Hermann Hesse

“He had begun to feel that the love of his father and mother, and also the love of his friend Govinda, would not always make him happy, give him peace, satisfy and suffice him.”Hermann Hesse


“He seemed to be smiling gently inwardly.  With a secret smile, not unlike that of a healthy child, he walked along, peacefully, quietly.”


“I have never seen a man look and smile, sit and walk, like that he thought.  I, also, would like to look and smile, sit and walk like that, so free, so worthy, so restrained, so candid, so childlike and mysterious.  A man only looks and walks like that when he has conquered Self.  I also will conquer my Self.”


“He reflected deeply, until this feeling completely overwhelmed him and he reached a point where he recognized causes; for to recognize causes, it seems to him, is to think, and through thought alone feeling become knowledge and are not lost, but become real and begin to mature.”

“What is it you wanted to learn from teachings and teachers, and although they taught you much, what was it they could not teach you? And he thought: It was the Self, the character and nature of which I wished to learn.  I wanted to rid myself of the Self, to conquer it, but I could not conquer it, I could only deceive it, could only fly from it, could only hide from it.  Truly, nothing in the world has occupied my thoughts as much as my Self, this riddle, that I live, that I am one and am separated and different from everybody else, that I am Siddhartha; and about nothing in the world do I know less than about myself, about Siddhartha. . .The reason why I do not know anything about myself, the reason Siddhartha has remained alien and unknown to myself is due to one single thing I was afraid of myself, I was fleeing from myself.”


“He shivered inwardly like a small animal, like a bird or a hare, when he realized how alone he was.”


“Siddhartha learned something new on every step of his path, for the world was transformed and he was enthralled. . .The sun and the moon had always shone; the rivers had always flowed and the [earth] had hummed, but in previous times all this had been nothing to Siddhartha but a fleeting and illusive veil before his eyes, regarded with distrust, condemned to be disregarded and ostracized from the thoughts, because it was not reality, because reality lay on the other side of the visible.”


“Strength and desire were reflected in the swiftly moving whirls of water formed by the raging pursuer.”


“All this had always been and he had never had seen it; he was never present.  Now he was present and belonged to it.  Through his eyes he saw light and shadows; through his mind he was aware of the moon and stars.”


“‘No, Samana [a vagabond], I am not afraid.  Has a Samana or a Brahmin ever feared that someone could come and strike him or rob him of his knowledge, of his piety, of his power or depth of thought? No, because they belong to himself, and he can only give what he wishes, and if he wishes.  That is exactly how it is with Kamala and with the pleasures of love.  Fair and red are Kamala’s lips, but try and kiss them against Kamala’s will, and not one drop of sweetness will you obtain from them although they know well how to give sweetness.  You are an apt pupil, Siddhartha, so learn this.  One can beg, buy, be presented with and find love in the streets, but it can never be stolen.”


“‘She drew him to her with her eyes.”


“‘But you did want.  Listen, Kamala, when you throw a stone into the water, it finds the quickest way to the bottom of the water.  It is the same when Siddhartha has an aim, a goal.  Siddhartha does nothing; he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he goes through the affairs of the world like the stone like the stone through the water, without doing anything, without bestirring himself; he is drawn by his goal, for he does not allow anything to enter his mind which opposes his goal.’”


“Writing is good, thinking is better.  Cleverness is good, patience is better.”


“‘He, who was still a boy as regards love and was inclined to plunge to the depths of it blind and insatiably, was taught by her that one cannot have pleasure without giving it, and that every gesture, every caress, every touch, every glance, every single part of the body has its secret which can give pleasure to one who can understand.  She taught him that lovers should not be separated from each other after making love without admiring each other, without being conquered as well as conquering, so that the feeling of satiation or desolation arises nor the horrid feeling of misusing or having been misused.’”


“He visited the beautiful Kamala regularly, learned the art of making love in which, more than anything else, giving and taking become one.”


“‘You are Kamala and no one else, and within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself, just as I can.  Few people have that capacity and yet everyone could have it.’”


“Others have it who are only children in understanding.”


“‘Weariness was written on Kamala’s beautiful face, weariness from continuing along a long path which had no joyous goal, weariness and incipient old age, concealed and not yet mentioned perhaps a not yet conscious fear, fear of the autumn of life, fear of old age, fear of death.  Sighing, he took leave of her, his heart full of misery and secret fear.’”


“Very well and what can you give? What have you learned that you can give?”

“I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”

“Is that all?”

“I think that is all.”

“And of what use are they? For example, fasting, what good is that?”

