· I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?
· But every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again.
· I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me.
· We can understand one another; but each of us is able to interpret himself to himself alone.
· It was the first rent in the holy image of my father, it was the first fissure in the columns that had upheld my childhood, which every individual must destroy before he can become himself. The inner, the essential line of our fate consists of such invisible experiences. Such fissures and rents grow together again, heal and are forgotten, but in the most secret recesses they continue to live and bleed.
· For the first time in my life I tasted death, and death tasted bitter, for death is birth, is fear and dread of some terrible renewal.
· People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.
· Ultimately all men are brothers.
· I have always been a great dreamer; in dreams I am more active than in my real life, and these shadows sapped me of health and energy.
· The adult who has learned to translate a part of his feelings into thoughts notices the absence of these thoughts in a child, and therefore comes to believe that the child lacks these experiences, too. Yet rarely in my life have I felt and suffered as deeply as at that time.
· …I knew from hearsay that boys and girls when they grew older were able to do certain mysterious, repulsive, forbidden things together.
· …my whole being sought to regain its peaceful equilibrium as quickly as possible, making a particular effort to repel and forget the ugly, threatening things I had come to know. The whole episode of my guilt and fright slipped from my memory with incredible speed and without apparently leaving any scars or deep impression behind.
· …existence of a drive within me that had to make itself small and hide from the world of light. The slowly awakening sense of my own sexuality overcame me, as it does every person, like an enemy and terrorist, as something forbidden, tempting and sinful.
· My conscious self lived within the familiar and sanctioned world, it denied the new world that dawned within me. Side by side with this I lived in a world of dreams, drives, and desires of a chthonic nature, across which my conscious self desperately built its fragile bridges, for the childhood world within me was falling apart.
· All they did [parents] was take endless trouble in supporting my hopeless attempts to deny reality and to continue dwelling in a childhood world that was becoming more and more unreal.
· For the average person this is the point when the demands of his own life come into the sharpest conflict with his environment, when the way forward has to be sought with the bitterest means at his command. Many people experience the dying and rebirth – which is our fate – only this once during their entire life. Their childhood becomes hollow and gradually collapses, everything they love abandons them and they suddenly feel surrounded by the loneliness and mortal cold of the universe. Very many are caught forever in this impasse, and for the rest of their lives cling painfully to an irrevocable past, the dream of the lost paradise – which is the worst and most ruthless of dreams.
· Once that is the case, once you have tried something that you have been ordered to do from within yourself, then you’ll be able to accomplish it, then you can harness your will to it like an obedient nag.
· The point is that this God of both Old and New Testaments is certainly an extraordinary figure but not what he purports to represent. He is all that is good, noble, fatherly, beautiful, elevated, sentimental -true! But the world consists of something else besides. And what is left over is ascribed to the devil, this entire slice of world, this entire half is suppressed and hushed up. In exactly the same way they praise God as the father of all life but simply refuse to say a word about our sexual life on which it’s all based, describing it whenever possible as sinful, the work of the devil. …But I mean we ought to consider everything sacred, the entire world, not merely this artificially separated half!
· …I was overwhelmed by fear and respect as I suddenly saw and felt how deeply my own personal life and opinions were immersed in the eternal stream of great ideas.
· “I can see that your thoughts are deeper than you yourself are able to express. But since this is so, you know, don’t you, that you’ve never liked what you are thinking and that isn’t good. Only the ideas that we actually live are of any value…”
· …that was only half of him, someone who periodically plays a role, adapts himself, who out of sheer complaisance does as the others do. The real Demian, however, looked like this, as primeval, animal, marble, beautiful and cold, dead yet secretly filled with fabulous life. And around his this quiet emptiness, this ether, interstellar space, this lonely death!
· …I almost reveled in my agonies. I had been blind and insensible and my heart had been silent for so long, had cowered impoverished in a corner, that even this self-accusation, this dread, all these horrible feelings were welcome. At least it was a feeling of some kind, at least there were some flames, the heart at least flickered. Confusedly I felt something like liberation amid my misery.
