A Few Loose Ends

Here it is again, that feeling of nausea that is pursuant realization of a recently uncovered, but deeply held truth. I don’t know why realization makes me nauseous. It’s a pretty significant indicator for me though. This is a little adjacent my typical focus. However, since that seemed to go over well enough in sprinkling in some astrology amidst my thoughts on literature, I’m rolling with it. Consider this in part astrology, in part spirituality follow-up to the Hesse novels, and in part why I do not anticipate finishing my review of The Gulag Archipelago. If you like frankly honest posts on personal insights and  karma – here we go.

I recently had an experience with a cluster of emotional triggers that completely upended me. These had wholly to do with my current life, but also, created an internal atmosphere where it was simpler to realize a few other details. First off, I’ll lay some ground work: I believe in past lives. I believe in karma. I believe, based on my astrological natal chart and my experiences thus far, that this time around I am here to resolve a few lifetimes worth of unresolved karma. Apparently this is supposed to happen in my twelfth house – the one related to the subconscious. So when things sneak up on me internally and I end up overwhelmed? Apparently I had it coming. I’m not going to get into the triggers. I will say though that I finally realized why I was so intrigued by Gulag. For me, it’s related to a past life. I’m not saying I was there, but I do remember freezing to death someplace. It’s like some part of me needed to know how the world could be so ugly that someone could be taken prisoner, starved, and then left to die by cold. (With typing that comes another wave of nausea.)

So here is the interesting thing about books… They say a reader lives a thousand lives. It’s one of my favorite quotes. A reader. Not just a reader though. I wonder if it is more accurate to say that a reader remembers a thousand lives. What draws me to Russian literature vs. Jane Austen? Where does that deeper draw come from? I think I know.

Now that it’s cold outside and beginning to drop below freezing at night, do I really see myself curling up with Archipelago? Do I want to resonate with that energy, now that I know why I just had to pick up those volumes on pain and anguish? Nope. Because now it makes sense and I don’t need to climb that entire three volume mountain. I needed that novel to help me remember what had been buried so that it could be acknowledged. It was horrible, but now it’s over.

Just like the things that triggered me earlier. It was horrible, but now it’s over.

I was thinking on my way to work, as I have many times before today, what is the point really to uncovering past lives and remembering karma? Well I think it is a lot like remembering things that happened in your childhood. If they happen and you bury them, then they affect you when you get older. You get triggered on the job, or watching television, or whenever someone forgets the cheese on your burger. It seems silly when you think about it, and yet feels so visceral when incidents spring up. Everyone has something that sets them off. Everyone has something that happened to them, that they excused somehow, or failed to acknowledge to themselves how they felt about it. So it festers, this deep pitting of the soul that so many of us just look away from so that we aren’t reminded of what hurt us. It rots.

I’ll say that all that rot can make a person irascible. The buildup of tension, anger, frustration, sadness and fear can be quite intolerable. And then, it seeps out from the pores and into words, into body language, and into the heart. It blackens. I’ve been a pretty irascible person. I’ve let things rot and then lashed out because of the pain. I think remembering serves the purpose of acknowledging that there is a wound so the hurt can be cleansed. As we heal, we become better people. That’s the point. Learning how to take better care of ourselves and by that art, other people. That’s the point, too. We don’t have to live with pain. We don’t have to be horrible.

The Gulag Archipelago is an excellent book. It served its’ purpose for Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn as he was able to express his own rot. It served its’ purpose for the Soviet Union, as it helped to air out the disease of communism under Stalin, thus preventing further rot of that kind. It served its’ purpose for me, even though I’m stopping at page 342 of volume one. I’ve acknowledged what I remember, and so I can be free. I highly suggest it to whomever feels drawn to reading it. I strongly support Solzhenitsyn for having written it. It is incredibly informative and blunt. At times, it is also quite nauseating. If you are ever interested in how circumstances can turn people (sometimes the same people) into monsters and victims, it’s an excellent read. Those with an interest in sociology might be especially intrigued.

For Hesse, I would hope that by sharing my revelation, readers may seek to acknowledge their own hidden truths. Sometimes the truth will follow us like the foe of a horror novel we thought was dead when we turned our backs. It’s important to validate ourselves. You don’t have to believe in reincarnation to embrace that. It’s important to give ourselves the credit we deserve. When we acknowledge the hurt, it does subside after a while, and isn’t that better than letting it turn you into something grotesque?

I hope so.

