The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game

Herman Hesse’s Nobel Prize Winning Novel, The Glass Bead Game lays the foundations for an Artistic/Conceptual Game, which integrates all fields of Human and Cosmic Knowledge through forms of Organic Universal Symbolism, expressed by its players with the Dynamic Fluidity of Music. The Glass Bead Game is, in Reality, an Age Old metaphor for what has been called, the “Divine Lila” (Play or Game of Life). This metaphor has been expressed by every great Wisdom Tradition known to man, and its players, the Magister Ludi (Masters of the Game), use as their instruments Ancient and Modern modes of Symbolic Wisdom traditionally presented through Sacred Art, Philosophy, Magick and Cosmology.
For a more detailed elaboration of our vision of the GBG, see:
“Although we recognize the idea of the Game as eternally present, and therefore existent in vague stirrings long before it became a reality, its realization in the form we know it nevertheless has its specific history.”
“How far back the historian wishes to place the origins and antecedents of the Glass Bead Game is, ultimately, a matter of his personal choice. For like every great idea it has no real beginning; rather, it has always been, at least the idea of it. We find it foreshadowed, as a dim anticipation and hope, in a good many earlier ages. There are hints of it in Pythagoras, for example, and then among Hellenistic Gnostic circles in the late period of classical civilization. We find it equally among the ancient Chinese, then again at the several pinnacles of Arabic-Moorish culture; and the path of its prehistory leads on through Scholasticism and Humanism to the academies of mathematicians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and on to the Romantic philosophies and the runes of Novalis’ hallucinatory visions.”
“This same eternal idea, which for us has been embodied in the Glass Bead Game, has underlain every movement of Mind toward the ideal goal of a Universitatis Litterarum, every Platonic Academy, every league of an intellectual elite, every rapprochement between the exact and the more liberal disciplines, every effort toward reconciliation between science and art or science and religion”
~ Hermann Hesse
and if you choose to watch this video, PLEASE watch to the very end!

20 thoughts on “The Glass Bead Game

  1. I’ve begun it 3 times Kevin, and always become distracted – I know that means the time isn’t right yet for me to read it, but eventually, the right time will come. Hesse is pretty much my favourite author


  2. one of my favourite all-time books, probably read it 3 times in 30 years. The 3 short stories in it stand alone for those daunted by the size of Hesse’s magnum opus.


  3. I kind of got more interested in the Grail legends when I started finding real historical connections with certain aspects of the story, and then understanding the symbolism more and the allegory. Just looking at my notes on Bran and Gog and Magog, I also found notes on Fénius Farsaidh who I became a little obsessed with for a while, And then I found some notes on the Scythian/Arthurian theory, in with my Gog Magog notes, of how Josephus says that the Greeks called the people of Scythia Magogai. I need to go through my old notes and put them in some kind of order one day!! At the time I was making them, I was researching The Light (and of course Lucifer) and all of the notes were part of the itch I was trying to scratch, until I finally found my own personal answer; I’m sure we all have one of those!!


  4. Just saw your other comment on Bran – great stuff! I’m trying to find some old notes I have on Gog and Magog and ‘London’ and also to see if I have anything on Colchester!


  5. That’s intriguing about the Colchester Castle connection, and Longinus..fascinating. I’ve done a lot of research over the years associated with the Grail stories but from a different angle, connected to Strata Florida, (the burial place of Daffyd Ap Gwilym, (the Nightingale of Dyffed) which was founded by the Cistercians under Bernard de Clairvaux, and Nanteos Mansion now on the site of Strata Florida, where the grail cup was said to have been kept and where the opera Percifal was conceived by Richard Wagner, who stayed there. At one time I tried to find an association with “The Red Book of Hergest” as there’s an Aberystwyth connection, but I didn’t get anything I could really connect directly.


  6. What excited me about the cauldron at Sheepen in Colchester: it was found in the side of a hill, which is part of King Cunobelin’s hill fort; it was a ritual burial; it was buried on its side, its opening facing east towards Gaul. In the Welsh tales Cunobelin is associated with Bran, and Bran had a cauldron, which was buried in a hill facing towards Gaul.

    Tower of London claims the head of Bran, but it is a nonsense, as London never existed before the Roman invasion. The translations for word London could equally mean Colchester, thus the head of Bran could have been buried in Colchester, not Tower Hill.

    All Celtic knowledge was symbolised with heads, ravens, cauldrons.

