Narcissus and Goldmund – FLNWO #24

by | Feb 16, 2015 | Film, Literature & The New World Order | 3 comments

Logic and emotion. Language and image. Discipline and instinct. In his classic 1930 novel, Narcissus and Goldmund, Herman Hesse captures the essence of the duality of the human spirit. But while this duality is everywhere evident within us and those around us, is there a higher level of consciousness that combines both Narcissus’ and Goldmunds’ strengths? Is that the answer to the problems posed by fear, authority and tyranny? This month Tjeerd Andringa of the University of Groningen joins James for another fascinating dissection of a classic piece of literature.

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Interview 776 – Tjeerd Andringa on Geopolitics and Cognition

Interview 970 – Tjeerd Andringa on Conspiracy and Falsifiability

Interview 969 – Roundtable with Groningen Students

William Perry: Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years

Last month’s episode and comments: Philip Dru: Administrator

Next month: Pink Cadillac


  1. Thanks for the discussion. I read this book back when I was in college, and in thinking about it now, I sense that our social context has changed very dramatically. Perhaps it is just me, but it seems that the duality and angst I felt when I read this book years ago has somewhat dissipated. The questions we ask are different now. Very interesting.

  2. This story is a metaphor for what is commonly known as “the human condition” which is effectively the spirit vs. flesh, mind vs. matter, reason vs. desire, scientist vs. artist/the lab vs. the field, concept vs. concrete, civilization vs. nature…and so on.

    On a personal level, it seems to me that the human condition is a lot like living in a house with a robot and a caveman. The robot is programmed to keep the house in a sterile, rigid, mechanilogical order that is intolerant of imperfection, the feral caveman wants to fuck, fight and eat at will without any rules at all, and the human is cursed with the onus of trying to create and maintain a sane household with these two extremes.

    The robot sees the caveman as a virus that should be quarantined and ultimately removed from the household equation because he is a hopeless and non-predictable mess that is inconveniently piled up in the center of The Path To Perfection that the robot believes leads straight to The flawless Gates Of Happiness themselves, wherein it can finally rest in the glory of Immaculate mechanical Perfection.

    The caveman hates the robot.


    Remove the caveman and the house becomes a spot-less prison of ever increasing degrees of absurd refinement. So in the same way that one can never cross “Zeno Street” (so to say), one can also never refine themselves to a final infinite perfection.

    Remove the robot and the house becomes a shambolic sty of ever increasing stench, beer cans, coke-straws, cigarette butts, dirty clothes, pizza boxes, flies, barf puddles, broken windows, pregnant “randoms”, seedy vagrants, overdue bills, etc., as the caveman tries to remain liberated from the dreaded chains of responsibility in order to maintain what he believes to be “freedom”. In other words, he is a slave to relentless “Desire” to the same degree that the robot is a slave to relentless “Perfection”, and since there is no such thing as a “free slave”, both are shackled to the same concrete wall of ignorant extremes at the end of the day.

    But if the human can get the two to meet in the middle and thus work together, the house is transformed from a standard equation of intractable opposites, into an advanced equation of complementary opposites that suddenly becomes capable of things like the art of science and the science of art…the calculus of poetry and the poetry of calculus…the rationality of feeling and the feeling of rationality…the logic of nature and the nature of logic…the beauty of mechanics and the mechanics of beauty…the concepts of reality and the reality of concepts…masculinity that understands femininity and femininity that understands masculinity…and so on, that in turn produce things like Highclere Castle, Sistine Chapel, Notre Dame Cathedral…Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini…Beethoven, Bach, Mozart…Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes…Tolstoy, Dickens, Steinbeck…Socrates, Plato, Aristotle…Rand, Watts, Wilber…Maravich, “Magic”, “Michael” …Michelangelo, da Vinci, Rembrandt…Escher, Dali, Ernst…Red Ice, Sunday Wire, Corbett Report …Maxwell, Tsarion, Marrs…and so on.

    In other words, intelligence, passion, Expression…brain, heart, Hands…thought, feeling, Action…words, voice, Song…indeed, narcissus, goldmund, Narcmund/Goldissus (if you will), is the result of this unorthodox and hence rare partnership that is greater than the sum of its robotic and cavemanish parts.

    Thank you for producing such excellent and provocative work James!

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