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A couple more beads for Hesse’s Game

[ by Charles Cameron — Art & Philospphy, Latin, Greek & Arabic, Porphyry & Proclus ]

I discovered Elaine Van Dalen‘s twitterstream today, and was enchanted. Trawling backwards a little from her tweet about the Sultan al-Kamil, I ran across this one:

which fairly begged to be DoubleTweeted with this hastily assembled tweet of my own, quoting from Hermann Melville‘s Mardi:


Both are instances of the game Hermann Hesse described himself playing while raking and burning leaves, in his poem Hours in the Garden:

Within me, my thoughts begin to play
A game, an exercise I have practiced for many years.
It is called the Glass Bead Game, a charming invention
Whose framework is music, whose basis is meditation.

[ … ]

I hear music and see men of the past and the future.
Wise men and poets and scholars and artists, all of one mind,
Building the hundred-gated cathedral of the spirit…

That’s Hesse’s private manner of playing the Glass Bead Game: the game as played in the novel is more abstract, shorn of persons, a virtual music of ideas indeed.

I’ve quoted this over and over, I know, but for those who are new to the Game, here’s Hesse’s definitive description from the novel:

The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colors on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.

One Response to “A couple more beads for Hesse’s Game”

  1. Steve H. Says:

    Thanks for that.

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