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Hermann Hesse

“At the end of that class Demian said to me thoughtfully: "There’s something I don’t like about this story, Sinclair. Why don’t you read it once more and give it the acid test? There’s something about it that doesn’t taste right. I mean the business with the two thieves. The three crosses standing next to each other on the hill are almost impressive, to be sure. But now comes this sentimental little treatise about the good thief. At first he was a thorough scoundrel, had committed all those awful things and God knows what else, and now he dissolves in tears and celebrates such a tearful feast of self-improvement and remorse! What’s the sense of repenting if you’re two steps from the grave? I ask you. Once again, it’s nothing but a priest’s fairy tale, saccharine and dishonest, touched up with sentimentality and given a high edifying background. If you had to pick a friend from between the two thieves or decide which one you’d rather trust, you most certainly wouldn’t choose the sniveling convert. No, the other fellow, he’s a man of character. He doesn’t give a hoot for ‘conversion’, which to a man in his position can’t be anything but a pretty speech. He follows his destiny to it’s appointed end and does not turn coward and forswear the devil, who has aided and abetted him until then. He has character, and people with character tend to receive the short end of the stick in biblical stories. Perhaps he’s even a descendant of Cain. Don’t you agree?"

I was dismayed. Until now I had felt completely at home in the story of the Crucifixion. Now I saw for the first time with how little individuality, with how little power of imagination I had listened to it and read it. Still, Demian’s new concept seemed vaguely sinister and threatened to topple beliefs on whose continued existence I felt I simply had to insist. No, one could not make light of everything, especially not of the most Sacred matters.

As usual he noticed my resistance even before I had said anything.

"I know," he said in a resigned tone of voice, "it’s the same old story: don’t take these stories seriously! But I have to tell you something: this is one of the very places that reveals the poverty of this religion most distinctly. The point is that this God of both Old and New Testaments is certainly an extraordinary figure but not what he purports to represent. He is all that is good, noble, fatherly, beautiful, elevated, sentimental—true! But the world consists of something else besides. And what is left over is ascribed to the devil, this entire slice of world, this entire half is hushed up. In exactly the same way they praise God as the father of all life but simply refuse to say a word about our sexual life on which it’s all based, describing it whenever possible as sinful, the work of the devil. I have no objection to worshiping this God Jehovah, far from it. But I mean we ought to consider everything sacred, the entire world, not merely this artificially separated half! Thus alongside the divine service we should also have a service for the devil. I feel that would be right. Otherwise you must create for yourself a God that contains the devil too and in front of which you needn’t close your eyes when the most natural things in the world take place.”


Hermann Hesse, Demian: Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend
tags: cain, crucifixion
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Demian: Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend Demian: Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend by Hermann Hesse
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