Narziss and Goldmund: The Spiritual Life and The Secular Life

Goldmund could not fit into the Mariabronn Monastery anymore than a square peg could fit into a round hole and soon left the cloister for the vagrant life. By sleeping in the woods, killing Viktor the thief, meeting the plague, studying under Meister Niklaus and romancing with Lydia and Julie, Lene and Agnes, he explored the sensual life as an artist. When Agnes rejected the old man that he was, he returned to the monastery to meet his friend and mentor Narziss before leaving the world.

Calw, Germany

On the other hand, at home in Mariabronn with the chestnut tree and knowing that his way differs from that of Goldmund, Narziss, isolated from the flesh’s pleasure and pain, lived out the monastic life, praying, meditating, searching for enlightenment through intellectual and ascetic disciplines. The way of the mystic was for Narziss as much as the way of the artist was for Goldmund.

Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse, throughout his life, sought Goldmund’s artistic way¾ the emotional, prodigal, active, and sensual path¾ but ended up with Narziss’s mystical way¾ the intellectual, disciplined, contemplative, and ascetic path.

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