance into the terrain of universality. Some dreamed of a new alphabet, a new language of symbols through which they could formulate and exchange their new intellectual experiences. (pg 50)
an international language of symbols. Such a language, like the ancient Chinese script, should be able to express the most complex matters graphically, without excluding individual imagination and inventiveness, in such a way as to be understandable to all the scholars of the world. It was at this point that Joculator Basiliensis applied himself to the problem. He invented for the Glass Bead Game the principles of a new language, a language of symbols and formulas, in which mathematics and music played an equal part, so that it became possible to combine astronomical and musical formulas, to reduce mathematics and music to a common denominator, as it were. (pg 50)
Only after some time did there enter into the Game, from the intellectual stock of the educational system and especially from the habits and customs of the Journeyers to the East, the idea of contemplation. (pg 52)
After each symbol conjured up by the director of a Game, each player was required to perform silent, formal meditation on the content, origin, and meaning of this symbol, to call to mind intensively and organically its full purport. The members of the Order and of the Game associations brought the technique and practice of contemplation with them from their elite schools, where the art of contemplation and meditation was nurtured with the greatest care. (pg 52)
Throughout its history the Game was closely allied with music, and usually proceeded according to musical or mathematical rules. One theme, two themes, or three themes were stated, elaborated, varied, and underwent a development quite similar to that of the theme in a Bach fugue or a concerto movement. A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibniz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts. Beginners learned how to establish parallels, by means of the Game's symbols, between a piece of classical music and the formula for some law of nature. Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial theme into unlimited combinations. For a long time one school of players favored the technique of stating side by side, developing in counterpoint, and finally harmoniously combining two hostile themes or ideas, such as law and freedom, individual and community. In such a Game the goal was to develop both themes or theses with complete equality and impartiality, to evolve out of thesis and antithesis the purest possible synthesis. (pg 53)
the meaning the Game had acquired at its height for the players. It represented an elite, symbolic form of seeking for perfection, a sublime alchemy, an approach to that Mind which beyond all images and multiplicities is one within itself (pg 54)
in the final analysis every important cultural gesture comes down to a morality, a model for human behavior concentrated into a gesture. As we know, between 1500 and 1800 a wide variety of music was made; styles and means of expression were extremely variegated; but the spirit, or rather the morality, was everywhere the same. The human attitude of which classical music is the expression is always the same; it is always based on the same kind of insight into life and strives for the same kind of victory over blind chance. Classical music as gesture signifies knowledge of the tragedy of the human condition, affirmation of human destiny, courage, cheerful serenity. The grace of a minuet by Handel or Couperin, the sensuality sublimated into delicate gesture to be found in many Italian composers or in Mozart, the tranquil, composed readiness for death in Bach—always there may be heard in these works a defiance, a death-defying intrepidity, a gallantry, and a note of superhuman laughter, of immortal gay serenity. (pg 58)
the writing of history—however dryly it is done and however sincere the desire for objectivity—remains literature. History's third dimension is always fiction. (pg 59)
Bach stands for the edifying and comforting submission to God's paternal plan of which suffering and dying form a part. But we do not really read these qualities from their biographies and from such facts about their private lives as have come down to us; we read them solely from their works, from their music. Furthermore, although we know Bach's biography and deduce his personality from his music, we involuntarily include his posthumous destiny in the picture. We conceive him as living with the knowledge, which causes him a silent smile, that all his work would be forgotten after his death, that his manuscripts would be treated as so much waste paper, that one of his sons instead of himself would be considered "the great Bach," and harvest the success he himself merited, and that after his work had been rediscovered it would be plunged into the misunderstandings and barbarities of the Age of the Feuilleton, and so on. (pg 60)
Behind the music being created in his presence he sensed the world of Mind, the joy-giving harmony of law and freedom, of service and rule. He surrendered himself, and vowed to serve that world and this Master. In those few minutes he saw himself and his life, saw the whole cosmos guided, ordered, and interpreted by the spirit of music. (pg 68)
when he stepped out of the building, he found the town and the world far more transformed and enchanted than if there had been flags, garlands, and streamers, or displays of fireworks. He had experienced his vocation, which may surely be spoken of as a sacrament. The ideal world, which hitherto his young soul had known only by hearsay and in wild dreams, had suddenly taken on visible lineaments for him. Its gates had opened invitingly. This world, he now saw, did not exist only in some vague, remote past or future; it was here and was active; it glowed, sent messengers, apostles, ambassadors, men like this old Magister (pg 69)
whether the boy had it in him by nature to become a musician in the higher sense of the word, whether he had the capacity for enthusiasm, subordination, reverence, worshipful service. (pg 70) There are many types and kinds of vocation, but the core of the experience is always the same: the soul is awakened by it, transformed or exalted, so that instead of dreams and presentiments from within a summons comes from without. A portion of reality presents itself and makes its claim. (pg 71)
"We came to the elder bushes. They had tiny buds, but no leaves, and as I cut off a twig, a powerful, bittersweet scent wafted toward me. It seemed to gather and multiply all the other smells of spring within itself. I was completely stunned by it; I smelled my knife, smelled my hand, smelled the elder twig. It was the sap that gave off so insistent and irresistible a fragrance. We did not talk about it, but my friend also thoughtfully smelled for a long time. The fragrance meant something to him also. "Well now, every experience has its element of magic. In this case the onset of spring, which had enthralled me as I walked over the wet, squishing meadows and smelled the soil and the buds, had now been concentrated into a sensual symbol by the fortissimo of that elder shrub's fragrance. Possibly I would never have forgotten this scent even if the experience had remained isolated. Rather, every future encounter with that smell deep into my old age would in all probability have revived the memory of that first time I had consciously experienced the fragrance. But now a second element entered in. At that time I had found an old volume of music at my piano teacher's. It was a volume of songs by Franz Schubert, and it exerted a strong attraction upon me. I had leafed through it one time when I had a rather long wait for the teacher, and had asked to borrow it for a few days. In my leisure hours I gave myself up to the ecstasy of discovery. Up to that time I had not