Chapter 4: Beatrice
AT THE END of the holidays, and without having seen my friend again, I went to St. ---. My parents accompanied me and entrusted me to the care of a boy's boardinghouse run by one of the teachers at the preparatory school. They would have been struck dumb with horror had they known into what world they were letting me wander.
The question remained: was I eventually to become a good son and useful citizen or did my nature point in an altogether different direction? My last attempt to achieve happiness in the shadow of the paternal home had lasted a long time, had on occasion almost succeeded, but had completely failed in the end.
The peculiar emptiness and isolation that I came to feel for the first time after Confirmation (oh, how familiar it was to become afterwards, this desolate, thin air!) passed only very slowly. My leave-taking from home was surprisingly easy, I was almost ashamed that I did not feel more nostalgic. My sisters wept for no reason; my eyes remained dry. I was astonished at myself. I had always been an emotional and essentially good child. Now I had completely changed. I behaved with utter indifference to the world outside and for days on end voices within preoccupied me, inner streams, the forbidden dark streams that roared below the surface. I had grown several inches in the last half year and I walked lanky and half-finished through the world. I had lost any charm I might ever have had and felt that no one could possibly love me the way I was. I certainly had no love for myself. Often I felt a great longing for Max Demian, but no less often I hated him, accusing him of having caused the impoverishment of my life that held me in its sway like a foul disease.
I was neither liked nor respected in my boys' boardinghouse. I was teased to begin with, then avoided and looked upon as a sneak and an unwelcome oddity. I fell in with this role, even exaggerated it, and grumbled myself into a self-isolation that must have appeared to outsiders like permanent and masculine contempt of the world, whereas, in truth, I often secretly succumbed to consuming fits of melancholy and despair. In school I managed to get by on the knowledge accumulated in my previous class -- the present one lagged somewhat behind the one I had left -- and I began to regard the students in my age group contemptuously as mere children.
It went on like this for a year or more. The first few visits back home left me cold. I was glad when I could leave again.
It was the beginning of November. I had become used to taking short meditative walks during all kinds of weather, walks on which I often enjoyed a kind of rapture tinged with melancholy, scorn of the world and self-hatred. Thus I roamed in the foggy dusk one evening through the town. The broad avenue of a public park stood deserted, beckoning me to enter; the path lay thickly carpeted with fallen leaves which I stirred angrily with my feet. There was a damp, bitter smell, and distant trees, shadowy as ghosts, loomed huge out of the mist.
I stopped irresolute at the far end of the avenue: staring into the dark foliage I greedily breathed the humid fragrance of decay and dying to which something within me responded with greeting.
Someone stepped out of one of the side paths, his coat billowing as he walked. I was about to continue when a voice called out:
He came up to me. It was Alfons Beck, the oldest boy in our boardinghouse. I was always glad to see him, had nothing against him except that he treated me, and all others who were younger, with an element of ironic and avuncular condescension. He was reputed to be strong as a bear and to have the teacher in our house completely under his thumb. He was the hero of many a student rumor.
"Well, what are you doing here?" he called out affably in that tone the bigger boys affected when they occasionally condescended to talk to one of us. ''I'll bet anything you're making a poem."
"Wouldn't think of it," I replied brusquely.
He laughed out loud, walked beside me, and made small talk in a way I hadn't been used to for a long time.
"You don't need to be afraid that I wouldn't understand, Sinclair. There's something to walking with autumnal thoughts through the evening fog. One likes to compose poems at a time like that, I know. About moribund nature, of course, and one's lost youth, which resembles it. Heinrich Heine, for example."
''I'm not as sentimental as all that," I defended myself.
DEAREST, canst thou tell me why The rose should be so pale? And why the azure violet Should wither in the vale?
And why the lark should in the cloud So sorrowfully sing? And why from loveliest balsam-buds A scent of death should spring?
And why the sun upon the mead So chillingly should frown? And why the earth should, like a grave, Be moldering and brown?
And why it is that I myself So languishing should be? And why it is, my heart of hearts, That thou forsakest me?
-- Why the Roses Are So Pale, by Heinrich Heine (1799-1856, English translation by Richard Garnett (1835-1906)
"All right, let's drop the subject. But it seems to me that in weather like this a man does the right thing when he looks for a quiet place where he can drink a good glass of wine or something. Will you join me? I happen to be all by myself at the moment. Or would you rather not? I don't want to be the one who leads you astray, mon vieux, that is, in case you happen to be the kind that keeps to the straight and narrow."
Soon afterwards we were sitting in a small dive at the edge of town, drinking a wine of doubtful quality and clinking the thick glasses. I didn't much like it to begin with, but at least it was something new. Soon, however, unused to the wine, I became very loquacious. It was as though an interior window had opened through which the world sparkled. For how long, for how terribly long hadn't I really talked to anyone? My imagination began to run away with me and eventually I even popped out with the story of Cain and Abel.
Beck listened with evident pleasure -- finally here was someone to whom I was able to give something! He patted me on the shoulder, called me one hell of a fellow, and my heart swelled ecstatically at this opportunity to luxuriate in the release of a long pent-up need for talk and communication, for acknowledgment from an older boy. When he called me a damned clever little bastard, the words ran like sweet wine into my soul. The world glowed in new colors, thoughts gushed out of a hundred audacious springs. The fire of enthusiasm flared up within me. We discussed our teachers and fellow students and it seemed to me that we understood each other perfectly. We talked about the Greeks and the pagans in general and Beck very much wanted me to confess to having slept with girls. This was out of my league. I hadn't experienced anything, certainly nothing worth telling. And what I had felt, what I had constructed in imagination, ached within me but had not been loosened or made communicable by the wine. Beck knew much more about girls, so I listened to his exploits without being able to say a word. I heard incredible things. Things I had never thought possible became everyday reality, seemed normal. Alfons Beck, who was eighteen, seemed to be able to draw on a vast body of experience. For instance, he had learned that it was a funny thing about girls, they just wanted to flirt, which was all very well, but not the real thing. For the real thing one could hope for greater success with women. Women were much more reasonable. Mrs. Jaggelt, for example, who owned the stationery store, well, with her one could talk business, and all the things that had happened behind her counter wouldn't fit into a book.
