ZYZYGY Inspiration Part 2: From “The Glass Bead Game” to ZYZYGY

This post is a continuation from our series on the inspiration leading to the playable glass bead game, Zyzygy, based on Herman Hesse’s novel, Magister Ludi The Glass Bead Game. As the inventor of Zyzygy, I am sharing commentary in three parts–presented below in italics–on my utilization of the ideas of Hesse to build this game. If you missed the first part, please read ZYZYGY Inspiration Part 1 here.


Photo by Samuel Zeller

Today, we present Part 2:

“Even if it should so happen that two players by chance were to choose precisely the same small assortment of themes for the content of their Game, these two Games could present an entirely different appearance and run an entirely different course, depending on the qualities of mind, character, mood, and virtuosity of the players.” Page 7.

Each Game will probably be unique and contain thoughts that the players might never, on their own, have in their lifetimes. Since everything is related to everything anyway, this makes Game sense to me.

“But furthermore the mind also measures symbolically, by comparison, as when it employs numerals and geometric figures and equates other things with them.” Page 8.

This is the reason why symbols play such a large role in Zyzygy; since symbols free the mind from the constraints of different languages and introduce a universal language to the Game.

“At various times the Game was taken up and imitated by nearly all the scientific and scholarly disciplines, that is, adapted to the special fields. There is documented evidence for its application to the fields of classical philology and logic. The analytical study of musical values had led to the reduction of musical events to physical and mathematical formulas. Soon afterward philology borrowed this method and began to measure linguistic configurations as physics measured processes in nature. The visual arts soon followed suit, architecture having already led the way in establishing the links between visual art and mathematics. Thereafter more and more new relations, analogies, and correspondences were discovered among the abstract formulas obtained in this way. Each discipline which seized upon the Game created its own language of formulas, abbreviations, and possible combinations.” Page 23.

This is a great way a Game could be played. Structuring a Game utilizing these concepts will surely lead to delightful and useful insights.

“It could be played alone, by pairs, or by many, although unusually brilliant, well-composed, and successful Games were sometimes written down and circulated from city to city and country to country for admiration or criticism.” Page 29.

This is the function of the Zalon which brings the world community interactively into the Game.

Next week, I’ll present the final chapter of our series on the inspiration behind Zyzygy. Be sure to check back soon!

Robert McCracken, MD

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