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"The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman 
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
Murrill wrote:
hesse wrote:
Just as a footnote to the introduction, and to help you understand the world Hesse had recently experienced, it is necessary to understand the reference to Pope Pius XV is actually aimed at Pope Pius XII, please do a search....


Thanks for the clue. I did a search, and I can understand why the author might have taken aim at Pope Pius XII: He refused to publically condemn Germany for atrocities against the Jews, and he deferred to the teaching authority of the Church. It seems he believe the soul, or essence, came first and was followed by being. I've read only the Introduction, but from what I've read in other posts I suspect these themes will feature prominently as the story unfolds.


Think of Pius's character, and then read that he was an avid GBG player at one point....this should dispel any notion that this game is some divinely driven mechanism....

The first question to be asked is "What is Castalia and who put them in charge"....[/quote]

There seem to be dichotomous reports of Pius' treatment of the Jews and others involved in WWII. It seems that he changed from when he was a cardinal---when he was an avid GBG player, perhaps?---until he was the pope & outlawed the game. I did not think of the GBG as divinely inspired. Rather it seemed more abstract....sort of a "think tank," if you will. Isn't one of the characteristics of the game that its essence, the point of departure, is timeless, unchanging, though it may be enhanced & developed with time as other influences become involved?
As for Castalia: I don't think I am "there" yet, but I appreciate the cue.[/quote]

The presence, or lack thereof, of religion is an interesting theme to follow in GBG. It seems to me that Hesse was as disappointed with the Catholic Church as he was with the politics of the age. A number of books have been written re. Pius XII and his connections with Hitler. One in particular is well documented using the Vatican's own papers.
( Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII by John Cornwell (Apr 29, 2008) )



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
Pius XII gets various billing, depending upon who writes the material. One writer may describe the disappointment that the Pope did not verbalize disagreement with Hitler & treatment of the Jews. Another might extoll his virtues and describe his efforts to serve as a liasion between soldiers and their families.

I also had the impression that Hesse was not impressed with the Catholic Church. He seems to object to the power that the Church exerts over the populace. I am nearing the end of Chapter 1, and yes, religion is conspicuously absent. I believe that I have read that Hesse subscribed to Eastern philosophies. It should be interesting as this unfolds.



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
The dedication of this book is to "The Journeyers to the East"....of which I am one....

As I stated earlier, Hesse's books generally revolve around the theme of self realization, which is the central theme of the eastern religions. I wouldn't go so far to say Hesse had any particular disdain for the Catholic church, just a distrust of any institution that may hinder self realization....


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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
@LanDroid...Welcome to the discussion....jump right in!


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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
Looking again at the epigraph:
Joseph Knecht wrote:
For although in a certain sense and for light-minded persons non-existent things can be more easily and irresponsibly represented in words than existing things, for the serious and conscientious historian it is just the reverse. Nothing is harder, yet nothing is more necessary, than to speak of certain things whose existence is neither demonstrable nor probable. The very fact that serious and conscientious men treat them as existing things brings them a step closer to existence and to the possibility of being born.
Motto of the work written by Hesse, and attributed to an "Albertus Secundus"


In a sense the whole book is a Glass Bead Game around this idea. The light-minded are happy to accept delusion, whereas the serious and conscientious investigate ideas that are certain but not demonstrable. This reminds immediately of the link between mathematics and music as what Hesse calls a source of power, as a mystery that carries intuitive certainty but is not empirically demonstrable. Hesse invokes the high eternal wisdom of Plato, the ideas of the good, the just, love, beauty and equality, expressed in the beautiful vision of Novalis of axiomatic geometry as the ground of ethics.

By opening the book with this hard necessity, Hesse demands that the reader consider the place of philosophy in culture, bringing the possible to birth. The Glass Bead Game, in its mysterious complexity, says that the obvious and observable is only the tip of the iceberg of truth, but that meditation on paradox is revelatory. The error of modernity, traumatised into a refusal to engage with questions of depth and meaning, emerges in the pervasive assumption that only what can be seen and proved is real. But the light-minded respond to this problem by claiming that things that are non-existent are real. Discerning the difference between the real but improbable on the one hand, and the unreal but seductive on the other, puts Joseph Knecht on a path of heart and mind, towards the enlightenment of eternal truth.



