Herman Hesse Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 446 quotes)
I want to tell you something today, something that I have known for a long while, and you know it too; but perhaps you have never said it to yourself. I am going to tell you now what it is that I know about you and me and our fate. You, Harry, have been an artist and a thinker, a man full of joy and faith, always on the track of what is great and eternal, never content with the trivial and petty. But the more life has awakened you and brought you back to yourself, the greater has you need been and the deeper the sufferings and dread and despair that have overtaken you, till you were up to your neck in them. And all that you once knew and loved and revered as beautiful and sacred, all the belief you once had in mankind and our high destiny, has been of no avail and has lost its worth and gone to pieces. Your faith found no more air to breathe. And suffocation is a hard death. Is that true, Harry? Is that your fate?
I believe . . . that the petal of a flower or a tiny worm on the path says far 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 becomes a bird, flaps its tail, shakes out its feathers, puffs itself up, laughs, flies away. You probably don't appreciate letters like that, very much, do you, Narcissus? But I say: with them God wrote the world.
Yes, what we are doing is probably mad, and probably it is good and necessary all the same. It is not a good thing when man overstrains his reason and tries to reduce to rational order matters that are susceptible of rational treatment. Then there arise ideals such as those of the Americans or of the Bolsheviks. Both are extraordinarily rational, and both lead to a frightful oppression and impoverishment of life, because they simplify it so crudely. The likeness of man, once a high ideal, is in process of becoming a machine-made article. It is for madmen like us, perhaps, to ennoble it again.
No matter how inflexibly the world was clamoring for war and heroism, honor and other outmoded ideals, no matter how remote and unlikely every voice that apparently spoke up for humanity sounded, all of that was merely superficial, just as the question of the external and political aims of the war remained superficial. Deep down, something was evolving. Something like a new humanity. Because I could see people, and a number of them died alongside me, who had gained the new emotional insight that hatred and rage, killing and destroying, were not linked to the specific objects if that rage. No, the objects, just like the aims, were completely accidental. Those primal feelings, even the wildest of them, weren't directed against the enemy; their bloody results were merely an outward materialization of people's inner life, the split within their souls, which desired to rage and kill, destroy and die, so that they could be reborn.
Which father, which teacher, could prevent him from living his own life, from soiling himself with life, from loading himself with sin, from swallowing the bitter drink himself, from finding his own path? Do you think, my dear friend, that anybody is spared this path? Perhaps your little son, because you would like to see him spared sorrow and pain and disillusionment? But if you were to die ten times for him, you would not alter his destiny in the slightest.
If only there were a dogma to believe in. Everything is contradictory, everything is tangential; there are no certainties anywhere. Everything can be interpreted one way and then again interpreted in the opposite sense. The whole of world history can be explained as development and progress and can also be seen as nothing but decadence and meaninglessness. Isn't there any truth? Is there no real and valid doctrine?" Joseph Knect said to his Music Master "there is truth, my boy. But the doctrine you desire, absolute perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist. Nor should you long for a perfect doctrine, my friend rather, you should long for perfection in yourself. The deity is within you, not in ideas and books. Truth is lived not taught
Yes Siddhartha,' he said. 'Is this what you mean: that the river is in all places at once, at its source and where it flows into the sea, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the ocean, in the mountains, everywhere at once, so for the river there is only the present moment and not the shadow of the future?' 'It is,' Siddhartha said.'And once I learned this I considered my life, and it too was a river, and the boy Siddhartha was separated from the man Siddhartha and the graybeard Siddhartha only by shadows, not by real things. ... Nothing was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has being and presence.
When I have neither pleasure nor pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm insipid air of these so called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my moldering lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the very devil burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room. A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life. I have a mad impulse to smash something, a warehouse, perhaps, or a cathedral, or myself, to commit outrages, to pull off the wigs of a few revered idols...
The scholar who knowingly speaks, writes, or teaches falsehood, who knowingly supports lies and deceptions, not only violates organic principles. He also, no matter how things may seem at the given moment, does his people a grave disservice. He corrupts its air and soil, its food and drink; he poisons its thinking and its laws, and he gives aid and comfort to all the hostile, evil forces that threaten the nation with annihilation.
All of the waves and waters hastened, suffering, towards goals, many goals, to the waterfall, to the sea, to the current, to the ocean and all goals were reached and each one was succeeded by another. The water turned into vapour and rose, became rain and came down again, became spring, brook and river, changed anew, flowed anew.
What a wonderful sleep it had been! Never had sleep so refreshed him, so renewed him, so rejuvenated him! Perhaps he had really died, perhaps he had been drowned and was reborn in another form. No, he recognized himself, he recognized his hands and feet, the place where he lay and the Self in his breast, Siddhartha, self-willed, individualistic. But this Siddhartha was somewhat changed, renewed. He had slept wonderfully. He was remarkably awake, happy and curious.
There was once a man, Harry, called the steppenwolf. He went on two legs, wore clothes and was a human being, but nevertheless he was in reality a wolf of the steppes. He had learned a good deal of all that people of a good intelligence can, and was a fairly clever fellow. What he had not learned, however, was this: to find contentment in himself and his own life.
Before all else I learned that these playthings were not mere idle trifles invented by manufacturers and dealers for the purposes of gain. They were, on the contrary, a little or, rather, a big world, authoritative and beautiful, many sided, containing a multiplicity of things all of which had the one and only aim of serving love, refining the senses, giving life to the dead world around us, endowing it in a magical way with new instruments of love, from powder and scent to the dancing show, from ring to cigarette case, from waist-buckle to handbag. This bag was no bag, this purse no purse, flowers no flowers, the fan no fan. All were the plastic material of love, of magic and delight. Each was a messenger, a smuggler, a weapon, a battle cry.