known Schubert at all, and I was totally captivated by him. And now, on the day of that walk to the elderberry bush or the day after, I discovered Schubert's spring song, "Die linden Lüfte sind erwacht," and the first chords of the piano accompaniment assailed me like something already familiar. Those chords had exactly the same fragrance as the sap of the young elder, just as bittersweet, just as strong and compressed, just as full of the forthcoming spring. From that time on the association of earliest spring, fragrance of elder, Schubert chords has been fixed and absolutely valid, for me. As soon as the first chord is struck I immediately smell the tartness of the sap, and both together mean to me: spring is on the way. "This private association of mine is a precious possession I would not willingly give up. But the fact that two sensual experiences leap up every time I think, 'spring is coming'—that fact is my own personal affair. It can be communicated, certainly, as I have communicated it to you just now. But it cannot be transmitted. I can make you understand my association, but I cannot so affect a single one of you that my private association will become a valid symbol for you in your turn, a mechanism which infallibly reacts on call and always follows the same course." (pg 84)
"...When the non-Castalians speak of the free professions, the word may sound very serious and even inspiring. But when we use it, we intend it ironically. Freedom exists in those professions only to the extent that the student chooses the profession himself. That produces an appearance of freedom, although in most cases the choice is made less by the student than by his family, and many a father would sooner bite off his tongue than really allow his son free choice. But perhaps that is a slander; let us drop this objection. 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. For the elite pupil and later member of the Order, everything is the other way around. He does not 'choose' any profession. He does not imagine that he is a better judge of his own talents than are his teachers. He accepts the place and the function within the hierarchy that his superiors choose for him — if, that is, the matter is not reversed and the qualities, gifts, and faults of the pupil compel the teachers to send him to one place or another. In the midst of this seeming unfreedom every electus enjoys the greatest imaginable freedom after his early courses. Whereas the man in the 'free' professions must submit to a narrow and rigid course of studies with rigid examinations in order to train for his future career, the electus, as soon as he begins studying independently, enjoys so much freedom that there are many who all their lives choose the most abstruse and frequently almost foolish studies, and may continue without hindrance as long as their conduct does not degenerate. The natural teacher is employed as teacher, the natural educator as educator, the natural translator as translator; each, as if of his own accord, finds his way to the place in which he can serve, and in serving be free. Moreover, for the rest of his life he is saved from that 'freedom' of career which means such terrible slavery. He knows nothing of the struggle for money, fame, rank; he recognizes no parties, no dichotomy between the individual and the office, between what is private and what is public; he feels no dependence upon success. Now do you see, my son, that when we speak of the free professions, the word 'free' is meant rather humorously " (pg 88)
Now the Magister turned on his chair and placed his hands on the piano. He played a theme, and carried it forward with variations; it seemed to be a piece by some Italian master. He instructed his guest to imagine the progress of the music as a dance, a continuous series of balancing exercises, a succession of smaller or larger steps from the middle of an axis of symmetry, and to focus his mind entirely on the figure which these steps formed. He played the bars once more, silently reflected on them, played them again, then sat quite still, hands on his knees, eyes half closed, without the slightest movement, repeating and contemplating the music within himself. His pupil, too, listened within himself, saw fragments of lines of notes before him, saw something moving, something stepping, dancing, and hovering, and tried to perceive and read the movement as if it were the curves in the line of a bird's flight. The pattern grew confused and he lost it; he had to begin over again; for a moment his concentration left him and he was in a void. He looked around and saw the Master's still, abstracted face floating palely in the twilight, found his way back again to that mental space he had drifted out of. He heard the music sounding in it again, saw it striding along, saw it inscribing the line of its movement, and followed in his mind the dancing feet of the invisible dancers... It seemed to him that a long time had passed before he glided out of that space once more, again became aware of the chair he sat on, the mat-covered stone floor, the dimmer dusk outside the windows. He felt someone regarding him, looked up and into the eyes of the Music Master, who was attentively studying him. The Master gave him an almost imperceptible nod, with one finger played pianissimo the last variation of the Italian piece, and stood up. "Stay on," he said. "I shall be back. Try once again to track down the music; pay attention to the figure. But don't force yourself; it's only a game. If you should fall asleep over it, there's no harm." (pg 94)
He had forgotten this dream by the time he awoke. But later, during a morning walk, the Master asked him whether he had dreamt, and it seemed to him that he must have had an unpleasant experience in his dreams. He thought, recovered the dream, told it, and was astonished at how innocuous it sounded. The Master listened closely. "Should we be mindful of dreams?" Joseph asked. "Can we interpret them?" The Master looked into his eyes and said tersely: "We should be mindful of everything, for we can interpret everything." (pg 96)
" Oh, if only it were possible to find understanding," Joseph exclaimed. "If only there were a dogma to believe in. Everything is contradictory, everything tangential; there are no certainties anywhere. Everything can be interpreted one way and then again interpreted in the opposite sense. The whole of world history can be explained as development and progress and can also be seen as nothing but decadence and meaninglessness. Isn't there any truth ? Is there no real and valid doctrine ?" The Master had never heard him speak so fervently. He walked on in silence for a little, then said: "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." (pg 99)
The boys played Couperin, Purcell, and other masters of the period around 1700. In one of the letters Knecht gives a detailed account of these practice sessions and this music "in which many of the pieces have some embellishment over almost every note." He continues: "After one has played nothing but turns, shakes, and mordents for a few hours, one's fingers feel as if they are charged with electricity." (pg 106)
Music does not consist only in those purely intellectual oscillations and figurations which we have abstracted from it. All through the ages its pleasure has primarily consisted in its sensuous character, in the outpouring of breath, in the beating of time, in the colorations, frictions, and stimuli which arise from the blending of voices in the concord of instruments. Certainly the spirit is the main thing, and certainly the invention of new instruments and the alteration of old ones, the introduction of new keys and new rules or new taboos regarding construction and harmony are always mere gestures and superficialities, even as the costumes and fashions of nations are superficialities. But one must have apprehended and tasted these superficial and sensuous distinctions with the senses to be able to interpret from them the nature of eras and styles. (pg 107)
