Born into a cinematic family, his father was a director, producer, screenwriter and is regarded as one of the main figures in Austrian Surrealist Cinema. His mother worked as a photo model and actress. He was greatly influenced by his grandfather, the homeland poet Josef Pfandler, who introduced the young George to the mysteries of the Forest Quarter and the wide world. At the age of sixteen, his mentoring was abruptly broken off when his grandfather died at the hands of the “Death Angels of Lainz”, a group of nurses who cold-bloodedly murdered patients in their care.
The young George started out under the tutelage of his father in his own film productions for German-language television, studying cinematic techniques and acting. Along with activities in his parents‘ company, he attended evening classes, but received no degree because of an academic bribery scandal which was swept under the carpet. George had to face a two-and-a-half year wait before he was eligible to reapply. This event deeply influenced him and his choice of future.
These events led to drive the young man out of the social milieu. Instead of pursuing a career, he remained unattached, getting by as a private instructor, spiritual adviser and art dealer.
Although Grow has been writing since he was young, he came to found the literary arts as inappropriate as a way to make a living in a time dominated by television and Internet. In his lifetime he has never found any sort of creative pursuit as a viable career or way of life. As a “third-generation Post-Mystic”, he writes
“for people and not for publishers”.
Since 2015, Grow has been alternating his domicile between Europe and Central America with his life partner Kattia Watson Carazo, great-niece of the former Costa Rican President Rodrigo Carazo Odios.
The poet-philosopher has no children of his own, seeing his family in all living beings, to quote an un-ironic line from one of his fictional characters “perhaps because it is easier to love them all than to love individuals”. He described his image of humanity in The Messenger:
“I have never been any great friend of humanity, but I always enjoyed the company of friendly people”.
Grow’s literary approach sees the world as a single motion. His philosophical approach tries to systematically and definitively interpret the whole of reality in its full range of appearances, including its historical development.
Unlike earlier systematists, Grow brings the procession of thought to light through literature following the high demand for practical utility.
Three visions regularly appear in George Grow’s works:
- The creation of an agenda for the collective or integral intelligence of virtue.
But virtue in this case is not a moral category, but rather a functional one. Virtue is defined as the sense of intentionally or even unintentionally serving to discover the meaning of life.
- Renewal of the function of democracy.
With the dethronement of the aristocracy and the proclamation of the republic more than a hundred years ago, no true democracy came into being. George Grow and the Books of Life provide us with democratic education, entertainment, and education. They provide us with tools with which a legal turn and reform to true democracy is possible.
- Renewal of the function of religion.
According to Grow’s axiomatic approach, the greatest peril of modern society is its assumption that humankind has been able to escape the Cosmic Order or that such an Order has never existed. Although Modernism has freed us from the bonds of outdated, despotic religious and political dominance, we have been tossed into a void. It is to show that man has a metaphysical dimension of humanity and is more than just an individual aspect, in that we all share a fate, a meaning, a direction of movement, a history and the same world – together but all in various ways.
Proceeding from a series of mereological theses, which give new meaning to concepts such as meaning, order, fate, happiness, chance and God, Grow gives us,
The New Integrality
The philosophy of Martin Heidegger, who Grow started studying intensively in 1995, plays a key role. A metaphysical world view, a high level of education and the frequently perceptible advances on a solid scientific basis led to his attempt,
“to come to a new understanding, depth and clarity which all effect us in every sense, preparing us for the challenges we face”.
This first addresses the end of our Industrial Age and the change it has brought to our lifestyle, which is not based on material abundance but on the demands of sustainability, the protection of our living environment, of wealth arising from limiting humankind and discovering our inner wealth.
In his metaphysically motivated texts, written in a style that uses lighter elements, wit and irony, Grow combines traditional elements with modern ones
“into a unity that does not follow any teachings or ideology, but is based on experience and knowledge of Evolution”.