Demian

If Siddartha was a turning point in literature for me, then Demian is a lynch pin. I was originally drawn to Hermann Hesse for Steppenwolf, and in waiting to pick up my physical copy of that, ended up with Siddartha because it was free on Audible for members. That compelling tale of spirituality completely changed my perception of Hesse, even though I didn’t know much about him before. I started Demian with a thirst for more of Hesse’s views and philosophy. For a bit of background, he was raised in a Swabian Pietist household. Apparently, Pietists value deep thought, and so arrange their lifestyles to prioritize it. Hesse’s grandparents served at a mission in India, where his mother was born. His grandfather had an extensive library, from which young Hermann was invited to learn. This Nobel Prize winning German author valued authenticity, self-appraisal, and spiritual growth.

Essentially, he’s right up my alley.

I’ve been thinking of my pursuit of spiritual enlightenment as separate from my love of books until Hesse. Of course someone was bound to walk this path before me, I’m just glad I found this particular author. Akin to when I discovered Phillip Pullman late last year, it is reassuring to find a like mind. In this case too, it is fitting that this realization comes with Demian. A significant theme in this novel is mentoring and learning from those whom started down your path ahead of you.

Demian is the story of a boy. As the story begins, he is what society would expect, until the magnetic personality of a mysteriously enlightened young man opens his eyes to another way of viewing existence. The boy, Emil Sinclair, experiences the opening of his third-eye over the course of the story. With guidance from the young man, Max Demian, Sinclair explores what this means. They speak of a very non-Christian idea of accepting both extremes of light and dark within the self. They talk of a God that supports thoughts of servitude and rebellion, politeness and irreverence, good and evil. From what I gleaned of this, the concept is perfect balance.

So here is partially where my own adjacent journey came into play. I have been studying astrology for several months now. I went from knowing my sun sign, to developing a more complex understanding of the intricacies of planetary alignments, zodiacs in houses, and the incredibly detailed relationships of celestial bodies related to every single human being. This concept of balance characterizes the sign of Libra (which lies on the cusp of my first house of self). For me, this element of Demian resonates beautifully.

Coincidentally, Hermann Hesse had Libra on the cusp of his ninth house, the part of his astrological natal chart that corresponds to philosophy and spirituality. He had Sagittarius (the zodiac related spirituality) in his twelfth house of the subconscious… our link to the deep and difficult to access truths of life and the way the world works. Hesse’s moon was in Pisces, which relates to mysticism, empathy, and an intrinsically acute intuition. He and I differ practically everywhere in our charts, though my moon is in Pisces too.

I can’t quite say that Demian is an exceptional work of literature. The pacing is a little hit and miss, though my perception of this may have something to do with only getting to listen to it a few minutes a day. It is rather short, so someone able to dedicate a more sustained approach may experience it differently. The prose is fair and the plot sound. I’ll even venture to say that the characters are a bit one-dimensional and repetitive. However, if you approach this novel for its’ ideas, individuals looking for new patterns of thought may enjoy this deeply nonetheless.

For my own part, I am going to pursue Nietzsche next. Hesse was in part inspired by this German philosopher, critic, composer, writer, and philologist. There are quotes by Nietzsche that I already know I like. In this, I hope to delve deeper into these concepts of balancing the dark macabre and lightness of spirit. Demian is a welcome change amidst the ideas I’ve thus far read. Even though it doesn’t make my favorites list for the sum of its’ parts, I do believe it transcends this.

Siddhartha

Siddhartha has been on my radar for about a year now. It has been showing up on various reading lists and recommendations often enough that my curiosity was piqued. Of classical literature, this is one of the shorter pieces. It was written in 1922 by Herman Hesse; German short story author, poet, essayist, music-lover and painter.

Other works that Hesse penned include Steppenwolf, Demian, and the Glass Bead Game. He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1946. Siddhartha is the first book of his that I have read, though I have a copy of Steppenwolf waiting for me on my bookshelf. I am even more excited to pick it up now than I was before, while there is a strong chance I’ll end up with a copy of the Glass Bead Game, too. Hesse wrote about spirituality and authenticity. He was well-studied in the theological writings of Goethe, Lessing, Schiller, Nietzche, and the Greek mythologies.

Siddhartha follows the lifetime of a young Indian boy in his path to be coming and old wise man. It is insightful, enlightening, and even comforting. By the end, I had the sense that regardless of what happens in life, there was cause to be at peace with every moment. I would recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in self discovery and existentialism.

What is the true path to becoming one with the universe? Through pursuit of gurus and guides? Service? Long journeys? Communing with nature? Just letting go and radically accepting whatever happens to you? Siddhartha explores these pathways and offers some insight into each. My favorite part involved speaking to a river, and the idea that for as long as you are decided upon searching for something… you’ll never find it.