A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 15 December 2008


Siddhartha laughed warmly. 'Yes, I have become a ferryman. Many people have to change a great deal and wear all sorts of clothes. I am one of those, my friend.' Siddhartha to Govinda - from Siddhartha by HERMANN HESSE

Every harlot was a virgin once. WILLIAM BLAKE

I'll end my brief postings on Hermann Hesse with a piece from Siddhartha, probably Hesse's best loved book. This is taken from the last chapter, and is one of Siddhartha's revelations to the monk Govinda, his friend from youth:

'Knowledge can be communicated but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it. I suspected this when I was still a youth and it was this that drove me away from teachers. There is one thought I have had, Govinda, which you will again think is a jest or folly: that is, in every truth the opposite is equally true. For example, a truth can only be expressed and enveloped in words if it is one-sided. Everything that is thought and expressed in words is one-sided, only half the truth; it all lacks totality, completeness, unity. When the Illustrious Buddha taught about the world, he had to divide it into Samsara and Nirvana, into illusion and truth, into suffering and salvation. One cannot do otherwise, there is no other method for those who teach. But the world itself, being in and around us, is never one-sided. Never is a man or a deed wholly Samsara or wholly Nirvana; never is a man wholly saint or sinner. This only seems so because we suffer the illusion that time is something real. Time is not real, Govinda. I have realised this repeatedly. And if time is not real, then the dividing line that seems to lie between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.'


Raph G. Neckmann said...

Interesting - I kind of know what he means, though I couldn't begin to express it.

Been reading your post with the Trees excerpt again; I wonder if Tolkien had read Hesse? There are similarities in some of Treebeard's utterances. (Or maybe they were just both aware of universal truths about trees!)

(I've put your blog in new list on mine, 'First Class Blogs I like to read.')

PS Brilliant comment about the Pollock without the Jackson!!!

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm afraid I haven't read any Tolkien so I can't really comment about that - but I suppose this kind of tree-lore is massively ancient, even pre-Celtic.

Sometimes, on the recent Caminos I walked in France & Spain, I would walk through forests for the whole day - and found it incredibly restful, beautiful and addictive.

The Solitary Walker said...

PS Thanks for putting me on your blog list!

Poet in Residence said...

My favourite Hesse book, of the few I've read, is Narcissus and Goldmund.
I enjoyed Siddhartha of course.
As for Steppenwolf, I found I couldn't get into it. Tried twice and failed.
I think to get knowledge and wisdom it's important to look in nature, like Nabokov with his butterflies.

The Solitary Walker said...

I loved Steppenwolf in my late teens - but I may have been having a mid-life crisis way before its proper time! The end part, though, is very representative of my adolescent era: all that druggy, hippie Magic Theatre stuff...