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Chapter 3: Among Thieves

IF I WANTED TO, I could recall many delicate moments from my childhood: the sense of being protected that my parents gave me, my affectionate nature, simply living a playful, satisfied existence in gentle surroundings. But my interest centers on the steps that I took to reach myself. All the moments of calm, the islands of peace whose magic I felt, I leave behind in the enchanted distance. Nor do I ask to ever set foot there again.

That is why -- as long as I dwell on my childhood -- I will emphasize the things that entered it from outside, that were new, that impelled me forward or tore me away.

These impulses always came from the "other world" and were accompanied by fear, constraint, and a bad conscience. They were always revolutionary and threatened the calm in which I would gladly have continued to live.

Then came those years in which I was forced to recognize the existence of a drive within me that had to make itself small and hide from the world of light. The slowly awakening sense of my own sexuality overcame me, as it does every person, like an enemy and terrorist, as something forbidden, tempting and sinful. What my curiosity sought, what dreams, lust and fear created -- the great secret of puberty -- did not fit at all into my sheltered childhood. I behaved like everyone else. I led the double life of a child who is no longer a child. My conscious self lived within the familiar and sanctioned world, it denied the new world that dawned within me. Side by side with this I lived in a world of dreams, drives, and desires of a chthonic nature, across which my conscious self desperately built its fragile bridges, for the childhood world within me was falling apart. Like most parents, mine were no help with the new problems of puberty, to which no reference was ever made. All they did was take endless trouble in supporting my hopeless attempts to deny reality and to continue dwelling in a childhood world that was becoming more and more unreal. I have no idea whether parents can be of help, and I do not blame mine. It was my own affair to come to terms with myself and to find my own way, and like most well-brought-up children, I managed it badly.

Chthonic ( /ˈkθɒnɪk/, from Greek χθόνιος chthonios, "in, under, or beneath the earth", from χθών chthōn "earth"; pertaining to the Earth; earthy; subterranean) designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land (as Gaia or Ge does) or the land as territory (as khora (χώρα) does). It evokes at once abundance and the grave.

While terms such as "Earth deity" or Earth mother have rather sweeping implications in English, the words khthonie and khthonios had a more precise and technical meaning in Greek, referring primarily to the manner of offering sacrifices to the deity in question.

Some chthonic cults practised ritual sacrifice, which often happened at night time. When the sacrifice was a living creature, the animal was placed in a bothros ("pit") or megaron ("sunken chamber"). In some Greek chthonic cults, the animal was sacrificed on a raised bomos ("altar"). Offerings usually were burned whole or buried rather than being cooked and shared among the worshippers.

Not all chthonic cults were Greek, nor did all cults practice ritual sacrifice; some performed sacrifices in effigy or burnt vegetable offerings.

-- Chthonic, by Wikipedia

Everyone goes through this crisis. For the average person this is the point when the demands of his own life come into the sharpest conflict with his environment, when the way forward has to be sought with the bitterest means at his command. Many people experience the dying and rebirth -- which is our fate -- only this once during their entire life. Their childhood becomes hollow and gradually collapses, everything they love abandons them and they suddenly feel surrounded by the loneliness and mortal cold of the universe. Very many are caught forever in this impasse, and for the rest of their lives cling painfully to an irrevocable past, the dream of the lost paradise -- which is the worst and most ruthless of dreams.

But let me return to my story. The sensations and dream images announcing the end of my childhood are too many to be related in full. The important thing was that the "dark world," the "other world," had reappeared. What Franz Kromer had once been was now part of myself.

Several years had gone by since the episode with Kromer. That dramatic time filled with guilt lay far in the past and seemed like a brief nightmare that had quickly vanished. Franz Kromer had long since gone out of my life, I hardly noticed when I happened to meet him in the street. The other important figure in my little tragedy, Max Demian, was never to go out of my life again entirely. Yet for a long time he merely stood at its distant fringes, visible but out of effective range. Only gradually did he come closer, again radiating strength and influence.