Grow‘ Mysticism is Evolutionary Mysticism, and his Theory of History in the History of Evolution. Even his theology is that of a God who is still growing and developing, not omniscient or omnipotent, not only bound by the laws of evolution but totally at their mercy. Miracles are no exceptions to the physical laws that we know, but rather subject to laws that science cannot yet grasp.
Coincidences as a nod and a wink from the heavens play a central role. But since these are the exception rather than the rule on earth, it is recommended to:
“seek salvation not through the ability to be, but rather through the ability to find meaning”.
Search for the meaning of life
Grow’s oeuvre is based on one intellectual principle:
“to demonstrate that all of us, even when he haven’t noticed, are religious, that means attached, bound, involved, that we follow a similar fate, namely the meaning of life”.
This idea sprang up in early Romanticism. This guiding concept is based initially on the view expressed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel that everything is part of an ongoing process. To quote the Romantic poet Novalis:
“We all have the same mission: we are called upon to take part in the creation of the Earth”.
Just as the person who constantly seeks to approach a higher state, which the Romantics recognize as the harmony between humankind and nature.
Grow sees a contradiction between a permanent state and harmony. Views that overvalue or idealize harmony are subject to the danger that they impose on the human soul, because basic physical appetites are part of the psyche, that is, we will always seek sensation. This drive is said to be
“as basic as the drive of a child to learn to walk”.
Grow never tires of pointing out that everyone has the ability to change and shape themselves, as long as they live, that is, to develop their best innate abilities – a process that the German-American psychologist Karen Horney – a great influence on Grow – calls in The Neurotic Personality of Our Times (1929) the “struggle for self-realization”.
A real focus in Grow’s works lies in the attempt to show that this in itself is a metaphysical dimension of humanity and more than just an individual aspect,
“in that we share a fate, a meaning, a direction of movement, a history and the same world – together but all in various ways”.
Thus the Absolute is not – as assumed by the major churches and religions – a matter of knowledge or power, but rather a matter of how everybody and everything consciously or unconsciously relates to it.
“Everything is relative in that it comes into connection with the whole.”
Nicolaus von Kues, an investigator of basic principles whom he greatly admired was especially able in his view to provide clarity by showing that the great variety of objects around us develop from Unity.
“They are like the visible arms of the Unity that remains concealed from us.”
“We cannot recognize Unity itself as it does not let itself be separated. Recognizing [it] means separating, severing, differentiating.”
What we can do is to lead a life, to embody an attitude:
“in which we do not see the differences and even the contradictions between Yes and No as inimical, but rather what logic dictates that they are: parts that are living representatives of the whole [Being, Unity].“
This attitude is the holistic one. The leap to Grow’s integrality consists of seeing Yes and No not just as falsifications, but to definitively question them, since there are not just viewpoints but also realities, axioms. He seeks to determine these on the broad, impenetrable field of falsification and to afford them useful functions.
Politics and society
With the conviction that the structures of Being must be made known in order to consequently and meaningfully shape reality, Grow does not stop when it comes to politics, whose mereological or true form would manifest in democracy. Only in Demokcacy can unity and diversity, Being and Existent realize their rights that have been principally subverted by all political ideologies: The political Left “as defenders of the industrially standardized way of life and as representative of a culture of mediocrity, which seeks to neutralize extraordinary people and bans idiosyncratic personalities to the fringes of society“ would simply undermine diversity and on the other side, the Right Wing or “Universal Capitalism” would do the same to unity. Grow follows the conviction that neither the ultra-extremism that he sees in despotism nor one of the reactionary, often just as extreme movements such as liberalism, socialism, social democracy, fascism, proto-Christianity, Buddhism, romanticism or esotericism would be able to
“create realistic structures that are increasingly sufficient to fulfill the needs of Being and Existent”.
He sees the concept of true or radical democracy as one solution,
“the long-sought fusion arising from Hegel and Marx”.
Whereupon he turns drafting means of realizing full and direct democracy. They are intended to make conceivable the progress from fractional to post-fractional democracy and to heal the schism and incitement of the population through left and right-wing manipulation, but he makes it clear that the way out of a society of propaganda into a society of freedom takes time and that the way will be long and arduous. Until the last vestiges of Fascism are overcome, people will continue to suffer from politics, and not only people but Meaning will never be fully realized.
