An Esoteric Reading of Hermann Hesse’s Demian.
The literary oeuvre of Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) is known for its thematic focus on issues involving search for the meaning of life and the authentic self-knowledge. His novels often display a disenchantment with the established religious and social forms and engage with non-conventional modes of spiritual quest, which is arguably one of the main reasons for his popularity among the countercultural youth of the 1960s. Hesse’s most popular work, a short novel Siddhartha (1922), set in India at the time of the historical Buddha Śākyamuni, promoted Asian religious ideas. An earlier novel, Demian (1919), on the other hand, abounds with gnostic undercurrents reflective of alternative religious traditions in the West. It is well known that Demian was influenced by the ideas of the Swiss analytical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, while the admiration for Friedrich Nietzsche is explicitly acknowledged in the novel. However, Hesse was also influenced by the countercultural milieu of Monte Verita in Ascona and it is conceivable that he was even familiar with some representatives of the Theodor Reuss’ Ordo Templi Orientis, active in the area during his visits. This presentation will interrogate the relationship between major ideological strands in Hesse’s works, with the main emphasis on Demian, and the philosophy of Thelema, and will highlight some points of their mutual congruence.
About the Presenter: Gordan Djurdjevic is a contributor to the anthology Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism (Oxford University Press, 2012); co-editor, with Henrik Bogdan, of the collection of essays Occultism in a Global Perspective (Acumen, 2013; Routledge, 2015); and the author of Masters of Magical Powers: The Nath Yogis in the Light of Esoteric Notions (VDM, 2008); India and the Occult: The Influence of South Asian Spirituality on Modern Western Occultism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); and, with Shukdev Singh, Sayings of Gorakhnath: Selected Translations from the Gorakh Bānī (Oxford University Press, 2019).
Love is the law, love under will.
Secretary, USGL Education Committee