I am trying to see what I can remember of Demian at that time. It is quite possible that I didn't talk to him once for a whole year or even longer. I avoided him and he did not impose himself on me in any way. The few instances that we met, he merely nodded to me. Sometimes it even seemed as though his friendliness was faintly tinged with derision or with ironic reproach -- but I may have imagined this. The experience that we had shared and the strange influence he had exerted on me at that time were seemingly forgotten by both of us.

I can conjure up what he looked like and now that I begin to recollect, I can see that he was not so far away from me after all and that I did notice him. I can see him on his way to school, alone or with a group of older students, and I see him strange, lonely, and silent, wandering among them like a separate planet, surrounded by an aura all his own, a law unto himself. No one liked him, no one was on intimate terms with him, except his mother, and this relationship, too, seemed not that of a child but of an adult. When they could, the teachers left him to himself; he was a good student but took no particular trouble to please anyone. Now and again we heard of some word, some sarcastic comment or retort he was rumored to have made to a teacher, and which -- as gems of provocation and cutting irony -- left little to be desired.

As I close my eyes to recollect I can see his image rise up: where was that? Yes, I have it now: in the little alley before our house. One day I saw him standing there, notebook in hand, sketching. He was drawing the old coat of arms with the bird above our entrance. As I stood at the window behind the curtain and watched him, I was deeply astonished by his perceptive, cool, light-skinned face that was turned toward the coat of arms, the face of a man, of a scientist or artist, superior and purposeful, strangely lucid and calm, and with knowing eyes.

And I can see him on another occasion. It was a few weeks later, also in a street. All of us on our way home from school were standing about a fallen horse. It lay in front of a farmer's cart still harnessed to the shaft, snorting pitifully with dilated nostrils and bleeding from a hidden wound so the white dust on one side of the street was stained. As I turned away nauseous I beheld Demian's face. He had not thrust himself forward but was standing farthest back, at ease and as elegantly dressed as usual. His eyes seemed fixed on the horse's head and again showed that deep, quiet, almost fanatical yet dispassionate absorption. I could not help looking at him for a time and it was then that I felt a very remote and peculiar sensation. I saw Demian's face and I not only noticed that it was not a boy's face but a man's; I also felt or saw that it was not entirely the face of a man either, but had something feminine about it, too. Yet the face struck me at that moment as neither masculine nor childlike, neither old nor young, but somehow a thousand years old, somehow timeless, bearing the scars of an entirely different history than we knew; animals could look like that, or trees, or planets -- none of this did I know consciously, I did not feel precisely what I say about it now as an adult, only something of the kind. Perhaps he was handsome, perhaps I liked him, perhaps I also found him repulsive, I could not be sure of that either. All I saw was that he was different from us, he was like an animal or like a spirit or like a picture, he was different, unimaginably different from the rest of us.

My memory fails me and I cannot be sure whether what I have described has not to some extent been drawn from later impressions.

Only several years later did I again come into closer contact with him. Demian had not been confirmed in church with his own age group as was the custom, and this again made him the object of wild rumors. Boys in school repeated the old story about his being Jewish, or more likely a heathen, and others were convinced that both he and his mother were atheists or belonged to some fabulous and disreputable sect. In connection with this I also remember having heard him suspected of being his mother's lover. Most probably he had been brought up without any religious instruction whatever, but now this seemed to be in some way ominous for his future. At any rate, his mother decided to let him take Confirmation lessons after all, though two years later than his age group. So it came about that he went to the same Confirmation class as I did.

For a time I avoided him entirely. I wanted no part of him; he was surrounded by too many legends and secrets, but what bothered me most was a feeling of being indebted to him that had not left me since the Kromer affair. I now had enough trouble with secrets of my own, for the Confirmation lessons coincided with my decisive enlightenment about sex, and despite all good intentions, my interest in religious matters was greatly diminished. What the pastor discussed lay far away in a very holy but unreal world of its own; these things were no doubt quite beautiful and precious, but they were by no means as timely and exciting as the new things I was thinking about.