...the more we demand of ourselves. or the more our task at any given time demands of us. the more dependent we are on meditation as a wellspring of energy. as the ever-renewing concord of mind and soul. And — I could if I wished give you quite a few more examples of this — the more intensively a task requires our energies. arousing and exalting us at one time. tiring and depressing us at another. the more easily we may come to neglect this wellspring, just as when we are carried away by some intellectual work we easily forget to attend to the body. The really great men in the history of the world have all either known how to meditate or have unconsciously found their way to the place to which meditation leads us. Even the most vigorous and gifted among the others all failed and were defeated in the end because their task or their ambitious dream seized hold of them, made them into persons so possessed that they lost the capacity for liberating themselves from present things, and attaining perspective. Well, you know all this; it's taught during the first exercises. of course. But it is inexorably true. How inexorably true it is, one realizes only after having gone astray." (pg 123)
Nor can he waste the years of his youth in tomfoolery, or the empty braggadocio of secret societies, as did some generations of students in olden times. (pg 131)
nothing is asked of him except presentation once a year of the record of the lectures he has attended, the books he has read, and the research he has undertaken at the various institutes. (pg 133)
Aside from good moral conduct, nothing is required of them except the composition of a "Life" every year. (pg 133)
...the custom had arisen of requiring the younger students, those who had not yet been admitted to the Order, to compose from time to time a special kind of essay or stylistic exercise which was called a "Life". It was to be a fictitious autobiography set in any period of the past the writer chose. The student's assignment was to transpose himself back to the surroundings, culture, and intellectual climate of any earlier era and to imagine himself living a suitable life in that period. Depending on the times and the fashion, imperial Rome, seventeenth-century France, or fifteenth-century Italy might be the period most favored, or Periclean Athens or Austria in the time of Mozart. Among language specialists it had become the custom to compose their imaginary biographies in the language of the country and the style of the period in which they were versed. Thus there had been highly ingenious Lives written in the style of the Papal Curia at Rome around the year 1200, in monastic Latin, in the Italian of the "Cento Novelle Antiche," in the French of Montaigne, and the baroque German of Martin Opitz. ...it was an exercise, a game for the imaginative faculties, to conceive of oneself in different conditions and surroundings. In writing such Lives students made a stab at a cautious penetration of past cultures, times, and countries, just as they did in many seminars on stylistics, and in the Glass Bead Game as well. They learned to regard their own persons as masks, as the transitory garb of an entelechy. The custom of writing such Lives had its charm, and a good many solid benefits as well, or it probably would not have endured for so long. (pg 133-134)
while writing these Lives some of the authors took their first steps into the land of selfknowledge. (pg 135)
these Lives were extremely revealing to the teachers during those periods in which the students enjoyed maximum freedom and were subject to no close supervision. The compositions often provided astonishingly clear insight into the intellectual and moral state of the authors. (pg 135)
Do you recall a certain day and a certain game? Our group leader had given us various suggestions and proposed all sorts of themes for us to choose from. We had just arrived at the delicate transition from astronomy, mathematics, and physics to the sciences of language and history, and the leader was a virtuoso in the art of setting traps for eager beginners like us and luring us on to the thin ice of impermissible abstractions and analogies. He would slip into our hands tempting baubles taken from etymology and comparative linguistics, and enjoyed seeing us grab them and come to grief. We counted Greek quantities until we were worn out, only to feel the rug pulled out from under us when he suddenly confronted us with the possibility, in fact the necessity, of accentual instead of a quantitative scansion, and so on. In formal terms he did his job brilliantly, and quite properly, although I did not like the spirit of it. (pg 138)
...that I was all at once seized by the meaning and the greatness of our Game, and was shaken by it to the core of my being. 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 truly 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. (pg 139)
You will recall, at least in general outline, the Glass Bead Game exercise we constructed at that time, as pupils in the Third Course, and with the leader's assistance—in the course of which I heard that voice and experienced my vocation as a lusor. That game began with a rhythmic analysis of a fugal theme and in the center of it was a sentence attributed to Confucius. Now I am studying that entire game from beginning to end. That is, I am working through each of its phrases, translating it from the language of the Game back into its original language, into mathematics, ornament, Chinese, Greek, and so on. At least this once in my life I intend to restudy and reconstruct systematically the entire content of a Glass Bead Game. I have already finished the first part, and it has taken me two years. Of course it is going to cost me quite a few years more. (pg 141)
shall be asking you to send me from the Archives the unabbreviated forms of the official clefs and symbols for all sorts of themes. I am counting on you, and counting on your asking reciprocal favors as soon as there is anything I can do for you." (pg 142)
the dark interior, the esoterics of the Game, points down into the One and All, into those depths where the eternal Atman eternally breathes in and out, sufficient unto itself. (pg 142)
Whatever you become, teacher, scholar, or musician, have respect for the 'meaning,' but do not imagine that it can be taught. (pg 143)
The task of the teacher and scholar is to study means, cultivate tradition, and preserve the purity of methods, not to deal in incommunicable experiences which are reserved to the elect—who often enough pay a high price for this privilege." (pg 143)
an inexorable urge toward research arising from his former doubts about the Glass Bead Game. To be sure, he had once tasted the experience that the Game could be played in a supreme and sacred sense; but he had also seen that the majority of players and students of the Game, and even some of the leaders and teachers, by no means shared that lofty and sacramental feeling for the Game. They did not regard the Game language as a lingua sacra, but more as an ingenious kind of stenography. They practiced the Game as an interesting or amusing specialty, an intellectual sport or an arena for ambition. (pg 145)
During those years he kept with him at all times an outline of that Game, noted down in the usual shorthand. In the symbols, ciphers, signatures, and abbreviations of the Game language an astronomical formula, the principles of form underlying an old sonata, an utterance of Confucius, and so on, were written down. A reader who chanced to be ignorant of the Glass Bead Game might imagine such a Game pattern as rather similar to the pattern of a chess game, except that the significances of the pieces and the potentialities of their relationships to one another and their effect upon one another multiplied manyfold and an actual content must be ascribed to each piece, each constellation, each chess move, of which this move, configuration, and so on is the symbol. (pg 146)
