August Strindberg.

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Li riAAl

A DOoK of I nought,








By August Strindberg

The Inferno

Zones of the Spirit

The Son of a Servant











Ube IknicfterbocKer press



Copyright, 1913



Ube "ftnlcfterbocfeer press, •ftew 13orft


Seldom has a man gone through such profound
reHgious changes as this Swede, who died last
May. The demonic element in him, which spurred
him on restlessly, made him scale heaven and
fathom hell, gave him glimpses of bliss and damna-
:5>^ tion. He bore the Cain's mark on his brow: "A
fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be."

He was fundamentally religious, for everyone

who searches after God is so, — a commonplace

^ truth certainly, but one which needs to be con-

' stantly reiterated. And Strindberg's search was

more painful, exact, and persevering than that of

Q most people. He was never content with super-

ttr ficial formulas, but pressed to the heart of the

I matter, and followed each winding of the laby-

V rinthine problem with endless patience. Too often

the Divinity which he thought he had discovered

O turned out a delusion, to be scornfully rejected the

Q moment afterwards. Until he found the God, whom

jj he worshipped to the end of his days, and whose

^ existence he resolutely maintained against deniers.



iv Introd\jction

As a child he had been brought up in devout
beHef in God, in submission to the injustice of
Hfe, and in faith in a better hereafter. He re-
garded God as a Father, to Whom he made known
his Httle wants and anxieties. But a youth
with hard experiences followed his childhood.
The struggle for daily bread began, and his
heavenly Father seemed to fail him. He appeared
to regard unmoved, from some Olympian height,
the desperate struggles of humanity below. Then
the defiant element which slumbered in Strind-
berg wrathfully awoke, and he gradually developed
into a free-thinker. It fared with him as it often
does with young and independent characters who
think. Beginning with dissent from this and that
ecclesiastical dogma, his criticism embraced an
ever- widening range, and became keener and more
unsparing. At last every barrier of respect and
reverence fell, the defiant spirit of youth broke
like a flood over all religious dogmas, swept them
away, and did not stop short of criticising God

Meanwhile his daily life, with its hard experi-
ences, went on. Books written from every con-
ceivable point of view came into his hands.
Greedy for knowledge as he was, he read them all.
Those of the free-thinkers supported his freshly

I tit rod Vict ion v

aroused incredulity, which as yet needed support.
His study of philosophical and scientific works
made a clean sweep of what relics of faith remained.
Anxiety about his daily bread, attacks from all
sides, the alienation of his friends, all contributed
towards making the free-thinker into an atheist.
How can there be a God when the world is
so full of ugliness, of deceit, of dishonour, of
vulgarity? This question was bound to be
raised at last. About this time he wrote the
New Kingdom, full of sharp criticisms of society
and Christianity.

As an atheist Strindberg made various attempts
to come to terms with the existing state of things.
But being a genius out of harmony with his con-
temporaries, and always longing for some vaster,
fairer future, this was impossible for him. When
he found that he came to no goal, a perpetual
unrest tortured him. His earlier autobiographic
writings appeared, marked by a strong misan-
thropy, and composed with an obscure conscious-
ness of the curse: "A fugitive and a wanderer
shalt thou be."

At last his consciousness becomes clear and
defined. He recognises that he is a lost soul in
hell already, though outwardly on earth. This
was the most extraordinary period in Strindberg's

vi Introdviction

life. He lived in the Quartier Latin in Paris, in
a barely furnished room, with retorts and chemical
apparatus, like a second Faust at the end of the
nineteenth century. By experiments he discov-
ered the presence of carbon in sulphur, and
considered that by doing so he "had solved a
great problem, upset the ruling systems of chem-
istry, and gained for himself the only immortality
allowed to mortals." He came to the conclusion
that the reason why he had gradually become an
atheist was that "the Unknown Powers had left
the world so long without a sign of themselves."
The discovery made him thankful, and he la-
mented that he had no one to thank. From that
time the belief in "unknown powers" grew
stronger and stronger in him. It seems to have
been the result of an almost complete, long, and
painful solitude.

