The Aura Of Hermann Hesse

In Part I the author named three elements in the writing of Hesse (1877–1962) that are “significant for any attempt to understand Hesse’s appeal and what it can tell us about those to whom he appeals: (1) a repudiation of religious particularity while exalting “the religious”; (2) an idealization of authority, tradition, and the elite; (3) a virtually total lack of credible, meaningful women”

1. Hesse, as the child of a pietistic house, grew up in the the Swabian-Swiss-Allemannic milieu that fostered the Basel Mission but also the skepticism of von Orelli and the nihilism of Nietzsche. His comments on religion are typical of the enlightened, tolerant, mundane European intellectual who has “progressed” beyond hostility:

One religion is about as good as another. There is not one in which one could not become wise, and not one which could not also be practiced as the stupidest idol-worship. But almost all the real knowledge of mankind is gathered in the religions, particularly in mythologies. Every mythology is “false” if we consider it in any other way than piously; but each is a key to the heart of the world. Each one knows ways to make the idolatry of the self over into the worship of God [Lekture, 1952, p. 93].
The wisdom of all peoples is one and the same; there are not two or more, there is only one. The only thing that I have to criticize in religions and churches is their tendency to intolerance: neither the Christian nor the Mohammedan would be willing to concede that his faith is only good and holy, and not privileged and patented, but rather a brother to all of the other forms of faith in which truth tries to make itself visible. [Letters, (posthumous).]

“I do not think it most important what ...

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