The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game itself (referring not to the novel [1] of the same name by Herman Hesse [2]) is not clearly explained in the novel in terms of rules or methods of play. It is, however, given six key characteristics which are necessary for any Playable Glass Bead Game to include. As described in the Glass Bead Game Wiki [3], the GBG has the following characteristics:

1. Analogy: Relating ideas by likeness. "A is to B as C is to D." Hesse says of it:

"You are great scholars and aesthetes, you Castalians. You measure the weight of vowels in an old poem and relate the resulting formula to that of a planet's orbit."

2. Connection:
Relating ideas to one another by shared traits.

3. Contemplation: Meditating over the relationships between ideas. Hesse describes this characteristic as follows:

"After each symbol conjured up by the director of a Game, each player was required to perform silent, formal meditation on the content, origin, and meaning of this symbol, to call to mind intensively and organically its full purport. The members of the Order and of the Game associations brought the technique and practice of contemplation with them from their elite schools, where the art of contemplation and meditation was nurtured with the greatest care."

4. Formalism:
A formal, symbolic language for use within the game, whether as script or a mathematical system, as well as rules for gameplay. Hesse says,

"These rules, the sign language and grammar of the Game, constitute a kind of highly developed secret language drawing upon several sciences and arts, but especially mathematics and music (and/or musicology), and capable of expressing and establishing interrelationships between the content and conclusions of nearly all scholarly disciplines."

5. Iconicity: Compression and representation of larger ideas as simplified symbols such as graphics or glyphs; the use of symbols, tropes, and metaphors to represent other things. According to Hesse:

"Some dreamed of a new alphabet, a new language of symbols through which they could formulate and exchange their new intellectual experiences."

"He invented for the Glass Bead Game the principles of a new language, a language of symbols and formulas, in which mathematics and music played an equal part, so that it became possible to combine astronomical and musical formulas, to reduce mathematics and music to a common denominator, as it were."

6. Objectivization: Demonstration that the symbols of the game are rooted in world culture or personally significant meanings, and not invented synthetically on the spur of the moment; syncretism.

Here we shall allow Herr Hess himself to describe the Game at greater length:

"Under the shifting hegemony of now this, now that science or art, the Game of games had developed into a kind of universal language through which the players could express values and set these in relation to one another. Throughout its history the Game was closely allied with music, and usually proceeded according to musical and mathematical rules. One theme, two themes, or three themes were stated, elaborated, varied, and underwent a development quite similar to that of the theme in a Bach fugue or a concerto movement. A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibniz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts. Beginners learned how to establish parallels, by means of the Game's symbols, between a piece of classical music and the formula for some law of nature. Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial theme into unlimited combinations."

"The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colors on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number."

"Pious thinkers of earlier times had represented the life of creatures, say, as a mode of motion toward God, and had considered that the variety of the phenomenal world reached perfection and ultimate cognition only in the divine Unity. Similarly, the symbols and formulas of the Glass Bead Game combined structurally, musically, and philosophically within the framework of a universal language, were nourished by all the sciences and arts, and strove in play to achieve perfection, pure being, the fullness of reality. Thus, 'realizing' was a favorite expression among the players. They considered their Games a path from Becoming to Being, from potentiality to reality..."

Here in our version of the game, we draw upon all of these in our own study of the paths of Becoming and Being, Potentiality and Reality. So long as personal or cultural significance can be associated through a connection, all connections in our media and culture are accepted. All original works have some bearing and weight. All stories we write may represent the truth of our own Lives, real or imagined, or the Lives of those near and distant in space and time.

[1] Herman Hesse; Wikipedia.
[2] Das Glasperlenspiel. Herman Hesse, 1943. Full text.
[3] Pillars of the Glass Bead Game. Glass Bead Game Wiki.

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