· There are numerous ways in which God can make us lonely and lead us back to ourselves.
· I had come home again to myself, even if only as the slave and servant of a cherished image. … Once more I was trying most strenuously to construct an intimate “world of flight” for myself out of the shambles of a period of devastation; once more I sacrificed everything within me to the aim of banishing darkness and evil from myself.
· …it was a new duty, one I had invented and desired on my own, with responsibility and self-control. My sexuality, a torment from which I was in constant flight, was to be transfigured into spirituality and devotion by this holy fire. … My goal was not joy but purity, not happiness but beauty, and spirituality.
· “Fate and temperament are two words for one and the same concept.” (Novalis)
· And then – I read that once somewhere – the life of a hedonist is the best preparation for becoming a mystic.
· That which is within you and directs your life knows already. It’s good to realize that within us there is someone who knows everything, wills everything, does everything better than we ourselves.
· “Who would be born must first destroy a world.”
· …perhaps I was not like other men? But I was able to do the same things the others did; with a little effort and industry I could read Plato, was able to solve problems in trigonometry or follow a chemical analysis. There was only one thing I could not do: wrest the dark secret goal from myself and keep it before me as others did who knew exactly what they wanted to be – professors, lawyers, doctors, artists, however long this would take them and whatever difficulties and advantages this decision would bear in its wake. This I could not do. Perhaps I would become something similar, but how was I to know? Perhaps I would have to continue my search for years on end and would not become anything, and would not reach my goal. Perhaps I would reach this goal but it would turn out to be an evil, dangerous, horrible one?
· I called it mother and knelt down in front of it in tears. I called it my beloved and had a premonition of its ripe all-fulfilling kiss. I called it devil and whore, vampire and murderer. It enticed me to the gentlest love-dreams and to devastating shamelessness, nothing was too good and precious, nothing was too wicked and low for it.
· “…completely unreserved music, the kind that makes you feel that a man is shaking heaven and hell. I believe I love that kind of music because it is amoral. Everything else is so moral that I’m looking for something that isn’t. Morality has always seemed to me insufferable.
· …not so much observing them as surrendering to their magic, their confused, deep language. Long gnarled tree roots, colored veins in rocks, patches of oil floating on water, light-refracting flaws in glass – all these things had held great magic for me at one time… … The surrender to Nature’s irrational, strangely confused formations produces in us a feeling of inner harmony with the force responsible for these phenomena.
· Nowhere as in this exercise can we discover so easily and simply to what extent we are creative, to what extent our soul partakes of the constant creation of the world.
· “We always define the limits of our personality too narrowly. In general, we count as part of our personality only that which we can recognize as being an individual trait or as diverging from the norm.”
· “There’s an immense difference between simply carrying the world within us and being aware of it. … He is a tree or stone, at best an animal, as long as he is not conscious. But as soon as the first spark of recognition dawns within him he is a human being.”
· “It is the feeling of being linked with the roots of power, but one soon becomes afraid of this feeling. It’s damned dangerous! That is why most people shed their wings and prefer to walk and obey the law. But not you. You go on flying. And look! You discover that you gradually begin to master your flight, that to the great general force that tears you upward there is added a delicate, small force of your own, an organ, a steering mechanism. How marvelous! Lacking that, you would be drawn up to the heights, powerless – which is what happens to madmen. They possess deeper intimations than people who remain earthbound, but they have no key and no steering mechanism and roar off into infinity.” … “And now you will realize how little ‘individuality’ your soul has in its deepest reaches.”
· “But in that case you can’t allow yourself to be a moralist either. You can’t compare yourself with others: if Nature has made you a bat you shouldn’t try to be an ostrich. … You have to unlearn that. Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak, surrender to them, don’t ask first whether it’s permitted or would please your teachers or father, or some god.”