I sat there enchanted and also dumbfounded. Certainly, I could never have loved Mrs. Jaggelt -- yet the news was incredible. There seemed to be hidden sources of pleasure, at least for the older boys, of which I had not even dreamed. Something about it didn't sound right, and it tasted less appealing and more ordinary than love, I felt, was supposed to taste -- but at least: this was reality, this was life and adventure, and next to me sat someone who had experienced it, to whom it seemed normal.
Once it had reached this height, our conversation began to taper off. I was no longer the damned clever little bastard; I'd shrunk to a mere boy listening to a man. Yet all the same -- compared with what my life had been for months -- this was delicious, this was paradise. Besides, it was, as I began to realize only gradually, very much prohibited -- from our presence in the bar to the subject of our talk. At least for me it smacked of rebellion.
I can remember that night with remarkable clarity. We started on our way home through the damp, past gas lamps dimly lighting the late night: for the first time in my life I was drunk. It was not pleasant. In fact it was most painful, yet it had something, a thrill, a sweetness of rebellious orgy, that was life and spirit. Beck did a good job taking charge of me, even though he cursed me bitterly as a "bloody beginner," and half led, half carried me home. There he succeeded in smuggling me through an open window in the hallway.
The sober reality to which I awoke after a brief deathlike sleep coincided with a painful and senseless depression. I sat up in bed, still wearing my shirt. The rest of my clothes, strewn about on the floor, reeked of tobacco and vomit. Between fits of headache, nausea, and a raging thirst an image came to mind which I had not viewed for a long time: I visualized my parents' house, my home, my father and mother, my sisters, the garden. I could see the familiar bedroom, the school, the market place, could see Demian and the Confirmation classes -- everything was wonderful, godly pure, and everything, all of this -- as I realized now -- had still been mine yesterday, a few hours ago, had waited for me; yet now, at this very hour, everything looked ravaged and damned, was mine no longer, rejected me, regarded me with disgust. Everything dear and intimate, everything my parents had given me as far back as the distant gardens of my childhood, every kiss from my mother, every Christmas, each devout, light-filled Sunday morning at home, each and every flower in the garden -- everything had been laid waste, everything had been trampled on by me! If the arm of the law had reached out for me now, had bound and gagged me and led me to the gallows as the scum of the earth and a desecrator of the temple, I would not have objected, would have gladly gone, would have considered it just and fair.
So that's what I looked like inside! I who was going about contemptuous of the world! I who was proud in spirit and shared Demian's thoughts! That's what I looked like, a piece of excrement, a filthy swine, drunk and filthy, loathsome and callow, a vile beast brought low by hideous appetites. That's what I looked like, I, who came out of such pure gardens where everything was cleanliness, radiance, and tenderness, I, who had loved the music of Bach and beautiful poetry. With nausea and outrage I could still hear my life, drunk and unruly, sputtering out of me in idiotic laughter, in jerks and fits. There I was.
In spite of everything, I almost reveled in my agonies. I had been blind and insensible and my heart had been silent for so long, had cowered impoverished in a corner, that even this self-accusation, this dread, all these horrible feelings were welcome. At least it was feeling of some kind, at least there were some flames, the heart at least flickered. Confusedly I felt something like liberation amid my misery.
Meanwhile, viewed from the outside, I was going rapidly downhill. My first drunken frenzy was soon followed by others. There was much going to bars and carousing in our school. I was one of the youngest to take part, yet soon enough I was not merely a fledgling whom one grudgingly took along, I had become the ringleader and star, a notorious and daring bar crawler. Once again I belonged entirely to the world of darkness and to the devil, and in this world I had the reputation of being one hell of a fellow.
Nonetheless, I felt wretched. I lived in an orgy of self-destruction and, while my friends regarded me as a leader and as a damned sharp and funny fellow, deep down inside me my soul grieved. I can still remember tears springing to my eyes when I saw children playing in the street on Sunday morning as I emerged from a bar, children with freshly combed hair and dressed in their Sunday best. Those friends who sat with me in the lowest dives among beer puddles and dirty tables I amused with remarks of unprecedented cynicism, often even shocked them; yet in my inmost heart I was in awe of everything I belittled and lay weeping before my soul, my past, my mother, before God.
There was good reason why I never became one with my companions, why I felt alone among them and was therefore able to suffer so much. I was a barroom hero and cynic to satisfy the taste of the most brutal. I displayed wit and courage in my ideas and remarks about teachers, school, parents, and church. I could also bear to hear the filthiest stories and even ventured an occasional one myself, but I never accompanied my friends when they visited women. I was alone and was filled with intense longing for love, a hopeless longing, while, to judge by my talk, I should have been a hard-boiled sensualist. No one was more easily hurt, no one more bashful than I. And when I happened to see the young well-brought-up girls of the town walking in front of me, pretty and clean, innocent and graceful, they seemed like wonderful pure dreams, a thousand times too good for me. For a time I could not even bring myself to enter Mrs. Jaggelt's stationery store because I blushed looking at her remembering what Alfons Beck had told me.
The more I realized that I was to remain perpetually lonely and different within my new group of friends the less I was able to break away. I really don't know any longer whether boozing and swaggering actually ever gave me any pleasure. Moreover, I never became so used to drinking that I did not always feel embarrassing aftereffects. It was all as if I were somehow under a compulsion to do these things. I simply did what I had to do, because I had no idea what to do with myself otherwise. I was afraid of being alone for long, was afraid of the many tender and chaste moods that would overcome me, was afraid of the thoughts of love surging up in me.
