Posts Tagged ‘The Glass Bead Game’

witch doctor

explain Nazism
as mass psychosis (thank you
Jung) — what in that case
is our mass denial of
climate change? — mass suicide?

The witch doctor of the title is Jung hinmself of course. The term sounds quite archaic these days, but was common as I was growing up, usually referring to African traditional healers. It was what sprang to mind as I tried to think of a neat summing up of that pose Jung adopts in his writings when he turns his attention to humanity as a whole and tries to psychoanalyse (or in other words, to ‘doctor’) his contemporary society. Simultaneously there popped into my mind the memory of Herman Hesse’s novel The Glass Bead Game, where roughly a third of the novel, from what I remember, is set in a ‘primitive’ society, exploring a past life of the novel’s hero, when he was the village witch doctor. I dreamed last night of the opening sequence of the movie Dr Strangelove which (in the dream) consisted of various shots of a nuclear mushroom cloud. I felt apprehensive because there was heat radiating from the screen, and I wondered if I would suffer radiation burns. I don’t know whether Jung’s ‘doctoring’ of the human race is anything better than a pose. But the problem of climate change is so unthinkable. Any strategy, even playing the doctor, must be valid, faced with the possibility (or indeed likelihood) that humanity is committing mass suicide by business as usual despite rising carbon emissions.


the line

for me there’s no line
between negotiating
reality and
creating it – who can draw
such a line? where would it fall?

I dreamed of a church service, possibly within a Catholic monastery. Lots of detail forgotten, to do with the individual priests involved. Awake, I fell to thinking of the priesthood, and what a very weird thing it is, to set men up in an organisation in order to mediate with the unseen. Weird — and arrogant perhaps. It’s apples and oranges. Like using relativity to solve quantum theory. Or a plumber’s wrench to perform keyhole surgery. Or like trying to use a pneumatic drill as an archaelogist’s trowel. And yet we’ve always had the medicine man in any society. I thought of Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game where the hero is required to explore his past lives, and one of his past lives is as a medicine man. I guess the poem probably fell into place at that point. Hesse’s idea of a game played by initiates definitely touches on the same issues raised in my poem. The ‘glass bead game’ not only reflects cosmic order, it also somehow raises the possibility of creative interaction with the cosmic order.


this word is nothing —
absolutely nil meaning
or significance,
it rattles when you shake it
— this spirituality

Part of me seems to believe this. It was a thought provoked by a dream last night involving the book ‘The Glass Bead Game’ by Herman Hesse. In the dream I felt a strong sense of affirmation that Hesse was ‘spiritual’.