At this time his brain worked more feverishly,
and his nerves were more sensitive than usual.
At last he reached the (for an atheist) astounding
conclusion: "When I think over my lot, I recog-
nise that invisible Hand which disciplines and
chastens me, without my knowing its purpose.
Must I be humbled in order to be lifted up,
lowered in order to be raised? The thought
continually recurs to me, ' Providence is planning

Introdviction vii

something with thee, and this is the beginning
of thy education.' "'

Soon after this he gave up his chemical experi-
ments and took up alchemy, with a conviction,
almost pathetic in its intensity, that he would
succeed in making gold. Although his dramas
had already been performed in Paris, a success
which had fallen to the lot of no other Swedish
dramatist, he forgot all his successes as an author,
and devoted himself solely to this new pursuit,
to meet again with disappointment.

On March 29, 1897, he began the study of
Swedenborg, the Northern Seer. A feeling of
home-sickness after heaven laid hold of him, and
he began to believe that he was being prepared
for a higher existence. "I despise the earth," he
writes, "this unclean world, these men and their
works. I seem to myself a righteous man, like
Job, whom the Eternal is putting to the test, and
whom the purgatorial fires of this world will soon
make worthy of a speedy deliverance."

More and more he seemed to approach Cathol-
icism. One day he, the former socialist and
atheist, bought a rosary. "It is pretty," he
said, "and the evil spirits fear the cross." At the
same time, it must be confessed that this transi-

' Strindberg's Inferno.

viii Introdvjction

tion to the Christian point of view did not subdue
his egotism and independence of character. "It
is my duty," he said, "to fight for the mainte-
nance of my ego against all influences which a sect
or party, from love of proselytising, might bring
to bear upon it. The conscience, which the
grace of my Divine protector has given me, tells
me that." And then comes a sentence full of
joy and sorrow alike, which seems to obliterate
his whole past. "Bom with a home-sick longing
after heaven, as a child I wept over the squalor
of existence and felt myself strange and homeless
among men. From childhood upwards I have
looked for God and found the Devil." He be-
comes actually humble, and recognises that God,
on account of his pride, his conceit, his u^pt<;,
had sent him for a time to hell. "Happy is he
whom God punishes."

The return to Christ is complete. All his
faith, all his hope now rest solely on the Crucified,
whom he had once demoniacally hated.

He now devoted himself entirely to the study
of Swedenborg. He felt that in some way the
life of this strange man had foreshadowed his
own. Just as Swedenborg (i 688-1 772) had passed
from the profession of a mathematician to that
of a theologian, a mystic, and finally a ghost-seer

Introdviction ix

and theosoph, so Strindberg passed from the
worldly calling of a romance-writer to that of a
preacher of Christian patience and reconciliation.
He had occasional relapses into his old perverse
moods, but the attacks of the rebellious spirit
were weaker and weaker. He told a friend who
asked his opinion regarding the theosophical
concept of Karma, that it was impossible for him
to belong to a party which denied a personal
God, " Who alone could satisfy his religious needs."
In a life so full of intellectual activity as his
had been, Strindberg had amassed an enormous
amount of miscellaneous knowledge. When he
was nearly sixty he began to collect and arrange
all his experiences and investigations from the
point of view he had then attained. Thus was
composed his last important work, Das Blau Btich,
a book of amazing copiousness and originality.
Regarding it, the Norwegian author Nils Kjaer
writes in the periodical Verdens Gang: "More
comprehensive than any modem collection of
aphorisms, chaotic as the Koran, wrathful as
Isaiah, as full of occult things as the Bible, more
entertaining than any romance, keener-edged
than most pamphlets, mystical as the Cabbala,
subtle as the scholastic theology, sincere as Rous-
seau's confession, stamped with the impress of

X Introdxiction

incomparable originality, every sentence shining
like luminous letters in the darkness — such is
this book in which the remarkable writer makes a
final reckoning with his time and proclaims his
faith, as pugnaciously as though he were a de-
scendant of the hero of Lutzen." The book, in
truth, forms a world apart, from which all lying,
hypocrisy, and conventional contentment is ban-
ished ; in it is heard the stormy laughter of a genius
who has freed himself from the fetters of earth,
the proclamation of the creed of a strange Christian
who interprets and reveres Christ in his own
fashion, the challenge of an original and creat-
ive mind which believes in its own continuance,
the expression of the yearning of a lonely soul
to place itself in harmonious relations with the