What I missed above all else was a friend. There were two or three fellow students whom I could have cared for, but they were in good standing and my vices had long been an open secret. They avoided me. I was regarded by and large as a hopeless rebel whose ground was slipping from under his feet. The teachers were well-informed about me, I had been severely punished several times, my final expulsion seemed merely a matter of time. I realized myself that I had become a poor student, but I wriggled strenuously through one exam after the other, always feeling that it couldn't go on like this much longer.
There are numerous ways in which God can make us lonely and lead us back to ourselves. This was the way He dealt with me at that time. It was like a bad dream. I can see myself: crawling along in my odious and unclean way, across filth and slime, across broken beer glasses and through cynically wasted nights, a spellbound dreamer, restless and racked. There are dreams in which on your way to the princess you become stuck in quagmires, in back alleys full of foul odors and refuse. That was how it was with me. In this unpleasant fashion I was condemned to become lonely, and I raised between myself and my childhood a locked gateway to Eden with its pitilessly resplendent host of guardians. It was a beginning, an awakening of nostalgia for my former self.
Yet I had not become so callous as not to be startled into twinges of fear when my father, alarmed by my tutor's letters, appeared for the first time in St. --- and confronted me unexpectedly. Later on that winter, when he came a second time, nothing could move me any more. I let him scold and entreat me, let him remind me of my mother. Finally toward the end of the meeting he became quite angry and said if I didn't change he would have me expelled from the school in disgrace and placed in a reformatory. Well, let him! When he went away that time I felt sorry for him; he had accomplished nothing, he had not found a way to me -- and at moments I felt that it served him right.
I could not have cared less what became of me. In my odd and unattractive fashion, going to bars and bragging was my way of quarreling with the world -- this was my way of protesting. I was ruining myself in the process but at times I understood the situation as follows: if the world had no use for people like me, if it did not have a better place and higher tasks for them, well, in that case, people like me would go to pot, and the loss would be the world's.
Christmas vacation was a joyless affair that year. My mother was deeply startled when she saw me. I had shot up even more and my lean face looked gray and wasted, with slack features and inflamed eyes. The first touch of a mustache and the eyeglasses I had just begun wearing made me look odder still. My sisters shied away and giggled. Everything was most unedifying. Disagreeable and bitter was the talk I had with my father in his study, disagreeable exchanging greetings with a handful of relatives, and particularly unpleasant was Christmas Eve itself. Ever since I had been a little child this had been the great day in our house. The evening was a festivity of love and gratitude, when the bond between child and parents was renewed. This time everything was merely oppressive and embarrassing. As usual my father read aloud the passage about the shepherds in the fields "watching their flocks," as usual my sisters stood radiantly before a table decked with gifts, but father's voice sounded disgruntled, his face looked old and strained, and mother was sad. Everything seemed out of place: the presents and Christmas greetings, Gospel reading and the lit-up tree. The gingerbread smelled sweet; it exuded a host of memories which were even sweeter. The fragrance of the Christmas tree told of a world that no longer existed. I longed for evening and for the holidays to be over.
It went on like this the entire winter. Only a short while back I had been given a stern warning by the teachers' council and been threatened with expulsion. It couldn't go on much longer. Well, I didn't care.
I held a very special grudge against Max Demian, whom I hadn't seen again even once. I had written him twice during my first few months in St. --- but had received no reply; so I had not called on him during the holidays.
In the same park in which I had met Alfons Beck in the fall, a girl came to my attention in early spring as the thorn hedges began to bud. I had taken a walk by myself, my head filled with vile thoughts and worries -- for my health had deteriorated -- and to make matters worse I was perpetually in financial difficulties, owed friends considerable sums and had thus continually to invent expenditures so as to receive money from home. In a number of stores I had allowed bills to mount for cigars and similar things. Not that this worried me much. If my existence was about to come to a sudden end anyway -- if I drowned myself or was sent to the reformatory -- a few small extras didn't make much difference. Yet I was forced to live face to face with these unpleasant details: they made me wretched.
On that spring day in the park I saw a young woman who attracted me. She was tall and slender, elegantly dressed, and had an intelligent and boyish face. I liked her at once. She was my type and began to fill my imagination. She probably was not much older than I but seemed far more mature, well-defined, a full-grown woman, but with a touch of exuberance and boyishness in her face, and this was what I liked above all.
I had never managed to approach a girl with whom I had fallen in love, nor did I manage in this case. But the impression she made on me was deeper than any previous one had been and the infatuation had a profound influence on my life.
Suddenly a new image had risen up before me, a lofty and cherished image. And no need, no urge was as deep or as fervent within me as the craving to worship and admire. I gave her the name Beatrice, for, even though I had not read Dante, I knew about Beatrice from an English painting of which I owned a reproduction. It showed a young pre-Raphaelite woman, long-limbed and slender, with long head and etherealized hands and features. My beautiful young woman did not quite resemble her, even though she, too, revealed that slender and boyish figure which I loved, and something of the ethereal, soulful quality of her face.
One of the arts in which the Troubadors found models for their poetry was alchemy. In the opus alchemicum, matter passes through three stages: nigredo, albedo and rubedo. In the first, the soul only knows the deception of the senses; in the second, a new world is manifested; in the third, its deception is cancelled. The three parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy go back over this gnostic plot. Petrarch’s Laura, an Anima figure, is an opus alchemicum and as gnostic as can be. This means that all of Western poetry, created as a way of alluding to unmentionable philosophical truths through the fiction of Belles Lettres, derives from the repression of such a flourishing ideological movement. In gnostic liturgy, the Soul is called Sophia (Wisdom). Beatrice and Laura are really Sophia. As women, they never existed.