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
Well said!


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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
@Robert Tulip: I always enjoy your posts, and I am glad that you have contributed again to this discussion. I hope to hear more from you.

Wonderful insight into what happens to Knecht during this process, and I agree that this experience is a GBG in & of itself. I hope it is not an oversimplification to write that I "get" what the author communicates, but it is difficult to articulate. That may surprise since I have been rather verbose during this discussion, but I think it is just that I have been frustrated that language fails me here.
In my own journey I have sometimes wished that concrete answers sufficed: It would have been easier. But resting in a place that is either black or white seems incomplete & empty: I am more likely to come to rest in a gray area that defies description. It is an at-one-ment, when heart and head are in sync.
I'm reminded of people who have survived trauma (occupational hazard). Some will choose to pretend it did not occur, refusing to process or come to terms with it. But for those willing to consider how their lives have changed, those who will allow that they see things differently, who will integrate the experience...they find that their lives have a richness that gives them depth and perspective and intuition that perhaps the unscathed does not have to seek.



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
hesse wrote:
I'd like to hear reactions to the character Joculator (Losur) Basilieinsis, the 'creator' of the new and improved GBG....sounds like some kind of toxic joke to me.... :lol:

The passage is:

Hermann Hesse wrote:
It was the achievement of one individual which brought the Glass Bead Game almost in one leap to an awareness of its potentialities, and thus to the verge of its capacity for universal elaboration. And once again this advance was connected with music. A Swiss musicologist with a passion for mathematics gave a new twist to the Game, and thereby opened the way for its supreme development. [...] There was a passionate craving among all the intellectuals of his age for a means to express their new concepts. They longed for philosophy, for synthesis. The erstwhile happiness of pure withdrawal each into his own discipline was now felt to be inadequate. Here and there a scholar broke through the barriers of his specialty and tried to advance into the terrain of universality. Some dreamed of a new alphabet, a new language of symbols through which they could formulate and exchange their new intellectual experiences.

Testimony to the strength of this impulse may be found in the essay "Chinese Warning Cry," by a Parisian scholar of those years. The author, mocked by many in his day as a sort of Don Quixote (incidentally he was a distinguished scholar in the field of Chinese philology), pointed out the dangers facing culture, in spite of its present honorable condition, if it neglected to develop an international language of symbols. Such a language, like the ancient Chinese script, should be able to express the most complex ideas graphically, without excluding individual imagination and inventiveness, in such a way as to be understandable to all the scholars of the world. It was at this point that Joculator Basiliensis applied himself to the problem. He invented for the Glass Bead Game the principles of a new language, a language of symbols and formulas, in which mathematics and music played an equal part, so that it became possible to combine astronomical and musical formulas, to reduce mathematics and music to a common denominator, as it were. Although what he did was by no means conclusive, this unknown man from Basel certainly laid the foundations for all that came later in the history of our beloved Game.


Throughout the whole of the novel, especially in these first few chapters, we are given glimpses of the Glass Bead Game itself. We learn from Ziolkowski's foreword that at least a prototype of the game is real enough for Hermann Hesse, as he has played it himself.

Ziolkowski wrote:
In the idyllic poem "Hours in the Garden" (1936), which he wrote during the composition of his novel, Hesse speaks of "a game of thoughts called the Glass Bead Game" that he practiced while burning leaves in his garden. As the ashes filter down through the grate, he says, "I hear music and see men of the past and future. I see wise men and poets and scholars and artists harmoniously building the hundred-gated cathedral of Mind." These lines depict as personal experience that intellectual pastime that Hesse, in his novel, was to define as "the unio mystica of all separate members of the Universitas Litterarum" and that he bodied out symbolically in the form of an elaborate Game performed according to the strictest rules and with supreme virtuosity by the mandarins of his spiritual province.


This being the case, Ziolkowski contradicts himself in then concluding that "the Game is of course purely a symbol of the human imagination." While I agree that it is not "a patentable Monopoly of the mind" I don't think it's missing the point to think the Glass Bead Game cannot be designed as a real game, and I certainly don't think it was described "to defy any specific imitation in reality" as any number of people have demonstrated since by designing playable variants of the Game. On the contrary, the connections between mathematics and music that Hermann Hesse describes as being at the origin of the game are real, and they are amenable to being applied in other areas of thought, as evidenced by philosophers and scientists in most civilisations through the ages.

