The mark of Cain

I finished Demian (Hermann Hesse) last week. Once again, it felt like leaving some of my best friends behind, those friends who do not exist but are alive in me. I was somewhat reluctant to reread this book, which had made such an impression on me when I was young, so many years ago. But, while I was reading it again, highlighting virtually every sentence in my Kindle, I realised why I had liked it so much back then. This book is about me.

I had forgotten all that story about the mark of Cain… but I know what it is. I used to think it was some kind of damnation. I don’t anymore. I also don’t think it is so unique, there must be millions of people who have it, if only from a purely probabilistic point of view.

I realised something else that had escaped me when I first read it. All the characters are pieces of the same puzzle. Together they form a single picture. They are part of one single mind. After reading Jung this is so obvious. They are all archetypes, as if Jung himself had written the novel. The hero, the shadow, the old wise man, the trickster and, of course, the anima. They are all part of Sinclair’s mind. It almost feels like he can call them. He can; they are all part of his unconscious.

I guess this book is, above all, a self-portrait of Hermann Hesse. All the characters are part of his own mind. Sinclair, Kromer, Pistorius, Sinclair, Demian and, of course, Lady Eve, are all inside him. Rather than creating the characters, it feels more like he is letting us see them, meet them. With this novel he painted a portrait of himself, of his mind as a whole. To me, that final kiss that Demian gives to Sinclair on behalf of Lady Eve, interpreted as in a dream (a kiss as a symbol of unification), is the final integration of the conscious mind and the unconscious. He closes the circle.

And so every person’s story is important, eternal, divine; and so every person, to the extent that he lives and fulfills nature’s will, is wondrous and deserving of full attention. In each of us spirit has become form, in each of us the created being suffers, in each of us a redeemer is crucified.

Demian, Hermann Hesse

It felt like a little family reunion. Seeing those characters again. They have grown in me during all these years, without me noticing. They have changed. I have changed. But still, it was a pleasure to hear them speak again. All of them part of me. It is very clear to me now that when I search, I find. I have to forget what I “know” and just look with new eyes, as if I knew nothing. Only then I can see.

I have no right to call myself one who knows. I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in books; I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me.

Demian, Hermann Hesse

I listen now. Most of the times it is an illusion, a projection of my own unconscious, but I can recognise it now. Well, sometimes. Most of the time I’m probably just as blind as I was. I wonder now what this book will tell me when I read it again in 20 years…

Every person’s life is a journey toward himself, the attempt at a journey, the intimation of a path.

Demian, Hermann Hesse

What else can I add? If you feel stranded, if you feel that you do not belong in this world, you might like this book. Maybe this book is also a portrait of you.