-- Rhetorical Devices in Literary Languages: Metaphor and Symbol, by courses.logos.it
Although I never addressed a single word to Beatrice, she exerted a profound influence on me at that time. She raised her image before me, she gave me access to a holy shrine, she transformed me into a worshiper in a temple. From one day to the next I stayed clear of all bars and nocturnal exploits. I could be alone with myself again and enjoyed reading and going for long walks.
My sudden conversion drew a good deal of mockery in its wake. But now I had something I loved and venerated, I had an ideal again, life was rich with intimations of mystery and a feeling of dawn that made me immune to all taunts. I had come home again to myself, even if only as the slave and servant of a cherished image.
I find it difficult to think back to that time without a certain fondness. Once more I was trying most strenuously to construct an intimate "world of light" for myself out of the shambles of a period of devastation; once more I sacrificed everything within me to the aim of banishing darkness and evil from myself. And, furthermore, this present "world of light" was to some extent my own creation; it was no longer an escape, no crawling back to mother and the safety of irresponsibility; it was a new duty, one I had invented and desired on my own, with responsibility and self-control. My sexuality, a torment from which I was in constant flight, was to be transfigured into spirituality and devotion by this holy fire. Everything dark and hateful was to be banished, there were to be no more tortured nights, no excitement before lascivious pictures, no eavesdropping at forbidden doors, no lust. In place of all this I raised my altar to the image of Beatrice, and by consecrating myself to her I consecrated myself to the spirit and to the gods, sacrificing that part of life which I withdrew from the forces of darkness to those of light. My goal was not joy but purity, not happiness but beauty, and spirituality.
This cult of Beatrice completely changed my life. Yesterday a precocious cynic, today I was an acolyte whose aim was to become a saint. I not only avoided the bad life to which I had become accustomed, I sought to transform myself by introducing purity and nobility into every aspect of my life. In this connection I thought of my eating and drinking habits, my language and dress. I began my mornings with cold baths which cost me a great effort at first. My behavior became serious and dignified; I carried myself stiffly and assumed a slow and dignified gait. It may have looked comic to outsiders but to me it was a genuine act of worship.
Of all the new practices in which I sought to express my new conviction, one became truly important to me. I began to paint. The starting point for this was that the reproduction of the English picture I owned did not resemble my Beatrice closely enough. I wanted to try to paint her portrait for myself. With new joy and hopefulness I bought beautiful paper, paints, and brushes and carried them to my room -- I had just been given one of my own -- and prepared my palette, glass, porcelain dishes and pencils. The delicate tempera colors in the little tubes I had bought delighted me. Among them was a fiery chrome green that, I think, I can still see today as it flashed up for the first time in the small white dish.
I began with great care. Painting the likeness of a face was difficult. I wanted to try myself out first on something else. I painted ornaments, flowers, small imagined landscapes: a tree by a chapel, a Roman bridge with cypress trees. Sometimes I became so completely immersed in this game that I was as happy as a little child with his paint-box. Finally I set out on my portrait of Beatrice.
A few attempts failed completely and I discarded them. The more I sought to imagine the face of the girl I had encountered here and there on the street the less successful I was. Finally I gave up the attempt and contented myself with giving in to my imagination and intuition that arose spontaneously from the first strokes, as though out of the paint and brush themselves. It was a dream face that emerged and I was not dissatisfied with it. Yet I persisted and every new sketch was more distinct, approximated more nearly the type I desired, even if it in no way reproduced reality.
I grew more and more accustomed to idly drawing lines with a dreaming paintbrush and to coloring areas for which I had no model in mind, that were the result of playful fumblings of my subconscious. Finally, one day I produced, almost without knowing it, a face to which I responded more strongly than I had to any of the others. It was not the face of that girl -- it wasn't supposed to be that any longer. It was something else, something unreal, yet it was no less valuable to me. It looked more like a boy's face than a girl's, the hair was not flaxen like that of my pretty girl, but dark brown with a reddish hue. The chin was strong and determined, the mouth like a red flower. As a whole it was somewhat stiff and masklike but it was impressive and full of a secret life of its own.
As I sat down in front of the completed painting, it had an odd effect on me. It resembled a kind of image of God or a holy mask, half male, half female, ageless, as purposeful as it was dreamy, as rigid as it was secretly alive. This face seemed to have a message for me, it belonged to me, it was asking something of me. It bore a resemblance to someone, yet I did not know whom.
For a time this portrait haunted my thoughts and shared my life. I kept it locked in a drawer so that no one would take it and taunt me with it. But as soon as I was alone in my small room I took it out and communed with it. In the evening I pinned it on the wall facing my bed and gazed on it until I fell asleep and in the morning it was the first thing my eyes opened on.
It was precisely at this time that I again began having many dreams, as I had always had as a child. It felt as though I had not dreamed for years. Now the dreams returned with entirely new images, and time after time the portrait appeared among them, alive and eloquent, friendly or hostile to me, sometimes distorted into a grimace, sometimes infinitely beautiful, harmonious, and noble.
Then one morning, as I awoke from one of these dreams, I suddenly recognized it. It looked at me as though it were fabulously familiar and seemed to call out my name. It seemed to know who I was, like a mother, as if its eyes had been fixed on me since the beginning of time. With a quivering heart I stared at the sheet, the close brown hair, the half-feminine mouth, the pronounced forehead with the strange brightness (it had dried this way of its own accord) and I felt myself coming nearer and nearer to the recognition, the rediscovery, the knowledge.