The more indifferent this condition made me to the Confirmation lessons, the more I again became preoccupied with Max Demian. There seemed to be a bond between us, a bond that I shall have to trace as closely as possible. As far as I can remember, it began early one morning while the light still had to be turned on in our classroom. Our scripture teacher, a pastor, had embarked on the story of Cain and Abel. I was sleepy and listened with only half an ear. When the pastor began to hold forth loudly and urgently about Cain's mark I felt almost a physical touch, a warning, and looking up I saw Max Demian's face half turned round toward me from one of the front rows, with a gleaming eye that might express scorn as much as deep thought, you could not be sure. He looked at me for only a moment and suddenly I listened tensely to the pastor's words, heard him speak about Cain and his mark, and deep within me I felt the knowledge that it was not as he was teaching it, that one could look at it differently, that his view was not above criticism.

This one minute re-established the link between me and Demian. And how strange -- hardly was I aware of a certain spiritual affinity, when I saw it translated into physical closeness. I had no idea whether he was able to arrange it this way himself or whether it happened only by chance -- I still believed firmly in chance at that time -- but after a few days Demian suddenly switched seats in Confirmation class and came to sit in front of me (I can still recall it precisely: in the miserable poorhouse air of the over-crowded classroom I loved the scent of fresh soap emanating from his nape) and after a few days he had again changed seats and now sat next to me. There he stayed all winter and spring.

The morning hours had changed completely. They no longer put me to sleep or bored me. I actually looked forward to them. Sometimes both of us listened to the pastor with the utmost concentration and a glance from my neighbor could draw my attention to a remarkable story, an unusual saying. A further glance from him, a special one, could make me critical or doubtful.

Yet all too frequently we paid no attention. Demian was never rude to the teacher or to his fellow students. I never saw him indulge in the usual pranks, not once did I hear him guffaw or gossip during class, and he never incurred a teacher's reprimand. But very quietly, and more with signs and glances than whispering, he contrived to let me share in his activities, and these sometimes were strange.

For instance, he would tell me which of the students interested him and how he studied them. About some of them he had very precise knowledge. He would tell me before class: "When I signal with my thumb So-and-so will turn round and look at us, or will scratch his neck." During the period, when it had almost completely slipped my mind, Max would suddenly make a significant gesture with his thumb. I would glance quickly at the student indicated and each time I saw him perform the desired movement like a puppet on a string. I begged Max to try this out on the pastor but he refused. Only once, when I came to class unprepared and told him that I hoped the pastor would not call on me that day, he helped me. The pastor looked for a student to recite an assigned catechism passage and his eyes sweeping through the room came to rest on my guilty face. Slowly he approached me, his finger pointing at me, my name beginning to form on his lips -- when suddenly he became distracted or uneasy, pulled at his shirt collar, stepped up to Demian, who was looking him directly in the eye and seemed to want to ask him something. But he turned away again, cleared his throat a few times, and then called on someone else.

Even though these tricks amused me, I began to notice gradually that my friend frequently played the same game with me. It would happen on my way to school that I would suddenly feel Demian walking not far behind me and when I turned around he was there in fact.

"Can you actually make someone think what you want him to?" I asked him.

He answered readily in his quiet, factual, and adult manner.