· “…live those dreams, play with them, build altars to them. It is not yet the ideal but it points in the right direction. Whether you I and a few others will renew the world someday remains to be seen. But within ourselves we must renew it each day, otherwise we just aren’t serious. … You must have dreams of love, you must have desires. Perhaps you’re made in such a way that you are afraid of them. Don’t be. They are the best things you have. You can believe me. I lost a great deal when I was your age by violating those dreams of love. … You aren’t allowed to be afraid of anything, you can’t consider prohibited anything that the soul desires.”
· “I don’t mean that you should simply do everything that pops into your head. No. But you shouldn’t harm and drive away those ideas that make good sense by exorcising them or moralizing about them. …treat your drives and so-called temptations with respect and love. … If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”
· “The things we see,” Pistorius said softly, “are the same things that are within us. There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself. You can be happy that way. But once you know the other interpretation you no longer have the choice of following the crowd. Sinclair, the majority’s path is an easy one, ours is difficult.”
· “We can’t help anybody else. No one helped me either. You have to come to terms with yourself and then you must do what your inmost heart desires.”
· I questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it; I called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it my beloved, called it Abraxas.
· I wanted to kneel down before it but it was so much a part of me that I could not separate it from myself, as though it had been transformed into my own ego.
· Yet these occult matters were not what nourished me inwardly. What invigorated me was the progress I had made in discovering my self, the increasing confidence in my own dreams, thoughts, and intimations, and the growing knowledge of the power I possessed within me.
· Sooner or later each of us must take the step that separates him from his father, from his mentors; each of us must have some cruelly lonely experience – even if most people cannot take much of this and soon crawl back.
· But where we have given of our love and respect not from habit but of our own free will, where we have been disciples and friends out of our inmost hearts, it is a bitter and horrible moment when we suddenly recognize that the current within us wants to pull us away from what is dearest to us. …and the frightened heart flees timidly back to the charmed valleys of childhood virtues, unable to believe that this break, too, must be made, this bond also broken.
· I was now flinging back at him reproaches that on occasion he had directed against himself half in irony.
· I had touched the spot where he most mistrusted himself. …what Pistorius had been and given to me was precisely what he could not be and give to himself. He had led me along a path that would transcend and leave even him, the leader, behind.
· I had succumbed to a weak, rather witty but malicious impulse and it had become fate.
· His love was shackled to images the earth had seen before, and yet, in his inmost heart, he realized that the New had to be truly new and different, that it had to spring from fresh soil and could not be drawn from museums and libraries.
· …each man has his “function” but none which he can choose himself, define, or perform as he pleases. … An enlightened man had but one duty – to seek the way to himself, to reach inner certainty, to grope his way forward, no matter where it led.
· I did not exist to write poems, to preach or to paint, neither I nor anyone else. All of that was incidental. Each man had only one genuine vocation – to find the way to himself. … His task was to discover his own destiny – not an arbitrary one – and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one’s own inwardness. The new vision rose up before me, glimpsed a hundred times, possibly even expressed before but now experienced for the first time by me. I was an experiment on the part of Nature, a gamble within the unknown, perhaps for a new purpose, perhaps for nothing, and my only task was to allow this game on the part of primeval depths to take its course, to feel its will within me and make it wholly mine. That or nothing!
· “It would be more magnanimous and just if I put myself unreservedly at the disposal of fate. But I can’t do that, I am incapable of it. Perhaps you will be able to do it one day. It is difficult, it is the only truly difficult thing there is. … I am not capable of standing so naked and alone. … Someone who seeks nothing but his own fate no longer has any companions, he stands quite alone and has only cold universal space around him. … There have been martyrs who gladly let themselves be nailed to the cross, but even these were no heroes, were not liberated, for even they wanted something that they had become fond of and accustomed to – they had models, they had ideals. But the man who only seeks his destiny has neither models nor ideals, has nothing clear and consoling! … People like you and me are quite lonely really but we still have each other, we have the secret satisfaction of being different, of rebelling, of desiring the unusual. But you must shed that, too, if you want to go all the way to the end. You cannot allow yourself to become a revolutionary, an example, a martyr. It is beyond imagining -”
· A few times I had a foretaste of it – in an hour of absolute stillness. Then I would gaze into myself and confront the image of my fate. Its eyes would be full of wisdom, full of madness, they would radiate love or deep malice, it was all the same. You were not allowed to choose or desire any one of them. You were only allowed to desire yourself, only your fate.
