SINCE the first of our ancestors daubed the spiral geometry of ancient cave art upon the walls of the deeply hidden places of the Earth, symbols and allegory have been the tools we have used to explain the Universe as a whole and our place in it in particular. It is by the telling of stories that our species has sustained itself through the periods of darkness that befall us, most often brought on by the undisciplined actions of our own hand.
Herman Hesse’s Journey to the East is just such a story, richly woven with the timeless allegory that only fiction and imagination are capable of. Man’s greatest talent lies not in his accurate retelling of events as they happen for such a document has never truly existed. The talent of our species is instead to be found in our interpretations of the world and the ways in which we can twist and shape reality to mean more than it does. This process is by no means disingenuous to the Truth but instead is the arrival at Truth by circuitous and seemingly illogical means that actually reveal more of the terrain than any direct path ever could.
Mankind’s very survival depends upon our ability to construct stories in such a way as to tell ourselves the Truth with the imagination to relieve the pressure that is inevitably created by a bare faced confrontation with reality. As human beings we cannot be told the truth, we must be led to it so that we can derive its wisdom from our own lived experience. The most potent secrets cannot help but keep themselves. Truth conceals itself so as to ensure that only the worthy may draw near to the sanctum of its mysteries. It is within the pages of human literature that we examine our own unconsciousness in its myriad of forms.
Herman Hesse was a master storyteller and esotericist who was unique in his ability to express the tragedy of human life. His works are not cautionary or melancholy. They are celebrations of our follies and our right to commit them. They are absurd and abstract while being precise and unflinching all at once. In Journey to the East we find a tale of human failure, one that pokes and prods at all of the dark places in our collective unconscious where we would rather no one tread. Journey to the East is an intimate book, its hero deeply relatable in both his damning and redeeming aspects for both are present in equal number in the heart of human beings. The Journey to the East is a voyage we all must make if we are to fully face ourselves, naked and afraid yet able to move beyond the image we find reflected. May this novel serve to illuminate the dark recesses of our psyche so that we may better understand the infinite depths of our own humanity.
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