"No," he said, "I can't do that. You see, we don't have free will even though the pastor makes believe we do. A person can neither think what he wants to nor can I make him think what I want to. However, one can study someone very closely and then one can often know almost exactly what he thinks or feels and then one can also anticipate what he will do the next moment. It's simple enough, only people don't know it. Of course you need practice. For example, there is a species of butterfly, a night-moth, in which the females are much less common than the males. The moths breed exactly like all animals, the male fertilizes the female and the female lays the eggs. Now, if you take a female night-moth -- many naturalists have tried this experiment -- the male moths will visit this female at night, and they will come from hours away. From hours away! Just think! From a distance of several miles all these males sense the only female in the region. One looks for an explanation for this phenomenon but it is not easy. You must assume that they have a sense of smell of some sort like a hunting dog that can pick up and follow a seemingly imperceptible scent. Do you see? Nature abounds with such inexplicable things. But my argument is: if the female moths were as abundant as the males, the latter would not have such a highly developed sense of smell. They've acquired it only because they had to train themselves to have it. If a person were to concentrate all his will power on a certain end, then he would achieve it. That's all. And that also answers your question. Examine a person closely enough and you know more about him than he does himself."

It was on the tip of my tongue to mention "thought reading" and to remind him of the scene with Kromer that lay so far in the past. But this, too, was strange about our relationship: neither he nor I ever alluded to the fact that several years before he had intruded so seriously into my life. It was as though nothing had ever been between us or as though each of us banked on it that the other had forgotten. On one or two occasions it even happened that we caught sight of Kromer somewhere in the street. Yet we neither glanced at each other nor said a word about him.

"What is all this about the will?" I asked. "On the one hand, you say our will isn't free. Then again you say we only need to concentrate our will firmly on some end in order to achieve it. It doesn't make sense. If I'm not master of my own will, then I'm in no position to direct it as I please."

He patted me on the back as he always did when he was pleased with me.

"Good that you ask," he said, laughing. "You should always ask, always have doubts. But the matter is very simple. If, for example, a night-moth were to concentrate its will on flying to a star or on some equally unattainable object, it wouldn't succeed. Only -- it wouldn't even try in the first place. A moth confines its search to what has sense and value for it, on what it needs, what is indispensable to its life. And that's how a moth achieves the incredible -- it develops a magic sixth sense, which no other creature has. We have a wider scope, greater variety of choice, and wider interests than an animal. But we, too, are confined to a relatively narrow compass which we cannot break out of. If I imagined that I wanted under all circumstances to get to the North Pole, to achieve it I would have to desire it strongly enough so that my whole being was ruled by it. Once that is the case, once you have tried something that you have been ordered to do from within yourself, then you'll be able to accomplish it, then you can harness your will to it like an obedient nag. But if I were to decide to will that the pastor should stop wearing his glasses, it would be useless. That would be making a game of it. But at that time in the fall when I was resolved to move away from my seat in the front row, it wasn't difficult at all. Suddenly there was someone whose name preceded mine in the alphabet and who had been away sick until then and since someone had to make room for him it was me of course because my will was ready to seize the opportunity at once."

"Yes," I said. "I too felt odd at that time. From the moment that we began to take an interest in each other you moved closer and closer to me. But how did that happen? You did not sit next to me right away, first you sat for awhile in the bench in front of me. How did you manage to switch once more?"

"It was like this: I didn't know myself exactly where I wanted to sit but I wanted to shift from my seat in the front row. I only knew that I wanted to sit farther to the back. It was my will to come to sit next to you but I hadn't become conscious of it as yet. At the same time your will accorded with mine and helped me. Only when I found myself sitting in front of you did I realize that my wish was only half fulfilled and that my sole aim was to sit next to you."

"But at that time no one fell ill, no one who had been ill returned, no new student joined the class."

"You're right. But at the time I simply did as I liked and sat down next to you. The boy with whom I changed seats was somewhat surprised but he let me do as I pleased. The pastor, too, once noticed that some sort of change had occurred. Even now something bothers him secretly every time he has to deal with me, for he knows that my name is Demian and that something must be wrong if I, a D, sit way in back in the S's. But that never penetrates his awareness because my will opposes it and because I continuously place obstacles in his path. He keeps noticing that there's something wrong, then he looks at me and tries to puzzle it out. But I have a simple solution to that. Every time his eyes meet mine I stare him down. Very few people can stand that for long. All of them become uneasy. If you want something from someone and you look him firmly in both eyes and he doesn't become ill at ease, give up. You don't have a chance, ever! But that is very rare. I actually know only one person where it doesn't help me."