I leapt out of bed, stepped up to the face, and from inches away looked into its wide-open, greenish, rigid eyes, the right one slightly higher than the left. All at once the right eye twitched, ever so faintly and delicately but unmistakably, and I was able to recognize the picture ....
Why had it taken me so long? It was Demian's face.
Later I often compared the portrait with Demian's true features as I remembered them. They were by no means the same even though there was a resemblance. Nonetheless, it was Demian.
Once the early-summer sun slanted oblique and red into a window that faced westward. Dusk was growing in my room. It occurred to me to pin the portrait of Beatrice, or Demian, at the window crossbar and to observe the evening sun shine through it. The outlines of the face became blurred but the red-rimmed eyes, the brightness on the forehead, and the bright red mouth glowed deep and wild from the surface. I sat facing it for a long time, even after the sun had faded, and gradually I began to sense that this was neither Beatrice nor Demian but myself. Not that the picture resembled me -- I did not feel that it should -- but it was what determined my life, it was my inner self, my fate or my daemon. That's what my friend would look like if I were to find one ever again. That's what the woman I would love would look like if ever I were to love one. That's what my life and death would be like, this was the tone and rhythm of my fate.
During those weeks I had begun to read a book that made a more lasting impression on me than anything I had read before. Even later in life I have rarely experienced a book more intensely, except perhaps Nietzsche. It was a volume of Novalis, containing letters and aphorisms of which I understood only a few but which nevertheless held an inexpressible attraction for me. One of the aphorisms occurred to me now and I wrote it under the picture: "Fate and temperament are two words for one and the same concept." That was clear to me now.
Long ages ago there lived in the far west a guileless youth. He was very good, but at the same time peculiar beyond measure. He constantly grieved over nothing at all, always went about alone and silent, sat down by himself whenever the others played and were happy, and was always thinking about strange things. Woods and caves were his favorite haunts, and there he talked constantly with birds and animals, with rocks and trees -- naturally not a word of sense, nothing but stuff silly enough to make one die a-laughing. Yet he continued to remain morose and grave in spite of the fact that the squirrel, the long-tailed monkey, the parrot, and the bullfinch took great pains to distract him and lead him into the right path. The goose would tell fairy-tales, and in the midst of them the brook would tinkle a ballad; a great heavy stone would caper about ludicrously; the rose stealing up affectionately behind him would creep through his locks, and the ivy stroke his careworn forehead. But his melancholy and his gravity were obstinate. His parents were greatly grieved; they did not know what to do. He was healthy and ate well. His parents had never hurt his feelings, nor until a few years since had any one been more cheerful and lively than he; always he had been at the head of every game, and was well liked by all the girls. He was very handsome indeed, looked like a picture, danced beautifully. Among the girls there was one sweet and very pretty child.
She looked as though she were of wax, with hair like silk spun of gold, lips as red as cherries, a figure like a little doll, eyes black as the raven. Such was her charm that whoever saw her might have pined away with love. At that time Roseblossom, that was her name, cherished a heart-felt affection for the handsome Hyacinth, that was his name, and he loved her with all his life. The other children did not know it. A little violet had been the first to tell them; the house-cats had noticed it, to be sure, for their parents' homes stood near each other. When, therefore, Hyacinth was standing at night at his window and Roseblossom at hers, and the pussies ran by on a mouse-hunt, they would see both standing, and would often laugh and titter so loudly that the children would hear them and grow angry. The violet had confided it to the strawberry, she told it to her friend, the gooseberry, and she never stopped taunting when Hyacinth passed; so that very soon the whole garden and the goods heard the news, and whenever Hyacinth went out they called on every side: "Little Roseblossom is my sweetheart!" Now Hyacinth was vexed, and again he could not help laughing from the bottom of his heart when the lizard would come sliding up, seat himself on a warm stone, wag his little tail, and sing
Little Roseblossom, good and kind,
Suddenly was stricken blind.
Her mother Hyacinth she thought
And to embrace him forthwith sought.
But when she felt the face was strange,
Just think, no terror made her change!
But on his cheek pressed she her kiss,
And she had noted naught amiss.
Alas, how soon did all this bliss pass away! There came along a man from foreign lands; he had traveled everywhere, had a long beard, deep-set eyes, terrible eyebrows, a strange cloak with many folds and queer figures woven in it. He seated himself in front of the house that belonged to Hyacinth's parents. Now Hyacinth was very curious and sat down beside him and fetched him bread and wine. Then the man parted his white beard and told stories until late at night and Hyacinth did not stir nor did he tire of listening. As far as one could learn afterward the man had related much about foreign lands, unknown regions, astonishingly wondrous things, staying there three days and creeping down into deep pits with Hyacinth. Roseblossom cursed the old sorcerer enough, for Hyacinth was all eagerness for his tales and cared for nothing, scarcely even eating a little food. Finally the man took his departure, not, however, without leaving Hyacinth a booklet that not a soul could read. The youth had even given him fruit, bread, and wine to take along and had accompanied him a long way. Then he came back melancholy and began an entirely new mode of life. Roseblossom grieved for him very pitifully, for from that time on he paid little attention to her and always kept to himself.
Now it came about that he returned home one day and was like one new-born. He fell on his parents' neck and wept. "I must depart for foreign lands," he said; "the strange old woman in the forest told me that I must get well again; she threw the book into the fire and urged me to come to you and ask for your blessing. Perhaps I shall be back soon, perhaps never more. Say good-bye to Roseblossom for me. I should have liked to speak to her, I do not know what is the matter, something drives me away; whenever I want to think of old times, mightier thoughts rush in immediately; my peace is gone, my courage and love with it, I must go in quest of them. I should like to tell you whither, but I do not know myself; thither where dwells the mother of all things, the veiled virgin. For her my heart burns. Farewell!"
