Mein Söhnlein, ich wünsche dir – ich wünsche dir –Ich wünsche dir, daß alle Menschen dich liebhaben müssen.“
I wish for you — I wish for you —“ “I wish for you that everyone will love you.”
Hermann Hesse. Augustus .
Mysterious neighbors lived in a house with beautiful music. When the little music box was playing, the mother prayed for her pre-baptized baby to be loved by everyone. It was the arrangement of that elderly neighbor. As soon as the music box stopped playing, the mother feared that she had made a mistake in her wish.
Why did the mother become so anxious and unable to stand after reciting her wish? Was it that she regretted the mistake of ‘witchcraft’, which is heresy, or that her mother knew the nature of social evil? Or is the mother under the spell too? Consequently, the mother told her son, that anyone who loves you, I love you the most. Soon, the mother’s fears were spot on and her son became a beloved and ruthless person.
The author Hermann Hesse’s work sometimes seems to have his own ‘record’ deep within the words. Here is a brief account of Hesse’s upbringing: first, he retires from the rigors of his pastor’s seminary and escapes. Then his parents ask for an exorcism, which is unsuccessful, He was followed by a suicide attempt. After a stay in a psychiatric ward, he enters the Gymnasium but is frustrated and escapes. His apprenticeship as a watchmaker is also a setback, and perhaps as a reflection of the introspection and self-discipline of the time, he once retired the booksellers,but is satisfied with his job as a clerk at the Heckenhauer bookshop. His ‘Unterm Rad‘ is a striking reflection of his upbringing in seminary, but ‘Demian‘, ‘Das Nachtpfauenauge‘ and others also seem to reveal a record of Hesse’s mind.
I sometimes think of the text as Hesse’s own voice speaking in transference to the characters. This may be due to his characteristic Buddhist look at destruction and creation, the broken, the passing of time and death. At the time, he himself was often asked by people whether he was a Buddhist, although he had travelled to India but had not studied Buddhism professionally. Augustus was written in 1913, before the First World War, and it remains as applicable to any period or life, not destroyed by war.
Augustus is one of the works in ‘Märchen’, which I had read a little of as a child, and the story that made an impression on me was ‘Merkwurdige nachricht von einem andern stern‘, in which all the flowers to mourn were lost in a disaster. With only ten years of experience and imagination since birth, Augustus had difficulties. It was difficult because I had no special experience of being loved by anyone. At the time, I did not even really understand what love was, and I cannot remember ever having received love from anyone other than my parents.
I was taught that in the Christen nation, love is something that relates to you and nurtures you, but I never understood it. Sometimes I didn’t know whether even the word ‘gratitude’ was something I really felt, or whether it was something I felt for social reasons. In Buddhist school, I concentrated on listening to a talk about ‘death’, which began with the idea that from the moment we are born, we are on our way to death.
I did not dislike religious events, and I was an attendant, a kind of a Acolyte in Christianity. My classmates from schools without religious education told me they felt sorry for me having religious events. Even then, I probably didn’t think about who loved me. I was always looking for a place where I could love and be loved. Sometimes the question of being alive made me hope for a successful me, and sometimes I wondered if there was any point in living as I would never become anything anyway. Nevertheless, I thought we all had a little bit of that, so I didn’t pay attention to it. I went to university, which had nothing to do with religion. There I translated Hesse in German.
At the time, Augustus was not yet able to make an analysis. I probably learnt about this story, which embodies Matthew 5: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, at university or in a commentary. For those young days when life was like walking on a balance beam, financial poverty was one thing, but poverty of heart was hard to accept. No matter how careful I was, I would fall, and for me, who kept myself alive in that way, poverty seemed to throw me off balance. Why did Augustus’ mother use witchcraft to raise her child, her fault was alien to me. She lost her husband, her father, soon after, and it seems to me that she was so poor that in the future her children would have to become university professors or kings to survive.
The neighbor, Binswanger and her friend Madam could each give her mother one silver coin, two in all, but he said he couldn’t do any more. He took pity on her and offered to grant her a wish. His mother’s wish that he should be loved by everyone was granted and Augustus manipulated people at will. Everyone loved him, no one doubted him, and everyone gave alms to him. This turned into a convenient position for his mother. Whether the mother’s love was due to witchcraft or essential motherhood, only the mother spoiled her son, but she was outraged by his excessive rudeness and coldness towards others. The mother subsequently dies of illness.
