Namaste – A Roadmap to Western Psychology in the Time of Empire

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“Nova, Nova” an hymn sung by a female choir during the Anglican Mass includes the invocation – “I am but a handmaiden for the lord’s will.”

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via Hindi from Sanskrit namaskāra, from namas ‘bowing’ + kāra ‘action’

“It is used both for greeting and leave-taking.  Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. This gesture is called Añjali Mudrā or Pranamasana.

“In Hinduism it means, I bow to the divine in you.”

(1) Women play no vital, or living, role in the Jungian interpretation of Demian.   At the beginning, Sinclair looks up towards his sisters and mother, and even his house maid.  While at school, he sees a “beautiful woman” whom he calls Beatrice, and towards the end of the novel, when Sinclair is an adolescent man, he discovers Demian’s mother, Frau Eva.  These women do not have major roles in the story, but Hesse uses them symbolically as facets of the depths of Sinclair’s mind.

Such is the bullshit of Bildungsroman.

(2)  Trying to postpone returning home, The Steppe Wolf  known as Harry Haller happens upon a young woman, Hermine, who quickly recognizes his desperation.  They talk at length; Hermine alternately mocks Harry’s self-pity and indulges him in his explanations regarding his view of life, to his astonished relief.  Hermine promises a second meeting, and provides Harry with a reason to live (or at least a substantial excuse to continue living) that he eagerly embraces.

The Steppe Wolf “Tamed”

During the next few weeks, Hermine introduces Harry to the indulgences of the “bourgeoisie.”  She teaches Harry to dance, introduces him to casual drug-use, finds him a lover (Maria) and, most importantly, forces him to accept these as legitimate and worthy aspects of a full-life.

Hermine also introduces Harry to a mysterious saxophonist named Pablo, who appears to be the very opposite of what Harry considers a serious, thoughtful man.

After attending a lavish masquerade ball, Pablo brings Harry to his metaphorical “magic theatre”, where the concerns and notions that plagued his soul disintegrate as he interacts with the ethereal and phantasmal.  The Magic Theatre is a place where he experiences the fantasies that exist in his mind.

On being blind and Bildungsroman 

(3) Castalia is home to an austere order of intellectuals with a two-fold mission: to run boarding schools, and to cultivate and play The Glass Bead Game, whose exact nature remains elusive and whose devotees occupy a special school within Castalia known as Waldzell. The rules of the game are only alluded to—they are so sophisticated that they are not easy to imagine.

Playing the game well requires years of hard study of music, mathematics, and cultural history. The game is essentially an abstract synthesis of all arts and sciences.  It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics.

The total bullshit of Bildungsroman, revealed!

Hermann Karl Hesse  (2 July 1877 – 9 August 1962) was a German-born poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include Demian, Steppenwolf Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality.

Hesse tried to publish this novel in 1931 Germany, during the final days of the Weimar Republic.  It didn’t fly.  Then, as an “anti-fascist,” he published it in 1943 Switzerland.  In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature  for The Glass Bead Game.

Paul Thomas Mann  (6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate.  His highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas are noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual.  His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized versions of German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer.

The Magic Theatre or The Magic Mountain?

Thomas Mann, the Anti-Bildungsroman?

Mann acknowledged his debt to the skeptical insights of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer  concerning modern humanity, and he drew from these in creating discussion between the characters. Throughout the book the author employs the discussion with and between Settembrini, Naphta and the medical staff to introduce the young Castorp to a wide spectrum of competing ideologies about responses to the Age of Enlightenment.

However, whereas Bildungsroman would conclude by Castorp having formed into a mature member of society, with his own world-view and greater self-knowledge, The Magic Mountain ends with Castorp becoming an anonymous conscript, one of millions, under fire on some battlefield of World War I, defending Empire.  Castorp’s death in the trenches is foretold.


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