"Who is that?" I asked quickly.

He looked at me with narrowed eyes, as he did when he became thoughtful. Then he looked away and made no reply. Even though I was terribly curious I could not repeat the question.

I believe he meant his mother. He was said to have a very close relationship with her, yet he never mentioned her name and never took me home with him. I hardly knew what his mother looked like.


Sometimes I attempted to imitate Demian and fix my will with such concentration on something that I was certain to achieve it. There were wishes that seemed urgent enough to me. But nothing happened; it didn't work. I could not bring myself to talk to Demian about it. I wouldn't have been able to confess my wishes to him. And he didn't ask either.

Meantime cracks had begun to appear in my religious faith. Yet my thinking, which was certainly much influenced by Demian, was very different from that of some of my fellow students who boasted complete unbelief. On occasion they would say it was ridiculous, unworthy of a person to believe in God, that stories like the Trinity and Virgin Birth were absurd, shameful. It was a scandal that we were still being fed such nonsense in our time. I did not share these views. Even though I had my doubts about certain points, I knew from my childhood the reality of a devout life, as my parents led it, and I knew also that this was neither unworthy nor hypocritical. On the contrary, I still stood in the deepest awe of the religious. Demian, however, had accustomed me to regard and interpret religious stories and dogma more freely, more individually, even playfully, with more imagination; at any rate, I always subscribed with pleasure to the interpretations he suggested. Some of it -- the Cain business, for instance -- was, of course, too much for me to stomach. And once during Confirmation class he startled me with an opinion that was possibly even more daring. The teacher had been speaking about Golgotha. The biblical account of the suffering and death of the Savior had made a deep impression on me since my earliest childhood. Sometimes, as a little boy, on Good Friday, for instance, deeply moved by my father's reading of the Passion to us, I would live in this sorrowful yet beautiful, ghostly, pale, yet immensely alive world, in Gethsemane and on Golgotha, and when I heard Bach's St. Matthew Passion the dark mighty glow of suffering in this mysterious world filled me with a mystical sense of trembling. Even today I find in this music and in his Actus Tragicus the essence of all poetry.

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 most 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 highly edifying background. If you had to pick a friend from between the two thieves or decide which of the two you had rather trust, you most certainly wouldn't select that 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 its 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 suppressed and 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."

It was most unusual for him to become almost vehement. But at once he smiled and did not probe any further.

His words, however, touched directly on the whole secret of my adolescence, a secret I carried with me every hour of the day and of which I had not said a word to anyone, ever. What Demian had said about God and the devil, about the official godly and the suppressed devilish one, corresponded exactly to my own thoughts, my own myth, my own conception of the world as being divided into two halves -- the light and the dark. The realization that my problem was one that concerned all men, a problem of living and thinking, suddenly swept over me and I was overwhelmed by fear and respect as I suddenly saw and felt how deeply my own personal life and opinions were immersed in the eternal stream of great ideas. Though it offered some confirmation and gratification, the realization was not really a joyful one. It was hard and had a harsh taste because it implied responsibility and no longer being allowed to be a child; it meant standing on one's own feet.

Revealing a deep secret for the first time in my life, I told my friend of my conception of the "two worlds." He saw immediately that my deepest feelings accorded with his own. But it was not his way to take advantage of something like that. He listened to me more attentively than he had ever before and peered into my eyes so that I was forced to avert mine. For I noticed in his gaze again that strange animal-like look, expressing timelessness and unimaginable age.

"We'll talk more about it some other time," he said forbearingly. "I can see that your thoughts are deeper than you yourself are able to express. But since this is so, you know, don't you, that you've never lived what you are thinking and that isn't good. Only the ideas that we actually live are of any value. You knew all along that your sanctioned world was only half the world and you tried to suppress the second half the same way the priests and teachers do. You won't succeed. No one succeeds in this once he has begun to think."

