The Glass Bead Game
A novel
by Herman Hesse
Played by: Robert Carrillo Cohen

GBG Cover Main Quote:
"Instead, he built up a Game modern and personal enough in its structure and themes. . ." -- Herman Hesse

Relationship to the Core Wave:
"How does the goal of perfection affect our inner lives or our environment? When do connections imply separations or unity?"
-- r.c.c.

Game I Core Wave: "The primary distinction between inside and outside."

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    Highlight Quotes

    "Please, just before going to sleep look up for a while at these bays and straits again, with all their stars, and don't reject the ideas or dreams that come to you from them."

    "The poet who praises the splendors and terrors of life in the dance-measure of his verse, the musician who sounds them in a pure, eternal present--these are bringers of light, increasers of joy and brightness on earth, even if they lead us first through tears and stress."

    "Instead, he built up a Game modern and personal enough in its structure and themes. . ."

        -- Herman Hesse,
          The Glass Bead Game

  • Highlight

    What can I say about a book that took twelve years to write? Wow. I spent over ten years of my own life searching for a way to make media work better. Reading The Glass Bead Game was the high point of that search. From the first words on the first page I was underlining, circling, and scribbling notes in the columns like "!!!!!!", "?", "KEY", "music", "Right!", "character mistake", "Ha-Ha!", "Yes!" and so on.

    I started recommending it to everyone as relevant to the issues of (my field) mass media, and relevant to every issue from better business management to spiritual development and you name it. I discovered that half of the people I talked to held the book in equal esteem, as a touchstone and tool for inner and outer development. Unfortunately, I also discovered that half the people I talked to had tried to read the book and found it very inaccessible. How could I help them see that the book was a template for the beauty and risks in making a symphony of ideas? For me the book was a magic box of wisdom and warnings. It shows life as an infinite game to play.


    I believe that Hesse wrote the Glass Bead Game partially as a warning to prevent the de-evolving of the one infinite, never-ending game of life (exploring within and without ourselves) into a private abstraction that is completely disassociated and irrelevant to the general public. From my point of view, the complete lack of feminine, or female concepts in the elitist society of the book is a major part of that warning. I think that is reflected in the protagonist's journey as he searches without even the proper conceptual tools for a way to balance his world and comes ultimately to the challenge of caring for a child.

    -- Robert Carillo Cohen

    Follow Ups

    A Follow Up titled "The Rainmaker" by James Bovay:

    This is the first of Joseph Knecht's "Lives"; the account of a shaman's apprentice in an ancient village. He grows to be a master Weathermaker, and in so doing becomes entirely one with the elements. On page 467 of the Henry Holt paperback edition:

    "He concentrated the very vibrations of the weather
    within himself, holding them within him in such a way
    that he could command the clouds and the winds- not,
    to be sure, just as he pleased, but out of the very
    intimacy and attachment he had with them, which totally
    erased the difference between him and the world, between
    inside and outside. At such times he could stand rapt,
    listening, or crouch rapt, with all his pores open,
    and not only feel the life of the winds and clouds
    within his own self, but also direct and engender it,
    somewhat in the way we can awaken and reproduce within
    ourselves a phrase of music that we know by heart."

    A Follow Up by Robert C. Cohen:

    After all the moves about eggs and spheres and immersions, I went back and looked at my favorite (and for me the most important) quote from the book (the one pictured above with all the circles and underlines). (Winston translation, Picdor Classics p. 197) Usually I focused on the first half of the paragraph but now I focused again on the very last part of the section I had marked so heavily when I first read the book. Looking at it now I am already sliding into the meditations from Game One and swimming in spheres that move outside to inside and back again :

    In the formal Game the player sought to compose out of the objective content of every game, out of the mathematical, linguistic, musical, and other elements, as dense, coherent, and formally perfect a unity and harmony as possible. In the psychological Game, on the other hand, the object was to create unity and harmony, cosmic roundedness and perfection, not so much in the choice, arrangement, interweaving, association, and contrast of the contents as in the meditation which followed every stage of the Game. All the stress was placed on this meditation. Such a psychological -- or to use Knechtıs word, pedagogical -- Game did not display perfection to the outward eye. Rather, it guided the player, by means of its succession of precisely prescribed meditations, toward experiencing perfection and divinity. "The Game as I conceive it," Knecht once wrote to the former Music Master, "encompasses the player after the completion of meditation as the surface of a sphere encompasses its center, and leaves him with the feeling that he has extracted from the universe of accident and confusion a totally symmetrical and harmonious cosmos, and absorbed it into himself."

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