ZYZYGY Inspiration Part 1: From “The Glass Bead Game” to ZYZYGY

Zyzygy is designed in sympathy with the detailed and contemplative descriptions of the spirit and intention of the Game as described by Herman Hesse in his novel, Magister Ludi The Glass Bead Game.

Photo by Scott Webb

Photo by Scott Webb

As the inventor of Zyzygy, I would like to share commentary on my utilization of the ideas of Hesse to build this game. Commentary is presented below selections from the book in italics and will be presented in three parts. Here, I present Part 1:

“It is an old idea that the more pointedly and logically we formulate a thesis, the more irresistibly it cries out for its antithesis.” Page 3.

The dynamics of the game follow from this idea. Exploring opposite sides of any point of view makes the point of view complete.

“Throughout its history, the Game was closely allied with music and usually proceeded according to musical or 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 talent 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. For a long time one school of players favored the technique of stating side by side, developing in counterpoint, and finally harmoniously combining two hostile themes or ideas, such as law and freedom, individual and community. In such a Game the goal was to develop both themes or theses with complete equality and impartiality, to evolve out of thesis and antithesis the purest possible synthesis. In general, aside from certain brilliant exceptions, Games with discordant, negative, or skeptical conclusions were unpopular and at times actually forbidden.” Page 30.

For me, this represents the most succinct description of Zyzygy.


Stay tuned for more inspiration and commentary on Hesse’s book. I will be presenting part two and three in the coming weeks.

Robert McCracken, MD

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