This by far my favorite excerpt from Herman Hesse's, Magister Ludi(Das Glasperlenspiel). In the following quote the word Castalia refers to a province composed of super elite scholars; people devoted to truth and spirit. Waldzell refers to the actual campus for these scholars. The main character, Joseph Knecht, is conversing with a fellow friend from the outside world, whom has become distraught with his life and misguidance. Joseph is providing his esteemed friend with some advice about life and the pursuit of serenity:

"'I should like to talk to you about serenity--that of the stars and the spirit, and also about our own particular Castalian serenity. You have an aversion to it, probably because you have been obliged to follow the path of sadness and because now all sunniness and geniality, our Castalian brand especially, seem to you shallow and childish--cowardly too--and seem to constitute a flight from the terrors and the abysmal truths of reality into a clear well-ordered world of pure pattern and formulas, of pure abstractions and refinements. But, my dear mournful one, even though this flight exists, and even though there may be Castalians who are cowardly and timorous and who play with formulas, even though this should apply to the majority of us, it does not contradict the serenity of the heavens and the spirit, and does not detract from their value and splendour. The easily content and pseudo-serene among us can be opposed by others--men and generations of men for whom serenity was not merely a superficial game but a serious and deep preoccupation. I have known one of them. He was our former music master, whom you saw from time to time at Waldzell, a man who in the latter years of his life possessed this virtue to such a degree that ti radiated from him like light from the sun, that it flooded everything and was reflected in everyone--as benevolence, love of life, good temper, confidence and reliability--who accepted and absorbed its glow seriously.

'I, too, was illuminated by this light, and partook to some small measure of his sunniness and the warmth from his glowing heart... To achieve this serenity is my highest and noblest aim, and also that of many others: you will find it very often among the Fathers of our Order. This serenity is neither a pose nor self-complacency but the highest knowledge and love, the acceptance of all truth, the awareness at the edge of all depths and abysses, the virtue of the Saint and the Knight. It is imperturbable and increases with age and the approach of death; it is the secret of all beauty, and the quintessence of all art. The poet who, in the dancing metre of his verses, praises the glorious and the terrible in life, the musician who lets it ring as pure Present, are both bringers of light, spreading joy and brightness upon earth, even though at first they may lead us through tears and painful tension. The poet whose verses enchant us may be a sad recluse, and the musician a melancholy dreamer, but their work also has a part in the serenity of God and the stars. What they give us is no more than their sombreness, sorrow or fear, but it is a drop of the pure light of Eternal Serenity. When, too, whole peoples and languages seek to plumb the depths of the world by means of myths, cosmogonies and religions, their highest achievement is this serenity. Think for one moment of the ancient Indians of whom our teacher at Waldzell often told us: they were people of suffering, reflection, penance and ascesis, but the ultimate fund of their spirit was light and serenity--serene the smile of the world conqueror and the Buddha, serene the figures of their eschatological mythologies. The world, as their myths portray it, was in the beginning divine, radiant and happy, beautiful as spring--a golden age. But suddenly it grows sick and begins to degenerate, becomes more and more coarsened and wretched, until finally, at the end of four ever declining aeons, it is ripe to be stamped underfoot and destroyed by the dancing feet of Shiva. That is not the end of the world, however. It begins anew with the smile of the dreaming Vishnu who, with his playing hand, creates a new, young, beautiful and radiant world. It is truly marvellous: these people, discerning and capable of suffering as hardly any other, looked upon the gruesome game of world history with horror and shame--the ever-turning wheel of lust and suffering. They saw and understood the decay of creation, the lust and devilry of man and simultaneously his deep longing for purity and harmony, and discovered this glorious allegory for the whole beauty and tragedy of creation--the aeons and the decline of creation, the powerful Shiva who tramples the putrefying world to pulp and the laughing Vishnu who lies in slumber and allows a new world to be born of his divine golden dreams.

'Now as regards our Castalian serenity, it may be only a small and late variety of this great one, but it is entirely legitimate. Scholarship has not always and everywhere been serene--as of course it should have been. With us it is the cult of truth closely bound up with the cult of the beautiful and, in addition to this, with the contemplative care of the spirit, and thus can never entirely lose its serenity; but our Bead Game unites within itself all three of these principles--science, reverence of the beautiful and meditation. Thus, a true bead-player should be permeated with serenity like a ripe fruit with sweet juices, and above all should possess the serenity of music, which is naught else but courage--a serene, smiling, striding and dancing amidst the terrors and flames of the world, the festive offering of a sacrifice.
'...But you must not retire to sleep without first hearing a little music. A glance at the stars and a little sweet music are better than all your sleeping draughts.'
Knecht sat down and played softly and gently. He played a phrase from that Purcell sonata ... The notes fell like golden drops of light in the silence of the room, so gently that the murmur of the fountain in the courtyard could still be heard. The voices of the beautiful music met and merged--gentle and powerful, chaste and sweet. Courageously and serenely, they strode in their innermost ranks through the void of time and the transitory, making space and the night hour, while they lasted, enduring and cosmic..." - pp. 285-288

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Ali Bajwa
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