And, to come back to the achievements of Joculator Basiliensis (which translates from Latin simply as "the player from Basel"), the quest to find a language which can represent ideas in abstract ways is also real, and not symbolic. Joculator Basiliensis likely represents a composite of Johann Bernoulli and Gottfried Liebniz. Bernoulli, from Basel, was associated with the early calculus of Gottfried Leibniz, which is one of the most powerful tools of symbolic representation in mathematics. (Johann Bernoulli's great great grand daughter Maria was Hermann Hesse's first wife.) As well as being a mathematician, Johann Bernoulli studied and practiced music, and the connections between the two fields (e.g. his work on "harmonic series"). He was in correspondence with Leibniz, who himself had a passion for symbols and representation, including Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters. I would suggest that the earlier "Parisian scholar" was Rene Descartes, another mathematician deeply interested in music (his first published work was a treatise on music theory and aesthetics), who provided the theoretical foundation for Leibniz's work on calculus. (Descartes is prominently cited in Knecht's letter to the Board of Educators in Chapter 11.).

So is it a toxic joke? I don't think so. It is witty though, and far from the Game being "purely a symbol", this section of the history of the development of the Game demonstrates a direct analogy with the history of mathematics in the seventeenth century, as shaped by mathematicians with a deep interest in music theory.

I look forward to discussing later how Joseph Knecht as Magister Ludi seeks to rebalance the Castalian focus on the seventeenth century of "Descartes, Pascal, and Froberger" with a deeper concern for "Cromwell or Louis XIV" along the lines advocated by Jacob Burkhardt (Father Jacobus).



Last edited by justknecht on Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:15 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
Sorry Justknecht, our posts were simultaneous.

The Glass Bead Game is a wonderful book, possibly the wisest book ever. Having now read it again, I have re-read the introductory chapter again a second time, and continually find things to learn. I think I mentioned earlier that Hesse was key to the introduction of Buddhism to Europe. The Glass Bead Game is an analytical examination of the psychological problems of Europe, of the collective madness that caused the wars of the twentieth century. There is no doubt that Europe was extremely mad to consign generations to war on such extreme scale. Hesse is looking with a vision to the future, to ask how out of the ruin and ashes of war, can we rekindle a culture of peace. He puts ideas at the center, suggesting that if people are willing to talk about ideas at an elite level, this will filter through to the rest of society. My impression is that people are still unwilling to talk about ideas, but prefer to retreat into a technological cocoon, or an acceptance of dogma.

I'm now going to do something that I was inspired to learn by Hermann Hesse when I first read The Glass Bead Game in the 1980s, and throw some coins to seek random advice from the ancient Chinese oracle the I Ching. Hesse talks about the I Ching in the Glass Bead Game, with the implied view that Carl Jung's theory of synchronicity, explained in Jung's introduction to the I Ching, actually has something to offer. These days I am much less sympathetic to horary magic than I used to be, but whatever, let's see what the I Ching has to say, as a random marker of this moment of the river of time. My father was a good friend of the Australian novelist David Malouf, and I remember introducing David to the I Ching. So here goes, all in real time. I never worked out the yarrow stalk method used by Elder Brother, but I have three beautiful old Chinese coins, which I will throw now to get a reading...

7, 8, 9, 7, 9, 8

This gives hexagram 49 - Revolution, leather, skin http://deoxy.org/iching/49

Image

Image

The I Ching wrote:
The Chinese character for this hexagram means in its original sense an animal's pelt, which is changed in the course of the year by molting. From
this word is carried over to apply to the "moltings" in political life, the great revolutions connected with changes of governments.

The two trigrams making up the hexagram are the same two that appear in K'uei, OPPOSITION (38), that is, the two younger daughters, Li and Tui. But while there the elder of the two daughters is above, and what results is essentially only an opposition of tendencies, here the younger daughter is above. The influences are in actual conflict, and the forces combat each other like fire and water (lake), each trying to destroy the other. Hence the idea of revolution.

THE JUDGMENT

REVOLUTION. On your own day
You are believed.
Supreme success,
Furthering through perseverance.
Remorse disappears.

