Friday, February 26, 2010

The Silence of Glass.

In Chapter 3 of The Glass Bead Game, the maturing Joseph Knecht seeks the Elder Brother who has retreated to a world of meditative silence in the Bamboo Grove.The scene, set by Hesse, it almost a type for the garden of silence:

A few goldfish swam around in the still, crystalline water. Fragile and peaceful, the feathery crowns of the bamboos swayed on their strong, slender shafts. The sward was punctuated by stone slabs carved with inscriptions in the classical style....They greeted each other briefly, drank tea, and sat listening in the matutinal stillness to the sound of the small jet of water from the fountain, a melody of eternity (pp.117-119).

Silence is linked with morning, with firstness, and from that connection to beginnings it finds itself conjoined to endings. Silence is that something beyond words. Eventually, it is revealed by the Yi King, as an action of intense enquiry:

The sage sat cross-legged on the floor of reed matting, for a long time silently examining the result of the augury on the sheet of paper.

The hexagram revealed is Meng, the fourth image, an image that glosses what Hesse has previously described: still waters. Hesse describes the whole scene imaginatively, as a dance of fingers and foretelling. But he is silent on one detail: the moving line within the hexagram. As Elder Brother permits Knecht to stay, only one interpretation is possible. The fifth line in Ken, the top trigram, must be a moving line: youthful energy is accepted by elder control to allow mental progress. For Knecht (and for Hesse), silence is a form of active stillness, a deafness to words, in which understanding develops. And the shadow of the hexagram, Huan (made by the moving line, such that Yin/_ _ in the fifth place becomes Yang/__ ), implies something else about this garden of silence. It is a place in which the solid heart (Elder Brother) meets fluent devotion/"devout emotion" (Joseph Knecht).

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