Tag: <span>Carl Gustav Jung</span>

Hermann Hesse Rapprochement of Cultures.

Hermann Hesse: Revolt and Enlightenment.

Featured Picture: Gaienhofen (Baden-Württemberg). Hermann Hesse House – Portrait (1905) of Hermann Hesse by Ernst Würtenberger. By Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962); whose birth anniversary we mark on 2 July; was born into a German Protestant missionary family which had worked particularly in India.  His mother was born in India; and his maternal grandfather had translated Christian scriptures into  Indian languages; and later in his life developed a German- Indian languages dictionary.  His father had also been a Protestant missionary in India; but by the time Hermann Hesse was born in 1877; had returned to Germany to the Black Forest area; where he founded a small publishing house to publish Protestant books.  Hermann’s father thought that he should follow the pattern of both sides of his family; become a Protestant minister and perhaps go and preach in Asia.

However; in a theme which he takes up in his main novels; he revolted early against family authority, and so his father sent him away to a boarding school.  In fact; he went to several different boarding schools; where he remained in revolt against school authority. He finally finished secondary school and started university. However German universities of his time were as authority-bound as were secondary schools; and he quickly dropped out.

A viper nourished at the breast of an unsuspecting audience.

Hermann Hesse first thought of becoming a painter; and then decided to be a novelist while earning his living in odd jobs; his father having cut off all financial support.  In the years prior to the First World War; he wrote a number of novels in the romantic style of the time.  Hermann Hesse started to earn money from his writing and editing.  In 1911; he went to India but not to convert Indians to Christianity, but to learn about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese philosophy. Hesse’s Indian experience set the stage for his awareness that true freedom must be an inner one.

The outbreak of the First World War had a heavy negative impact on Hermann Hesse; a pacifist who believed that an avenue to peace was to build bridges between cultures.  As he was already living in Bern, Switzerland, he refused to return to Germany for war service.   He lost his earlier popularity among German readers who were, for the most part, caught up in the war spirit.  Hermann Hessse  was denounced in the press as”a viper nourished at the breast of an unsuspecting audience.”   By 1916, his marriage and family fell apart, and he was under great mental strain, his wife confined to a mental institution and his son seriously ill.

Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse by Unknown authorUnknown author, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Demian and Siddhartha.

Thus, in 1916-1917 he undertook a psychoanalysis supervised by C.G. Jung. Through Jungian psychoanalysis he developed the idea of a correspondence between an inner state of being and its expression in the outer world.  The war was not only raging on the battlefield but also within the spirit of a generation whose values had collapsed.  Hermann Hesse wrote Demian in 1917. His hero says:

The world wants to renew itself.  There is a smell of death in the air.  Nothing can be born without first dying”.

Demian dies on a Flanders battlefield unable to develop a new system of values.  The book was taken up by youth in the years following the end of the war when many came to wonder if the outcome was worth the sacrifices.

Rebellion against established structures, the quest for personal values and a religious impulse are all elements in Siddhartha, published in 1922, perhaps his most widely-read book.  Hesse reworks the early quest of the Buddha into a life-long process.  In the novel, Siddhartha, son of a Brahman, has been brought up a faithful observer of his father’s religion.  At 18, deciding that he cannot find true fulfillment in conventional Hinduism, he sets out in search of an even more austere religion.  Three years of asceticism brings him to the realization that extreme and exclusive concentration on the spirit cuts him off from the world of nature and thus takes him even further from the harmony he seeks.

The Glass Bead Game.

In a reversal, he devotes himself for 20 years to a life of the senses, becoming a successful merchant and finding sensual love.  However, he understands that a life of matter has brought him no closer to tranquility.  Thus he abandons his wife and his possessions. He spends 20 years as a ferryman on a river.  He listens to the whisperings of the water and in the company of a sage, he achieves a harmony of being. As Hesse writes “From that hour, Siddhartha ceased to fight against his destiny.  There shone on his face the serenity of knowledge of one who is no longer confronted with the conflict of desires, who has found salvation, who is in harmony with the stream of events, with the stream of life, full of sympathy and compassion, surrendering himself to the stream, belonging to the unity of all things.”