An expecially interesting feature of the Blau
Buck is the expression of Strindberg's views
regarding the great poets, artists, and thinkers
of the past and present. He speaks of Wagner
and Nietzsche, the two antipodes ; of Horace, who,
after many wanderings, recognised the hand of
God; of Shakespeare, who had lived through the
experience of every character he created; of
Goethe, regarding whom he remarks, with evident
satisfaction, "In old age, when he grew wise, he

Introdviction xi

became a mystic, i. e. he recognised that there are
things in heaven and earth of which the Philistines
never dream." Of MaeterHnck, he says, "He
knows how to caricature his own fairest creations" ;
and accuses Oscar Wilde of want of originality.
Regarding Hegel, he notes with pleasure that at
the end of his life he returned to Christianity.
With deep satisfaction he writes, "Hegel, after
having gone very roundabout ways, died in 1831,
of cholera, as a simple, believing Christian, put-
ting aside all philosophy and praying penitential
psalms." In Rousseau he recognises a kindred
spirit, in so far as the Frenchman, like himself,
hated all that was unnatural. "One can agree
with Rousseau when he says, 'All that comes from
the Creator's hand is perfect, but when it falls
into the hands of man it is spoilt. ' "

The Blau Buck marks the summit of Strind-
berg's chequered sixty years' pilgrimage. Beneath
him lies the varicoloured landscape of his past
life, now lit up with gleams of sunshine, now
draped in dark mists, now drowned in storms of
rain. But Strindberg, the poet and thinker, has
escaped from both dark and bright days alike;
he stands peacefully on the summit, above the
trivialities, the cares, and bitternesses of life, a
free man. He is like Prometheus, fettered to the

xii Introduction

rock for having bestowed on men the gift of fire,
but Hberated after he has learnt his lesson. In
his calm is something resembling the dignity of
Goethe's old age. As the latter sat on the Kickel-
hahn, looking down on Thuringia, and saw the
panorama of his life pass before him, so Strindberg
takes a retrospect in his Blau Buck. It is the
canticle of his life, a hymn of thankfulness for
the recovered faith in which he has found peace.
At its conclusion he thus sums up:

"Rousseau's early doctrine regarding the curse
of mere learning should be repondered."

"A new Descartes should arise and teach the
men to doubt the untruths of the sciences."

"Another Kant should write a new Critique
of Pure Reason and re-establish the doctrine of
the Categorical Imperative, which, however, is
already to be found in the Ten Commandments
and the Gospels."

"A prophet should be bom to teach men the
simple meaning of life in a few words. It has
already been so well summed up: 'Fear God, and
keep His commandments,' or 'Pray and work.' "

"All the errors and mistakes which we have
made should serve to instil into us a lively hatred
of evil, and to impart a fresh impulse to good;
these we can take with us to the other side, where

Introdxiction xiii

they will bloom and bear fruit. That is the true
meaning of life, at which the obstinate and impen-
itent cavil, in order to save themselves trouble."
"Pray, but work; suffer, but hope; keeping
both the earth and the stars in view. Do not
try and settle permanently, for it is a place of
pilgrimage; not a home, but a halting-place.
Seek the truth, for it is to be found, but only in
one place, with the One who Himself is the Way,
the Truth, and the Life."

Arthur Babillotte.



The Thirteenth Axiom .

The Rustic IntelHgence of the "Beans"

The Hoopoo, or An Unusual Occurrence

Bad Digestion

The Song of the Sawyers

Al Mansur in the Gymnasium

The Nightingale in the Vineyard

The Miracle of the Corn-crakes

Corollaries ....

Phantasms which are Real

Crex, Crex! ....

The Electric Battery and the Earth Circuit

Improper and Unanswerable Questions

Superstition and Non-Superstition

Through Faith to Knowledge .

The Enchanted Room .

Concerning Correspondences .

The Green Island .

Swedenborg's Hell .

Preliminary Knowledge Necessary

Perverse Science

Truth in Error











Accumulators .....

Eternal Punishment ....

"Desolation" .....

A World of Delusion ....

The Conversion of the Cheerful Pagan, Horace

Cheerful Paganism and its Doctrine of Hell

Faith the Chief Thing .

Penitents ....

Paying for Others .

The Lice-King

The Art of Life

The Mitigation of Destiny

The Good and the Evil .

Modesty and the Sense of Justice

Derelicts ....

Human Fate

Dark Rays ....

Blind and Deaf

The Disrobing Chamber

The Character Mask

Youth and Folly .

When I was Young and Stupid

Constant Illusions .