practicing counting the sticks, imparting the grammar and symbolism of the oracular language, and drilling him in writing and memorizing the sixty-four signs. (pg 154)
Afterward Joseph Knecht described the months he lived in the Bamboo Grove as an unusually happy time. He also frequently referred to it as the "beginning of my awakening"—and in fact from that period on the image of "awakening" turns up more and more often in his remarks, with a meaning similar to although not quite the same as that he had formerly attributed to the image of vocation. It could be assumed that the "awakening" signified knowledge of himself and of the place he occupied within the Castalian and the general human order of things; but it seems to us that the accent increasingly shifts toward self-knowledge in the sense that from the "beginning of his awakening" Knecht came closer and closer to a sense of his special, unique position and destiny, while at the same time, the concepts and categories of the traditional hierarchy of the world and of the special Castalian hierarchy became for him more and more relative matters. (pg 155)
A muted, polished tone prevailed in this group. Its members were ambitious without showing it, keen-eyed and critical to excess. Many in Castalia, and some in the rest of the country outside the Province, regarded this elite as the ultimate flower of Castalian tradition, the cream of an exclusive intellectual aristocracy, and a good many youths dreamed for years of some day belonging to it themselves. To others, however, this elect circle of candidates for the higher reaches in the hierarchy of the Glass Bead Game seemed odious and debased, a clique of haughty idlers, brilliant but spoiled geniuses who lacked all feeling for life and reality, an arrogant and fundamentally parasitic company of dandies and climbers who had made a silly game, a sterile self-indulgence of the mind, their vocation and the content of their life. (pg 156) ...the old, tormenting question: was this game really the highest, really the sovereign in the realm of the intellect? Was it not, in spite of everything and everyone, in the end merely a game after all? Did it really merit full devotion, lifelong service? Generations ago this famous Game had begun as a kind of substitute for art, and for many it was gradually developing into a kind of religion, allowing highly trained intellects to indulge in contemplation, edification, and devotional exercises. (pg 159)
One man, for example, had made a meticulous study of the history of the madrigal and discovered in the development of the style a curve that he had expressed both musically and mathematically, so that it could be included in the vocabulary of the Game. Another had examined the rhythmic structure of Julius Caesar's Latin and discovered the most striking congruences with the results of well-known studies of the intervals in Byzantine hymns. Or again some fanatic had once more unearthed some new cabala hidden in the musical notation of the fifteenth century. (pg 163)
Every active Glass Bead Game player naturally dreams of a constant expansion of the fields of the Game until they include the entire universe. (pg 164)
The true and ultimate finesse in the private Games of advanced players consists, of course, in their developing such mastery over the expressive, nomenclatural, and formative factors of the Game that they can inject individual and original ideas into any given Game played with objective historical materials. (pg 164)
The philosopher Kant—he is little known today, but he was a formidable thinker—once said that theological philosophizing was 'a magic lantern of chimeras.' We should not make our Glass Bead Game into that." (pg 165)
the subject of a meditation exercise. It was the familiar passage: "If the high Authority appoints you to an office, know this: every step upward on the ladder of offices is not a step into freedom but into bondage. The higher the office, the tighter the bondage. The greater the power of the office, the stricter the service. The stronger the personality, the less self-will." pg 166)
The way he analyzes the specimen Games of boys without ever discouraging them, the way he detects their tricks, infallibly recognizes and exposes everything imitative or purely decorative, the way he finds the sources of error in a Game that has started well but then gone astray, and lays these errors bare like flawlessly prepared anatomical specimens—is altogether unique. It is this sharp and incorruptible talent for analysis and correction that assures him the respect of students and colleagues... (pg 171)
These Games were little dramas, in structure almost pure monologues, reflecting the imperiled but brilliant life of the author's mind like a perfect self-portrait. The various themes and groups of themes on which the Games were based, and their sequences and confrontations, were brilliantly conceived, dialectically orchestrated and counterpoised. But beyond that, the synthesis and harmonization of the opposing voices was not carried to the ultimate conclusion in the usual classical manner; rather, this harmonization underwent a whole series of refractions, of splintering into overtones, and paused each time, as if wearied and despairing, just on the point of dissolution, finally fading out in questioning and doubt. As a result, those Games possessed a stirring chromatics, of a kind never before ventured, as far as I know. Moreover, the Games as a whole expressed a tragic doubt and renunciation; they became figurative statements of the dubiousness of all intellectual endeavor. At the same time, in their intellectual structure as well as in their calligraphic technique and perfection, they were so extraordinarily beautiful that they brought tears to one's eyes. Each of these Games moved with such gravity and sincerity toward solution, only at the last so nobly to forgo the attempt at solution, that it was like a perfect elegy upon the transitoriness inherent in all beautiful things and the ultimate dubiety immanent in all soaring flights of the intellect. (pg 171)
he had not sought it at all, and did not want it. He had no need to dominate, took no pleasure in commanding; he desired the contemplative far more than the active life, and would have been content to spend many years more, if not his whole life, as an obscure student, an inquiring and reverent pilgrim through the sanctuaries of the past, the cathedrals of music, the gardens and forests of mythology, languages and ideas. (pg 179)
The Magister Ludi in person wrote him a few lines: "Don't worry about taking all the time you need for your study of the life there. Profit by your days, learn, try to make yourself well liked and useful, insofar as you find your hosts receptive, but do not obtrude yourself, and never seem more impatient, never seem to be under more pressure than they. Even if they should go on treating you for an entire year as if each day were your first as a guest in their house, enter calmly into the spirit of it and behave as if two or even ten years more do not matter to you. Take it as a test in the practice of patience. Meditate carefully. If time hangs heavy on your hands, set aside a few hours every day, no more than four, for some regular work, study, or the copying of manuscripts, say. But avoid giving the impression of diligence; be at the disposal of everyone who wishes to chat with you." (pg 183)
the spirit of ancient Chinese attitudes toward politics and life. (pg 184)
his profile, with the boldly curved line of the forehead, the deep furrow above the sharp bridge of his hooked nose, and the rather short but attractively shaped chin, suggested a definite and original personality (pg 186)
