THE GLASS BEAD GAME IN GERMANY

Translation of part of an article by Reiner Rolff - translation by the Committee, et. al.

The time coincidence is really amazing, by the time people in Oregon were thinking about the realization of the Glass Bead Game, the same thing was going on in Munich and Berlin - mainly among youth circles, and especially among the Boy Scouts. We first learned of the efforts in Oregon around the end of 1979.

There were many people, all throughout Germany and West Berlin who were willing to experiment. For half a year the game was designed and developed only by correspondence. In the summer of 1977 a small game was played in the presence of visitors at the world headquarters of the Boy Scouts. The game was prepared in advance, and the main theme - copper - was used. Besides this theme we had 3 or 4 beginnings and sketches for other times.

These first public presentations were, on the impulse of the moment, taken up and intensified by non-boy scout circles within the youth movement. A second public playing of the game took place in 1978 with the participation of a variety of different interest groups. Now, to the sketches already available, there were added two new, very complex motives.

Again, a year later, we indeed tried the most encompassing game with the participation of adults who did not have a prior preparation. The site of the game was the fascinating ruins of an old monastery. Finally I moved with my family to Ireland. Some of my closest game partners saw this as the loss of their "Magister Ludi". I cannot venture a prediction about the further development of the Glass Bead Game, but I think that the closely allied youth of the future is going to be a potent force and a fertile ground for the game to grow in.

There were, of course, in the more than three years of the game's development, some disagreements about the fundamental thoughts. First of all, the Hesse specialists wouldn't accept our approach most of the time. There is, it was said, nothing said in the novel about the game practice. What we were doing with it was questionable. Or: every attempt to realize the game was a betrayal of Hesse.

The analysis of Hesse's book was, certainly, traditional, but the theme is either only the idea, "Castalia," or the biography of J. Knecht, or, in general, the worldwiew of Hesse. If the game is to tbe the theme, then there is scarcely any help from the experts.

From the very beginning I did not find any difficulties in recognizing very precise descriptions of the game in Hesse's book, and I found myself always in total agreement with all of the basic thoughts. What I said again an again to people who had doubts is: Hesse states clearly that the game is really not an invention of Hesse's. Also, although careful study of the book is recommended, the book is not a necessary preparation for the practice of the game. It is not easy for everybody to read the book. A possible frustration blocks rather quickly, all the spontaneous joy of playing.

Real playing took place up to now mainly through the exchange of writings. All of the looking for and discovering of materials was always focused, in each case, towards a specific public presentation. Quite a few of the "playing pieces" were prepared in advance and introduced into a playing diagram with a defined theme.

There was, even so, enough time left during or after a game for pondering, following up on thoughts, variation, and after questioning.

Much importance was placed upon a thoroughly thought out choreography, but there were always restrictions imposed by the local conditions and the limited supply of technical equipment brought along.

More important than the form of a game was its content. Only after finding the theme-relations could the problem of their presentation be faced. Once we could not find the hieroglyph for "copper", and this glass bead, therefore, had to be put into the archives, and could not be played.

A formal presentation was sometimes not possible. The lack of money was only one among many reasons. The lack of a "game language". that is, of signs and symbols is a problem. We virtually did not design anything in this area, although the difficulty was felt by all of us. The game with the contents was important and exciting.

The building up of a sign-archives is recognized by us as a big difficulty. It can not be seen as a reduction of a complex theme-content through just about any means into something smaller. The sign should always be as close as possible to "worldwide" and should be understood almost instinctively. (The spiral, for instance, is of this kind.) Besides this responsibility to the game language we have one to game content. Besides the unavoidable spell coming from the "game-language" there is another one coming to us from the game-content. nterrelationships and correspondences must be valid in general and acceptable to everyone in general and independent of personal feeling or belief.

And it should be added that our intention is unswerving and is to gain a recognition of the cosmos and all its contents, in which the "parts" can be understood as units on one hand, and on the other, the units are put together as new higher units.

That the Glass Bead Game could be a communication-auxilliary did so far not enter our mind. Here lies potentially the first difference with the "Oregon-way".

...added note by the author... there follows in the original article some notes or suggestions for understanding the procedures described in the booklet on the 3rd game, Das Glasperlenspiel im Kloster Armsburg. Detailed exchange on this version of the game will require a knowledge of German.