The prospect of spending more than three hours on a train & bus was not very tempting but the journey that I was about to make had been on my wish list for many years and so it became a matter of ‘its-now-or-never’. I took an early train to Ulm, changed trains to Göppingen and took the bus to Bad Boll. It is the place where Richard Wilhelm worked and lived. And it is the place where he is buried.
The journey was long but pleasant. A trip from Munich to Bad Boll gives you the chance to see the countryside of Germany: its large forests, the hills and the charming small villages that have at least one church towering above the community. The landscape looked as if it hadn’t changed in a hundred years. The bus from Göppingen to Bad Boll was old and lacked the electronic modernities of later models. Bus stops were not announced and I had to find out by myself where I had to get off. Fortunately my mobile showed me where we were driving and when the map showed the bus was in Bad Boll I pushed the button and got off at the next stop. When I looked around I realised I wasn’t in the center of Bad Boll but somewhere at the outskirts of the village. I walked along the road, noticing that Bad Boll must have changed a lot since Wilhelm died. New roads and houses were being build, and the scenery was marked by several roundabouts that had the same devestating effect as crop circles: you wonder ‘why?’ but their higher purpose remains unclear.
A sign near the road told me I was not far from the spa, the sanatorium that Bad Boll was famous for. In front of it was another roundabout. Surely it wasn’t there when Wilhelm walked here. I am sure he must have visited the place a lot: it has a beautiful garden and the buildings have great architectural features. When I walked into the garden I recognized one of the buildings that I had seen on the postcard that Wilhelm’s son Manfred sent to his father. I’m sure such a building has a peculiar name that reminds of its purpose but I can’t think of one.
I walked through the passage of the building, trying to picture how Wilhelm must have walked here too.
From there I walked through the park to the main building of the spa. It was being renovated and the scaffolding took away a lot of its grandeur.
I walked back to the road and turned left. I knew it would take me straight to the Blumhardt cemetery, only a few minutes walk away. The cemetery was on the other side of a highway that I had to cross. Fortunately there was no roundabout. A sign showed me there was no mistake in where I was heading. The cemetery was to the right of the small road that branched out of the highroad. I saw a small iron gate that led to a section of the cemetery and looked through its bars. There it was: Wilhelm’s grave.
I had seen pictures of Wilhelm’s grave but for many years I had the longing to see the place for myself. And since a few weeks there was another reason to visit the grave. I showed Johannes Bloemsma from Nourishing Destiny some pictures of the grave that I found on internet and he noticed something odd. Let’s call it a ‘grave mistake’ (pun intended). I wanted to see if the mistake was still there. But I also realized that this whole journey turned out to be a pilgrimage. I opened the gate.
There was no mistake which grave it was. Its shape is out of the ordinary, its stone bathing in the warm light of the sun. This was not the grave of an ordinary person.
I took a few minutes to realize the experience. Here I was, looking at the final resting place of a man who I admired very much, who’s work had been guiding me through many moments in my life. Would someone have accompanied me I would not have known what to say. I was alone. The silence and serenity of the place completed the overwhelming sensation. I had to sit down.
I took a seat on the bench that was close to the grave, but it was too hot in the direct sunlight so I thought what the heck and sat down on the grass in front of the grave. I looked at the sphere.
I don’t know how long I sat there. I can’t remember what my thoughts were or if I had any thoughts at all. But I do remember that at one point I noticed that the sphere was slightly tilted. Then I remembered the other reason for my visit. I stood up and looked at the trigrams that surrounded the circle.
I had seen old pictures of the grave and knew the layout of the trigrams: it was the layout of the houtian bagua 后天八卦. But I also had seen a later picture, dated 2013, that told the disturbing message that Johannes had spotted. I walked around the sphere, observing each trigram, starting with Thunder in the East. Then followed Wind, Fire, Earth, Lake, and… not Heaven. The next trigram was supposed to be Heaven. Instead it was Mountain. I continued to the next trigram. Water, okay. And then, the last trigram: not Mountain. It should have been Mountain. Instead it was the trigram Heaven. Johannes was right: the trigrams Heaven and Mountain were swapped.
It had not always been like this. Maybe the grave was cleaned or restored for some reason and the separate segments were not put back in the right order. Someone should be notified of this, I thought. I decided to make a video of the trigrams with added audio tour. When I’m back home I will take steps to have the trigram circle restored to its original sequence.
I came to Munich mainly for one reason: to research the switch of shaoyin and shaoyang in Wilhelms’ Yijing. And here I was, standing at his grave, contemplating another switch of line symbols. It struck me as a message from the grave, literally and figuratively: switch it!, it seemed to say. When you are working with the Yi for so many years as I have coincidences are hardly coincidences anymore. The link could not be missed.
I stepped back from the grave and realized that my visit to Wilhelm’s resting place, as well as my journey to Germany, was coming to a closure. I decided to have one last walk around the cemetery.
I have always liked cemeteries, especially old ones. The section where Wilhelm is buried is one of the old parts of the cemetery. It is adjacent to the segment where his tutor and father-in-law Christoph Blumhardt is buried.
Between the two parts was a path that led to a newer section of the cemetery. I discovered the grave of one of Wilhelm’s sons, Siegfried. He designed the grave of his father.
There was also the grave of someone named Marion Wilhelm. She died about ten years ago. I wonder in what way she was related to Wilhelm. [edit 11-09-2016: I just found out that Marion was a daughter of Siegfried.]
Who was Ding Tschun-Hiang? Why was he buried in Bad Boll? And why did he only live to be 18 years old? Did Wilhelm know him? All these questions ran through my head.
The small path that let me to this section continued towards the main gate. I looked over the gate, gazing in the distance, looking at the hills that were part of the landscape of Wilhelms’ village. I turned around and looked towards the end of the main path, which ended in a small pavilion. I walked back to the section where Wilhelm was buried. It was getting late and I needed to get back on the bus.
When I entered the part of the cemetery with Wilhelm’s grave I took a few last pictures. It was time to put my journey to an end. I found it hard to leave the place. A person like Wilhelm can easily become an obsession. My visit to Munich and to the cemetery gave me more questions than answers. But I had to leave it all behind me. Instead of carrying Wilhelm in my head I chose to cherish his work in my heart.
I passed Wilhelm’s grave, opened the gate and closed it behind me. For one last time I looked at Wilhelm’s final resting place. I turned around and walked back to the sanatorium.
At the bus stop at the sanatorium an old man approached me, asking for directions but I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying. I asked ‘wo gehen sie hin?’ (‘where are you going?’) and he said he needed to go to the apothecary in the center of Bad Boll. I pointed to the time schedule that was fixed to the bus stop and said, ‘entschuldigung, mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut’ (‘I’m sorry, my German is not so good.’) The old man replied with a reassuring voice that made me wish he was my grandfather: ‘sie sprechen es ganz normal’ (‘you speak it perfectly normal’). The confidence in my language skills went through the roof. The bus arrived. After more then 4 hours of sitting on bus & trains (delays, delays and oh, did I mention delays?) I was back at my apartment.
I spend my last day, Saturday, finishing my blog and walking through the English Park in Munich. Tomorrow I would have an early flight back to Amsterdam. This was my last chance to see Munich.
A young lady was walking in front of me. She had a Chinese tattoo on her back: 實現你的夢.
‘Realize your dreams.’