He tore himself away and departed. His parents lamented and shed tears. Roseblossom kept in her chamber and wept bitterly. Hyacinth now hastened as fast as he could through valleys and wildernesses, across mountains and streams, toward the mysterious country. Everywhere he asked men and animals, rocks and trees, for the sacred goddess (Isis). Some laughed, some were silent, nowhere did he receive an answer. At first he passed through wild, uninhabited regions, mist and clouds obstructed his path, it was always storming; later he found unbounded deserts of glowing hot sand, and as he wandered his mood changed, time seemed to grow longer, and his inner unrest was calmed. He became more tranquil and the violent excitement within him was gradually transformed to a gentle but strong impulse, which took possession of his whole nature. It seemed as though many years lay behind him. Now, too, the region again became richer and more varied, the air warm and blue, the path more level; green bushes attracted him with their pleasant shade but he did not understand their language, nor did they seem to speak, and yet they filled his heart with verdant colors, with quiet and freshness. Mightier and mightier grew within him that sweet longing, broader and softer the leaves, noisier and happier the birds and animals, balmier the fruits, darker the heavens, warmer the air and more fiery his love; faster and faster passed the Time, as though it knew that it was approaching the goal.
One day he came upon a crystal spring and a bevy of flowers that were going down to a valley between black columns reaching to the sky. With familiar words they greeted him kindly. "My dear countrymen," he said, "pray, where am I to find the sacred abode of Isis? It must be somewhere in this vicinity, and you are probably better acquainted here than I." "We, too, are only passing through this region," the flowers answered; "a family of spirits is traveling and we are making ready the road and preparing lodgings for them; but we came through a region lately where we heard her name called. Just walk upward in the direction from which we are coming and you will be sure to learn more." The flowers and the spring smiled as they said this, offered him a drink of fresh water, and went on.
Hyacinth followed their advice, asked and asked, and finally reached that long-sought dwelling concealed behind palms and other choice plants. His heart beat with infinite longing and the most delicious yearning thrilled him in this abode of the eternal seasons. Amid heavenly fragrance he fell into slumber, since naught but dreams might lead him to the most sacred place. To the tune of charming melodies and in changing harmonies did his dream guide him mysteriously through endless apartments filled with curious things. Everything seemed so familiar to him and yet amid a splendor that he had never seen; then even the last tinge of earthliness vanished as though dissipated in the air, and he stood before the celestial virgin. He lifted the filmy, shimmering veil and Roseblossom fell into his arms. From afar a strain of music accompanied the mystery of the loving reunion, the outpourings of their longing, and excluded all that was alien from this delightful spot. After that Hyacinth lived many years with Roseblossom near his happy parents and comrades, and innumerable grandchildren thanked the mysterious old woman for her advice and her fire; for at that time people got as many children as they wanted.
-- THE STORY OF HYACINTH AND ROSEBLOSSOM, by Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg), From The Novices at Sais (1798), Translated by Lillie Winter
Where no gods are, spectres rule.
The best thing that the French achieved by their Revolution, was a portion of Germanity.
Germanity is genuine popularity, and therefore an ideal.
Where children are, there is the golden age.
Spirit is now active here and there: when will Spirit be active in the whole? When will mankind, in the mass, begin to consider?
Nature is pure Past, foregone freedom; and therefore, throughout, the soil of history.
The antithesis of body and spirit is one of the most remarkable and dangerous of all antitheses. It has played an important part in history.
Only by comparing ourselves, as men, with other rational beings, could we know what we truly are, what position we occupy.
The history of Christ is as surely poetry as it is history. And, in general, only that history is history which might also be fable.
The Bible begins gloriously with Paradise, the symbol of youth, and ends with the everlasting kingdom, with the holy city. The history of every man should be a Bible.
Prayer is to religion what thinking is to philosophy. To pray is to make religion.
The more sinful man feels himself, the more Christian he is.
Christianity is opposed to science, to art, to enjoyment in the proper sense.
It goes forth from the common man. It inspires the great majority of the limited on earth.
It is the germ of all democracy, the highest fact in the domain of the popular.
Light is the symbol of genuine self-possession. Therefore light, according to analogy, is the action of the self-contact of matter. Accordingly, day is the consciousness of the planet, and while the sun, like a god, in eternal self-action, inspires the centre, one planet after another closes one eye for a longer or shorter time, and with cool sleep refreshes itself for new life and contemplation. Accordingly, here, too, there is religion. For is the life of the planets aught else but sun-worship?
The Holy Ghost is more than the Bible. This should be our teacher of religion, not the dead, earthly, equivocal letter.
All faith is miraculous, and worketh miracles.
Sin is indeed the real evil in the world. All calamity proceeds from that. He who understands sin, understands virtue and Christianity, himself and the world.
The greatest of miracles is a virtuous act.
If a man could suddenly believe, in sincerity, that he was moral, he would be so.
We need not fear to admit that man has a preponderating tendency to evil. So much the better is he by nature, for only the unlike attracts.
Everything distinguished (peculiar) deserves ostracism. Well for it if it ostracizes itself. Everything absolute must quit the world.
A time will come, and that soon, when all men will be convinced that there can be no king without a republic, and no republic without a king; that both are as inseparable as body and soul. The true king will be a republic, the true republic a king.
In cheerful souls there is no wit. Wit shows a disturbance of the equipoise.
Most people know not how interesting they are, what interesting things they really utter. A true representation of themselves, a record and estimate of their sayings, would make them astonished at themselves, would help them to discover in themselves an entirely new world.
Man is the Messiah of Nature.
The soul is the most powerful of all poisons. It is the most penetrating and diffusible stimulus.
Every sickness is a musical problem; the cure is the musical solution.
Inoculation with death, also, will not be wanting in some future universal therapy.
The idea of a perfect health is interesting only in a scientific point of view. Sickness is necessary to individualization.