“It is of great value, sir.  If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing he can do.  If, for instance, Siddhartha had not learned to fast, he would have to seek some kind of work today, either with you, or elsewhere for hunger would have driven him.  But as it is, Siddhartha can wait calmly.  He is not impatient, he is not in need, he can ward off hunger for a long time and laugh at it.  Therefore, fasting is useful, sir.’”


“Like one who has eaten and drunk too much and vomits painfully and then feels better, so did the restless man wish he could rid himself with one terrific heave of these pleasures, of these habits of this entirely senseless life.”

“Siddhartha” -Hermann Hesse



“How strangely sad then to find this simple, beautiful goal so difficult to attain.”


“‘Perhaps it can.  Not that science is more intelligent than the child, but it has more patience; it remembers more than just the most obvious characteristics.’

Goldmund: ‘So does any intelligent child.  He will recognize the king by the look in his eyes, or by his bearing.  To put it plainly: you learned men are arrogant, you always think everybody else is stupid.  One can be extremely intelligent without learning.’”


“‘Look,’ he said, ‘I am superior to you only in one point: I’m awake, whereas you are only half awake, or completely asleep sometimes.  I call a man awake who knows in his conscious reason his innermost unreasonable force, drives, and weaknesses and knows how to deal with them.  For you to learn that about yourself is the potential reason for your having to met me.’”


“Her reputation had stayed alive, a wicked reputation that flickered like the tail of a comet, until it had been extinguished.”


“‘I believe,’ he once said, ‘that the petal of a flower or a tiny worm on the path says more, contains far more than all the books in the library.  One cannot say very much with mere letters and words.  Sometimes I’ll be writing a Greek letter, a theta or an omega, and tilt my pen just the slightest bit; suddenly the letter has a tail and becomes a fish; in a second it evokes all the streams and rivers of the world, all that is cool and humid, Homer’s sea and the waters on which Saint Peter wandered; or it becomes a bird, flaps its tail, shakes out its feathers, puffs itself up, laughs and flies away.  You probably don’t appreciate letters like that very much, Narcissus?  But I say: with them God wrote the world.’”


“‘It was though an unknown beautiful woman had suddenly come out of the dreams of my own heart and was holding my head in her lap, smiling like a flower and being sweet to me.’”


“ . . . and thought neither backward nor forward.”


“Softly, delighted, he said: ‘Ho beautiful you are!’She smiled as though a present had been made of her.  He sat up; gently he pulled the gown off her shoulders, helped her out of it, peeled her until her shoulders and breasts shone in the cool light of the moon.  Completely enraptured, he followed the delicate shadows with eyes and lips, looking and kissing; she held still as though under a spell, with eyes cast down and a solemn expression as though, even for her, her beauty was being discovered and revealed for the first time.”


“‘No, no, no,’ she said with tears in her voice.  And since he could feel that her heart was pulling away from him, that she preferred the other man’s blows to his good words, he let go of her hand, and now she really began to cry.”


“Still, it was beautiful to be alive.  He plucked a small purple flower in the grass, held it to his eyes and peered into the tiny narrow chalice; veins ran through it, hair-thin tiny organs lived there; life pulsated there and desire trembled, just as in a woman’s womb, in a thinker’s brain.  Why did one know so little?  Why could one not speak with this flower?  But then, even human beings were hardly able to speak to each other.  Even there one had to be lucky, find a special friendship, a readiness.  No, it was fortunate that love did not need words; or else it would be full of misunderstanding and foolishness.”


“He said no more.  He knelt by her side; she looked at him, so beautiful and unhappy that her misery became his misery; he, too, felt that there was something to be deplored.  But in spite of all she had said, he still saw love in her eyes, and the pain on her quivering lips was also love.  He believed her eyes more than he believed words.”

“He mastered his impatience and waited.”


“He thought, that all men, trickled away, changing constantly, until they finally dissolved, while the artist-created images remained unchangeably the same.  He thought that the fear of death was perhaps the root of all art, perhaps also of all things of the mind.  We fear death, we shudder at life’s instability, we grieve to see the flowers wilt again and again, and the leaves fall, and in our hearts we know that we, too, are transitory and will search for laws and formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something that lasts longer than we do.  Perhaps the woman after whom the master shaped his beautiful Madonna is already wilted or dead, and soon he, too, will be dead; others will live in his house and eat at his table- but his work will still be standing hundreds of years from now, and longer.”