There was adoration in Anton's face, an expression of admiration and reverence mingled with those emotions of affectionate consideration and helpfulness that well-bred youth sometimes manifests toward the paltriness and fragility of age. (pg 187)
the broad, deliberately benevolent, deliberately good-natured, somewhat avuncular tone which seemed to be the style of the monastery. (pg 188)
This blending of superiority and mockery, of wisdom and obstinate ceremonial, was deeply familiar to Joseph Knecht from his studies of Chinese language and life. (pg 188)
it is even more remarkable that this Swabian Protestant should have been able to influence both a Benedictine monk and a Castalian Glass Bead Game player. (pg 191)
"If you will permit me a joke, I would say that what Bengel lacked, and unconsciously longed for, was the Glass Bead Game. You see, I consider him among the secret forerunners and ancestors of our Game." Cautiously, once again entirely in earnest, Jacobus countered: "It strikes me as rather bold to annex Bengel, of all people, for your pedigree. How do you justify it?" "It was only a joke, but a ioke that can be defended. While he was still quite young, before he became engrossed in his great work on the Bible, Bengel once told friends of a cherished plan of his. He hoped, he said, to arrange and sum up all the knowledge of his time, symmetrically and synoptically, around a central idea. That is precisely what the Glass Bead Game does." "After all, the whole eighteenth century toyed with the encyclopedic idea," Father Jacobus protested. "So it did," Joseph agreed. "But what Bengel meant was not just a juxtaposition of the fields of knowledge and research, but an interrelationship, an organic denominator. And that is one of the basic ideas of the Glass Bead Game. In fact, I would go further in my claims: if Bengel had possessed a system similar to that offered by our Game, he probably would have been spared all the misguided effort involved in his calculation of the prophetic numbers and his annunciation of the Antichrist and the Millennial Kingdom. Bengel did not quite find what he longed for: the way to channel all his various talents toward a single goal. Instead, his mathematical gifts in association with his philological bent produced that weird blend of pedantry and wild imagination, the 'order of the ages,' which occupied him for so many years." (pg 192)
Father Jacobus concluded that there must be something linking the two of them for the same unspectacular magnet to affect them both so powerfully. (pg 193)
The more deeply he came to know his young friend's mind, the more he regretted that so promising a young man should have grown up without the discipline of a religious education, rather in the pseudo-discipline of an intellectual and aesthetic system of thought. (pg 193)
"You mathematicians and Glass Bead Game players," he would say, "have distilled a kind of world history to suit your own tastes. It consists of nothing but the history of ideas and of art. Your history is bloodless and lacking in reality. You know all about the decay of Latin syntax in the second or third centuries and don't know a thing about Alexander or Caesar or Jesus Christ. You treat world history as a mathematician does mathematics, in which nothing but laws and formulas exist, no reality, no good and evil, no time, no yesterday, no tomorrow, nothing but an eternal, shallow mathematical present." (pg 194)
"Every science is, among other things, a method of ordering, simplifying, making the indigestible digestible for the mind. We think we have recognized a few laws in history and try to apply them to our investigations of historical truth. Suppose an anatomist is dissecting a body. He does not confront wholly surprising discoveries. Rather, he finds beneath the epidermis a congeries of organs, muscles, tendons, and bones which generally conform to a pattern he has brought to his work. But if the anatomist sees nothing but his pattern, and ignores the unique, individual reality of his object, then he is a Castalian, a Glass Bead Game player; he is using mathematics on the least appropriate object. I have no quarrel with the student of history who brings to his work a touchingly childish, innocent faith in the power of our minds and our methods to order reality; but first and foremost he must respect the incomprehensible truth, reality, and uniqueness of events. Studying history, my friend, is no joke and no irresponsible game. To study history one must know in advance that one is attempting something fundamentally impossible, yet necessary and highly important. To study history means submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task, young man, and possibly a tragic one." (pg 195)
For all his uncertainty, however, he was helped by his lack of ambition as well as his already quite advanced amor fati. On the whole his life as a guest and unimportant teacher in this cosy old monastic world was more to his liking than his last months at Waldzell as one of a circle of ambitious men. (pg 200)
Piety, which is to say faithful service and loyalty up to the point of sacrificing one's life, was part and parcel of every creed and every stage of individual development; such service and loyalty were the only valid measure of devoutness. (pg 201)
a major musicological task involving the persistence of Greek music in the dances and folksongs of the Balkan countries. (pg 210)
the end of the eighteenth century, when baroque music was beginning to decline and was taking in new materials from Slavic folk music. (pg 210)
The Roman Church had survived the shocks of the last great epoch of wars, had lived through the crises despite severe losses, and had emerged renewed and purified, whereas the secular centers of the arts and sciences had gone under in the general decline of culture. It was out of their ruins that the Order and the Castalian ideal had arisen. (pg 211)
You could at least do with a few simpler foundations, with a science of man, for example, a real doctrine and real knowledge about the human race. You do not know man, do not understand him in his bestiality and as the image of God. All you know is the Castalian, a special product, a caste, a rare experiment in breeding." (pg 217)
Luck has nothing to do with rationality or morality; by its nature it has about it a quality akin to magic, belonging to a primitive, more youthful stage of mankind's history. The lucky innocent, showered with gifts by the fairies, pampered by the gods, is not the object of rational study, and hence not a fit subject for biographical analysis; he is a symbol who always stands outside the personal and the historical realms. Nevertheless, there are outstanding men with whose lives "luck" is intimately bound up, even though that luck may consist merely in the fact that they and the task proper to their talents actually intersect on the plane of history and biography, that they are born neither too soon nor too late. (pg 220)
Knecht learned from the Benedictine something he could scarcely have learned in the Castalia of those days. He acquired an overview of the methods of historical knowledge and the tools of historical research, and had his first practice in applying them. But far beyond that, he experienced history not as an intellectual discipline, but as reality, as life; and in keeping with that, the transformation and elevation of his own personal life into history. (pg 221)
Together with his associate and antagonist, a recently deceased Jesuit, he was regarded as the real architect of the diplomatic and moral power and the impressive political prestige that the Roman Church had regained after ages of meekly borne ineffectuality and insignificance. (pg 222)
The majority of the inhabitants of Castalia lived in a state of political innocence and naivete such as had been quite common among the professors of earlier ages.
