Chronology of Gebser’s Life
Compiled by Aaron Cheak
Jean Gebser (1905-1973) was born in Posen (Poznan), a formerly Prussian city that now belongs to Poland. He travelled widely, living in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, before finally settling in Switzerland. The following chronology of his life and work is based largely upon Rudolf Hämmerli’s ‘Chronologie’ to the German edition of Gebser’s Collected Works (Gesamtausgabe VII, 437-43).
Born in Posen, August 20.
October: birth of sister Charlotte.
November: death of sister Ilse.
Moves to Breslau.
Breslau to Königsberg.
Outbreak of World War I.
Königsberg to Berlin.
Father becomes a lawyer.
April. Sent to the cloister school, Roßleben. Experience of primordial trust.
Withdrawn from Roßleben, moves to Berlin.
Death of father.
March. Leaves school. Begins apprenticeship in a Berlin bank.
Becomes a Werkstudent at Humbolt University, Berlin.
Attends lectures by Guardini (intellectual history), Sombart (economics), Hahn (ethnology), and Holtsch (European history).
Quits the bank after completion of the apprenticeship.
Leaves home. Founds the “Stomps & Gebser Buch- und kunstdruckerei-Verlaganstalt” with V. O. Stomps.
Publishes the periodical Der Sturm by Herwarth Walden.
In the same year he co-founds the Rabenpresse with Stomps and publishes Fischzug: Monatsblätter zur Förderung werdender Literatur (The Catch: Monthly for Emerging Literature). Publishes his first poems.
Quits the venture with Stomps. Spends a short time in the Engadine (Switzerland).
Winter. Enters the Goethe bookstore as a volunteer.
Autumn. Departs for Florence, works in a large academic second hand bookstore.
Attempts to settle down once again, this time in Munich.
Works with publisiher Kurt Wolf.
Leaves Germany indefinitely.
Travels to Paris, the south of France, and then Spain.
Inspiration for The Ever-Present Origin occurs at Malaga, Spain.
Becomes a member of the Spanish Republic’s Ministry for Education.
Befriends Frederico Garcia Lorca and other Spanish poets.
Translates and publishes their work: New Spanish Poetry (Neue Spanishche Dichtung).
Rilke and Spain written in Spanish, but not published due to outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Departs Madrid in October. Arrested and imprisoned by anarchists in Valencia; Spanish friends save him from being shot. Lorca is murdered. Gebser’s apartment is bombed. Twelve hours later he departs Spain for France.
Resides in France after a short time in Switzerland.
Enters the circle of Eluard, Aragon, Malraux and Picasso.
30 August, Gebser enters Switzerland two hours before the border is closed.
World War II begins.
Rilke and Spain (Rilke und Spanien) published.
Settles in the Locarno-Muralto region of Switzerland.
Writes Transformation of the West (Abendländische Wandlung).
Marries Gentiane Hélène Schoch.
Enters the Eranos circle: Carl Gustav Jung, Karl Kerényi, Adolf Portmann, D. T. Suzuki etc.
Transformation of the West (Abendländische Wandlung) published.
Gebser’s mother dies of multiple sclerosis.
Writes the Winter Poem (Wintergedicht).
The Grammatical Mirror (Der grammatische Spiegel) published.
Lecturer at the Psychological Seminar of the Institute for Applied Psychology, Zurich.
Lecture series: ‘On the History of the Representations of Soul and Spirit’.
Writes Lorca or the Realm of the Mothers.
Works on volume one of The Ever-Present Origin, under the working title of The Aperspectival World.
Moves to Burgdorf.
Lorca or the Realm of the Mothers published.
Volume one of The Ever-Present Origin published.
Begins work on volume two of The Ever-Present Origin.
Becomes a citizen in Burgdorf.
International, interdisciplinary conference held at the University of St. Gallen on the theme of The New Worldview (Die neue Weltschau).
Lectures broadcast via radio; conference proceedings published as a book under same title. Material informs volume two of The Ever-Present Origin.
Completes volume two of The Ever-Present Origin. Journeys to Spain (Torremolinos).
Volume two of The Ever-Present Origin appears.
Second international, interdisciplinary conference held at St. Gallen.
Radio broadcasts with Karl Jaspers, Adolf Portmann and H. Bender.
Separates from his wife.
Moves to Bern.
Health breakdown: emergency operation required for a hernia.
Recipient of the Deutschen Schiller-Preis, awarded by West German president, Theodor Heuss, in Bonn.
Lecture series held each year at the Residenz in Munich: A New Vision of the World (Die Welt in neuer Sicht). Conference proceedings published under same title.
Journeys to Provence (henceforth, frequent trips to Provence and Paris).
Spends two months in Greece.
Lecture series at the New Helvetica Society (Neuen Helvetischen Gesellschaft) in Bern: Ways to the New Reality (Wege zur neuen Wirklichkeit).
Conference proceedings published under same title.
March through July: journeys through Asia (India, Nepal, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong-Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China).
A Guide to Asia (Asienfibel) published.
Standing the Test: Ten Indicators of the New Consciousness (In der Bewährung: Zehn Hinweise auf das neue Bewußtsein) published (selection of papers delivered between 1951 and 1960).
Recipient of the German Literature Award of the Artist’s Guild of Esslingen.
Recipient of the Kogge Literature Award of the City of Minden.
Winter. Travels to North and South America.
Recipient of the Literature Award of the City of Bern.
Receives a Festschrift for his sixtieth birthday: Transparent World (Transparente Welt).
Second edition of The Ever-Present Origin published.
Health breakdown and emergency operation. Miraculously survives but never fully recovers his health.
February through June: health retreat in Ascona.
Becomes Honarary Professor for Comparative Cultural/Civilisational Theory at the University of Salzburg. Unable to take up position due to health.
Asia Smiles Differently (Asien lächelt anders), an expanded version of A Guide to Asia (Asienfibel), published.
Marries Jo Körner.
The Invisible Origin (Der unsichtbare Ursprung) published.
Visits Werner Heisenberg and Lama Anagarika Govinda.
Visited by Pandit Gopi Krishna.
Delivers keynote lecture at a medical conference in Bad Boll, Germany, entitled ‘Primordial Angst and Primordial Trust’ (Urangst und Urvertrauen).
Writes his last piece shortly before his death: foreword to Disintegration and Participation (Verfall und Teilhabe).
Dies 14 May at home at Wabern, near Bern.
After his death, the pocket-book edition of The Ever-Present Origin, which Gebser worked on until the very end, appeared.
Disintegration and Participation (Verfall und Teilhabe) published (posthumous).