I firmly believe that books reach out for us, not the other way around, only when we are ready for them. At least, this has been my experience, as a reader, writer and seeker.
Even though I devoured most of German writer Herman Hesse's questing books as a hungry teenager, I put off reading his masterpiece, The Glass Bead Game... for nearly 3 decades!
A couple of weeks ago, finally feeling more equal to it, I picked it up and have not been disappointed. English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, famously said that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. In Hesse's novel of ideas, the author posits a Utopian futuristic society, where wisdom rules that world and the noble aim is to perfect the mind/purify the heart.
In this lyrical and metaphysical book, Hesse attempts to present us with an ideal society of scholars (or Glass Bead Game players) who seek to synthesize the finest insights of art, science and religion, in order to foster a kind of aristocracy of the spirit, while creating a cosmology that revealed the underlying Unity in all things.
Hard to describe this unusual book (imagine playing chess, but with concepts) other than to say that, if the life of the mind and its intersection with spirituality interests you, then this magisterial work is for you. In 1946, Hesse was awarded the Nobel of Literature, largely for this novel, and "for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style."
As a work of art, The Glass Bead Game is the culmination of Hesse's already distinguished career. I invite you to experience this vast, deeply satisfying book for yourself. In addition to taking the reader on an aesthetic and ethical journey, this novel raises many profound and timeless questions, among them: How might we best serve the world and our personal vocation, or calling?
Here's a peek between the covers:
No permanence is ours; we are a wave
That flows to fit whatever form it finds
Each of us is merely one human being, merely an experiment, a way station. But each of us should be on the way toward perfection, should be striving to reach the center, not the periphery.
Every important cultural gesture comes down to a morality, a model for human behavior concentrated into a gesture.