Hermann Hesse's life and literary oeuvre are characterized by a constant preoccupation with the questions of religion and faith that were his companion virtually from the cradle on. He was born into a Protestant-Pietist family of missionaries, preachers and theologians against whose rigour and severity he soon rebelled. His father's attempt to use religious education to break Hermann's self-willed nature caused the boy to feel increasingly estranged from Christianity. Yet Hesse's pious parental home was one marked not only by the pietist spirit but also by other religious influences. His father's and grandfather's missionary work in India meant that Hesse was soon exposed to Hinduism and Buddhism, and he later went on to explore Chinese Taoism. Yet this path did not cause him to renounce Christianity. On the contrary, in fact: in the course of his lifelong investigation of the phenomenon of religion, he developed the notion of a synthesis between the religions on the basis of a universal mysticism. He was, in fact, seeking the unity of all peoples, a connecting bridge between East and West. Siddhartha and, of course, his later work, Das Glasperlenspiel, bear literary testimony to this lifelong search for a God. Hesse believed in a "religion outside, between and above confessions, which is indestructible." Yet he always took a very sceptical view of dogmas and teachings. "I believe one religion is as good as the other," he writes. "There is none in which one could not become a sage, and none in which one could not just as easily engage in the most inane form of idolatry."


Christoph Gellner: Between reverence and revolt (Adobe PDF, 124 KB)