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Narcissus and Goldmund – A Study of Psychological Types

Hesse And His Typewriter by Qtea

Hesse And His Typewriter by Qtea via Flickr

Narcissus and Goldmund is a novel by Hermann Hesse set in Medieval Germany. It’s about a Christian monk, Goldmund, who one day wanders in the fields a bit too far while gathering herbs and encounters a gypsy woman who asks him to make love.

At this point Goldmund realizes he has an eye for the ladies and was never meant to be a monk. He departs from monastic life, saying goodbye to his close friend and teacher Narcissus, to discover truth through lived experience. In his travels he has several romantic affairs, trains to be a master carver and encounters the horror of the Black Death.

Narcissus represents a stereotypical – or in the Jungian sense archetypal – clergyman bound by rules and regulations whereas Goldmund is a free-thinking, creative seeker.

At the end of the novel the two characters, although estranged throughout most of the narrative, meet up and are reconciled. They reflect on their different paths, the spiritual artist and the theological thinker, and discuss philosophy and science in a way that has been criticized as “too modern” for a historical novel.

English: Carl Gustav Jung, full-length portrai...

Carl Gustav Jung, full-length portrait, standing in front of building in Burghölzi, Zurich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I personally didn’t mind this, probably because I read the book as a teenager. Had I read it today, I might have found the lack of historical accuracy a detriment. But as a youth, I wasn’t overly concerned with historicity.

Hesse was a friend of the depth psychiatrist C. G. Jung, the former once saying that they belonged within a secret circle of mystics.¹ Hesse has always been a psychological, philosophical and spiritual author, so to try to make him into something like Umberto Eco² is misguided. It’s like comparing Drake to Frank Sinatra, saying one should have been more like the other.

On the Web:

To this GradstudentCCC adds:

Hajo Smit’s summary contains an error about the ending. He says:

“Goldmund was so deeply disappointed that he gave up his trip and returned to the monastery, pretending that he had an accident.”

This isn’t the case at all. In the end of the book Goldmund *did* have an accident, in which he broke his ribs. He didn’t return to the monastery until much later (even after staying in a hospital for a while). He was very ill from the accident and returned to the monastery in time to die.

¹ (a) See footnote 2, p. 288 in my doctoral thesis (search “Hesse”): http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk3/ftp04/nq21958.pdf

(b) At that time I was just embarking on the inner life – hardly realizing it at first – and thinkers and novelists like Jung and Hesse provided some kind of road map, however imperfect, to help make sense of my experience.

² I talk a little bit about Eco at earthpages.ca < https://earthpages.wordpress.com/?s=Umberto+Eco+ > but the best place to get a feel for him is from one of his more knowledgeable admirers >> https://stuffjeffreads.wordpress.com/?s=Eco 


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Whitley Strieber

Communion (book)

Communion (Photo: Wikipedia)

Louis Whitley Strieber (1945 – ) is a successful horror fiction and apparently non-fiction writer born in San Antonio, Texas who became internationally known after publishing Communion: A True Story, a report of his alleged encounter with UFOs and aliens. This book was pretty big when I was a student in India. I had a copy with me there, and those liquid eyes haunted me, as they do looking at the cover today.

Communion was followed by several sequels and Strieber also worked with the colorful US radio host and author, Art Bell.

Strieber…co-authored The Coming Global Superstorm with Art Bell, which inspired the blockbuster film about sudden climate change, The Day After Tomorrow (wikipedia.org).

Skeptics have tried to make Strieber look silly but his assertions cannot be proved nor disproved.


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Utopia

Image via Tumblr

Utopia [Gk: not a place] is a word coined by St. Thomas More in 1516, in a book by the same title. Utopia depicts an ideal society created on a fictional island in the Atlantic ocean. More’s friend Erasmus helped him edit the work.

The Oxford English Dictionary looks back to 1551 with:

1551 (title), A fruteful and pleasaunt Worke of the beste state of a publyque weale, and of the newe yle called Utopia; written in Latine by Syr Thomas More knyght [publ. 1516], and translated into Englyshe by Raphe Robynson.

The word was later used by the French writer François Rabelais (c. 1494-1553) for the name of an ideal island. And many others followed suit.¹

Ari Moore adds: “A similar and equally interesting term is “eutopia,” meaning, “a good place.”²

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia

² https://earthpages.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/utopia/#comments

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Faeries

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing via Wikipedia

Faeries are said to be supernatural beings that can appear and disappear at will. Usually smaller than human beings, Faeries may be helpful or malicious.

They are generally portrayed as living underwater (e.g. mermaids), underground (e.g. gnomes), in a magical forest region or in some far away land.

Some faeries enter into physical, enchanted or possibly mystical love and ethereal sex relations with human beings.

Various legends and theories try to account for their origin. Some say that fairies derive from animistic beliefs in which objects are said to contain spirits. Others see fairies as emerging from a belief in spirits of the dead residing in the underworld. The Celts, especially, saw Faeries as beings who fled from invading humans, taking refuge in the underworld.

Fairies have also been suggested to derive from the Furies of Greek and Roman myth.

Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen.

Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen via Wikipedia

Christians have seen Faeries as the unbaptized. Taking many forms worldwide, the actual term faery – indistinguishable from fairy – comes from  “fay-erie”, originally an enchanted land.

In Victorian England there’s a rich body of faerie art and literature—this unique style of Victorian art is still popular today, cropping up in illustrated books,  relaxation cd’s and many new age and holistic health products. And a more updated Faerie look appears in a good deal of fantasy fiction and movies.

Some scholars say the term “fairy tale” is misleading because the beings involved are often not fairies, per se. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist Carl Jung and Jungians like Marie-Louse Von Franz believe that the mythic structure of these stories reflects the archetypal nature of the individuation process—that is, the quest for ‘wholeness’ as Jung sees it.

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