Narcissus and Goldmund - FLNWO #24

02/16/20158 Comments

Logic and emotion. Language and image. Discipline and instinct. In his classic 1930 novel, Narcissus and Goldmund, Herman Hesse captures the essence of the duality of the human spirit. But while this duality is everywhere evident within us and those around us, is there a higher level of consciousness that combines both Narcissus' and Goldmunds' strengths? Is that the answer to the problems posed by fear, authority and tyranny? This month Tjeerd Andringa of the University of Groningen joins James for another fascinating dissection of a classic piece of literature.

For those with limited bandwidth, CLICK HERE to download a smaller, lower file size version of this episode.

For those interested in audio quality, CLICK HERE for the highest-quality version of this episode (WARNING: very large download).

Interview 776 – Tjeerd Andringa on Geopolitics and Cognition

Interview 970 – Tjeerd Andringa on Conspiracy and Falsifiability

Interview 969 – Roundtable with Groningen Students

William Perry: Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years

Last month's episode and comments: Philip Dru: Administrator

Next month: Pink Cadillac

Filed in: Film, Literature & The New World Order
Tagged with:

Comments (8)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Fosca says:

    Hi James and kudos to Tjeerd for suggesting this wonderful book! Great read (again after many years for me) and it is always a pleasure to listen to the discussions you have. It was interesting to hear the Narcissus of the Alt-Media finding his way through. Well, I mean you, James. 😉 I will get back to this point later.

    One thing I want to comment is Tjeerd and you putting (the book’s) Narcissus in context to the central powers and control of the world including the industrial military complex (around 24:00). While both, Narcissus and Goldmund, may be seen as extremes of their kind, the thinker and the doer, they still cope with their focus / strenghtes in a human way of not taking advantage over anybody else. They are not exploiting anybody else. At least not much or not that the authors wants the reader to believe.

    A thinker like Narcissus is not aiming for enormous power. As brilliant as he is, he might have gotten very high in the (catholic) church, but is remains happy in his smaller scope. Goldmund never much took advantage of his artistic skills to stand out. I’d say, he would never try becoming a star. Each by himself, still is not perfect, but both manage to stay in touch and help each other. At the beginning it may be more Narcissus helping Goldmund to start his journey, while at the end it is Narcissus benefiting from insight into Goldmund’s artistry.

    Yes, a Narcissus as well as a Goldmund could abuse his knowledge/skills to the very bad, but this would be a totally different book. To me Hesse is more hinting to the ultimate need to integrate both sides to become a higher or better. It is hard to dissect the book into just one piece which provides the message. I think the entire last 30-40 pages are containing many, many points of truth about this.

    It may sound esoteric, while I think there is a much deeper layer of psychology in it. Anybody just focusing on one aspect or trying to avoid one other side may suffer. Considering Hesse was in contact with C.G.Jung at the wake of the modern psychology, I think he really was looking to very much aspects of humanity and how to improve on this.

    One way to describe the integration of the human minds is Roberto Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis. Some info here, though I am not related to this or be an expert of the subject. Still to note: Assogioli and Hesse likely had met.

    Final comment on the Thinkers and the Doers. Doers will always be needed to explore, to start revolutions. Thinkers will be always needed to contemplate and make one think! This is why I really appreciate your thinking side James!

    Everybody will have strength and weakness. The important thing is to allow all sides to happen. Any suppression – be it from the outside or the inside – will actually lead to depression.

    Cheers to all

  2. N says:

    I haven’t listened to the whole podcast yet, will do it later, but I have read “Narcissus and Goldmund” and I read the introduction to the podcast.

    What I wanted to say is that first, I absolutely think it is possible for the human mind to combine these two “strengths”, as they are described in “Narcissus and Goldmund”.
    I also believe that a lot of the so called “duality” of the human spirit, while it may exist, is being “abused” by many “authorities” or being held in place, by creating artificial “splits” on the mind of many people and by that “hindering” or “delaying” this growth process.

    This is being done for example by the use of the “Hegelian dialectic” in many different areas, like in USA and worldwide politics, where people are seemingly given the choice between two or more seemingly “opposing” parties, creating in their minds the “illusion” of choice in the matter, while both or more “parties” are always sides of the same coin.
    By creating these “illusions”, the mind is always “hindered” to undergo this natural combination or “growth process”, because it is not given the chance to think for “itself” for once, it never learns to come up with its own solutions to real world problems, because “someone” always places this “choice” between “good and evil” in front of the human mind, which is not a choice at all, and it may take quite some time until it can see “through” this artificial “obstruction”.
    Also, the minds that are busy rooting or investing emotions into one of the sides, seem to be much easier to control by those who “place” the two opposing forces or the “coin”.