Repugnance for current events, politics, newspapers, was even greater among the Glass Bead Game players who liked to think of themselves as the real elite, the cream of the Province, and went to some lengths not to let anything cloud the rarefied atmosphere of their scholarly and artistic existences. (pg 222)
In the formal Game the player sought to compose out of the objective content of every game, out of the mathematical, linguistic, musical, and other elements, as dense, coherent, and formally perfect a unity and harmony as possible. In the psychological Game, on the other hand, the object was to create unity and harmony, cosmic roundedness and perfection, not so much in the choice, arrangement, interweaving, association, and contrast of the contents as in the meditation which followed every stage of the Game. All the stress was placed on this meditation. Such a psychological—or to use Knecht's word, pedagogical—Game did not display perfection to the outward eye. Rather, it guided the player, by means of its succession of precisely prescribed meditations, toward experiencing perfection and divinity. (pg 227)
"The Game as I conceive it," Knecht once wrote to the former Music Master, "encompasses the player after the completion of meditation as the surface of a sphere encompasses its center, and leaves him with the feeling that he has extracted from the universe of accident and confusion a totally symmetrical and harmonious cosmos, and absorbed it into himself." (pg 227)
Every Castalian institute and every Castalian should hold to only two goals and ideals: to attain to the utmost command of his subject, and to keep himself and his subject vital and flexible by forever recognizing its ties with all other disciplines and by maintaining amicable relations with all. (pg 267)
For you, as for all Castalians, there is at bottom only a single peril, which we all must guard against every single day. The spirit of our Province and our Order is founded on two principles: on objectivity and love of truth in study, and on the cultivation of meditative wisdom and harmony. Keeping these two principles in balance means for us being wise and worthy of our Order. We love the sciences and scholarly disciplines, each his own, and yet we know that devotion to a discipline does not necessarily preserve a man from selfishness, vice, and absurdity. History is full of examples of that, and folklore has given us the figure of Doctor Faust to represent this danger. (pg 271)
Among us we use meditation, the fine gradations of yoga technique, in our efforts to exorcise the beast within us and the diabolus dwelling in every branch of knowledge. Now you know as well as I that the Glass Bead Game also has its hidden diabolus, that it can lead to empty virtuosity, to artistic vanity, to self-advancement, to the seeking of power over others and then to the abuse of that power. This is why we need another kind of education beside the intellectual and submit ourselves to the morality of the Order, not in order to reshape our mentally active life into a psychically vegetative dream-life, but on the contrary to make ourselves fit for the summit of intellectual achievement. (pg 271)
For some two decades it had been a Game so fragile that it seemed as if it were really being played with glass beads, a seemingly glassy game almost empty of content, a seemingly coquettish and wanton pastime full of frail embellishments, an airy dance, sometimes a tightrope dance, with the subtlest rhythmic structure. There were players who spoke of the style of those days as if it were a lost talisman, and others who condemned it as superficial, cluttered with ornamentation, decadent, and unmanly. (pg 278)
The pretty idea was to base the structure and dimensions of the Game on the ancient ritual Confucian pattern for the building of a Chinese house: orientation by the points of the compass, the gates, the spirit wall, the relationships and functions of buildings and courtyards, their co-ordination with the constellations, the calendar and family life, and the symbolism and stylistic principles of the garden. Long ago, in studying a commentary on the I Ching, he had thought the mythic order and significance of these rules made an unusually appealing and charming symbol of the cosmos and of man's place in the universe. The age-old mythic spirit of the people in this tradition of domestic architecture had also seemed to him wonderfully and intimately fused with the mandarin and magisterial spirit of speculative scholarliness. (pg 280)
He was one of those eternally dissatisfied and yet self-sufficient individuals who can linger for hours over a bouquet of flowers or a set table that anyone else would regard as complete, rearranging the details with restive pleasure and nervous loving manipulations, turning the littlest task into an absorbing day's work. (pg 284)
These excerpts are perhaps what Ted Gioia was referring to:Castalia and the Glass Bead Game are wonderful things; they come close to being perfect. Only perhaps they are too much so, too beautiful. They are so beautiful that one can scarcely contemplate them without fearing for them. It is not pleasant to think that some day they are bound to pass away as everything else does. And yet one must think of that." (pg 301)
...his way of taking leave of the world is quite unique. For the past several months, for example, he has almost entirely lost the habit of speaking; and although he always preferred brevity to loquacity, he has now reached a degree of brevity and silence that frightens me somewhat. At first, when he did not answer a remark or question of mine, I thought that his hearing was beginning to weaken. But he hears almost as well as ever; I have made many tests of that. I therefore had to assume that he was distracted and could no longer focus his attention. But this, too, is not an adequate explanation. Rather, it is as if he has been on his way elsewhere for some time, and no longer lives entirely among us, but more and more in his own world.
...If you were to visit him, Domine, you would make your old friend happy, I am sure of that, and you would still find relatively the same man whom you have revered and loved. In a few months, perhaps only in a few weeks, his pleasure in seeing you and his interest in you will probably be much less; it is even possible that he would no longer recognize you, or at any rate pay attention to you."
...while the Master's gray-shot hair had gradually turned completely gray and then white, while his voice had grown softer, his handshake fainter, his movements less supple, the smile had lost none of its brightness and grace, its purity and depth.
...I kept addressing the old man, or asking questions, and his only answer to anything was a look. I could not make out whether my questions and the things I told him were anything but an annoying noise to him. He confused, disappointed, and tired me; I felt altogether superfluous and importunate. Whatever I said to the Master, the only response was a smile and a brief glance. If those glances had not been so full of good will and cordiality, I would have been forced to think that he was frankly making fun of me, of my stories and questions, of the whole useless trouble I had taken to come and visit him. As a matter of fact, his silence and his smile did indeed contain something of the sort. They were actually a form of fending me off and reproving me, except that they were so in a different way, on a differing plane of meaning from, say, mocking words. I had first to wear myself out and suffer total shipwreck with what had seemed to me my patient efforts to start a conversation, before I began to realize that the old man could easily have manifested a patience, persistence, and politeness a hundred times greater than mine.