It is not clear that Hesse found the harmony of enlightenment in his own life.  In his last major work The Glass Bead Game (1943) he describes what might be an ideal Buddhist monastery devoted to the discovery, preservation and dissemination of knowledge.  The chief monk leaves and goes out into the world where he quickly dies.  Hesse stresses his faith in a society that treasures the traditions and culture of the past while remaining open to the future.  This is the Middle Way, the core value of the Buddhist view of Enlightenment.

Hermann Hesse

Statue of Hermann Hesse. By Michael Ney (Sensory Image), Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.


Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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David W. Augsburger. Conflict Mediation Book Reviews

David W. Augsburger. Conflict Mediation Across Cultures : Pathways…

Photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash.

(Louisville KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992, 310pp).

John Paul Lederach tells the story of one of his intercultural mediation workshops in Panama where: 

someone said that mediators were like guides leading people through complexities. The image stuck. By the end of the week, we almost never spoke of mediators but rather of guides.”

 Mercury was the classic Greek messenger between humans and gods;  and often served as a guide in quarrels. But Mercury has been taken over as the symbol of doctors. Today;  it would be difficult to remould him as the god of conflict transformation. Another guide;  who is still in active service is Fa – the messenger divinity in the Nago-Yuroba culture of Benin and Nigeria. Fa has taken root under other names in the African-related cultures of Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti. Politicians regularly consult the priests of Fa  when taking difficult decisions. The priest interprets the will of the gods by analysing a complex series of myths;  which gives hints as to desirable outcomes.

David Augsburger’s book is a treasure house of examples drawn from many cultures for conflict transformation;  which he defines as the task:

to reopen the future for the parties to the dispute in ways that empower them to move back into responsible relationships.”

The Confucian Model.

 David W. Augsburger looks at different cultures;  to see what they can teach concerning conflict transformation. In all cultures;  there are pathways for handling disputes;  processes for coping with power differentials;  roles for mediators and means of achieving mutually satisfactory settlements. Thus;  in the Japanese tradition;  there is a tendency to resolve conflicts by the use of patience;  forbearance and the passage of time;  by “letting the dispute flow to the ocean.” The objective is to settle the dispute in such a way as to restore friendly relations;  to regain a sense of harmony.

Chinese culture also stresses harmony as the prime cultural virtue. Conflict avoidance is a basic orientation in Chinese social processes;  rooted in the Confucian model of society;  based on the maintenance of harmony in interpersonal relations. However;  there is a particular danger inherent in this mode of dealing with conflicts;  based on face-saving. It can lead to confrontation avoidance;  but not to a genuine resolution of conflicts.

No Real Conflict Transformation is Possible.

As Augsburger points out “The more harmony-oriented that a group is;  the more conflict-sensitive the group will be; the more committed the group to practicing the cultural value of harmony, the more intensely conflict will be internalized,” through the absence of verbal aggression, absence of direct expression of feelings, the avoidance of confrontation.

Yet despite the mutual appreciation of harmony as a cultural virtue;  there was a long war between Japan and China;  which has left scars until today. Thus;  an understanding of the forms;  which conflict takes in each society does not insure that conflicts will be transformed without violence. However;  it is safe to say that without an understanding of the deep cultural roots of the ways in which conflict is expressed;  no real conflict transformation is possible.

A conflict is always a privileged moment for the study of a society – or of oneself. As Johan Galtung has said

It is precisely during periods in our lives when we are exposed to a conflict that really challenges us, and that we finally are able to master, that we feel most alive.”

Johan Galtung

Prof. Johan Galtung: David Lisbona from Haifa, Israel, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Concept of Metamorphosis.

 David Augsburgter was one of the first to stress the need for the concept of conflict transformation;  in the place of the terms conflict management or conflict resolution. Transformation requires a metamorphosis in each of three aspects: transforming attitudes, transforming current behaviour, and transforming the way the conflict is structured.

The concept of metamorphosis is taken from Western and Chinese alchemy;  and Augsburger’s study encourages us to look at Carl Gustav Jung’s long efforts to interpret the Western and Chinese alchemical tradition;  for their insights into psychological transformation. As Augsburger is a Professor of Pastoral Care in a Protestant theological seminary;  he also draws upon Christian thought.

Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Gustav: ETH Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The word pathways of the subtitle is a good characterization of the book. There are many ideas, stories, and examples drawn from diverse cultures. Each reader will explore different ways. I believe that each will be rewarded by what is found.

René Wadlow, President of Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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