This went straight to my heart.

"But there are forbidden and ugly things in the world!" I almost shouted. "You can't deny that. And they are forbidden, and we must renounce them. Of course I know that murder and all kinds of vices exist in the world but should I become a criminal just because they exist?"

"We won't be able to find all the answers today," Max soothed me. "Certainly you shouldn't go kill somebody or rape a girl, no! But you haven't reached the point where you can understand the actual meaning of 'permitted' and 'forbidden.' You've only sensed part of the truth. You will feel the other part, too, you can depend on it. For instance, for about a year you have had to struggle with a drive that is stronger than any other and which is considered 'forbidden.' The Greeks and many other peoples, on the other hand, elevated this drive, made it divine and celebrated it in great feasts. What is forbidden, in other words, is not something eternal; it can change. Anyone can sleep with a woman as soon as he's been to a pastor with her and has married her, yet other races do it differently, even nowadays. That is why each of us has to find out for himself what is permitted and what is forbidden -- forbidden for him. It's possible for one never to transgress a single law and still be a bastard. And vice versa. Actually it's only a question of convenience. Those who are too lazy and comfortable to think for themselves and be their own judges obey the laws. Others sense their own laws within them; things are forbidden to them that every honorable man will do any day in the year and other things are allowed to them that are generally despised. Each person must stand on his own feet."

Suddenly he seemed to regret having said so much and fell silent. I could already sense what he felt at such moments. Though he delivered his ideas in a pleasant and perfunctory manner, he still could not stand conversation for its own sake, as he once told me. In my case, however, he sensed -- besides genuine interest -- too much playfulness, too much sheer pleasure in clever gabbing, or something of the sort; in short, a lack of complete commitment.

During this period, Jung continued to work over his material, and there is some indication that he discussed it with his colleagues. In March 1918 he wrote to J. B. Lang, who had sent him some of his own fantasies:

I would not want to say anything more than telling you to continue with this approach because, as you have observed correctly yourself, it is very important that we experience the contents of the unconscious before we form any opinions about it. I very much agree with you that we have to grapple with the knowledge content of gnosis and neo-Platonism, since these are the systems that contain the materials which are suited to form the basis of a theory of the unconscious spirit. I have already been working on this myself for a long time, and also have had ample opportunity to compare my experiences at least partially with those of others. That's why I was very pleased to hear pretty much the same views from you. I am glad that you have discovered all on your own this area of work which is ready to be tackled. Up to now, I lacked workers. I am happy that you want to join forces with me. I consider it very important that you extricate your own material uninfluenced from the unconscious, as carefully as possible. My material is very voluminous, very complicated, and in part very graphic, up to almost completely worked through clarifications. But what I completely lack is comparative modern material. Zarathustra is too strongly consciously formed. Meyrink retouches aesthetically; furthermore, I feel he is lacking in religious sincerity.

-- The Red Book: Liber Novus, by C.G. Jung


As I reread the last two words I have just written -- complete commitment -- a scene leaps to mind, the most impressive I ever experienced with Max Demian in those days when I was still half a child.

Confirmation day was approaching and our lessons had the Last Supper for their topic. This was a matter of importance to the pastor and he took great pains explaining it to us. One could almost taste the solemn mood during those last hours of instruction. And of all times it had to be now that my thoughts were farthest from class, for they were fixed on my friend. While I looked ahead to being confirmed, which was explained to us as a solemn acceptance into the community of the church, I could not help thinking that the value of this religious instruction consisted for me not in what I had learned, but in the proximity and influence of Max Demian. It was not into the church that I was ready to be received but into something entirely different -- into an order of thought and personality that must exist somewhere on earth and whose representative or messenger I took to be my friend.

