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This paper will focus on aspects of German literature that convey ideas of education in unorthodox ‘classrooms’, namely through the tutelage of mystic organizations, or cults if you will. Cults are typically associated with Manson style blood-soaked ritual, passionate and even erotic worship of a charismatic pseudo-intellectual. However German literature often features a more benevolent form of cult, where the proposed magic is real, the leader worthy of their pedestal, and the purpose is to oppose either literal oppressive regimes or more abstract regimes of malaise and doldrums.
The Magic Flute puts the cult of Sarastro’s Brotherhood and its Egyptian mysticism against The Queen of the Night and her crushing reign, though at first Sarastro seems the antagonist with his worship of strange, old Gods he is actually a humanist and an educator, only wishing to lead so he can free his followers. I will use such instances to show German literature's view of the cult as an effective means of offering startlingly world altering and quick lessons, like electroshock therapy for jumpstarting a stale life. Other authors such as Goethe, Kafka, and Herman Hesse add to this panoply of occult education concerned German writers, a school of thought that offers a new reading of the word cult, as well as a view of education as a journey rivaling the myths of antiquity. Theater and the arts as a whole also come into play within this paper, showing how cult within German literature serves as an arena for the arts and bold ideas.
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Levin, Henry Charles Smith, "Bildung as Cult: Education through Secret Societies in German Literature" (2021). Senior Projects Spring 2021. 184.
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