    The number of years Bran entertained his seven companions in the otherworld is 87 years, which I note is equal to the period between the year Julius Caesar was assassinated and the year of the next Roman invasion under Claudius. Both Julius Caesar and Claudius invaded thanks to activities of the rulers of Colchester.


  7. The game cannot be returned in a sense because all the graves have been destroyed by a gravel extraction company. The original is now in the Castle Museum in Colchester, which is interesting because Fidchell is closely connected to the Grail Castle and quests in some stories. In the same Colchester castle is a cauldron found in Sheepen; also the tomb of Longinus, thats the same name of a cavalry officer who put the lance into the side of Jesus. Both the lance and a cauldron are also amongst the Thirteen Treasures of Annwn. The Colchester castle was a location where Thomas Malory was imprisoned (the one who wrote the Le Morte D’Arthur).

    I put together the rules of the game with help of the Colchester archaeologists. The grave is known as the “Doctors Grave” due to the medical instruments found in it. There was also mystery rods found in the grave, which people think are connected to divination, and they may have a relationship to the board game due to how they were placed.


  8. Yes, I agree that stories have a concrete practical element in reality. For example the Celts considered that the ruler was a bridge between people and the land, if that ruler in any manner failed as a bridge all would suffer.

    The Celtic stories are full of wisdom about what happens when people go against the Celtic “wheel”.


  9. Ah, I should have known it was one of the Thirteen Treasures. That hadn’t sunk in as being a game. Are you ever tempted to return the game to where you found it, if that would be possible, or do you feel that would betray the trust, and obliged to be its guardian?


  10. Thanks for that link! I haven’t been able to work out how to make my second move yet.. I’m lousy at games so it may take me a while to understand the moves!


  11. The guy’s life was wrecked, I am unsure what the final outcome was. Since I created the first prototype of the game, it has been a painful situation in certain aspects of my life; and weird things, coincidences go on with direct connection to the game. I am a type of “guardian” to this game, it was to all intents and purposes found in the grave of a druid in Colchester.

    That is a great story re Senet.

    Fidchell is listed as one of the thirteen treasures of the Celtic otherworld. Anyone that tries to steal anything from the otherworld by force risks trouble, in this case I have not stolen anything, but I see this as something given into my trust.


  12. Was he happy with the eventual outcome after things were turned upside down? Interesting! I hadn’t heard of Fidchell, but have just looked it up and will read more about it.

    Do you remember a recent post of mine about the Book of Thoth? Your comments about the gods playing along with the game made me think about the Ancient Egyptian game Senet and how it was involved in the story of Setna and the Book of Thoth. The book was being kept in the tomb of Nefrekeptah, whose ka-soul told Setna the story of how they took something that belonged to the gods and had had nothing but sorrow aftrwards.

    “But then the ka of Nefrekeptah arose from his body and said, “Setna, if you still persist in this quest, even after hearing the tale of sorrows of this family destroyed by the book, the book shall be yours. But you must win it from me in a game of Senet. Will you do this?”

    And Setna replied, “I will play for the book.”

    So the Senet board was brought, and the pieces taken out and placed upon the board. They commenced to play. And Nefrekeptah got his first piece off the board, and Setna sank into the ground to his ankles. Nefrekeptah got his second piece off the board, and Setna sank to his waist. Nefrekeptah got his third piece off the board, and Setna sank to his neck. Quickly he beseeched his brother, “Anheru, bring my magic staff that I may free myself!” And Anheru gave his brother the magic staff. As soon as it was in his hand, Setna worked a great magic and sprang out of the ground. The ka of Nefrekeptah screamed, but he no longer had power over Setna.

    Setna grabbed the Book of Thoth and he and Anheru fled the tomb. Behind them, the ka of Ahura cried aloud, but the ka of Nefrekeptah swore that Setna would return the book, crawling upon his hands and knees.”

    And you can guess what happens!

    I believe these cautionary tales are instructions on how humans can abuse knowledge – as opposed to acquiring wisdom. What do you think?


  13. You may have heard of a game called Fidchell. In Colchester we found a board game in an archaeological dig, to which I put together the rules. At a pagan conference I spoke about how if people played this game, then the “gods” would play along, that it would open doors into people’s lives, Some people played the game, and one came up to me in the street a few months later and said since he had played that game his life had been turned upside down, I think I shall place a health warning to the game: “Playing this Game can Seriously Change your Life”.


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