If God could be man, he can also be stone, plant, animal, element, and perhaps, in this way, there is a continuous redemption in Nature.
Life is a disease of the spirit, a passionate activity. Rest is the peculiar property of the spirit. From the spirit comes gravitation.
As nothing can be free, so, too, nothing can be forced, but spirit.
A space-filling individual is a body; a time-filling individual is a soul.
It should be inquired whether Nature has not essentially changed with the progress of culture.
All activity ceases when knowledge comes. The state of knowing is eudaemonism, blest repose of contemplation, heavenly quietism.
Miracles, as contradictions of Nature, are amathematical. But there are no miracles in this sense. What we so term, is intelligible precisely by means of mathematics; for nothing is miraculous to mathematics.
In music, mathematics appears formally, as revelation, as creative idealism. All enjoyment is musical, consequently mathematical. The highest life is mathematics.
There may be mathematicians of the first magnitude who cannot cipher. One can be a great cipherer without a conception of mathematics.
Instinct is genius in Paradise, before the period of self- abstraction (self-recognition).
The fate which oppresses us is the sluggishness of our spirit. By enlargement and cultivation of our activity, we change ourselves into fate. Everything appears to stream in upon us, because we do not stream out. We are negative, because we choose to be so; the more positive we become, the more negative will the world around us be, until, at last, there is no more negative, and we are all in all. God wills gods.
All power appears only in transition. Permanent power is stuff.
Every act of introversion -- every glance into our interior -- is at the same time ascension, going up to heaven, a glance at the veritable outward.
Only so far as a man is happily married to himself, is he fit for married life and family life, generally.
One must never confess that one loves one's self. The secret of this confession is the life-principle of the only true and eternal love.
We conceive God as personal, just as we conceive ourselves personal. God is just as personal and as individual as we are; for what we call I is not our true I, but only its off glance.
-- Aphorisms, by Novalis, translated by Frederic H. Hedge
I often caught sight of the girl I called Beatrice but I felt no emotion during these encounters, only a gentle harmony, a presentiment: you and I are linked, but not you, only your picture; you are a part of my fate.
My longing for Max Demian overwhelmed me again. I had had no news of him for years. Once I had met him during a vacation. I realized now that I suppressed this brief encounter in my notes and I realize that it was done out of vanity and shame. I have to make up for it.
Thus, during one of my holidays as I strolled through my home town, wearing the blase, always slightly weary expression of my bar-crawling days, peering into the same old, despised faces of the philistines, I saw my former friend walking toward me. I had hardly seen him when I flinched. At the same moment I could not help thinking of Franz Kromer. If only Demian had really forgotten that episode! It was so unpleasant to be obligated to him. It was actually a silly children's story but an obligation nonetheless....
He appeared to wait: would I greet him? When I did so as casually as possible he stretched out his hand. Yes, that was his grip! As firm, warm yet cool, and virile as ever!
He scrutinized my face and said: "You've grown, Sinclair." He himself seemed quite the same, as old or as young as ever.
He joined me and we took a walk, but talked of only inconsequential matters. It occurred to me that I had written him several times without getting a reply. I hoped that he'd forgotten that too, those stupid letters! He did not mention them.
At that time I had not yet met Beatrice and there was no portrait. I was still in the midst of my drunken period. At the outskirts of town I asked him to join me for a glass of wine and he did so. At once I made a big show of ordering a whole bottle, filled his glass, clinked mine with his, and displayed my great familiarity with student drinking customs by downing the first glass in one swallow.
"You spend a lot of time in bars, do you?" he asked.
"Well, yes," I replied. "What else is there to do? In the end it's more fun than anything else."
"You think? Maybe so. One part of it is of course very fine -- the intoxication, the bacchanalian element. But I think most people that frequent bars have lost that entirely. It seems to me that going to bars is something genuinely philistine. Yes, for one night, with burning torches, a real wild drunk! But again and again, one little glass after the other, I wonder whether that's the real thing or not? Can you see Faust sitting night after night stooped over the bar?"
[A]s Christianity is the religion of the most advanced Race, it must be the most advanced Religion, and because of the elimination of this doctrine [rebirth and the law of consequence] from its public teachings, the conquest of the world of matter is being made by the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic races, in which this phase has been carried furthest. As some new addition to or change in the food of man has been made in every Epoch to meet its conditions and accomplish its purposes, we now find added to the food of the previous Epochs a new article -- wine. It was needed on account of its benumbing effect upon the spiritual principle in man, because no religion, in and of itself, could have made man forget his nature as a spirit and have caused him to think of himself as "a worm of the dust"... [A]fter the submergence of Atlantis -- a continent which once existed between Europe and America, where the Atlantic Ocean now lies -- those who escaped destruction began to cultivate the vine and make wine, as we find narrated in the Bible story of Noah. Noah symbolizes the remnant of the Atlantean Epoch, which became the nucleus of the Fifth Race -- therefore our progenitors. The active principle of alcohol is a "spirit" and as the humanity of the earlier Epochs used the articles of food best suited to their vehicles, so this spirit was, in the Fifth Epoch, added to the foods previously used by evolving humanity. It acts upon the spirit of the Fifth Epoch man, temporarily paralyzing it, that it may know, esteem and conquer the physical world and value it at its proper worth.... Water only had been used in the Temples, but now this is altered. "Bacchus," a god of wine, appears and under his sway the most advanced nations forget that there is a higher life. None who offer tribute to the counterfeit spirit of wine or any alcoholic liquor (the product of fermentation and decay) can ever know anything of the higher Self -- the true Spirit which is the very source of life. All this was preparatory to the coming of Christ, and it is of the highest significance that His first act was to change "water into wine." (John ii:11.) In private He taught Rebirth to His disciples. He not only taught them in words, but He took them "into the mountain." This is a mystic term meaning a place of Initiation....This was to be, for thousands of years, an esoteric teaching, to be known only among the few pioneers who fitted themselves for the knowledge, pushing ahead to the stage of development when these truths will again be known to man.
