The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi)

This is Hesse's last and greatest work, a triumph of imagination which won for him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Described as "sublime" by Thomas Mann, admired by André Gide and T. S. Eliot, this prophetic novel is a chronicle of the future about Castalia, an elitist group formed after the chaos of the 20th-century's wars. It is the key to a full understanding of Hesse's thought. Something like chess but far more intricate, the game of Magister Ludi known as the Glass Bead Game is thought in its purest form, a synthesis through which philosophy, art, music and scientific law are appreciated simultaneously. The scholar-players are isolated within Castalia, an autonomous elite institution devoted wholly to the mind and the imagination... (from the cover)

 

They say it is a substitute for the arts, and that the players are mere popularizers; that they can no longer be regarded as truly devoted to the things of the mind, but are merely artistic dilettantes given to improvisation and feckless fancy. You will see how much or how little truth there is in that. Perhaps you yourself have notions about the Glass Bead Game, expecting more of it than it will give you, or perhaps the reverse. There is no doubt that the Game has its dangers. For that very reason we love it; only the weak are sent out on paths without perils. But never forget what I have told you so often: our mission is to recognize contraries for what they are: first of all as contraries, but then as opposite poles of a unity. (p.49)

 

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. We do not intend to flee from the vita activa to the vita contemplativa, nor vice versa, but to keep moving forward while alternating between the two, being at home in both, partaking of both. (p.133)

 

 

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Hermann Hesse The Glass Bead Game (Magis
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