(in memory of Kaspar Hauser who died on December 17, 1833)
Written by Hans Mueller-Wiedemann, 1975
Translated by Anne Sproll
Editor’s Note: We share this story at the same time that a buzz surrounds the early planning of another Kaspar Hauser Festival here in the U.S., likely to take place early next spring. Check the website Kasparhauserfestival.net in the months to come for more information or continue reading the Correspondence.
It was December 13th 1875, when a carriage, lightly covered with snow, drew up to a small country Inn named “The Swan.” The night was dark and clear, and a frosty cold lay over the trees and houses of the small hamlet. The Inn was situated on the one road accessible by wagon. Snow fell gently in the darkness and far above in the night sky the stars slowly began to appear.
As the horses drew to a halt, still restless from the long journey and puffing white clouds into the cold air, the coachman leapt from his seat to open the carriage door. “Wait for me to help you sir!” he cried, “it is cold and icy outside.” At the same time, the innkeeper who had long awaited this guest, came running out of the house carrying a lamp. The open door behind him revealed a warm brightly lit scene. Supported on each side by these two men, the guest who was clad in a large fur coat, stepped out of the carriage and onto the small stone steps. He smiled, and the light that fell on his face revealed a youthful countenance that belied the stiff, bowed, tremulous old man that he had become. It was no wonder then that the innkeeper spontaneously cried, “Professor you get younger and younger with each visit!” The guest appeared not to have heard him, but stood motionless before the house, his head inclined towards the silhouette of the Swan that adorned the entrance. “Perhaps,” he finally murmured, “but it is also very cold and frosty…” He grew silent once more, perhaps because a gust of wind took his breath away or the fact that he became aware of the strong arm of support at his side and the beckoning warmth of the house, as he entered with the innkeeper and the coachman led the horses and carriage away to the barn behind the house.
Friedrich Daumer had frequently stopped at this Inn either on his way to or from Nurnberg. He cherished this quiet spot that afforded him such peace, and over time he slowly formed a warm acquaintance with the innkeeper and his wife. They always met him with enthusiasm, anxious to provide him with a spacious well-warmed room, and to provide for his every need.
The Inn had belonged to the same family for generations – its history stretched as far back as the crusades, so it was said. It had served as a sanctuary as well as a kind of hospital for wounded knights returning from the Holy Land.
Behind the house, between two large barns which were filled with equipment and served to house the wagons and carriages of travelers, lay a small garden surrounded by several elderberry bushes and a few sturdy old apple trees. The garden provided the house with vegetables and herbs and was not unlike the kind of garden you might find within the walls of a monastery. A path led from the garden to the back entrance of the house, crossing a small, protected courtyard where cultivated roses of every kind still grew well into the winter.
So it was that once our guest had warmed himself inside, the conversation turned to the roses. He was a keen observer of nature and remarked that this time the roses were more robust than ever. The innkeeper nodded, it had been a “rose year” he said, the apple trees had bent their twisted branches low to the ground in August and September, and the woods had been filled with berries. The roses too, had continued to bloom one after the other in the little courtyard.
There was not much more to be said, and the innkeeper’s wife guided her guest to his room asking him if there was anything he would like to eat. He shook his head and explained that he still had a lot of work to do. After asking him a second time and when he still declined her offer, she pushed an old worn-out green chair towards the lamplit table and looking puzzled, stroked the bed-linens on the bed. She checked the cupboards and looked around to see that everything was in order, and then she left, telling him that should he need anything at all he only had to ask. For a moment she stood uncertainly in the doorway – almost as if there was something she had forgotten to say – while her guest turned to his bags, took a folder out of his briefcase, and grasping the lamp he placed it on the desk that he always used when he stayed there. This time it seemed different; it was late, and it was also strange to see how the old man seemed to be in a hurry. He took off his cap, and his thick white hair fell almost to his shoulders. “Professor, do not write for too long and strain your eyes,” she said to him; “I will bring you some warm water for the night, and a little bite to eat.” It suddenly seemed to occur to her that she still needed to do something and shaking her head she took some coal from the shuttle and threw it into the wood stove.
The guest who had seated himself at the desk did not appear to notice her. Outside, the coachman could be heard speaking to the horses between the squeaking of the carriage wheels, and the innkeeper’s wife left the room on tiptoe, closing the door quietly behind her.
The flame of the lamp in the window danced as the wind crept in through the cracks, and the fire in the oven hissed and crackled.
Georg Friedrich Daumer laid his hands on the table before him, and began to question himself, as he had so often done in recent years. These were internal conversations of a restless nature as he strove to fathom the meaning of his life, to plumb the depths of the seas, on whose waves his ship had sailed, but he could never quite reach the great soul brother that lived within him in the depths of his dreams and that wished for nothing more than to finally be recognized. This time he asked the question, why – why did I come here?