The Merits of the Multiplication-Table

Under the Prince of this World

The Idea of Hell .


Somnambulism and Clairvoyance in Everyday

Practical Measures against Enemies

The Goddess of Reason .

Stars Seen by Daylight .

The Right to Remorse

A Religious Theatre




Through Constraint to Freedom

The Praise of Folly

The Inevitable

The Poet's Sacrifice

The Function of the Philistines


The Return of Christ

Correspondences .

Good Words .

Severe and not Severe

Yeast and Bread .

The Man of Development

Sins of Thought

Sins of Will .

The Study of Mankind .

Friend Zero .

Affable Men .

Cringing before the Beast

Ecclesia Triumphans

Logic in Neurasthenia

My Caricature

The Inexplicable .

Old-time Religion .

The Seduced become Seducers

Large-hearted Christianity

Reconnection with the Aerial Wire

The Art of Conversion .

The Superman

To be a Christian is not to be a Pietist

Strength and Value of Words

The Black Illuminati


Fury-worship as a Penal Hallucination

















Amerigo or Columbus

A Circumnavigator of the Globe

The Poet's Children

Faithful in Little Things.

The Unpracticalness of Husk-eating

A Youthful Dream for Seven Shillings

Envy Nobody!

The Galley-slaves of Ambition

Hard to Disentangle

The Art of Settling Accounts

Growing Old Gracefully .

The Eight Wild Beasts .

Deaf and Blind


Children are Wonder-Children,

Men-resembling Men

Christ is Risen

Revolution-Sheep .

"Life Woven of the Same Stuff as our

The Gospel of the Pagans

Punished by the Imagination

Bankruptcy of Philosophy

A Whole Life in an Hour

The After-Odour .

Peaches and Turnips

The Web of Lies .

Lethe .

A Suffering God

The Antonement .

When Nations Go Mad

The Poison of Lies

Murderous Lies

Innocent Guilt

Dreams '




The Charm of Old Age


The Ring-System


Lust, Hate, and Fear, or the Rehgion of the Heathen


"Whom the Gods Wish to Destroy"


The Slavery of the Prophet


Absurd Problems


The Crooked Rib


White Slavery .......


Noodles .........


Inextricable Confusion ......


Phantoms .......


Mirage Pictures ......


Trifle not with Love .....


A "Taking" Religion


The Sixth Sense


Exteriorisation of Sensibility ....


Telepathic Perception .....


Morse Telepathy ......


Nisus Formativus, or Unconscious Sculpture


Projections .......

. 188

Apparitions .......

. 189

The Reactionary Type .....

• 191

The Hate of Parasites .....

. 192

A Letter from the Dead .....

• 193

A Letter from Hell ......

• 195

An Unconscious Medium ....


The Revenant ......

. 197

The Meeting in the Convent ....

. 198

Correspondences ......

. 199

Portents ...,.•-

. 201

The Difficult Art of Lying ....

. 202

Religion and Scientific Intuition

. 204

The Freed Thinker

. 205



Primus inter pares .....

Heathen Imaginations ....

Thought Bound by Law ....

Credo quia (et-si) absurdum

The Fear of Heaven ....

The Goat-god Pan and the Fear of the Pan-pipe

Their Gospel .....

The Deposition of the Apes

The Secret of the Cross ....

Examination and Summer Holidays

Veering and Tacking ....

Attraction and Repulsion . . .

The Double

Paw or Hand .....

The Thousand- Years' Night of the Apes .
The Favourite .....
Scientific Villainies ....

Necrobiosis, i.e. Death and Resurrection .
Secret Judgment .....
Hammurabi's Inspired Laws Received from the Sun


Strauss's Life of Christ ....
Christianity and Radicalism .
Where are We ?.....
Hegel's Christianity ....
"Men of God's Hand" ....


Apotheosis ......

Painting Things Black . . . .

The Thorn in the Flesh ....

Despair and Grace ....

The Last Act

Consequences of Learning




Rousseau .

. 252

Rousseau Again ......

• 253

Materialised Apparitions ....

• 255

The Art of Dying

• 257

Can Philosophy Bring any Blessing to Mankind ?

. 258

Goethe on the Bible .....

. 263

" Now we Can Fly Too ! Hurrah".

. 264

The FaU and Original Sin ... .

. 265

The Gospel

. 266

Religious Heathen ......

