Georg Kühlewind Foundation

The alter-ego

“The Baal Shem once called upon Sammael, lord of the demons, on some occasion. He snapped: How dare you call upon me? This has only happened to me thrice: in the hour of the tree, in the hour of the calf, and in the hour of the destruction of the sanctuary. The Baal Shem has ordered his disciples to uncover their foreheads. Sammael at once noticed the sign of the image in which God has created humans. Sammael has done what he was asked to do. Before leaving, however, he said: Sons of the living God, let me stand here for a while looking at your foreheads!”


As a piece in our selection of literary works titled Roads and Gates we have read Martin Buber’s Hasidic story, The Alter-Ego, in Gyuri’s translation. Sammael stares, awestruck, at the sign of “man’s creation” on the forehead of the disciples.

The story evokes remote times. But it is still relevant. After all, among all the created beings it is, indeed, man we should bow our heads to. It became evident to me that I was the disciple of a special spiritual school. For almost four decades I could be present at a spiritual source, where the question was: how can we realize our fuller human selves, how can we truly become the one we live separated from in our everyday life: a truer self, who lives in our superconscious heaven, it is here on earth, yet not in its completeness, though it could be. Of whose grace we may live. As an heir to the great spiritual schools, the above question was paramount with this school.

How do such spiritual schools come into being?

 As “We are such stuff/ as dreams are made on; and our little life/ Is rounded with a
sleep” – says Shakespeare. Sleeping is given. Awakening is not.

 Someone makes the decision to raise the greatest questions again. These mark his path. His own star-being lights the path.

The absence and the desire to see more fully are alive in him. Like Jonathan Livingstone, the seagull (translated by him way before it appeared in Hungary), or Frodo - protagonist of his beloved book Lord of the Rings - who himself decides to carry out the task, because someone has to volunteer, someone has to do it. A human being in the depths of worldly chaos, despite the maze of the 20th century’s distracting desires, still wants to grow from normal to healthy. He starts all things anew. His company – whose order and significance only he could tell –: Saint Thomas of Aquino, Dante Alighieri, Meister Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, Plato, Anselm of Canterbury, Shakespeare, Goethe, Rudolf Steiner, Massimo Scaligero, Karl Kerenyi, Aldous Huxley, Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann, Saint Augustine, Heraclit, St. John the Evangelist. And many others. The quest is after the eternal task of humanity. He finds the central faculty of man in the existence of attention. He aims at restoring healthy human presence by healing attention, restoring its natural functioning. Withdrawing from associations and distractions, the intensity of attention grows fuller in the attentive silence that is beyond the sphere of words. Signs start to communicate what they mean. A new Subject is witnessing at the unpredictable and continuously renewing birth of I-consciousness. Silent attentiveness is the base for turning to and understanding the Other. „What is more enlivening than light? A conversation.1” – he professes with Goethe. Honest, even when it is difficult to tell something. Decorous with the critique, tactful and gentle with the request, the discussions are free-handed but to the point. When reading signs and phenomena, the empty, unprejudiced attention becomes a sense-organ through similitude. A gentle will this is, not wanting anything for himself, simply wanting to be. He wants to be himself. Not something else. Unimpressionable, incalculable, non-continuable. Always simpler, always gentler. This is the movement of an artist. The spirit’s activity which keeps tasks centered lasts until life’s final moment. Death is a task. If there is question – there must be an answer to be found. He keeps with dignity the acquired, individual secret of his human being: man must not endure but create – if truly a man – his death and his illness. Always makes choices. Always creates. If he doesn’t create, he chooses not to create. But he creates. Creates in every minute of his life.

 He is a practicing man. Seeking for answers, tireless, with amazing diligence, not sparing time or energy for every question that arises. He never waits. Who is teaching him? The higher, heavenly, self-reliant will of the creative man. He is independent and free. He doesn’t rely on anybody since he knows Man is a great being. He can reach anything.