There were of course plenty of outer reasons, for example the negotiations for the publication of his book about the remarkable life of Caspar Hauser. The book was a defense against the attacks by a growing number of hate-filled critics who wanted to prove by their arguments that everything he had seen with his own eyes, had felt and understood in his heart, and had suffered – were simply fabrications by an old man confused by occultism and given over to nebulous homeopathic treatments. True, he thought to himself, he had often traveled for less important reasons, for he loved the journey and he loved to stop at this very Inn. And yet this question burned in him – why did I come here? At the same time, he was filled with a deep longing for the truth – a truth in which one not only finds peace, not only knows but in which one can live – a place where the soul feels at home. As an adult, he had gone over to the Catholic church, not because of any change in his relationship to his faith, but because he was so tired of the battle for the defense of the truth which had been such a struggle and so difficult to attain; the truth of Caspar Hauser. Another reason was that he was looking for something greater and all-encompassing, the heights of the Holy Mass that he had already loved as a child, in the communion of the soul with the living Spirit. What was it that Ludwig, the son of the late Anselm von Feuerbach, had said to him? “Your Spirit, like my own, my dear Daumer does not need the church. It is more befitting for us to use our God-given ability to think freely and to stand before God and represent ourselves…” But what about Caspar, whom he had loved as a son? He too had not understood the language and the practices of theology. These were foreign to him, and yet he possessed a deep inner knowing beyond church teaching, and upon hearing the story of the Redeemer, he was moved to tears when the good-hearted Pastor Fuhrmann was preparing him for confirmation.
The bell tolled from its tower, and a wagon drew up outside the Inn with its sound of wagon wheels and horses outside accompanied by the sound of voices, that echoed here and there until new guests entered the house and everything grew still again.
Georg Friedrich Daumer remembered that there was a letter he wanted to write, and his hands trembled a little as he laid out the white sheet of paper and grasped the pen. The tension was broken by the sudden quiet, and pictures from the past rose before him as if cast up from a deep well; mysterious hieroglyphs of a life lived in which Caspar Hauser appeared again and again. There was the time that he came into the house, his hat in his left hand, in his old downtrodden boots and a sad mouth that did not know how to smile. “Caspar, my son,” Georg Friedrich Daumer said to himself. He sat motionless for a time, staring down at the cool blank page that lay before him – until with a decisive movement he began to write. He wrote slowly, each letter carefully placed with reverence.
“My dear Niece,
It has taken me too long to answer the questions you asked in your last letter, because I wanted to be true to them without hurting you. You have so lovingly perceived my hesitation to be because I was probably indisposed. In reality life has become harder, although as you well know, it has long been a struggle since Caspar came into our house as a messenger from a realm we can only dimly sense, a realm that is not of this world – only to be taken away from us again. Since then, I have lived with the incentive to rescue his honor from those people who have attacked him with their coarse and fabricated theories. You asked me if any of the facts are really true that Anselm von Feuerbach described shortly before his abrupt demise when he posed questions as to Caspar Hauser’s origins and revealed the events at the House of Baden. These things are indeed not widely known, and yet have in some mysterious way entered the hearts and minds of people, calling forth doubt, perplexity, indignation and even outright slander.
You asked me how such monstrous things can be done to an innocent person, and how so much evil can live in human beings, since it did please God to place Caspar, with his very exceptional gifts, into the world. Well I am an old man, and have sinned a great deal, and yet I was chosen to be the one to take in a youth on the verge of manhood into the house of my mother and my house, and like Simeon in the Temple I have been permitted to see a great deal.
Everything I have seen, I have defended against the most hateful attacks and vicious slander and have thereby made myself known. You often comforted me, not at this scale, but rest assured that I was comforted.
Now to get down to the facts: for a long time, it was not possible for me to offer the revelations of the noble Feuerbach. I am not familiar with the ways by which legal proof has to be established and I never doubted the veracity of my friend, but nor could I simply accept that the whole story was true just because he told it to me. There are mighty forces working in the world that have plenty of disguised puppets who serve them. The world we live in and that I, as an old man must recognize, is completely void of truth and sincerity. Just at this time in our history, freedom of thought is proudly proclaimed, and science seeks for something other than the truth thereby asserting that what the eyes can see and the ears can hear is but illusion. Indeed, I have fought my whole life for freedom of thought and against any kind of suppression. I have always felt myself united with the bright, fiery spirit of the great Reformation which fought against the old ways which people followed so blindly and faithfully. And yet it seems to me as if this Reformation was just a transition. It should have led further on to thoughts and feelings deeply imbued with a Christian world view. It should have led to where the true homeland of the soul is alive in contrast to the narrow minded, quarrelsome thoughts of the State, with its many opinions and the enslavement of all ideas to materialism. Since I was not able to accomplish this alone, and the Brothers were a long time coming, I was able to look the darkness in the eye more sharply than others; the same darkness that seized, held captive, and finally murdered our Caspar – and whose servants are increasing in number more and more.