Political revolutions are extremely grave matters. They should be undertaken only under stress of direst necessity, when there is no other way out. Not everyone is called to this task, but only the man who has the confidence of the people, and even he only when the time is ripe. He must then proceed in the right way, so that he gladdens the people and, by enlightening them, prevents excesses. Furthermore, he must be quite free of selfish aims and must really relieve the need of the people. Only then does he have nothing to regret.

Times change, and with them their demands. Thus the seasons change in the course of the year. In the world cycle also there are spring and autumn in the life of peoples and nations, and these call for social transformations.

THE IMAGE

Fire in the lake: the image of REVOLUTION.
Thus the superior man
Sets the calendar in order
And makes the seasons clear.

Fire below and the lake above combat and destroy each other. So too in the course of the year a combat takes place between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, eventuating in the revolution of the seasons, and man is able to adjust himself in advance to the demands of the different times.

THE LINES

Nine in the third place means:
Starting brings misfortune.
Perseverance brings danger.
When talk of revolution has gone the rounds three times,
One may commit himself,
And men will believe him.

When change is necessary, there are two mistakes to be avoided. One lies in excessive haste and ruthlessness, which bring disaster. The other lies in excessive hesitation and conservatism, which are also dangerous. Not every demand for change in the existing order should be heeded. On the other hand, repeated and well-founded complaints should not fail of a hearing. When talk of change has come to one's ears three times, and has been pondered well, he may believe and acquiesce in it. Then he will meet with belief and will accomplish something.

Nine in the fifth place means:
The great man changes like a tiger.
Even before he questions the oracle
He is believed.

A tigerskin, with its highly visible black stripes on a yellow ground, shows its distinct pattern from afar. It is the same with a revolution brought about by a great man: large, clear guiding lines become visible, understandable to everyone. Therefore he need not first consult the oracle, for he wins the spontaneous support of the people.


I love the I Ching! This is a beautiful reading. I will leave it to others to comment further for now, except to say it is very mysterious how this oracle seems to produce readings that are relevant to the situation at hand, as I am entirely revolutionary in my thinking.

My Chinese coins are old and rusty, hard to read. I left them in my mother's drawer for years, and got them back a year or so ago.

Returning to the Introduction to The Glass Bead Game, it is amazing how astutely Hesse analyses the problems of modern culture. His comment on the Roman Church is one that I particularly like: "(p21) Since the end of the Middle Ages, intellectual life in Europe seems to have evolved along two major lines. The first of these was the liberation of thought and belief from the sway of all authority. In practice this meant the struggle of Reason, which at last felt it had come of age, and won its independence, against the domination of the Roman Church. The second trend, on the other hand, was the covert but passionate search for a means to confer legitimacy on this freedom, for a new and sufficient authority arising out of Reason itself. We can probably generalize and say that Mind has by and large won this often strangely contradictory battle for two aims basically at odds with each other".

This antinomy of reason and authority is a major theme throughout the book. The problem is that without authority there is no power, but authority has a tendency to become calcified, rigid and brittle, holding to tradition and rejecting innovation. Reason is by nature innovative, but carries the risk of bad innovation. The Glass Bead Game is about unifying reason and authority, to provide a source of power for innovation.



Last edited by Robert Tulip on Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:00 am, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
Thank you both for your excellent background info. The true genius of Hesse is his ability to synthesize thousands of years of thought into a (somewhat) easily digestible format....


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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
Ideas--at least the discussion of them--as a point of departure seems a radical notion given the culture that exists. Hesse's view of the environment is just as timely now as it was when he wrote the novel: It could easily have been written today.
I will suggest that Hesse speaks of a culture that has derived its authority (such as it is) from dogma that is driven by reactions and hedonism and fear. I believe that the author proposes something more cerebral, a more reasoned consideration of the collective disciplines. And isn't that the Glsss Bead Game? It seems to me that he advocates for productive debate. Just as the inhale & exhale depend upon each other (as Chapter 3 describes) so does reason & experience. Reason alone can reamin untested and gilded. Similarly, experience can spin its wheels and remain nothing more than an incohesive collection of events.
Hesse seems to seek balance through synthesis. Somewhere in these discussion DL Hesse mentioned that Robert Tulip must have faith to pusue these questions. Likewise, Knecht dares to question: He is not afraid to peel another layer from the onion. I have always (okay, not exactly always...but for a long time) believed that it is people who have faith in something who will seek.
@Robert Tulip: I have thrown the I Ching a few times, and I am amazed at how significant to my own life it is. Jung's synchronicity has taken on new meaning in my life in recent years: I have discovered that when I am "right sized," i. e. synchronized & in harmony, that what I once called coincidence or miracle is the norm.