I tried to suppress this idea -- I was anxious to involve myself in the Confirmation ceremony with a certain dignity, and this dignity seemed not to agree very well with my new idea. Yet, no matter what I did, the thought was present and gradually it became firmly linked with the approaching ceremony. I was ready to enact it differently from the others, for it was to signify my acceptance into a world of thought as I had come to know it through Demian.

On one of those days it happened that we were having an argument just before class. My friend was tight-lipped and seemed to take no pleasure in my talk, which probably was self-important as well as precocious.

"We talk too much," he said with unwonted seriousness. "Clever talk is absolutely worthless. All you do in the process is lose yourself. And to lose yourself is a sin. One has to be able to crawl completely inside oneself, like a tortoise."

Then we entered the classroom. The lesson began and I made an effort to pay attention. Demian did not distract me. After a while I began to sense something odd from the side where he sat, an emptiness or coolness or something similar, as though the seat next to me had suddenly become vacant. When the feeling became oppressive I turned to look.

There I saw my friend sitting upright, his shoulders braced back as usual. Nonetheless, he looked completely different and something emanated from him, something surrounded him that was unknown to me. I first thought he had his eyes closed but then saw they were open. Yet they were not focused on anything, it was an unseeing gaze -- they seemed transfixed with looking inward or into a great distance. He sat there completely motionless, not even seeming to breathe; his mouth might have been carved from wood or stone. His face was pale, uniformly pale like a stone, and his brown hair was the part of him that seemed closest to being alive. His hands lay before him on the bench, lifeless and still as objects, like stones or fruit, pale, motionless yet not limp, but like good, strong pods sheathing a hidden, vigorous life.

I trembled at the sight. Dead, I thought, almost saying it aloud. My spellbound eyes were fixed on his face, on this pale stone mask, and I felt: this is the real Demian. When he walked beside me or talked to me -- that was only half of him, someone who periodically plays a role, adapts himself, who out of sheer complaisance does as the others do. The real Demian, however, looked like this, as primeval, animal, marble, beautiful and cold, dead yet secretly filled with fabulous life. And around him this quiet emptiness, this ether, interstellar space, this lonely death!

Now he has gone completely into himself, I felt, and I trembled. Never had I been so alone. I had no part in him; he was inaccessible; he was more remote from me than if he had been on the most distant island in the world.

I could hardly grasp it that no one besides me noticed him! Everyone should have looked at him, everyone should have trembled! But no one heeded him. He sat there like a statue, and, I thought, proud as an idol! A fly lighted on his forehead and scurried across his nose and lips -- not a muscle twitched.

Where was he now? What was he thinking? What did he feel? Was he in heaven or was he in hell?

I was unable to put a question to him. At the end of the period, when I saw him alive and breathing again, as his glance met mine, he was the same as he had been before. Where did he come from? Where had he been? He seemed tired. His face was no longer pale, his hands moved again, but now the brown hair was without luster, as though lifeless.

During the next few days, I began a new exercise in my bedroom. I would sit rigid in a chair, make my eyes rigid too, and stay completely motionless and see how long I could keep it up, and what I would feel. I only felt very tired and my eyelids itched.

Shortly afterwards we were confirmed, an event that calls forth no important memories whatever.

Now everything changed. My childhood world was breaking apart around me. My parents eyed me with a certain embarrassment. My sisters had become strangers to me. A disenchantment falsified and blunted my usual feelings and joys: the garden lacked fragrance, the woods held no attraction for me, the world stood around me like a clearance sale of last year's secondhand goods, insipid, all its charm gone. Books were so much paper, music a grating noise. That is the way leaves fall around a tree in autumn, a tree unaware of the rain running down its sides, of the sun or the frost, and of life gradually retreating inward. The tree does not die. It waits.

It had been decided that I would be sent away to a boarding school at the end of the vacation; for the first time I would be away from home. Sometimes my mother approached me with particular tenderness, as if already taking leave of me ahead of time, intent on inspiring love, homesickness, the unforgettable in my heart. Demian was away on a trip. I was alone.

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