And so the inner unrest I felt after your question remains, but also the hope that a new world will arise in the future in which people can live together in the truth, regardless of their beliefs or nationalities. I have never let go of this hope, for it is not an uncertain vague feeling, but it comes to me through the love of our Redeemer and the long-suffering pain and endurance of our Holy Mother.
My dear child, how overpowering the dark forces are, and how terrible when they were called to their dreadful scheme that was hidden for so long when Caspar came to us. He came in paradisiacal innocence, still unsullied by all that we already receive as a thorn in our hearts when we are still in the cradle. And how he, a miraculous embodiment of morality which can only be compared to the wonderful stories told in the Gospels – how he came into an abyss of self-serving evil, into a world sunk in depravity…
The old man put down his pen; his hands shook, and his whole body began to tremble. Tears coursed down his furrowed cheeks, and when he rose from his chair to stand he was gripped by a familiar pain in his chest–a pain that he knew well, and that left a shadow on his countenance. He stood up and walked over to the window. The rising stars swam in a sea of light through his tear-filled eyes. He opened the window and took a deep breath of the fresh air that wafted into the room in gentle waves.
Footsteps sounded outside on the stairs, and a moment later the innkeeper’s wife entered the room with her young son who carried an earthen vessel. With a friendly smile, the boy poured the still steaming water into a basin, while the woman put a plate with a piece of bread and a golden apple on the table. She went over and closed the window behind the old man and led him to the table, as a mother might lead her child. She pushed a chair towards him so that he could sit down. “You’ve got to eat a little something at night, Professor,” she said; “because we can’t live if we don’t eat, especially if we work as much as you do. And what is more I have brought something for you”. With a suppressed smile she solemnly walked to the door and returned with a single rose in a glass which she placed on the table next to the bed.
It was still, in the room. Only Daumer’s breathing could be heard, and the soft fall of a rose petal that fell gently from the full-blown rose. The boy, uneasy in the silence, turned his rosy face towards Daumer and said, “’tis the last one.”
Daumer gave him a friendly nod, thanking the boy and his mother. The woman saw that he was preparing to eat and that he was covering the basin of steaming water with its lid, so she took the boy by the hand and after he had politely bid goodnight from the door, they left the room. The night air had invigorated Daumer. The unusual punctilious care offered by the woman and perhaps the silence that had returned to the room, reminded him of the years of his childhood. Images of his life wafted through the room like clouds and remained at the point at which he had first heard the Christmas story. He had heard of the Child – of the ox and the ass – and how Mary and Joseph had to flee from Herod. He remembered how he had felt sympathy with their flight through a strange and dangerous world with no path to guide them. The pictures soon changed to thoughts; how can so much harm be changed to good? How can the gray cloak which covers everything be removed? Or is it simply there so that the light that it covers does not blind us? His waking life seemed to him like a gray sleep in which evil lurked, waiting to appear when least expected, whilst in the depths light streamed from the sacred source by which we strive to awaken to freedom, to peace.
Words, Daumer, a voice spoke in him. “Words,” spoke Georg Friedrich Daumer, in a voice that startled him. Once more everything fell silent, and a rose petal wafted over the room as if a gentle breeze had stirred. Daumer picked up the apple – it seemed strangely heavy – and he spoke words, the origin of which he was unaware, but words he regularly spoke before a meal: “I give thanks to Thee, Thou who hast taken my spiritual life into thine, that it is not the bread that nourishes my fragile earthly body, but it is through the power of Thy resurrected body, for all eternity. Amen.”
The night remained quiet and still as it had been, and the stars in the clear sky above glistened like diamonds.
Georg Friedrich Daumer was awoken by knocking that did not just come from the door, but seemed to come from every side, penetrating into his veins and into his heart. A slender beautiful youth clad in a white robe appeared as if stepping forth from the starlit heaven. His hair shone with light and seemed to waft over his head like a golden crown, giving him a kingly appearance. Daumer heard him call out his name while at the same time pointing to something that was not visible and yet seemed to lie hidden. With earnest demeanor the youth turned his face to Daumer and spoke: “The horses are ready for the journey; the carriage is not needed. Awaken and rise.”