...There sat the man I revered, my patron, my friend, whom I had loved and trusted ever since I could think, who had always responded to whatever I might say—there he sat and listened to me talk, or perhaps did not listen to me, and had barricaded himself completely behind his radiance and smile, behind his golden mask, unreachable, belonging to a different world with different laws; and everything I tried to bring by speech from our world to his ran off him like rain from a stone.
...suddenly I understood the old man and the direction his nature had taken, away from people and toward silence, away from words and toward music, away from ideas and toward unity.
...After he had said to me, 'You are tiring yourself,' I was at last able to stop straining at conversation; I managed not only to be still, but to turn my will away from the foolish goal of using words in the effort to probe this man of silence and draw profit from him. And the moment I gave up that effort and left everything to him, it all went of its own accord. You may want to substitute terms of your own for mine, but please listen to me, even if I seem vague or confound categories. I stayed about an hour or an hour and a half with the old man, and I cannot communicate to you what went on between us or what was exchanged; certainly no words were spoken. I felt, after my resistance was broken, only that he received me into his peace and his brightness; cheerful serenity and a wonderful peace enclosed the two of us. Without my having deliberately and consciously meditated, it somewhat resembled an unusually successful and gladdening meditation whose subject might have been the Magister's life. I saw or felt him and the course of his growth from the time he first entered my life, when I was a boy, up to this present moment. His was a life of devotion and work, but free of obstructions, free of ambition, and full of music. 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 had done nothing but let himself be more and more permeated, transformed, purified by music
...so that he was now only a symbol, or rather a manifestation, a personification of music. At any rate, I experienced what radiated from him, or what surged back and forth between him and me like rhythmic breathing, entirely as music, as an altogether immaterial esoteric music which absorbs everyone who enters its magic circle as a song for many voices absorbs an entering voice. Perhaps a non-musician would have perceived this grace in different images: an astronomer might have seen it as a moon circling around a planet, or a philologist heard it as some magical primal language containing all meanings.
this man had early on, long before he had acquired insight into history, borne within himself a metaphysical sense of the transitoriness of all that has evolved and the problematical nature of everything created by the human mind. (pg 302)
Tegularius was a willful, moody person who refused to fit into his society. Every so often he would display the liveliness of his intellect. When highly stimulated he could be entrancing; his mordant wit sparkled and he overwhelmed everyone with the audacity and richness of his sometimes somber inspirations. But basically he was incurable, for he did not want to be cured; he cared nothing for co-ordination and a place in the scheme of things. He loved nothing but his freedom, his perpetual student status, and preferred spending his whole life as the unpredictable and obstinate loner, the gifted fool and nihilist, to following the path of subordination to the hierarchy and thus attaining peace. He cared nothing for peace, had no regard for the hierarchy, hardly minded reproof and isolation. Certainly he was a most inconvenient and indigestible component in a community whose idea was harmony and orderliness. (pg 308)
Like most solitary geniuses, Tegularius was a forerunner. He actually lived in a Castalia that did not yet exist, but might come into being in the future (pg 309)
this highly developed, freely roaming intellectual culture no longer had any goals beyond egotistic enjoyment of its own overbred faculties. (pg 309)
World history is a race with time, a scramble for profit, for power, for treasures. What counts is who has the strength, luck, or vulgarity not to miss his opportunity. The achievements of thought, of culture, of art are just the opposite. They are always an escape from the serfdom of time, man crawling out of the muck of his instincts and out of his sluggishness and climbing to a higher plane, to timelessness, liberation from time, divinity. They are utterly unhistorical and antihistorical." (pg 316)
we go even further into the realms of pure mind, or if you prefer, pure abstraction: in our Glass Bead Game we analyze those products of the sages and artists into their components, we derive rules and patterns of form from them, and we operate with these abstractions as though they were building blocks. (pg 317)
the aged former Music Master. The venerable old man, whose strength was now visibly ebbing and who had long since completely lost the habit of speech, persisted in his state of serene composure to the last. He was not sick, and his death was not so much a matter of dying as a form of progressive dematerialization, a dwindling of bodily substance and the bodily functions, while his life more and more gathered in his eyes and in the gentle radiance of his withering old man's face. (pg 318)
this soft iridescence of disembodiment, (pg 318)
When after some disappointment, some clash or disturbance, I retired to meditate, I derived great benefit at first; each time, meditation was like relaxation, deep breathing, a return to good, friendly powers. But in time I realized that this very practice of meditation, the cultivation and exercising of the psyche, was what isolated me, made me seem so unpleasantly strange to others, and actually rendered me incapable of really understanding them. I saw that I could really understand those others, those people in the world and of it, if I once again became like them, if I had no advantages over them, including this recourse to meditation. (pg 339)
Why should not a complaint be listened to with cheerfulness; why must one wear a doleful face instead of a smile? From the fact that you came to Castalia again, and to me, with your grief and your burden, I think I may conclude that our cheerful serenity means something to you. But if I do not go along with your sadness, do not let myself be infected by it, that does not mean I don't recognize it or take it seriously. I fully recognize and honor your demeanor, which your life in the world has imprinted upon you. It becomes you and belongs to you; it is dear to me and deserves respect, although I hope to see it change. Of course I can only guess at its source; you will tell me or not tell me about it later, as seems right to you. I can see only that you seem to have a hard life. But why do you think I would not or cannot be fair to you and your burdens?" (pg 352)
our former Music Master, whom you used to see in Waldzell now and then. In the last years of his life this man possessed the virtue of serenity to such a degree that it radiated from him like the light from a star; so much that it was transmitted to all in the form of benevolence, enjoyment of life, good humor, trust, and confidence. It continued to radiate outward from all who received it, all who had absorbed its brightness. His light shone upon me also; he transmitted to me a little of his radiance, a little of the brightness in his heart, and to our friend Ferromonte as well, and a good many others. To achieve this cheerful serenity is to me, and to many others, the finest and highest of goals. (pg 358)
