QUOTES FROM "DEMIAN" BY HERMANN HESSE
They had their faults, and bad habits, but ones that never ran very deep,
I felt. Not like with me, where any contact with evil was so painful and
difficult, and where the dark world seemed to lie so much closer.
I kept quiet, but I was afraid I would stand out for just that reason and
draw Kromer's anger.
I had to look on, my heart growing cold within me, as my world—my beloved,
happy life—detached itself from me and turned into the past.
For the first time I tasted death, and death tastes bitter because it is
birth: anxiety and terror in the face of frightening renewal.
I wanted to pray for a miracle from God, that He would let me make such a
find, but I knew I no longer had any right to pray.
- I kept looking over at Demian, whose face strangely fascinated me.
There's no way to know if it was really his brother, but that doesn't
really matter, in the end all men are brothers.
Everything I suffered from and loathed when Kromer did it, I accepted
happily from Demian, with a feeling as much of rapture as of terror.
I was startled, and set off at a run. Someone ran after me, and a hand
grabbed me gently from behind. It was Max Demian. I let myself be caught.
- You're not scared of me, are you? Or are you?
I like you, or I find you interesting, and so I want to bring to the
surface your inner way of seeing things.
If someone is afraid of another person, it's because he has given this
person some kind of power over him.
It was like in my dream: I was under his influence, overpowered by his
voice. I only nodded. Wasn't he speaking in a voice that could just as
well have come from within myself? That knew everything, better and more
clearly that I knew it myself?
But you already know this fear of him isn't right, don't you? Such fear
just destroys us, we have to break free of it. You have to break free of
it or you will never be all right. Do you understand that?
If there's nothing else you can do, then kill him! I would be impressed if
you did, and happy. I'd even help you.
I was left with the same awkward feeling toward him, a strange mix of
gratitude and shyness, admiration and fear, affection and inner
I decided to see him again soon; I wanted to talk more with him about
everything, including Cain.
I should have confessed to him! That confession would have been less
ornamental and moving but more fruitful for me.
I had to replace my dependence on Kromer with a new one, because I was
unable to walk alone, so I chose, in my blind heart, dependence on Father
and Mother, on the old beloved “world of light,” even though I already
knew it was not the only one.
I will speak of only the things that felt new, that pushed me onward,
broke me loose.
I see him going to school, alone or between two other older students, and
I see him walking between the others like an exotic creature, solitary and
silent, like a distant star, surrounded by a different air of his own,
living under his own laws.
I stood at a window, hidden behind a curtain, and watched him, and saw,
with deep admiration, his keen, cool, bright face turned toward the coat
of arms—the face of a man, a scholar or artist, supercilious and
purposeful, strangely bright and cold, with knowing eyes.
I could not help looking at him for a long time, and even back then I
felt, far from consciously, something very unusual and special about him.
I looked at Demian's face and saw the face of a man, not a boy; but not
only that, I also thought I could see, or feel, that this was not just the
face of a man, it was something else too. There seemed to be something of
a woman's face in it as well, in fact the face seemed to me, for a moment,
neither manly nor childlike, neither old nor young, but somehow
millennial, timeless, marked with different spans of time from the ones we
lived in. Animals might look like that, or trees, or stars—I didn't know,
I didn't feel precisely what I would say about it now, as an adult, but I
felt something like that. Maybe he was beautiful, maybe I was attracted to
him and maybe repelled too, there was no way to decide that either. I saw
only that he was different from us—he was like an animal, or like a
spirit, or like a picture, I don't know what he was but he was different,
unimaginably different from us all. My memory tells me nothing more. Maybe
this scene too is partly made up of later impressions.
There seemed to be some kind of bond between us. I need to retrace this
connecting thread as carefully as I can.
From that moment on, the connection between Demian and me existed once
again. And, strangely, no sooner was this feeling of a spiritual bond
there in the soul than it was almost magically transposed into physical
space as well.
I didn't know if he had done it or if it was pure chance—back then, I
still believed in chance...
I still remember how happy I was, surrounded by the horrid morning air of
an overfilled schoolroom that reeked like a poorhouse, to breathe in the
fresh clean smell of soap from his neck!
After another couple days he had changed seats again and was now sitting
next to me, and that was where he stayed, through the winter and all
But he knew how to communicate with me, more with silent signs and glances
than with words. And the thoughts and ideas he shared with me were
sometimes very strange.
No, no one can. Because we do not have free will, even if the pastor
pretends we do. Other people can't think what they want, so I can't make
them think what I want. But it is possible to observe someone closely
enough that you can say, sometimes rather precisely, what he's thinking or
feeling, and then you can usually predict what he's about to do.
- Nature is full of such things that no one can explain.
If you look at someone closely enough, you will know more about him than
he knows himself.
It was as though there had never been anything between us, or as though
each of us firmly believed the other had forgotten it.
If one of our butterflies tried to direct his will toward a star or
something, he couldn't do it. It's just —he never tries to. He seeks out
only what has value and meaning for him, what he needs, what he absolutely
Of course I can imagine this or that, decide that I absolutely have to
reach the North Pole or what have you, but I can will it strongly enough
to actually accomplish it if the wish lies entirely in my self, if it
truly, completely corresponds to my nature.
As soon as you and I took an interest in each other, you came closer and
closer. But how?
No, but I just did what I wanted and sat down next to you. The boy whose
place I took was surprised, but what was he going to do? He moved.
I look him very, very straight in the eye. Almost no one can take that
well. They all get nervous. If you want something from someone, and you
look him straight in the eye and he doesn't get uncomfortable at all, then
give up! You'll never get what you want from him, never! But that very
It was just that Demian had gotten me to start seeing and interpreting the
stories and doctrines in freer, more personal, playful, and imaginative
ways; at least I always followed with pleasure and delight the
interpretations he laid out for me.
What's the point of remorse if you're two steps away from the grave, I ask
you? It's nothing but a sanctimonious fairy tale, treacly and dishonest,
insipid and sentimental and obviously didactic.
But I think we should honor everything, and worship everything—the whole
world is sacred, not just this artificially partitioned official half!
He heard me out, paying me the same close attention he always had, and
looked me in the eye until I had to turn away.
- In other words, ‘forbidden' is not an eternal truth—it can change.
He may have expressed these ideas in a casual, sociable way, but actually
he was sick to death of talking “just for the sake of conversation,” as he
once put it.
But in just those classes my thoughts were elsewhere—in fact they were on
There is no point in clever talk, none at all. It only leads you away from
yourself. Going away from yourself is a sin. What a person needs to do is
crawl entirely into himself, like a turtle.
The way he usually was when he walked and talked with me was only half of
him—a Demian playing a temporary role, adapting himself to others and
going along with things for the sake of politeness.
The true Demian, though, looked like this: stony, ancient, like an animal,
like marble, beautiful and cold, dead and secretly full of tremendous
I had never felt so abandoned. No part of him had stayed with me; he was
unreachable; he was farther away than if he had been on the most remote
island in the world.
Where was he, where? What was he thinking, what was he feeling? Was he in
some kind of Heaven, or a Hell?
- Demian had left on vacation. I was alone.
Now I had completely changed. I acted with total indifference toward the
outside world and spent days at a time attending only to myself, listening
to the dark, forbidden, underground currents rushing and roaring inside
I was well aware that it was impossible to love me as I was, and I did not
love myself either.
It had thrown me out and now looked upon me with disgust! Everything I had
so profoundly loved, everything back to the most distant, golden garden of
childhood my parents had given me—every kiss from Mother, every Christmas,
every bright, pious Sunday morning at home, every flower in the garden—it
was all laid to waste, I had trampled it all under my feet!
Despite everything, it was almost pleasurable to suffer these torments. I
had crept around blind and numb for so long, my heart cowering poor and
miserable in the corner, that even this self-hatred, this horror, this
whole horrible feeling in my soul was welcome. At least I felt something!
On the inside I kneeled in tears before my soul, before my past and my
mother, before God.
I never felt truly one with my companions—I was still lonely when I was
with them, and that was why I suffered so.
I was alone, and full of a burning longing for love—a hopeless longing
even while I talked like a hardened libertine.
It looked more like a boy's face than a girl's; the hair was not light
blond, like my pretty girl's, but reddish brown, and the chin was firm and
strong, though the mouth glowed a vivid red; the whole face was somewhat
stiff and mask- like, but impressive and full of inner life. As I sat
before the finished picture, it made a strange impression on me. It struck
me as a kind of idol or icon or sacred mask—half masculine, half feminine;
ageless; strong-willed and dreamy at once; rigid and at the same time
secretly vital and alive. This face had something to tell me—it belonged
to me—it demanded something of me. And it bore a certain similarity to
someone, though I didn't know who.
One morning when I woke up from one of these dreams, I suddenly recognized
the face. It looked at me with such marvelous familiarity and intimacy, as
though it were calling my name. It seemed to know me like a mother, seemed
to have been turned toward my face since the dawn of time. I stared at the
sheet with my heart pounding—at the thick brown hair, the half-feminine
mouth, the strong and oddly bright brow (it had dried like that on its
own)—and I felt recognition, rediscovery, and knowledge coming closer and
closer to me. I leaped out of bed, stood before the face, and looked at it
up close— stared right into the wide-open, greenish, fixed eyes, the right
one slightly higher than the left. And suddenly that right eye twitched,
lightly and delicately but clear as day, and with that flutter I
recognized the image. . . . How could it have taken me so long! It was
The picture didn't look like me—and it wasn't supposed to, I felt—but it
was my life, it was my soul, my destiny, my daemon. That was how my friend
would look, if I ever found another friend; that was how my lover would
look, if I ever found her. That was how my life would be, and my death—it
was the sound and the rhythm of my destiny.
you are joined to me, but not you, only your image; you are a part of my
And anyway—neither of us really knows the real reason why you're drinking.
Whatever it is inside you shaping your life knows already.
It's so good to know that there's something inside us, and that it knows
everything, wants everything, and does everything better than we do!
It did not bring me any closer to them, or to anyone—it only made me
There was no one I could say anything to about my hopes, my dreams, my
inner transformation, even if I had wanted to. And how could I have wanted
The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever
wants to be born must destroy a world. The bird flies to god. The god is
- She no longer satisfied the longings in my soul.
A longing for life blossomed within me, or rather a longing for love.
Bliss mingled with horror—the embrace was in the service of god and also a
Her embrace violated every kind of reverence and was nonetheless blissful
Bliss and horror, man and woman blended together, the most sacred holiness
intertwined with the most hideous abomination, deep guilt flashing through
the loveliest innocence—such was the image I saw in my sex dream and so
too was Abraxas.
Love was no longer either the dark, animalistic drive I had fearfully felt
it to be at first, or the pious, spiritual worship I had offered up to the
image of Beatrice. It was both—both and much more: angelic and Satanic,
man and woman in one, human and animal, the highest good and the uttermost
evil. To live this love seemed to be my destiny, to taste of it my fate. I
longed for it and was terrified of it at the same time, but it was always
there, always above me.
All I wanted to do was try to live the life that was inside me, trying to
get out. Why was that so hard?
Where was he? I didn't know. I knew only that he and I were linked. When
would I see him again?
I lived with Demian, with the sparrow hawk, with the image of the
tremendous dream-shape that was both my fate and my beloved.
I could see right through most of them whenever I wanted, and I sometimes
startled and amazed them by doing so. But I rarely or never wanted to. I
cared only about myself, always myself.
His face was just as I had expected: ugly and a little wild, searching and
inflexible, stubborn and willful, but soft and childlike around the mouth.
All the masculinity and strength of that face lay in the eyes and the
brow; the lower half of the face was delicate and unfinished, lacking in
self-control, almost effeminate, the chin indecisive and boyish as though
in protest against the forehead and the gaze. I liked his dark brown eyes,
full of ferocity and pride.
And just so you know, I am his gifted and promising son who unfortunately
went off the rails, and to some extent mad.
All the gods and devils that ever existed, whether those of the Greeks or
the Chinese, or the Zulu kaffirs, they are all inside us, all there as
possibilities, as wishes, as outlets.
But really we are all made up of the substance of the whole world—every
one of us.
But all of them, even the most ordinary, hit me in the same place with
their soft, steady hammer blows; they all helped shape me, helped me shed
my layers of skin, break the eggshell, and after every one I held my head
up a little bit higher, with a little more freedom, until my yellow bird
poked its gorgeous raptor's head out of the shattered shell of the world.
There were many times I saw myself as a genius, many times as half insane.
I was never able to share and join in the others' pleasures, and I was
eaten up with worries and self-hatred about how hopelessly isolated I was
from them, how cut off from life.
You can't keep comparing yourself to other people—if nature has made you a
bat, you can't decide you want to be an ostrich. You sometimes feel like
you don't belong, you blame yourself for following a different path than
most other people. You have to unlearn that. Stare into the fire, look at
the clouds, and when ideas or intuitions come to you and the voices in
your soul start to speak, trust them and don't worry about whether your
teacher or your daddy or any other lord above likes what they have to say!
My dear Sinclair, our god is called Abraxas, and he is God and Satan both,
he contains the world of light and the world of darkness. Abraxas does not
reject a single one of your thoughts and dreams.
Ah, every religion is beautiful. Religion is soul, irrespective of whether
you take Christian communion or make the pilgrimage to Mecca.
I know that you must be having dreams you don't tell me about. I don't
want to know what they are. But I tell you: Live your dreams! Act them
out, build altars to them! It is not ideal, but it is a path.
It is possible to treat your drives and so-called temptations with respect
and love, even if you don't act on them. Then they show you what they
mean—and they all do mean something.
When we hate someone, what we hate is something in him, or in our image of
him, that is part of ourselves. Nothing that isn't in us ever bothers us.
The things we see are the same things that are in us. There is no reality
other than what we have inside us. That is why most people live such
unreal lives, because they see external images as reality and never give
their own internal world a chance to express itself.
No one can help anyone else. No one helped me either. You have to just
reflect on yourself and then do what truly comes from your nature. There's
nothing else. If you can't find yourself, then you won't find any spirits
either, it seems to me.
It was woman, man, girl—a young child, an animal, a blurry patch on the
wall—and then big and clear again. Finally, obeying a powerful inner
command, I closed my eyes and I saw the image within me, stronger and more
powerful than ever. I wanted to kneel down before it, but it was so much a
part of me that I could no longer distinguish it from myself. It was as
though it had become entirely I.
And we aren't pigs, like you said. We are human beings. We make gods and
then wrestle with them, and they bless us.
I summoned up the image I had dreamed and painted, the male-female
dream-image of my daemon. It was alive now, no longer only in my dreams or
painted on paper, but in me, as an ideal, a heightening of my self.
That was when, for the first time, I felt the mark of Cain on my forehead.
It was impossible to choose, impermissible to want anything about it. You
must want only yourself, your own fate.
And in my soul I saw the image of my guide, who looked like Demian and
whose eyes held my fate.
I felt a stab of joyous shock with every word. I knew the person who was
speaking—it was Demian.
I listened to their conversation and was happy to hear the sound of
Demian's voice. It had the same old tone from before, the same beautiful
confidence and serenity, the same power over me. Now everything was going
to be all right. I had found him.
We used to call it the mark of Cain, if you recall. It is our special
sign. You always had it—that's why I wanted to be your friend.
I wanted to write to you, so many times, but I couldn't. I've felt for a
while that I'd find you soon. I waited for it every day.
He tucked his arm into mine and walked on with me, exuding a calm that
entered me too. Soon we were chatting the same way we used to.
Fear always comes from a split in yourself. They are afraid because they
have never gotten to know who they really are.
Let the students go on their drinking binges and scar one another's faces,
let the rotten world await its own destruction—what did I care? The only
thing I awaited was the encounter with my destiny in a new form, a new
- Her gaze was fulfillment, her greeting meant I had come home.
No one can ever go home, but when friends' paths meet, the whole world can
look like home for a time.
There's a boy there with the mark on his forehead, I have to make him my
He is trying to flee back into a community, he's hanging around bars. But
he won't be able to do it. His mark is obscured, but secretly it is
It is always hard to be born. You know it—the bird has to struggle to get
out of the egg. Think back and ask yourself: Was the path really so hard?
Was it only hard? Wasn't it lovely too? Do you wish you had had a
prettier, easier way?
Demian looked magnificent, with his broad chest, firm, manly head, and
raised arms with huge, taut, strong muscles. Movements burst from his
hips, shoulders, and wrists like playing fountains.
I, who had been lonely for so long, learned what true community means, the
kind that is possible between people who have felt complete and total
The wave that carries us, the star that guides us—we cannot choose it.
And she told me that once upon a time there was a young man in love with a
star in the sky. He stood on the ocean's shore, reached out his hands, and
worshipped the star; he dreamed about it and directed all his thoughts at
it. But he knew, or thought he knew, that a star cannot be clasped in
human arms. He thought it was his destiny to love a heavenly body without
any hope of fulfillment, and from this idea he constructed an entire
poetry of life based on renunciation and silent faithful suffering that
would make him purer and better. Still all his dreams were of the star.
One night he was standing by the ocean again, on a high cliff, and he
looked at the star and burned with love for it. And at the pinnacle of his
greatest longing, he leaped into thin air toward the star. But the instant
he made the leap, he thought, fast as lightning: It's not possible! Then
he was lying down on the beach, broken to pieces. He did not know how to
love. If, at the moment he jumped, he had had the strength of soul to be
firm and sure that his longing would be fulfilled, he would have flown up
to the sky and become one with the star.
Love cannot ask. Love must have the strength to reach certainty from
within. Then one's love is no longer attracted, it attracts.
There once was a lover who loved without hope. He withdrew completely into
his heart and thought his love would consume him. He was lost to the
world; he no longer saw the blue sky and the green forest, the stream did
not murmur past for him, the harp did not sound, everything was gone, and
he had grown poor and miserable. Still his love grew and grew, and he
would have much rather died and withered away than give up on possessing
the beautiful woman he loved. Then he felt how his love had turned
everything else in his heart to ashes; his passion grew powerful; its
force of attraction pulled and pulled, and the beautiful woman had no
choice but to obey: she came to him, and he stood with outspread arms to
draw her to him. But she, standing there before him, had been utterly
transformed—he saw and felt with a shudder that he had drawn the whole
lost world to him. It stood before him and gave itself to him, sky and
forest and mountain stream, everything came to him fresh and magnificent,
in new colors, and it belonged to him, spoke his language. Instead of
winning just one woman, he had the whole world pressed to his heart; every
star in the sky shone within him, sparkling with pleasure through his
soul. — He had loved and had found himself in the process. Most people
love only in order to lose themselves.
- Gradually my sexual and asexual love, reality and symbol, began to merge.
She was an ocean and I was a river pouring into her; she was a star and I
was another star hurtling toward her, and we met, felt drawn to each
other, stayed close to each other, and orbited blissfully around each
other in tight, singing circles for all eternity.
In a matter of seconds the wind had shaped a picture out of the yellow and
the blue: a gigantic bird, tearing free from the chaos of blue and
disappearing into the sky with great beats of its wings.
I dreamed I was climbing up a ladder that was leaning against a tree trunk
or tower. When I got to the top I saw the whole countryside on fire—a vast
plain with cities and villages. I can't tell you everything, it's not all
clear in my mind yet.
The world wants to be reborn. The smell of death is in the air. Nothing
new comes without death.
Occasionally I would be seized with mourning for this happiness, since I
knew full well it could not last. I was unable to breathe in an atmosphere
of comfort and fullness—I needed torment and frenzy.
I wanted to summon up all the powers in my soul so that she would feel my
love and be drawn to me.
For several moments something contracted inside me, firm and tight,
something bright and cool: I felt for a second that I carried a crystal in
my heart, and I knew that it was my Self. The coldness reached my chest.
Yes, it was one of the ways I conformed. You know how I don't like to
stand out; I always preferred to go too far in the other direction, to
Tall and regal, full of mystery, she strode between the silent trees, and
all the many stars shone tiny and delicate above her head.
I saw a sign—not ours, but a beautiful, dignified sign that meant love and
Primal emotions, even the most violent, were not intended for the enemy:
their bloody work was merely an emanation from inside, a manifestation of
the self-divided soul that wanted to rampage and kill, destroy and die, in
order to be reborn. A giant bird was fighting its way out of the egg, and
the egg was the world, and the world had to shatter to pieces
He kept looking into my eyes for an endless length of time. Then he slowly
brought his face closer to me until we almost touched.
I have to go away. You may need me again someday, against Kromer or
something else. The next time you call me, I won't come so obviously on
horseback or by train. You will have to listen inside yourself, and then
you'll realize I'm in you.
Eve said if you're ever in trouble, I should give you the kiss from her
she sent with me. Close your eyes, Sinclair!
I obediently closed my eyes and felt a light kiss on my lips, where I
still had a little blood that refused to ever go away.
But sometimes, when I find the key and climb fully down into myself, where
the images of destiny slumber in their dark mirror, I need only bend down
over the black mirror and I see my own image, which now looks exactly like
Him, Him, my friend and my guide.