At these words the walls of the room began to shudder and shake until as if pulled away by ropes, they receded, and the starry heaven drew nearer and nearer until star after star vanished, and instead of the starlit sky, a flooding Light of every hue poured over the whole earth. First there was one color, then another until the Light formed a vessel of every color that then received another light – warming and golden – that filled the open vessel. The youth had vanished, yet his meaningful gesture remained like a memory, but this time pointing downwards. The Light that shone through the colors, drawing them down like a veil, now rested on an unusual landscape. There was a ruin surrounded by broken walls in which many people had gathered. They stood around a crib upon which the golden light finally came to rest. The rest of the scene was steeped in a dim blue light as if the heavens had spread over the earth. While this took place, the image of the crib revealed a bright stone upon which the following words could be read:
Hic jacet Here lies Kaspar Hauser
Gasparus Hauser Enigma of the century
Aenigma sui temporis Origins unknown
Ignota nativitatis Mysterious his death (1833)
He stood there for a long time, gazing at the stone when the youth he had seen before returned, and with infinite tenderness, embraced him with the words, “You are home, my beloved son,” and pressed him to his heart.
The next morning gray mist surrounded the house, and the coachman was up early to prepare the horses and carriage. The mist covered the highest branches of the trees in the garden that were laden with hoarfrost. Over in the house the innkeeper’s wife straightened the chairs and washed some of the glasses which had been left from the night before. The Innkeeper of “The Swan” appeared at the door. “I thought you wanted to go to town early,” remarked his wife, but he shook his head. “I have decided otherwise, I heard the church bells ringing last night the way they ring for midnight mass at Christmas.” She did not look up as she continued putting the tablecloth on the table; what can one say, she thought to herself, if one’s husband hears bells ringing in the night – and then she looked up: “Must have been dreaming – those bells only ring at Christmas or when there’s a fire in the village.” And then she added; “you’ll have to go to town later then.” “Nay,” said her husband, who still stood in the doorway, “not going.” He looked around and then tilted his head to one side. “Wife, have you noticed how quiet it is today? Stop tidying and listen!” “I’ll check on the children,” she answered and began to climb the stairs. Her son was coming down, his face seemed even rosier than the night before. “I saw something so beautiful last night, the Sun was brightly shining and there was singing, and when I woke up it was pitch dark night and when I opened the curtain there was no sun anymore, just moon and stars.” She shook her head, “Oh I know, I know, you are a dreamer – you still have to get your feet on the ground and grow up,” she said. She still wanted to say something, but she did not manage to do so because she had a feeling that she should not say it. Grow up on the earth, she thought. Can someone grow up on the earth and yet see the sun in the night? She helped her children tidy their room and then she too felt it, the stillness that seemed to be everywhere as if it had secretly told the things and the people around them to be quiet.
Breakfast was prepared in the house and the horses and carriage stood ready outside. The coachman had set himself down on the oven bench, stuffing his pipe. The mist outside flew low, like feathery clouds as the yellow light shone down from the sun. The hoarfrost on the branches slowly lightened, and the tender patterns of the twigs added to the stillness.
“Go and check on the gentleman,” said the coachman, turning to the innkeeper’s wife, “we need to leave soon, the sun will not shine for long once it comes out.”
There was no answer to her knock. The woman gently opened the door to the room of the guest, in which the first light shone through the mist. Georg Friedrich Daumer lay still, his hands folded over his breast, and under his left hand on the white nightshirt, bloomed a Rose petal as if it had grown there during the night.
The woman crossed herself and ran back down the stairs. Her voice failed her, for the second time. The others read from her expression and from her eyes. They had known from the break of day. The groom and the innkeeper crossed themselves. “It’ll be cold this year in the world,” said the innkeeper. The children who had just gathered, looked up at their father in wonder, and then turned to look at their mother. Outside the horses grew restless, the empty carriage swayed a little, making the wheels squeak the way things that are worn and old often do.
“It will grow cold in the world,” the innkeeper said again, and the coachman echoed, “Yes, cold.” He had risen, turning his cap in his hands as tears ran down into his beard.
“Mother,” the children cried, “can we please sing Christmas songs again?”
“Soon,” said their mother.
“When will the Professor come and eat breakfast?”
Their mother took the hands of both of them, drew them to her while she gazed out of the window where just then the mist had allowed a little bit of blue sky framed by a rosy red, to appear.
“When he comes back,” she said.
For Robin Willes (born May 15, 1946, died December 16, 1975)
Robin Willes was a Camphill coworker who built a Kaspar Hauser Hall in Glencraig, shortly before his early death