Leaving behind, Augustus fell in love with a widow, but soon grew tired of her. Next, he fell in love with a lady who had a husband and tried to take her away from him, although the lady said strangely, ‘ I can’t stop loving you, but I prefer to stay with my husband.’. It was as if she really cared for her husband but her love for him had been distorted by magic. Eventually he asked his neighbor to extinguish his power to be loved. After that, the public’s view of Augustus changed. All the resentments he had never felt and all the sins he had committed fell on him and he was put in jail. and When he came out of prison, he roamed the world through his illness, seeking a place where his love could live. Yet this time people loved him no one. They bullied him and shook his hand away. In the midst of it all, he loved and served people.
He died in the end with a richness of heart from all kinds of poverty. That story was not something I wanted to think about when I was young. If one was poor, one could not live, that is what I had to think. Poverty is not always financial, and there was something I did not want to acknowledge, even poverty about the heart. Certainly, as a fairy tale, poorness is a beautiful thing. But in Grimm’s fairy tales and others, such as “Die Sterntaler” alms were given to the poor, and hope for the common people was grace. However, religions sometimes teach that it is happiness to have nothing in return for grace.
It is not only Christianity, but Buddhism has similar teachings. However, I thought that idea would defeat the spirit and I don’t think it was a mistake. I was aware of how important it was, but it didn’t make an impression on me. Many years later, I never picked up the story or remembered it. In my professional life, I may talk about Hesse, but I pick up stories other than this one. Originally, I did not even pick up Matthew 5, even though I understood its meaning. This story was a so-called ‘blind spot’.
In the Buddhist chapter on the Eight Verses, it is said that saints do not undergo sorting and are not caught up in delusional sorting. Delusional discernment – to be caught up in what one understands, which is Avidyā. (ignorance)This was in line with the ‘Blessed are the poor’ of Matthew*. In this passage, the saint is the Buddha, who taught his disciples the precept of peacefulness, not to separate oneself from the superior or the inferior. In another section, it is mentioned as one of the preparations before death not to be conceited in keeping the precepts.
Blessed be the Lord in the book of Matthew is one of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The Ten Commandments of Moses in the Old Testament were sacred precepts. However, many people mistakenly believed that as long as they kept the law, they would be happy. So they oppressed and persecuted those who could not keep it. The poor people heard of Jesus’ ministry and followed him to the mountaintop. Luke’s Gospel, written from a different perspective, says ‘Blessed are the poor’ and refers only to financial poverty in Greek, whereas Matthew’s Gospel clearly means ‘the poor in spirit’ and internal, spiritual things as well. Jesus has continued to liberate the world’s marginalized people, the oppressed and sinners with love.
It was not the absolute power that people expected, and some were not sober. Jesus spoke of the ‘poor in heart’, the ‘sorrowful’, the ‘meek’, those who ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’, as those for whom the kingdom of heaven is yours, blessed are you. When Jesus was asked by his disciples what was most important in the Law, he quoted from the Old Testament books such as Deuteronomy, saying that ‘love’ was the most important part of the Law. Love was not something that could be clearly defined as good or evil. That is why Jesus’ parables, and his light also generated a lot of emotion and misunderstanding. Nonetheless, this ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ has been handed down as the core of a long history. Even if you abhor this verse, you will eventually understand it if we continue in the life of faith.
Was Augustus’ gift regarding ‘love’ a gift or a curse? This may be an indication of Hermann Hesse’s value of the gift. Hesse said, “I want to be a poet, otherwise I want to be nothing”, but as a man who attempted suicide, he would have known that a gift was also a handicap. A gift is a talent given by God, but we don’t know how to increase it. I am a recipient of grace, and we understand that, but we can’ t get any comfort from it. The human heart does not move according to the physical laws. Whether it’s physical hopelessness or blindness, it’s always hard to figure out how to live and where to find yourself.
This Märchen likened the two-sidedness that society possesses to ‘love’. If we say that the Providence of God us, hardship and grace are mundanely mixed and not easily identifiable. Augustus continued to receive love for the world. Others loved him and kept giving him things that were of no value to him. His growing ruthlessness signaled an allegory for a man who no longer felt God’s love. It seemed to be a projection of Hesse himself, who chose to commit suicide. He may have thought that way when he looked back on what it was like to choose death. Happiness does not come immediately after coming back to life, as manifested in his escapist habits and style. Nevertheless, Augustus knew that the world was wonderful and lovable. He thought he should travel the world in order to help people one way or the other and find places where he could show his love.
During this journey, Augustus fulfils his oppressed and distorted heart with happiness. Christianity teaches that those who had hoped for earthly things find their hope in God. But what does it mean for God, a higher being, to give us happiness? Sometimes it is difficult to understand this even when it is explained to us in words. God is far away, one wall away, if not everyday. The philosopher Simone Weil tries to put God in brackets for once (Epoché), but even Augustus fulfilled his heart on a journey where there is no such thing as happiness in the eyes of others, where he was marginalized and unloved. Buddhist ‘senselessness’ is close to this.