. 268

The Pleasure-Garden .....

. 269

The Happiness of Love .....

. 272

Our Best Feelings ......

. 273

Blood -Fraternity ......

. 274

The Power of Love ... . .

. 276

The Box on the Ear .....

. 277

Saul, afterwards Called Paul ....

. 279

A Scene from Hell ......

. 280

The Jewel-Casket or his Better Half

. 282

The Mummy-CofEn .....


In the Attic .......

. 285

The Sculptor

. 287

On the Threshold at Five Years of Age

. 288

Goethe on Christianity and Science .


Summa Summarum . . . ...

. 292

Zones of the Spirit


{Prefixed to the Third Swedish Edition)

I HAD read how Goethe had once intended to write
a Breviarium Universale, a book of edification for
the adherents of all religions. In my Historical
Miniatures I have attempted to trace God's ways
in the history of the world; I included Chris-
tianity in my survey by commencing with Israel,
but perhaps I made the mistake of ranging other
religions by the side of Christianity, while they
ought to have stood below it.

A year passed. I felt myself constrained by
inward impulses to write a fairly unsectarian
breviary; a word of wisdom for each day in the
year. For that purpose I collected the sacred
books of all religions, in order to extract from them
"sayings" on which to write. But the books
did not open themselves to me! The Vedas and

2 Zones of tKe Spirit

Zend-Avesta were sealed, and did not yield a
single saying; only the Koran gave one, but that
was a lion! (page 45). Then I determined to
alter my design. I formed the plan of writing
apothegms of simply worldly wisdom regarding
men, and of calling the book Herbarium Humane.
But I postponed the work since I trembled at
the greatness of the task and the crudity of my
plan. Then came June 15, 1906. As I took my
morning walk, the first thing I saw was a tramcar
with the number 365. I was struck by this
number, and thought of the 365 pages which I
intended to write.

As I went on, I entered a narrow street. A
cart went along by my side carrying a red flag;
it was a powder-flag. The cart kept parallel
with me and began to disturb me. In order to
escape the sight of the powder-flag, I looked up
in the air, and there an enormous red flag (the
English one) flaunted conspicuously before my
eyes. I looked down again, and a lady dressed
in black, with a fiery-red hat, was crossing the
street in a slanting direction.

I hastened my steps. Immediately my eyes
fell on the window of a stationer's shop; in it a
piece of cardboard was displayed, bearing the
word "Herbarium."

History of tKe Blvie BooK 3

It was natural that all this should make an
impression on me. My resolution was now taken ;
I laid down the plan of my powder-chamber,
which was to become the Blue Book. A year
passed, slowly, painfully. The most remarkable
thing that happened was this. They began to
rehearse my drama, the Dream Play, in the theatre;
simultaneously, a change took place in my daily
life. My servant left me; my domestic arrange-
ments were upset; within forty days I had six
changes of servants — one worse than the other.
At last I had to serve myself, lay the table and
light the stove. I ate black broken victuals out
of a basket. In short, I had to taste the whole
bitterness of life without knowing why.

One morning during this fasting period I
passed by a shop window in which I saw a piece
of tapestry which attracted and delighted me.
I thought I saw my dream-play in the design
woven on the tapestry. Above was the "growing
castle," and underneath the green island over-
arched by a rainbow, and with Alpine summits
illumined by the sun. Round it was the sea
reflecting the stars and a great green sea-snake
partly visible; low down in the border was a row
of fylfots — the symbol Swastika, signifying good-
luck. That was, at any rate, my meaning; the

4 Zones of tHe Spirit

artist had intended something else which does not
belong here.

Then came the dress-rehearsal of the Dream
Play. This drama I wrote seven years ago, after
a period of forty days' suffering which were among
the worst which I had ever undergone. And
now again exactly forty days of fasting and pain
had passed. There seems, therefore, to be a
secret legislature which promulgates clearly de-
fined sentences. I thought of the forty days of the
flood, the forty years of wandering in the desert, the
forty days' fast kept by Moses, Elijah, and Christ.
My journal thus records my impressions :
"The sun shines. A certain quiet resigned
uncertainty reigns within me. I ask myself
whether a catastrophe will not prevent the per-
formance of the piece, which perhaps ought not
to be played. In it I have, at any rate, spoken
men fair, but to advise the Ruler of the Universe
is presumption, perhaps blasphemy. The fact

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