“Meaning always triumphs”,
he writes, telling us that
“Evolution always has the final word and manages to find advantage even in the worst possible circumstances and triumphs in the end.”
Even consumer society, which is a heavy burden on humankind and the environment, is useful from the evolutionary viewpoint. Humans have to decide for themselves where they stand and reconsider their values.
Grow’s characters break with all concepts of morality.
“Morality is a good thing when it leads us to find meaning.”
Victims are no longer burnt at the stake or driven into exile, but rather ground down in the attempt “to seek, manage, maintain and if needed overthrow an ever-improving sense of order in all areas of life: in science, in professional life, in politics, in the family, in one’s own soul” whereby the meaning of “manage and maintain” can be read as “to purge”.
Social activism in the form of medical or geriatric care might also help healthy people to do good works. It would encourage them to take risks.
“The poor person does not get into heaven simply on account of being poor. It is easier for a rich person to get into heaven if they do good needs (and do not hoard their wealth for themselves).”
Grow even sees opportunism as a moral value if one does not use the advantage gained by it entirely for oneself.
“All possibilities are options, which is why they are made available to us.”
Even those who are not able to seek, manage or if necessary overthrow the existing order, can follow the meaning and open themselves to Being by supporting those who are talented and virtuous, because:
“Serving and being served are two sides of the same coin.”
Grow is one of the pioneers of metaphysical realism (or new realism). His work is characterized by the way in which the apparently metaphysical and magical elements contained there are based on science and/or they are immediately certain. His argumentation reflects a comprehensively educated mind, both in natural sciences, but also in the areas of psychology and sociology, expressed both in objective and in literary form, but losing nothing of its accuracy. He creates the latter based on the demands of systems theory and psycho-synergetics as employing scientific subjectivism and his own personal goal of corresponding to the
“identity of physics and metaphysics just as those of pantheism, monotheism, polytheism and atheism in all its breadth and depth”.
His work contains:
- The contrast between out-of-the-box thinkers and nihilistic, positivistic, as well as theocratic religion
- The contrast between individualists and the stultified conventions of their culture, “whose intention and art consist of going out and bringing home a new life”
- The contrast between active citizens and the uninvolved masses, “in whose eyes it is not the lost sheep that is worth saving but rather the preservation of the entire damn herd.”
Some critics have called Grow’s work “Neuro-romantic” and accuse it of being anachronistic, something for the “dust-heap of history”.
They overlook that the philosopher clearly distances himself from the counter-movement toward naturalism and modernism. Even though he admits that education and role models have a much greater influence on us than inherited traits and environment, he combines these two elements, fusing them into a program in which he as a creative artist, as was common to new romanticists, places its focus on the individual, especially the outsiders in their lonely struggle against the overwhelming power of the masses:
“We owe that not just to the environment and humanity, we owe that to ourselves.”
Grow’s work concentrates on the marginalized and excluded. Despite his free-wheeling lifestyle and over-emphasized self-reflection, his protagonist in The Messenger faces the burden of being the “masculine counterpart to Joan of Arc” and “a bit of a Don Quixote, tilting against the windmills of his own imagination”.
In On Being Human (2020) Grow approaches the charges leveled at his works, not the burden of proof offered by his writing, but indirectly with a view towards a type of person who seems to be prevalent all throughout human history, who starts wars of belief against exclusion, demonization and religious persecution, against “the modernistic mob as the heirs of the church’s inquisition has been reworked and released to defend and give absolution to heretics and betrayers of nihilistic super-atheism, and yet still finds a use in society”.
He notes laconically that:
“We have not reached the end of revelations and wisdom, we are just starting out.”