“Love and ecstasy were to him the only truly warming things that gave life its value.  Ambition was unknown to him; he did not distinguish between a bishop and a beggar.  Acquisition and ownership had no hold over him; he felt contempt for them.  Never would he have made the smallest sacrifice for them; he was earning ample money and thought nothing of it.  Women, the game of sexes, came first on his list, and his frequent accesses of melancholy and disgust grew out of the knowledge that desire was a transitory, fleeting experience.  The rapid, soaring, blissful burning of desire, its brief, longing flame, its rapid extinction- this seemed to him to contain the kernel of all experience, became to him the image of all the joys and sufferings of life.  He could give in to this melancholy and shudder at all things transitory with the same abandonment with which he gave to love.  This melancholy was also a form of love, of desire.  As ecstasy, at the peak of blissful tension, is certain that it must vanish and die with the next breath, his innermost loneliness and abandonment to melancholy was certain that it would suddenly be swallowed by desire, by new abandonment to the light side of death.  Death and ecstasy are one.”


“While Niklaus walked slowly around the figure of St. John, he said with a sigh: ‘This figure is full of piety and light.  It is grave, but filled with joy and peace.  One might think that the man who made this had nothing but light and joy in his heart.’Goldmund smiled.‘You know that I did not portray myself in this figure, but my dearest friend.  It is he who brought light and peace to the picture, not I.  It was not really I who made the statue: he gave it into my soul.’”


“He used this opportunity to study carefully the beautiful girl with the distinguished, slightly contemptuous face, and his eyes did not conceal how much she pleased him.”


“‘May I say a few words to you, Master, while you’re washing your hands and putting on your jacket?  I’m starving for a mouthful of truth.  I want to say something to you that I might perhaps be able to say right now and perhaps never again.  I must speak to a human being and perhaps you are the only one who can understand.  I’m not speaking to the man with the famous workshop who is honored by so many assignments from great cities and cloisters, who has two assistants and a rich, beautiful house.  I’m speaking to the master who made the Madonna in the cloister outside the city, the most beautiful statue that I know.  I have loved and venerated this man; to become like him seemed to me the highest goal on earth.  Now I have made a statue, my statue of St. John.  It’s not made perfectly as your Madonna; but that can’t be helped.  I have no plans for other statues, no ideas that demand execution.  Or rather, there is one, the remote image of a saint that I’ll have to make some day, but not yet.  In order to be able to make it, I must see and experience much, much more.  Perhaps I’ll be able to make it in three or four years, or in ten years, or later, or never.  But until then, Master, I don’t want to work as an artisan, lacquering statues and carving pulpits and leading an artisan’s life in the workshop.  I don’t want that.  I want to live and roam, to feel summer and winter, experience the world, taste its beauty and its horrors.  I want to suffer hunger and thirst, and to rid and purge myself of all I have lived and learned here with you.  One day I would like to make something beautiful and deeply moving as your Madonna- but I don’t want to become like you and lead your kind of life.’”


“They [fatal works of art] were deeply disappointing because they aroused the desire for the highest and did not fulfill it.  They lacked the most essential thing- mystery.  That was what dreams and truly great works of art had in common: mystery.  Goldmund continued his thought: It is mystery that I love and pursue.  Several times I have seen it beginning to take shape; as an artist, I would like to capture and express it. “If he took her along, however, and protected her against wolf and man- because he felt sorry for her and was very fond of her, because he had eyes in his head and knew what beauty was- he would never allow her sweet intelligent eyelids and graceful shoulders to be devoured by animals or burned at the stake.”


“‘Because the world is so full of death and horror, I try again and again to console my heart and to pick the flowers that grow in the midst of hell.’”


“Pensively he once said: ‘I’m learning a great deal from you, Goldmund.  I’m beginning to understand what art is.  Formerly it seemed to me that, compared to thinking and science, it could not be taken altogether seriously.  I thought something like this: since a man is a dubious mixture of mind and matter, since the mind unlocks recognition of the eternal to him, while matter pulls him down and binds him to the transitory, he should strive away from the senses and toward the mind if he wishes to elevate his life and give it meaning.  I did pretend, out of habit, to hold art in high esteem, but actually I was arrogant and looked down upon it.  Only now do I realize how many paths there are to knowledge and that the path of the mind is not the only one and perhaps not even the best one.  It is my way, of course; and I will stay on it.  But I see that you, on the opposite road, on the road of the senses, have seized the secret of being just as deeply and can express it in a much more lively fashion than most thinkers are able to do.’”


“‘You should not envy me, Goldmund.  There is no peace of the sort you imagine.  Oh, there is peace of course, but not anything that lives within us constantly and never leaves us.  There is only the peace that must be won again and again, each new day of our lives.  You don’t see me fight, you don’t see my struggles as Abbot, my struggles in the prayer cell.  A good thing that you don’t.  You only see that I am less subject to moods than you, and you take that for peace.  But my life is struggle; it is struggle and sacrifice like every decent life; like yours, too.’”

-“Narcissus and Goldmund” by Hermann Hesse