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
Murrill, you are a jewel.....

It seems to me that he advocates for productive debate. Just as the inhale & exhale depend upon each other (as Chapter 3 describes) so does reason & experience. Reason alone can reamin untested and gilded. Similarly, experience can spin its wheels and remain nothing more than an incohesive collection of events.

This is absolutely an essential POV....Reason/Experience is Inhale/Exhale is Yin/Yang......


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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", A General Introduction to it's History for the Layman
Murrill wrote:
Ideas--at least the discussion of them--as a point of departure seems a radical notion given the culture that exists. Hesse's view of the environment is just as timely now as it was when he wrote the novel: It could easily have been written today.
Yes, and the core of it is that true ideas provide strategic security. Hesse observes that belief in false ideas leads to harm, with the conflagrations of Europe in the First and Second World Wars his prime example. This suggestion of reliance on pure ideas must have been a big part in the decision to award Hesse the Nobel Prize for Literature, with the recognition that discussion of truth creates connections of trust and dialogue, as an essential basis for peace and progress. By contrast, reliance on error creates problems that only expand until the error is identified and corrected.
Quote:
I will suggest that Hesse speaks of a culture that has derived its authority (such as it is) from dogma that is driven by reactions and hedonism and fear. I believe that the author proposes something more cerebral, a more reasoned consideration of the collective disciplines. And isn't that the Glsss Bead Game? It seems to me that he advocates for productive debate. Just as the inhale & exhale depend upon each other (as Chapter 3 describes) so does reason & experience. Reason alone can reamin untested and gilded. Similarly, experience can spin its wheels and remain nothing more than an incohesive collection of events.
Reason and experience form a primary antinomy, or apparent paradox, in The Glass Bead Game. Experience seems to be accidental and disordered, but there is always a logical order of causality that can explain seemingly disjointed events. Reason articulates the inner logic of events. But reason always runs the risk of collapsing into its bastard cousin, rationalization, in which logic builds on an initial error. The feedback provided by experience enables reason to be true.
Quote:
Hesse seems to seek balance through synthesis. Somewhere in these discussion DL Hesse mentioned that Robert Tulip must have faith to pusue these questions. Likewise, Knecht dares to question: He is not afraid to peel another layer from the onion. I have always (okay, not exactly always...but for a long time) believed that it is people who have faith in something who will seek.
My faith is in nature, looking to how human life can be at one with the universe. This leads me to reinterpret religious ideas by looking for the error of rationalization brought about by the corruption of taking popular allegory for ultimate truth. It remains the fact that you cannot achieve anything without faith, but durable good achievements require that faith be grounded in reality.
Quote:
@Robert Tulip: I have thrown the I Ching a few times, and I am amazed at how significant to my own life it is. Jung's synchronicity has taken on new meaning in my life in recent years: I have discovered that when I am "right sized," i. e. synchronized & in harmony, that what I once called coincidence or miracle is the norm.

Yes, very surprising and mysterious. I think of synchronicity as grappling to understand a fractal vision of time. Everything in the river of experience has a common cosmic causal origin, in the natural emergence of our planet as a single whole event. Entities are free within this causal framework, but are constrained by the big historical trends of which they form part. The overall planetary pattern is like the banks of a river, guiding the flow of the water between them. Events and decisions are like drops of water in the river, or even better, like fish swimming upstream, inclined but not compelled to be guided by the overall natural pattern.



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BookTalk.org is a free book discussion group or online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a group. We host live author chats where booktalk members can interact with and interview authors. We give away free books to our members in book giveaway contests. Our booktalks are open to everybody who enjoys talking about books. Our book forums include book reviews, author interviews and book resources for readers and book lovers. Discussing books is our passion. We're a literature forum, or reading forum. Register a free book club account today! Suggest nonfiction and fiction books. Authors and publishers are welcome to advertise their books or ask for an author chat or author interview.



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