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The Religious Affiliation of Nobel Prize-winning author
Hermann Hesse
author of the classic novel Siddhartha (1922), about the founder of Buddhism

Hermann Hesse is well known as the author of the classic 1922 novel Siddhartha, about the founder of Buddhism. Hermann Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

With regards to his religious background, Hesse is quoted as having said: "Christianity... was the strongest of the powers that shaped and moulded me."

Hermann Hesse has been classified in some sources as a Buddhist. Based on quotes by Hesse about his beliefs regarding God, researcher Tihomir Dimitrov believes that Hesse was not a Buddhist. Contrary to what some Westerners believe, the majority of the world's Buddhists actually do believe in God or some form of supreme being. Simply having belief in God does not necessarily mean that a person is not a Buddhist. The subject of Hesse's religious affiliation requires further research.

From: Tihomir Dimitrov, "Hermann Hesse" (Part II: Chapter 32) in 50 Nobel Laureates and Other Great Scientists Who Believe in God (2007), (http://nobelists.net/; viewed 19 April 2007):

1. Hesse expressed his attitude towards God in a conversation with his friend Miguel Serrano:

"You should let yourself be carried away, like the clouds in the sky. You shouldn't resist. God exists in your destiny just as much as he does in these mountains and in that lake. It is very difficult to understand this, because man is moving further and further away from Nature, and also from himself." (Hesse, as cited in Miguel Serrano, C.G. Jung and Hermann Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships, 1966, 10).

2. "The fact that people think they have their life on loan from God and do not want to use it egotistically, but, on the contrary, they want to live it as service and sacrifice to God, this experience and legacy, the greatest one, from my childhood has had an extremely powerful influence on my life." (Hesse 1972, 59).

3. "When you are close to Nature you can listen to the voice of God." (Hesse, as cited in Serrano 1966, 10).

4. "Christianity, one not preached but lived, was the strongest of the powers that shaped and moulded me." (Hesse, as cited in Gellner 1997, Vol. 1).

5. "If one does not take the verses of the New Testament as being commandments, but as expressions of an extraordinary awareness of the secrets of our soul, then the wisest word ever spoken is: 'Love thy neighbour as thyself.' " (Hesse, as cited in Gellner 1997, Vol. 1).

6. "For different people, there are different ways to God, to the center of the world. Yet the actual experience itself is always the same." (Hesse, as cited in Gellner 1997, Vol. 1).

7. "The road to piety may be a different one for everyone. For me, it led through many blunders and great suffering, through a great deal of self-torment, through tremendous foolishness, jungles full of foolishness. I was a liberal spirit and knew that sanctimonious piety was an illness of the soul. I was an ascetic and drove nails into my flesh. I didn't know that being religious meant health and cheerfulness." (Hesse, as cited in Gellner 1997, Vol. 1).

[Sources in Bibliography]

Gellner, Christoph. 1997. "Between Respect and Revolt: Hermann Hesse and the Duality of all Religion" ("Zwischen Ehrfurcht und Revolte: Hesse und die Doppelgesichtigkeit aller Religion" - a lecture held in German by Prof. Dr. Christoph Gellner at the Hesse-tage, October 1996, in Calw - Maulbronn, Germany). Published in Hesse Page Journal, Vol.1, No.9, 12/4/1997 (www.gss.ucsb.edu/projects/hesse/). Department of Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.

Hesse, Hermann. 1971. Autobiographical Writings. (Selected by Theodore Ziolkowski, translated by Denver Lindley). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Hesse, Hermann. 1972. Mein Glaube. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag. (Trans. V. Daskalova).

Hesse, Hermann. 1974. My Belief: Essays on Life and Art. (Editor - Theodore Ziolkowski, translation - Denver Lindley). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Serrano, Miguel. 1966. C.G. Jung and Hermann Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships. New York: Schocken Books.

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Webpage created 19 April 2007. Last modified 20 April 2007.
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