Posts Tagged ‘conformity


Hermann Hesse sends a message to those searching for leaders…

To a young man in search of some kind of “leader”

Chantarella, Winter 1930

Your letter has reached me in the mountains. I have been overworked and really need to rest. I can only answer briefly.

There is no call for despair. If you are a person born to lead your own individual life rather than an ordinary everyday one, then you will eventually discover that difficult route toward your own personality and a life of your own. If you are not called upon to do so, or if you cannot muster sufficient energy, you will have to give up sooner or later and reconcile yourself to the morality, taste, and customs of the majority.

It’s a question of how much energy one has. Or, as I prefer to see things, it’s a question of faith. For one often finds very strong people who soon fail and very delicate and weak people who, in spite of their weakness and illness, make their way splendidly through life and impress their stamp upon it, even though they may be merely enduring their lot. Whenever Sinclair has sufficient energy (or faith), Demian is enticed by that energy and approaches him.

It isn’t easy to put into words the faith I have in mind. One might describe it as follows: I believe that, regardless of its seemingly nonsensical qualities, life does have meaning. I accept the fact that this ultimate meaning transcends my rational faculties. I am, however, prepared to be at its service, even if this means having to sacrifice myself. Whenever I am truly and fully alive and awake, I hear an inner voice proclaiming that meaning.

I want to try to fulfill the things that life demands of me at such moments, even if that runs counter to conventional fashions or laws.

It’s not possible to impose this belief and compel oneself to accept it. One has to experience it, just as a Christian cannot acquire grace through mere effort, force, or wiles, but has to experience it through faith. Those who are unable to do so seek their faith in the church, or science, or patriotism or socialism, or anyplace that furnishes ready-made moral codes, programs, and solutions.

It’s impossible for me to ascertain whether people are cut out for this rather difficult but beautiful path that leads to a life and a meaning of one’s own—even if I were to see them in person. Thousands are called, many go a bit of the way, but few continue beyond the frontiers of youth, and perhaps nobody stays the course until the very end.


Mishima: Social Psychologist

Back to “Runaway Horses” real quick. This is quite a different approach from how we studied and considered groupthink during my undergraduate and graduate social psychology courses.

In ordinary human relationships, good and evil, trust and mistrust appear in impure form, mixed together in small portions. But when men gather together to form a group devoted to a purity not of this world, their evil may remain, purged from each member but coalesced to form a single pure crystal. Thus in the midst of a collection of pure white gems, perhaps it was inevitable that one gem black as pitch could also be found.

If one took this concept a bit further, one encountered an extremely pessimistic line of thought: the substance of evil was to be found more in blood brotherhoods by their very nature than in betrayal. Betrayal was something that was derived from this evil, but the evil was rooted in the blood brotherhood itself. The purest evil that human efforts could attain, in other words, was probably achieved by those men who made their wills the same and who made their eyes see the world in the same way, men who went against the pattern of life’s diversity, men whose spirits shattered the natural wall of the individual body, making nothing of this barrier set up to guard against mutual corrosion, men whose spirit accomplished what flesh could never accomplish. Collaboration and cooperation were weak terms bound up with anthropology. But blood brotherhood… that was a matter of eagerly joining one’s spirit to the spirit of another. This in itself showed a bright scorn for the futile, laborious human process in which ontogeny was eternally recapitulating phylogeny, in which man forever tried to draw a bit closer to truth only to be frustrated by death, a process that had ever to begin again in the sleep within the amniotic fluid. By betraying this human condition the blood brotherhood tried to gain its purity, and thus it was perhaps but to be expected that it, in turn, should of its very nature incur its own betrayal. Such men had never respected humanity.

– Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 33)

November 2017
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