· I lived with him [Nietzsche], sensed the loneliness of his soul, perceived the fate that had propelled him on inexorably; I suffered with him, and rejoiced that there had been one man who had followed his destiny so relentlessly.
· “The real spirit will come from the knowledge that separate individuals have of one another and for a time it will transform the world. The community spirit at present is only a manifestation of the herd instinct. Men fly into each other’s arms because they are afraid of each other… And why are they afraid? You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself. People are afraid because they have never owned up to themselves. A whole society composed of men afraid of the unknown within them! … They know exactly how many ounces of powder it takes to kill a man but they don’t know how to pray to God, they don’t even know how to be happy for a single contented hour.”
· “They hanker after ideals that are ideals no longer but they will hound the man to death who sets up a new one. … It will reveal the bankruptcy of present-day ideals, there will be a sweeping away of Stone Age gods. The world, as it is now, wants to die, wants to perish – and it will.”
· “No, what Nature wants of man stands indelibly written in the individual, in you, in me. It stood written in Jesus, it stood written in Nietzsche.”
· I remembered civil servants in my home town, worthy old gentlemen who clung to the memories of their drunken university days as to keepsakes from paradise and fashioned a cult of their “vanished” student years as poets or other romantics fashion their childhood. It was the same everywhere! Everywhere they looked for “freedom” and “luck” in the past, out of sheer dread of their present responsibilities and future course.
· “One never reaches home,” she said. “But where paths that have affinity for each other intersect, the whole world looks like home, for a time.”
· “It is always difficult to be born. … Was the way all that difficult? Was it only difficult? Wasn’t it beautiful, too? Can you think of a more beautiful and easier way?”
· We were aware or in the process of becoming aware and our striving was directed toward achieving a more and more complete state of awareness while the striving of the others was a quest aimed at binding their opinions, ideals, duties, their lives and fortunes more and more closely to those of the herd.
· …the others sought to perpetuate the status quo. Humanity – which they loved as we did – was for them something complete that must be maintained and protected. For us, humanity was a distant goal toward which all men were moving, whose image no one knew, whose laws were nowhere written down.
· …taught us to see how humanity’s entire store of ideals so far consisted of dreams in which humanity groped after its intimation of future potentialities.
· We in the inner circle listened but accepted none of these teachings as anything but metaphors. We, who bore the mark, felt no anxiety about the shape the future was to take. All of these faiths and teachings seemed to us already dead and useless. The only duty and destiny we acknowledged was that each one of us should become so completely himself, so utterly faithful to the active seed which Nature planted within him, that in living out its growth he could be surprised by nothing unknown to come.
· All men who have had an effect on the course of human history, all of them without exception, were capable and effective only because they were ready to accept the inevitable. It is true of Moses and Buddha, of Napoleon and Bismarck. What particular movement one serves and what pole one is directed from are matters outside one’s own choice.
· “You should, however, either be capable of renouncing these desires or feel wholly justified in having them. Once you are able to make your request in such a way that you will be quite certain of its fulfillment, then the fulfillment will come. But at present you alternate between desire and renunciation and are afraid all the time. All that must be overcome.”
· “Love must have the strength to become certain within itself. Then it ceases merely to be attracted and begins to attract.”
· …something bright and cool which felt like a crystal in my heart – I knew it was my ego.
· Intoxication made them do it, not hankering after their destiny. But this intoxication was sacred, for it was the result of their all having thrown that brief and terribly disquieting glance into the eyes of their fate.
· At one time I had given much thought to why men were so very rarely capable of living for an ideal. Now I saw that many, no, all men were capable of dying for one.
· Everything that has happened to me since has hurt. But sometimes when I find the key and climb deep into myself where the images of fate lie aslumber in the dark mirror, I need only bend over that dark mirror to behold my own image, now completely resembling him, my brother, my master.