This article examines the relationship between, and the importance of, myth and utopia in Hermann Hesse’s work, their development over several decades, and their significance for our understanding of the utopian. The question whether Hesse’s work tends more towards the mythological or the utopian has hitherto not been convincingly answered. I demonstrate that Hesse’s work initially oscillates between (Promethean) myth and utopia. This becomes very clear in Narziß und Goldmund, where the author engages with the problem of death. In Das Glasperlenspiel, however, Hesse uses myth to create a utopian moment. I argue that Hesse’s persistent search for the culmination point of human existence does not necessarily lead to transcendence, but rather makes possible a concrete utopia. According to Hesse, man is capable of reaching a new level of consciousness. His ‘theory of stages’ found itself on the sidelines in a time of collective ideologies but may become relevant in the context of a developing ‘global consciousness’ of autonomous individuals.

German Life and Letters, Vol.66, Issue 2, April 2013, pp.156-172