Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877 – August 9, 1962) was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His best known literary works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, Narcissus and Goldmund and Magister Ludi, all of which explore an individual’s search for spirituality.

Herman Hesse on the Self

I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?

Hesse’s literature expresses the individual’s journey towards self knowledge in story form. The author freely sets his novels on various cultural backgrounds, using Buddhism as a stage for his novel Siddhartha and Christianity for his novel Demian. The seeker is portrayed as having to swim against the current of his age in order to find his true self.

Nothing in the world is so distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself.

Another characteristic of Hesse’s message is that few attain genuine self-knowledge, since the path towards it is fraught with internal resistance. In so doing, he echoes the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece, who admitted that the most difficult thing in the world was to know thyself.


Further Reading:
Walt Whitman on Know Thyself
Emerson on Know Thyself
George Sand on Know Thyself