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.
A great many things await you; I hope you will meet the challenges. Our Castalia is not supposed to be merely an elite; it ought above all to be a hierarchy, a structure in which every brick derives its meaning only from its place in the whole. There is no path leading out of this whole, and one who climbs higher and is assigned to greater and greater tasks does not acquire more freedom, only more and more responsibilities.
Hesse argued that men must seek a new morality that, transcending the conventional dichotomy of good and evil, will embrace all extremes of life in one unified vision.
This year I have read several works of fiction set in the years approaching the Great War more than a century ago. There was Pynchon’s Against the Day and Buchan’s The 49 Steps. More than either of those, Hesse’s Demian is known as a defining work of that time–and yet my appreciation for it is set well outside of its historical framing.
There’s no question that Demian has esoteric dimensions. The mental powers and Cainite heresy of Max and the deviant Gnostic hieraticism of Pistorius–even the pathetic asceticism of Knauer–are redolent of occult initiation. But more particularly Max Demian and Eva Demian are the embodiments of the protagonist Emil’s two critical tasks in coming to himself: embracing his genius and overcoming his personality.
I first read the opening chapter of Demian in German when I was doing language study in high school. I have an initiate’s guidance to thank for my return to it some forty-four years later, after I have subsequently read Hesse’s later major novels. It is as compelling and significant as they are, and on many counts, more accessible.
I’ve mentioned Hipbone Games’ Glass Bead Game implementation previously, and have been in communication with Charles Cameron for a couple years now off and on. Today I am happy to announce the newest authorized and official mirror at the library is Hipbone Games. Charles and I have been talking about adding new material as well, so the site could soon see some additional updates, becoming more than just a mirror.
This new addition to the site is home to a number of resources on game design and theory by Charles including his implementation of the Glass Bead Game, from Hermann Hesse’s Magister Ludi.
So, head on over and explore the entire HipBone Games site, but especially check out “Here’s your invitation to play the HipBone Games” and “HipBone: dreams and other reasons you might want to play …”
If you’re inspired to play a round of the Glass Bead Game around themes of classical, esoteric or philosophical interest, using one of the board designs provided or using a new one of your own devising, consider sending a record of your session to me so I can share it with others.