Er wunderte sich täglich, wieviel Elend es auf der Welt gäbe und wie vergnügt doch die Menschen sein können,
He was amazed each day at how much misery there was in the world and how content people could be nevertheless,
Das Menschenleben schien ihm vorzüglich eingerichtet.
To him, human life seemed marvelously well arranged.
so daß ihm schien, er habe die Welt niemals anders gesehen als heute; aber er war zufrieden und fand die Welt durchaus herrlich und liebenswert.
Gradually his memory too grew clouded so that it seemed to him as though he had never seen the world other than it was on that day. But he was content with it and found it altogether splendid and deserving of love.
He learned to love the world, although he was not loved or given expensive gifts as before. Besides, he dared to willingly choose hunger and suffering. So far, it ends up being Buddhist, but if I were to explain the difference, it would be that the Mächen has arrived at the point where ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. Augustus had reached his Godfather, the only kind man who had given him gifts and disabilities. The house was a house where music often played, and in his last days he felt as if he could hear his late mother’s voice, and he ascended to heaven.
Is this defeat and pessimism in life? I remember once thinking so. But it is different. Märchen’s death is different from death in the real world. He actually died, but it becomes an allegory and enters people’s hearts. What it means to be happy even if you are poor-hearted, as Jesus said in his parable, is something that cannot be explained by the laws of physics.
Yet everyone realizes that if you put yourself in a world of mystery and compare yourself with the allegory, you will find that the story is not particularly exotic either. We cannot explain how it can move our hearts. But when we connect God and Jesus, we call it the Holy Spirit. This may be the most difficult Holy Spirit to explain.
We sometimes close our hearts only to what we can see and feel. Who will let us know that next to the death knell, there is life coming into being, the joy of the unseen? Thus hope must transcend what separates. Just as the ego awakens again and again in childhood, just as the familiar work of art seems to be buried in a dead corner and then reappears. People are always waiting for something to resonate in their souls, whether it is a day of joy or a day when they want to disappear in sorrow. As if one learns the name of the being in front of one’s eyes, one is moved by a familiar sight.
Augustus was poor himself but could see the poverty of others. He had become unloved and knew that his kindness and love could not be conveyed to others. By ‘poor-hearted ones’ he was addressing not only himself, but the world. He knew that the poverty he most wanted to convey could not deliver hope, that even though it was impossible to manipulate the Holy Spirit at will, who could move people’s hearts, he still knew what it meant to love, something that the world could still say was beautiful.
Beautiful music was the voice of a loved one. For him, it was his mother. The most beautiful music that has been flowing since before his death becomes the voice of his loved one. Overlapping the heavenly messenger with the voice of a loved one is both a desire and a happiness. I think I finally know why this passage is described as embodying the Gospel of Matthew, the poverty of heart that is universal no matter how much times change, and why this passage is taught as the core of being a Christian.
The mind dwells on the allegories given and the unknowable, and the places where we should be self-disciplined emerge and the poverty of our hearts. When the soul’s gaze by love looks out over the world, probably it raises the joy of being born into this world.
Rejoice and be glad.
Hermann Hesse’s Augustus is famous for embodying the ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ of Matthew 5.
This story is famous as the embodiment of the story. When I was a student, I was so desperate to be somebody that this story seemed like a defeat in life. I did not want to understand this poverty. Even now, I can’t say that understanding this poverty is right. But I do know that the words and love of Jesus, like the Holy Spirit of the Trinity, if this is something that needs to be understood with the heart, then the poverty of this story should be looked at with the gaze of the soul. If this is to be communicated to others, it is to know the suffering that cannot be communicated by force. Hesse’s suicide attempt and My experience overlapped with him. I had sympathy for Augustus. Even though the world loved me, I did not see it as love, I had become ruthless. I found myself becoming like Augustus. The fairy tales I couldn’t read as a child because I didn’t understand love, then the stories I ignored because poverty was so alien to me, became the stories I came closest to. Hesse.
wrote this in his work. “so familiar to him from childhood that it awoke echoes of the past in his soul.” About the love that Jesus wanted to convey not only to those who were wise or in authority.
Rest for the modern age that constantly tells us that this is the way it should be. Perhaps that is the hope.
My Buddhist boyfriend reads scripture in a familiar voice,
and ‘Rejoice and be glad‘ he recited from the Bible. It was so beautiful that it reminded me of Augustus by happenstance.
Continued in Matthew 13, Simone Weil