Samten de Wet

24th April 2014

During my peregrinations through history, I discovered evidence that during times of great social unrest, even wars, the creativity of the human spirit still shines through the horrors of the time. For example, [prior to releasing the other material gathered] two great visionaries of the 20th century, Herman Hesse and Mircea Eliade, both created works during the darkness period of the century. Firstly, Hesse. Hesse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, but he did not attend the ceremony. His great opus, The Glass Bead Game, was begun in 1931 and published in Switzerland in 1943, exactly covering the rise of fascism and the Holocaust.

Wiki informs us that by : “. . . 1965, the sales of Hesse’s books by his publisher Suhrkamp reached an all-time low.” But then:

“The situation changed in the mid-1960s, when Hesse’s works suddenly became bestsellers in the United States. The revival in popularity of Hesse’s works has been credited to their association with some of the popular themes of the 1960s counterculture (or hippie) movement. In particular, the quest-for-enlightenment theme of Siddhartha, [first published in 1922] Journey to the East, and Narcissus and Goldmund resonated with those espousing counter-cultural ideals. The "magic theatre" sequences in Steppenwolf were interpreted by some as drug-induced psychedelia, although there is no evidence that Hesse ever took psychedelic drugs or recommended their use. To a large part, the Hesse boom in the United States can be traced back to enthusiastic writings by two influential counter-culture figures: Colin Wilson and Timothy Leary. From the United States, the Hesse renaissance spread to other parts of the world, and even back to Germany: more than 800,000 copies were sold in the German-speaking world in 1972–1973. In a space of just a few years, Hesse became the most widely read and translated European author of the 20th century. Hesse was especially popular among young readers, a tendency which continues today.”


Now, in 2016, we can look back and re-evaluate the work of Hesse, and possibly introduce it to a new generation. Here is a sample of his vision:

“Suddenly I understood that in the language, or at least in the spirit of the Glass Bead Game, in fact everything meant everything, that every symbol and every combination of symbols did not lead to this place or that place, not to single examples, experiments, or proofs, but into the centre, into the secret and the interior of the world, into primordial knowledge [Urwissen]. Every change from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a mythos or a cult, every classical, artistic formulation was, as I understood in the flash of that moment, considered really meditatively, nothing else than the direct way into the interior of the world’s secret, where in the movement of inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang the sacred is happening eternally.”

Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game



“Mircea Eliade was motivated at all times by a deep concern for the future of Western civilisation, which he saw as threatened by possible extinction. He believed it essential that we recognise and acknowledge the archaic and the Eastern contributions to man’s spiritual history while there is still time to do so with good grace. Otherwise, by maintaining an attitude of contempt or superiority towards the rest of the world – past and present – we would bring disaster on ourselves and the world as a whole. Eliade’s whole life was devoted to trying to save the world’s culture by introducing it to itself.”

Robert Temple, The scholar shaman (As published in The Spectator, 25 April 1987) HERE

Eliade’s novel, The Forbidden Forest 1955, is not as well-known as the novels of Hesse, and to be honest, I have not read it. But it was written between 1936 and 1948, more or less exactly parallel to the genesis of Hesse’s GBG.


Kocku von Stuckrad writes:

“In The Forbidden Forest, Eliade introduces a concrete way to escape from historical time into mythical non-time. Already in his childhood days the clairvoyant Stefan knew a secret chamber that initiates called Sambo, This room "was above us, somewhere overhead on the second floor" (Eliade 1978:74). When Stefan dared to open the room he was struck by an experience of enlightenment.” [Note 1]

And in Eliade’s words in The Forbidden Forest:

“And just then, at that moment I understood what Sambo was. I understood that here on earth, near at hand and yet invisible, inaccessible to the uninitiated, a privileged space exists, a place like a paradise, one you could never forget in your whole life if you once had the good fortune to know it. Because in Sambo I felt I was no longer living as I had lived before. I lived differently in a continuous inexpressible happiness. I don’t know the source of this nameless bliss. “ (Eliade 1978:75) 97

Why Eliade called the Secret Room, Sambo, I have yet to discover.

[Note 1] Kocku von Stuckrad, Utopian Landscapes and Ecstatic Journeys: Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, and Mircea Eliade on the Terror of Modernity, Numen, Vol. 57, No. 1 (2010), p. 96.


About arkanaroom

Researcher of Liminal Culture

Posted on April 24, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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