Grow’s youthful interest centered around theater, literature, art and film, leading him early on to the works of Franz Kafka, Thomas Bernhard, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Adolfo Bioy Casares not least to his father’s cinematic works and his grandfather’s writings, which influenced Grow’s surrealistic and grotesque style. While his first novel Who knows H? (1995) was still strongly influenced by old-school surrealistic imagery, in his later works, The Messenger (2008), Honey Fungus (2014) and The Messiah’s New Clothes (2015) he moved closer to his ideal of what he called an integral style of writing:
- Mono-plural structure
As a child of his times and as scion of a film producer, Grow found most literature that he encountered to be terribly boring. His family provided him with an eclectic library. He saw the only but decisive advantage in the depth that one can create by writing and experience through reading. Which is why he chose literature as a means to express his “new style of thinking” over film or radio. This type of thinking is as colorful as possible. The information is packaged in an ever-changing setting featuring action, wit, romance, violence and compelling dialogues. To keep this quodlibet from dissipating into wild, dissolute trains of consciousness like James Joyce, but rather in depth and density, Grow employs very restricted, even claustrophobic images, which also serve as a mirror to the disturbed and alienated souls around the world. His comedies take place in two, three or no more than four settings. Even his epic works use changes of scenery sparingly, while the always positively, clearly and lovingly portrayed protagonists, despite their pathologically psychological malfunctions, are always brimming with life.
- Erasing the boundaries of genres
As part of his program, Grow addresses the conventions of various genres and modulates them to the point of Parody. In this case Sleeping Beauty serves as the template for The Bloody Kiss of Awakening (2012), while Honey Fungus (2014) is a horror-comedy leaning on the legend of the proto-mass murderer Rübezahl. The Messenger (2008) is represents a 180-degree turnabout on Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, borrows from the genre of psycho thrillers. The first act in The Messiah’s New Clothes (2015) is a psychoanalytic reworking and interpretation of Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot. In the second act, the attention is drawn to therapy in concordance with the diagnosis that the first act makes regarding the psychological state of modernistically viewed society.
- Erasing the distinction between historical eras
The present, past and future are no longer sequential, but depend on the state of the protagonist’s development based on the age which the author draws from the early eras to the future of humanity.
- Integral form of expression
Simple language constructed into complex yet easily understood sentences that sometimes cover a page, which are able to cover parallel events are a characteristic of the dramaturgical concept that embraces both realistic and surrealistic elements.
- Real Fantasy
While imagination in the style of Viennese fantastic realism developed as the preferred stylistic means to escape the horrors of the world, especially those of the Second World War, Grow employs it as a tool to expand “the normative illusion and close-mindedness towards reality”.
- Scenic symbolism
This process, which George Grow describes as an effect, is affirmed in that the fantastic-sounding stories play out in very real locations, which everyone is familiar with, forming a sort of Mecca of modernism: The Messiah’s New Clothes in Central Park and the government buildings near Central Station in Manhattan; The Bloody Kiss of Awakening in Nob Hill, San Francisco, in one of its richly ornamented Gothic villas; Honey Fungus in the Geological Institute in and in the small-town setting of Peterborough, New Hampshire; The Messenger in deeply spiritual but war-torn Kashmir and in the Sodom of modern Vienna.
Who Knows H?, mystery-thriller (1995)
On Being Human, nonfiction (2020)
The Messenger, novel (2008)
Twelve Stations, novel for the young and the young in heart (2019)
The Hires of Fate, mystery-thriller (2014)
The Messiah‘s New Clothes, dystopian comedy (2011)
Honey Fungus, scary comedy (2012)
The Bloody Kiss of Awakening, comedy of enlightenment (2009)
The Path, nonfiction (2015)
Out of the Dark, guidebook (2016)
Bist du groß und schön, Gedichtzyklus (2020)
Biblia democratica, nonfiction (2014)
I Court, project plan (2013)
Frankenstein, The Next Generation, short film (2014)
Hal Hola, short film (2014)
The Rain, short film (2014)
The Fly to Venus, short film (2014)
Who are the People with the Empty Eyes, art film (2017)
Zombie Apocalypse, art film (2017)
The George Grow Effect, installation (2020)