Nothing remains hidden – only his cognition can create boundaries. “Man has a logos, self-increasing”. Egotism is worthless. To darkness, hostility and wickedness the response is the gentleness of St. George, who is active at the birth of his heavenly being. “If you deal with the evil – it has already vanquished you”. Only “gentleness” creates an empty space, in which the higher truths of existence can be revealed. He makes discoveries in the field of schooling of consciousness, in psychology, in linguistics, in the arts, especially in the field of musical consciousness. He perceives star-children. Whoever noticed them and whatever name was used, the report was the same: discovering something in his mutable inner heaven – this was the great news. He did not only recognise the appearing of individuals independent from him– behind his recognitions a new way of seeing was born. He perceived the individuality of children as the Shepherds or Three Magi perceived the star above Bethlehem. It was experience and not theory. He witnessed this Truth. Whoever recognises the star in the children he perceives from the same source. Because the level of the star-being is alike in all humans. He taught that there is no royal road to education, a single and exclusive method. Individualities should be educated on the basis of new and constantly renewing, authentic, and experiencing perception. This enabled him to see the wonder of autistic children and those, who in this world are treated as having handicaps. For him they were not handicapped. He recognised that the communication-deficiencies of autistic children can be the result of defence-mechanisms, behind which the transcendent sensibility and intelligence can hide. These people sensed the extraordinary attention directed towards them as their perception is much more alive than that of “normal” people – living in a world sheltered by everyday cognition. Gyuri’s aim was not to remain on a theoretical level, but to convert the findings and develop them into practice. So, that every “different” person may become a richer human being following his own individual path, and not leaving behind the original, higher sensibility. He wanted to make all who worked with such people realize this. So that they could learn to cast again and again a new glance at questions. Always with the empty readiness of attention. And this is what he taught us – in all situations. With his look. With his way of greeting. With his way of feeding the birds day after day, tracing their flight from the window, playing with his dog, gazing at the stars, or picking redcurrant in the garden in a meticulous manner.

 What was this style like?

 How did he give shape to a lecture? The first part was apparently loosely structured. Enjoyable stories, meandering thoughts, at times cracking a joke. As if to narcotise attention, as if there was no desire to go in a straight line. And then, the second part: one sudden straight movement. Like the whole thing was one arrow-shot. Certain to reach the target. A seamless stream of intuitions and solutions. What gives shape to it all is the not-wanting. Wanting nothing. Absolute calmness. No aim, no ambition, only the clarity of the quest. He never wants to grab you. This is the great move! No one can do this. This is the courage, this is trust in the moment, in the power of intuition – this is unique. Counting on unlikely trust, on unpredictable security. A faculty is working in this – it is realised in this process. In the present. What he practices in every act of perception, every exercise, every concentration, image- and word-meditation. Always looking for this – the original faculty, the realizing of the “how to” of the creative action. He even gives it a name: the gentle will. He became always gentler, always simpler. It is this he moved in all, who listened to him. And this heals you. When experiencing it, unifying with it – you also do it. “How good it is to be here!” – whispered a friend of ours to me once. “Now everything is fine again” – was my impression so many times, after meeting him again after his long journeys. When he was not here – things somehow got muddled up. When I saw him again – the world settled into shape.

 The time of signs has passed.

 “The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they, which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” (Mark 4,16-20)

“It is your turn now” – he passed the remark on the 2nd of January. It was dropped without intention. Or who knows. The body was worn. The spirit was not. It was shining. His eyes radiated light.

There was silence. And then: a rose without thorns.

A week later: coming from light, going back into light, the light shines everywhere.

All that has happened until now was present.

What comes now – depends on us.

The fate of this spiritual community will turn out now. Whoever thinks that it has already been decided, or thinks that the people are not competent, does not take the unpredictability of the wonder that humans have into account – the reason why Sammael gazed awestruck at the sign of the creation of man on the forehead of the disciples of Baal Shem.

Someone has given meaning to this sign.

Knowing – he is an alter-ego.

Written by Ervin Fenyő,

the last version of the translation by András Pál