    The casting of an artificial “split” on human thought processes is being done on so many levels in our current “western civilization” that people are literally being “dumbed down” without noticing it, but the principle seems to be always the same, no matter where you look, and it seems to be always an “illusion” in the end (see the unnecessary and fabricated wars for example, between the “good and the bad guys”, so called “mainstream media” or sports. Virtually every plot of every Hollywood movie these days is a “good against evil” plot).

    So the combination of the two strengths of the human spirit would be a natural growth process or “path” of the human mind, but it is often “artificially” delayed or interrupted on many levels by our current systems of “authority”.

    My believe is that it was a “normal” thing in times long past, at least for certain groups, for the human mind to reach a certain level of “maturity”, where these “different parts” where combined in a “natural” way, but that today most people are “artificially” and “intentionally” being “dumbed down”, “split” (“compartmentalisation” etc.) and “hindered” and sometimes downright “denied” this growth process.


  3. grennanp123 says:

    Thanks for the discussion. I read this book back when I was in college, and in thinking about it now, I sense that our social context has changed very dramatically. Perhaps it is just me, but it seems that the duality and angst I felt when I read this book years ago has somewhat dissipated. The questions we ask are different now. Very interesting.

  4. captjrab says:

    This Alan Watts excerpt is an entertaining take on this topic.

  5. -E- says:

    This story is a metaphor for what is commonly known as “the human condition” which is effectively the spirit vs. flesh, mind vs. matter, reason vs. desire, scientist vs. artist/the lab vs. the field, concept vs. concrete, civilization vs. nature…and so on.

    On a personal level, it seems to me that the human condition is a lot like living in a house with a robot and a caveman. The robot is programmed to keep the house in a sterile, rigid, mechanilogical order that is intolerant of imperfection, the feral caveman wants to fuck, fight and eat at will without any rules at all, and the human is cursed with the onus of trying to create and maintain a sane household with these two extremes.

    The robot sees the caveman as a virus that should be quarantined and ultimately removed from the household equation because he is a hopeless and non-predictable mess that is inconveniently piled up in the center of The Path To Perfection that the robot believes leads straight to The flawless Gates Of Happiness themselves, wherein it can finally rest in the glory of Immaculate mechanical Perfection.

    The caveman hates the robot.


    Remove the caveman and the house becomes a spot-less prison of ever increasing degrees of absurd refinement. So in the same way that one can never cross “Zeno Street” (so to say), one can also never refine themselves to a final infinite perfection.

    Remove the robot and the house becomes a shambolic sty of ever increasing stench, beer cans, coke-straws, cigarette butts, dirty clothes, pizza boxes, flies, barf puddles, broken windows, pregnant “randoms”, seedy vagrants, overdue bills, etc., as the caveman tries to remain liberated from the dreaded chains of responsibility in order to maintain what he believes to be “freedom”. In other words, he is a slave to relentless “Desire” to the same degree that the robot is a slave to relentless “Perfection”, and since there is no such thing as a “free slave”, both are shackled to the same concrete wall of ignorant extremes at the end of the day.

    But if the human can get the two to meet in the middle and thus work together, the house is transformed from a standard equation of intractable opposites, into an advanced equation of complementary opposites that suddenly becomes capable of things like the art of science and the science of art…the calculus of poetry and the poetry of calculus…the rationality of feeling and the feeling of rationality…the logic of nature and the nature of logic…the beauty of mechanics and the mechanics of beauty…the concepts of reality and the reality of concepts…masculinity that understands femininity and femininity that understands masculinity…and so on, that in turn produce things like Highclere Castle, Sistine Chapel, Notre Dame Cathedral…Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini…Beethoven, Bach, Mozart…Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes…Tolstoy, Dickens, Steinbeck…Socrates, Plato, Aristotle…Rand, Watts, Wilber…Maravich, “Magic”, “Michael” …Michelangelo, da Vinci, Rembrandt…Escher, Dali, Ernst…Red Ice, Sunday Wire, Corbett Report …Maxwell, Tsarion, Marrs…and so on.

    In other words, intelligence, passion, Expression…brain, heart, Hands…thought, feeling, Action…words, voice, Song…indeed, narcissus, goldmund, Narcmund/Goldissus (if you will), is the result of this unorthodox and hence rare partnership that is greater than the sum of its robotic and cavemanish parts.

    Thank you for producing such excellent and provocative work James!

  6. sulavawn says:

    I just looooved eavesdropping in on the educational process here, and fair play to you James for your openess to being taught! I aspire to that same teachabilty myself and am glad to have experienced that on your website.

    Greatly respect your work here too James, and look forward to experience all the great work that’s ahead of you too.

  7. Simon says:

    Well let me say I do not think I would have ever owned this book without this episode. So thank you Tjeerd.
    Will has been sat on my selve for what about 7 years now just got around to reading it.
    Whilst reading it I did think a couple of times ‘whats has this got to do with flnwo?’ 🙂

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Back to Top