-- The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, by Max Heindel
I took a swallow and looked at him with hostility.
"Well, not everybody's Faust," I said curtly.
He looked at me somewhat taken aback.
Then he laughed at me in his old lively and superior fashion. "Well, let's not fight over it! In any case, the life of a drunk is presumably livelier than that of the ordinary well-behaved citizen. And then -- I read that once somewhere -- the life of a hedonist is the best preparation for becoming a mystic. People like St. Augustine are always the ones that become visionaries. He, too, was first a sensualist and man of the world."
I distrusted him and didn't want him to gain the upper hand under any circumstance. So I said superciliously: "Well, everybody to his own taste. As for me, I've no ambition to become a visionary or anything of the sort."
Demian gave me a brief shrewd look out of half-closed eyes.
"My dear Sinclair," he said slowly, "I didn't intend to tell you anything disagreeable. Besides -- neither of us knows why you happen to be drinking wine at this moment. That which is within you and directs your life knows already. It's good to realize that within us there is someone who knows everything, wills everything, does everything better than we ourselves. But excuse me, I must go home."
We exchanged brief good-bys. I stayed on moodily and finished the bottle. When I wanted to leave I discovered that Demian had paid the bill -- which put me in an even worse humor.
My thoughts returned to this small incident with Demian. I could not forget him. And the words he said to me in that bar at the edge of town would come to mind, strangely fresh and intact: "It's good to realize that within us there is someone who knows everything."
How I longed for Demian. I had no idea where he was nor how I could reach him. All I knew was that he was presumably studying at some university and that his mother had left town after he completed preparatory school.
I tried to remember whatever I could of Max Demian, reaching back as far as the Kromer episode. How much of what he had said to me over the years returned to mind, was still meaningful today, was appropriate and concerned me! And what he had said on our last and quite disagreeable meeting about a wasted life leading to sainthood suddenly also stood clearly before me. Wasn't that exactly what had happened to me? Hadn't I lived in drunkenness and squalor, dazed and lost, until just the opposite had come alive in me with a new zest for life, the longing for purity, the yearning for the sacred?
So I continued to pursue these memories. Night had long since come and now rain was falling. In my memories, too, I heard the rain: it was the hour under the chestnut trees when he had probed me about Franz Kromer and guessed my first secrets. One incident after another came back to me, conversations on the way to school, the Confirmation classes, and last of all my first meeting with him. What had we talked about? I couldn't find it at once, but I gave myself time, concentrating intensely. And now even that returned. We had stood before my parents' house after he had told me his version of the story of Cain. Then he had mentioned the old, half-hidden coat of arms situated in the keystone above our entrance. He had said that such things interested him and that one ought to attend to them.
That night I dreamed of Demian and the coat of arms. It kept changing continuously. Demian held it in his hand, often it was diminutive and gray, often powerful and varicolored, but he explained to me that it was always one and the same thing. In the end he obliged me to eat the coat of arms! When I had swallowed it, I felt to my horror that the heraldic bird was coming to life inside me, had begun to swell up and devour me from within. Deathly afraid I started up in bed, awoke.
I was wide awake; it was the middle of the night and I could hear rain pouring into the room. As I got up to close the window I stepped on something that shone bright on the floor. In the morning I discovered that it had been my painting. It lay in a puddle and the paper had warped. I placed it between two sheets of blotting paper inside a heavy book. When I looked at it again the next day it was dry, but had changed. The red mouth had faded and contracted a little. It now looked exactly like Demian's mouth.
I set about painting a fresh picture of the heraldic bird. I could not remember distinctly what it looked like and certain details, as I knew, could not be made out even from close up, because the thing was old and had often been painted over. The bird stood or perched on some thing, perhaps on a flower or on a basket or a nest, or on a treetop. I couldn't trouble myself over this detail and began with what I could visualize clearly. Out of an indistinct need I at once began to employ loud colors, painting the bird's head a golden yellow. Whenever the mood took me, I worked on the picture, bringing it to completion in several days.
Now it represented a bird of prey with a proud aquiline sparrow hawk's head, half its body stuck in some dark globe out of which it was struggling to free itself as though from a giant egg -- all of this against a sky-blue background. As I continued to scrutinize the sheet it looked to me more and more like the many-colored coat of arms that had occurred to me in my dream.
I could not have written Demian even if I had known his address. I decided, however -- in the same state of dreamlike presentiment in which I did everything -- to send him the painting of the sparrow hawk, even if it would never reach him. I added no message, not even my name, carefully trimmed the edges and wrote my friend's former address on it. Then I mailed it.
I had an exam coming up and had to do more work than usual. The teachers had reinstated me in their favor since I had abruptly changed my previously despicable mode of life. Not that I had become an outstanding student, but now neither I nor anyone else gave it any further thought that half a year earlier my expulsion had seemed almost certain.
My father's letters regained some of their old tone, without reproaches or threats. Yet I felt no inclination to explain to him or anyone else how the change within me had come about. It was an accident that this transformation coincided with my parents' and teachers' wishes. This change did not bring me into the community of the others, did not make me closer to anyone, but actually made me even lonelier. My reformation seemed to point in the direction of Demian, but even this was a distant fate. I did not know myself, for I was too deeply involved. It had begun with Beatrice, but for some time I had been living in such an unreal world with my paintings and my thoughts of Demian that I'd forgotten all about her, too. I could not have uttered a single word about my dreams and expectations, my inner change, to anyone, not even if I had wanted to. But how could I have wanted to?