Furthest Right

A record of two friendships (Miguel Serrano)

I reread the pages of this book with an overpowering feeling of nostalgia.

How many years have there been, and how many editions? – twenty in the United States alone, as well as translations into most of the European languages, even Dutch and Greek, not to mention Persian and Japanese. How many years have passed since I experienced this great adventure of the soul! Truly, I have been blessed with a magical existence, since I was lucky enough to live for ten years in Montagnola, in the ancient Casa Camuzzi, which had once provided a home for Hermann Hesse. It was a nobleman’s house, built in the Saint Petersburg Baroque style by one of the architects of the Golden Hill, its balconies and terraces facing the peaks of the Alps and the Lago di Lugano – but also opening onto the Garden of Klingsor.

Youthful pilgrims from East and West beat a path to its door, carrying in their knapsacks The Hermetic Circle, often in its German translation but more often in the English version. They retraced, step by step, the journey I had made so many years earlier (more than twenty years earlier, in fact) and, quite unexpectedly, they found themselves fact to face with the author of those pages, who acted as their guide, sat them down at his table to drink wine and offered them hospitality, just as all those years ago Hesse had done with me -then merely another youthful pilgrim, who had arrived from the Polar South with no more credentials than a recently-published first work entitled: Neither by Sea nor by Land.

Many things had changed since those far-off days. The streets of Montagnola were no longer of earth but of asphalt, and the pilgrims who trod them were different, too. Almost all of them had gotten to know Hermann Hesse via the biased propaganda of an adulterated form of Hinduism or of the drug culture. I tried to make them see that Hermann Hesse was not at all like that, and that he was being used, distorted. Of course, I realized that I would only achieve limited success among a small number of those I spoke to, whom I might just be able to save before an entire generation plunged into the abyss. I was encouraged in my endeavor by the memory of Ninon Hesse, the author’s wife, who had confessed to me, in the last interview we ever had, her own discouragement in her struggle to ensure that Hesse was not distorted. She told me that she had had a visit from a Canadian television company, which wanted her to write a script from Steppenwolf. She had refused, because Hesse had expressly stated in his Will that his works were not to be filmed. Ninon was having problems with the author’s children, too. While she was alive, Hesse’s instructions were obeyed faithfully, but this was to change after her death.

One day, in Montagnola, I received a visit from Hermann Hesse’s son, Heiner, accompanied by some North American filmmakers. Heiner Hesse had given them permission to make a film of Steppenwolf. They wanted to consult me. I questioned Heiner about the terms of his father’s Will and reminded him of what Ninon had told me. He confirmed that those were indeed the terms, but explained that there was an additional clause to the effect that ‘if any of his children were to find himself in an adverse economic situation, he could authorize a film of one of the books.’ I asked him if he was in such a situation, and he said ‘no,’ but that he was ‘… doing it to help present-day youth.’ They left me the script, saying that they would return in a week’s time for my opinion.

As I read the pages, I was surprised to discover statements by the protagonist of Steppenwolf that were lengthy diatribes against Nazism – something that had never appeared in the original book. I pointed this out at our subsequent meeting, and I can still remember -with a sense of something akin to shock – the reply: ‘We had to put these in because the North American public tends to see in Hermann Hesse’s cultural baggage the same tradition that gave rise to Nazism in Germany.’ This was appalling. It goes without saying that I told them that I was opposed both to this falsification and to the making of the film itself – but, of course, it went ahead after the payment of $ 70 000 to Heiner Hesse. The film was a complete failure.

The total lack of discretion and respect shown by the North Americans and the information media, as well as their lack of culture, led them to try to destroy a German – and so German! – author’s links with the very roots of his nationality so as to use him for their own aims, to use him in the great conspiracy of ‘universal revelation,’ so to speak, which had just begun and which was soon to spread with vertiginous speed across the whole planet. This phenomenon was doubtless encouraged by the vast lack of culture which was generalized and propagated by so many circles in the United States of America.

By this time, my book, The Hermetic Circle, had acquired a certain reputation and was being read by young people and by university circles and professional psychiatrists, in Jungian groups, to a point where the Australian Psychiatric Society sent me a letter of congratulations signed by the president and all its members. For several years, symposiums were held in Montagnola or its immediate vicinity, at the instigation of enlightened North Americans, in which writers and university professors from Europe and America took part. They invited me, too, with the result that I was afforded the opportunity to give two talks. One was about Nietzsche and the Eternal Return, which was subsequently published in book-form under the same title, after I had also given the talk at a university college in Madrid and at the Institute of Hispanic Culture in Madrid and Barcelona, as well as in various Chilean universities. My second lecture was on ‘The Transformation of Hermann Hesse in the United States of America.’

In this talk, I sustained the thesis that Hermann Hesse’s essential meaning had been adulterated, making him appear to be some kin of Bohemian, a hippy, an apostle of the drug culture, a pacifist vagrant (although he was indeed a pacifist) who preached liberty at the expense of discipline and method and who, by some subtle means, hinted at homosexuality – or, if one prefers, bisexuality. I affirmed most emphatically that Hermann Hesse could not really be understood if he was cut off from his roots in the literary tradition of German Romanticism, in the ongoing tradition of Novalis, Hölderlin, Kleist and of Nietzsche himself, whom he so admired. Hesse had become the ultimate flower of German Romanticism and of the philosophical line of thought that, with Schopenhauer and Goethe himself (an admirer of Shakunthala), had initiated the great conceptual journey to the East. (Hermann Hesse wrote an extraordinary study of German Romanticism, which has long since disappeared and is completely unknown today.) Under the influence of C.G. Jung, with whom he underwent psychoanalysis, Hesse entered fully into the Germanico-alchemical dream of the Androgyne – which is the opposite of homosexuality – whose aspiration is totality and the fusion of the opposites, the unity of Nietzsche’s ‘Self,’ the inner homo, of coelo, Demian, beloved and admired by Sinclair; that is to say, by Hesse. His most intimate ego. Narcissus and Goldmund. In the original German version of Steppenwolf, the female protagonist is called Hermina, which is the feminine of Hermann. And this is the same alchemical-tantrio game as in Mozart’s Magic Flute: Pamino and Pamina. Hermann Hesse, like the great Germans of the grand tradition, was steeped in the music of Mozart and Bach.

An attempt has been made to turn Hesse into a product of the Consumer society and a propagator of its rites and orthodoxy. He has been firmly inserted in the sinister current of the Kali Yuga. But the young Chilean who, many ears ago, walked the dusty streets of Montagnola and who later returned as his country’s ambassador to India, went in search of the other Hesse, the real one; just as he went in search of the real India – that of the eternal ones, the beloved, the Immortals.

These, I can still encounter in the pages of this book.

Miguel Serrano
Valparaíso, Chile
June 1991

Tags: ,

Share on FacebookShare on RedditTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn