Sunday, December 21, 2008

From Hermann Hesse’s Demian (written in 1919)

The ending of chapter 5 – The bird fights its way out of the egg

Frequently we also told each other our dreams. Pistorius knew how to interpret them. An example of this comes to mind just now. I dreamed I was able to fly, but in such a way that I seemed capitulated into the air and lost all control. The feeling of flying exhilarated me, but exhilaration turned to fear when I saw myself driven higher and higher, becoming more and more powerless. At that instant, I made the saving discovery that I could regulate the rise or fall of my flight by holding or releasing my breath.

Pistorius’ comment was: ‘The impetus that makes you fly is our greatest human possession. Everybody has it. It is the feeling of being linked with the roots of power, but one soon becomes afraid of this feeling. It’s damned dangerous! That is why most people shed their wings and prefer to walk and obey the law. But not you. You go on flying. And look! You discover that you gradually begin to master your flight, that to the great general force that tears you upward there is added a delicate, small force of your own, an organ, a steering mechanism. How marvelous! Lacking that, you would be drawn up to the heights, powerless – which is what happens to madmen. They possess deeper intimations than people who remain earthbound, but they have no key and no steering mechanism and roar off into infinity. But you Sinclair, you are going about it in the right way. How? You probably don’t know yourself. You are doing it with a new organ, with something that regulates your breathing. And now you will realize how little ‘individuality’ your soul has in its deepest reaches. For it does not invent this regulator! It is not new! You borrowed it: it has existed for thousands of years. It is the organ with which fish regulate their equilibrium ---the air bladder. And in fact among the fish there are still a few strange primeval genera where the air bladder functions as a kind of lung and can be used on occasion as a breathing mechanism. In other words, exactly like the lung which you in your dream use as a flying bladder’

He even brought out a zoology book and showed me the names and illustrations of these anachronistic fish. And with a peculiar shudder I felt that an organ from an earlier period of evolution was still alive within me.

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