Such cheerfulness is neither frivolity nor complacency; it is supreme insight and love, affirmation of all reality, alertness on the brink of all depths and abysses; it is a virtue of saints and of knights; it is indestructible and only increases with age and nearness to death. It is the secret of beauty and the real substance of all art. (pg 359)
the three lived together in a sultry atmosphere of effort, guiltiness, and sternly repressed impulses, filled with fear of friction and eruptions, in a state of perpetual tension. The style of behavior and speech, like the style of the whole house, was a little too careful and deliberate, as though a solid wall had to be built against eventual breaches and assaults. (pg 372)
The house was a fine one. It bespoke wealth and luxurious tastes. In each room the furnishings were of the right proportions for the space; each was tuned to a pleasant harmony of two or three colors, with here and there a valuable work of art. Knecht looked about him with pleasure; but in the end all these delights to the eye struck him as a shade too handsome, too perfect, and too well thought out. There was no sense of growth, of movement, of renewal. He sensed that this beauty of the house and its belongings was also meant as a land of spell, a defensive gesture, and that these rooms, pictures, vases, and flowers enclosed and accompanied a life of vain longing for harmony and beauty which could be attained only in the form of tending such well-co-ordinated surroundings. (pg 372)
So her house, in which everything was so distinguished, elegant, and harmonious, so her husband, her politics, her party, the heritage of the father she had once adored—so all this was not enough to give meaning to her life. Only her child could make it worth living. (pg 373)
the characteristic disease of nobility—hubris, conceit, class arrogance, self-righteousness, exploitativeness (pg 394)
The average Castalian may regard the man of the outside world, the man who is not a scholar, without contempt, envy, or malice, but he does not regard him as a brother, does not see him as his employer, does not in the least feel that he shares responsibility for what is going on outside in the world. The purpose of his life seems to him to be cultivation of the scholarly disciplines for their own sake, or perhaps even to be taking pleasurable strolls in the garden of a culture that pretends to be a universal culture without ever being quite that. (pg 394)
it tends somewhat toward smugness and self-praise, toward the cultivation and elaboration of intellectual specialism. (pg 395)
History seems to us an arena of instincts and fashions, of appetite, avarice, and craving for power, of blood lust, violence, destruction, and wars, of ambitious ministers, venal generals, bombarded cities, and we too easily forget that this is only one of its many aspects. (pg 397)
we in Castalia are taught to consider intellect primarily in terms of striving for truth, and the kind of intellect manifested in those days seems to have had nothing in common with striving for truth. It was the misfortune of that age that there was no firm moral order to counter the restiveness and upheaval engendered by the tremendously rapid increase in the human population. What remnants there were of such a moral order were suppressed by the contemporary sloganizing. (pg 398)
Much as in Luther's time, we find all over Europe, and indeed over half the world, believers and heretics, youths and old men, advocates of the past and advocates of the future, desperately flailing at each other. Often the battlefronts cut across frontiers, nations, and families. We may no longer doubt that for the majority of the fighters themselves, or at least for their leaders, all this was highly significant, just as we cannot deny many of the spokesmen in those conflicts a measure of robust good faith, a measure of idealism, as it was called at the time. Fighting, killing, and destroying went on everywhere, and everywhere both sides believed they were fighting for God against the devil. (pg 399)
Critical times are approaching; the omens can be sensed everywhere; the world is once again about to shift its center of gravity. Displacements of power are in the offing. (pg 402)
The country may very soon be forced into serious rearmament—armaments for defensive purposes only, of course—and great economies will be necessary. In spite of the government's benevolent disposition toward us, much of the economizing will strike us directly. We are proud that our Order and the cultural continuity it provides have cost the country as little as they have. In comparison with other ages, especially the early period of the Feuilletonistic Age with its lavishly endowed universities, its innumerable consultants and opulent institutes, this toll is really not large. It is infinitesimal compared with the sums consumed for war and armaments during the century of wars. But before too long this kind of armament may once again be the supreme necessity; the generals will again dominate Parliament; and if the people are confronted with the choice of sacrificing Castalia or exposing themselves to the danger of war and destruction, we know how they will choose. Undoubtedly a bellicose ideology will burgeon. The rash of propaganda will affect youth in particular. Then scholars and scholarship, Latin and mathematics, education and culture, will be considered worth their salt only to the extent that they can serve the ends of war. (pg 402)
Ruling does not require qualities of stupidity and coarseness, as conceited intellectuals sometimes think. But it does require wholehearted delight in extroverted activity, a bent for identifying oneself with outward goals, and of course also a certain swiftness and lack of scruple about the choice of ways to attain success. And these are traits that a scholar—for we do not wish to call ourselves sages—may not have and does not have, because for us contemplation is more important than action, and in the choice of ways to attain our goals we have learned to be as scrupulous and wary as is humanly possible. (pg 404)
We are specialists in examining, analyzing, and measuring. We are the guardians and constant verifiers of all alphabets, multiplication tables, and methods. We are the bureaus of standards for cultural weights and measures. (pg 405)
the Glass Bead Game is our own invention, our speciality, our favorite, our toy. It is the ultimate, subtlest expression of our Castalian type of intellectuality. It is both the most precious and the most nonutilitarian, the most beloved and the most fragile jewel in our treasury. It is the first precious stone that will be destroyed if the continuance of Castalia is imperiled, not only because it is the frailest of our possessions, but also because to laymen it is undoubtedly the most dispensable aspect of Castalia. (pg 407)
the Glass Bead Game will not be forgotten, but it will be irrecoverable, and those who study its history, its rise, flourishing, and doom, will sigh and envy us for having been allowed to live in so peaceful, cultivated, and harmonious a world of the mind. (pg 408)
Teachers are more essential than anything else, men who can give the young the ability to judge and distinguish, who serve them as examples of the honoring of truth, obedience to the things of the spirit, respect for language. (pg 409)
My life, I resolved, ought to be a perpetual transcending, a progression from stage to stage; I wanted it to pass through one area after the next, leaving each behind, as music moves on from theme to theme, from tempo to tempo, playing each out to the end, completing each and leaving it behind, never tiring, never sleeping, forever wakeful, forever in the present. (pg 449)
No permanence is ours; we are a wave That flows to fit whatever form it finds: Through day or night, cathedral or the cave We pass forever, craving form that binds. Mold after mold we fill and never rest, We find no home where joy or grief runs deep. We move, we are the everlasting guest. (pg 481)