Soren Kierkegaard 1813-1855, by Craig Campbell
Kierkegaard on Christianity my other blog
What portends? What will the future bring? I do not know, I have no presentiment.
When a spider hurls itself down from some fixed point, consistently with its nature, it always sees before it only an empty space wherein it can find no foothold however much it sprawls. And so it is with me: always before me an empty space; what drives me forward is a consistency which lies behind me.
This life is topsy-turvy and terrible, not to be endured.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or I p.24 Swenson translation
There are two kinds of instruction. One is Socratic: asking questions in order to create hunger in a person’s absent knowledge. The other is the opposite: for the pupil to ask. It is the child who should be allowed to do the asking.
Journals of Soren Kierkegaard 49 X IA647
Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard by Charles Creegan 1989
Kierkegaard’s concern with the ‘maieutic’ and the category ‘becoming’ is partly an attempt to cause anxiety, or recognition of anxiety, in his readers. This reflects an interesting difference between his task and Wittgenstein’s. For Wittgenstein, anxiety is already present in philosophy; the correct vision may alleviate it.
Would that there were a hiding place where I am so hidden that not even the consciousness of my sin can find me! Would that there were a border, however narrow, if it still makes a separation between me and my sin! Would that on the other side of a chasmic abyss there were a spot, however little, where I could stand, while the consciousness of my sin must remain on the other side. Would that there were a forgiveness, a forgiveness that does not increase my sense of guilt but truly takes the guilt from me, also the consciousness of it. Would that there were oblivion! But now this is indeed that way it is, because love (Christ’s love) hides a multitude of sins. Behold, everything has become new.
A human being has no authority, cannot command that you shall believe and just by commanding you with authority help you to believe. But if it requires authority even to teach, what authority is required, even greater, if possible, then the authority that commands the heaving sea to be still, to command the despairing person, the one who in the agony of repentance is unable and does not dare to forget, the prostrate penitent who is unable and does not dare to stop staring at his guilt, what authority is required to command him to shut his eyes, and what authority is then required to command him to open the eyes of faith so that he sees purity where he saw guilt and sin!
That divine authority he alone has, Jesus Christ, whose love hides a multitude of sins. He hides it very literally. Just as when one person places himself in front of another person and covers him so completely with his body that no one, no one, can see the person hidden behind him, so Jesus Christ covers your sin with his holy body.
Soren Kierkegaard, Two Discourses at Friday Communion, 1851 (Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins 1 Peter 4:80 From Without Authority, Hong 1997 p. 184-185
Francesco Petrarch wrote Petrarch’s Secret in 1350 – This is an excerpt
It is certain, that the scriptures declare that “the Spirit of God dwells within us,” that it animates us, speaks to us in silence, suggests all truth to us, and that we are so united to it, that we are joined unto the Lord in one spirit. This is what the Christian religion teaches us.
Those learned men, who have been most opposed to the idea of an interior life, are obliged to acknowledge it. Notwithstanding this, they suppose that the external law, or rather the light from certain doctrines and reasonings, enlightens our minds, and that afterwards it is our reason that acts by itself from these instructions.
They do not attach sufficient importance to the teacher within us, which is the Spirit of God. This is the soul of our soul, and without it we could form no thought or desire.
Alas! then, of what blindness we are guilty, if we suppose that we are alone in this interior sanctuary, while, on the contrary, God is there even more intimately than we are ourselves.
You will say, perhaps, Are we then inspired? Yes, doubtless, but not as the prophets and the apostles were. Without the actual inspiration of the Almighty, we could neither do, nor will, nor think anything. We are then always inspired; but we are ever stifling this inspiration.
God never ceases to speak to us; but the noise of the world without, and the tumult of our passions within, bewilder us, and prevent us from listening to him.
All must be silent around us, and all must be still within us, when we would listen with our whole souls to this voice. It is a still small voice and is only heard by those who listen to no other. Alas! How seldom is it that the soul is so still, that it can hear when God speaks to it.
The Spirit of God Teaches Within by Franc̜ois Fenelon 1651-1715
Soren Kierkegaard thought that there was too much talk about doubting everything and not enough silence in 1849. Kierkegaard keeps with “Seek first the kingdom of heaven”. Kant says seek first to find out what is yours and what is borrowed.
Mary Astell’s advice to women is that they have a Christian marriage and she’s glad John Locke wrote his book on Understanding. Rousseau thinks one should seek for the kingdom of heaven when one turns eighteen or twenty-one. Hegel thinks they should find out about guilt at some point and Goethe thinks that Descartes’ idea of beginning with doubt could be okay but in all Goethe’s books doubt turned into knowledge and then faith. Kierkegaard says, no one can give faith to another or make an eternal decision for another.
What would he think today?
It is true that in the confessional it is the pastor who preaches; but the true preacher is still the secret-sharer in your inner being. The pastor can preach only in vague generalities; the preacher in your inner being is just the opposite; he speaks simply and solely about you, to you, and within you.
Two Discourses at the Communion on Fridays by Soren Kierkegaard August 7, 1851 Hong translation 1997 (From Without Authority) P. 183
When around one everything has become silent, solemn as a clear, starlit night, when the soul comes to be alone in the whole world, then before one there appears, not an extraordinary human being, but the eternal power itself, then the heavens open, and the I chooses itself or, more correctly, receives itself. Then the personality receives the accolade of knighthood that ennobles it for an eternity.
His self is, so to speak, outside him, and it has to be acquired, and repentance is his love for it, because he chooses it absolutely from the hand of God. What I have expressed here is not academic wisdom; it is something every person can express if he wants to, something every person can will if he so wills.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or II 1843 p. 177, 217 Hong
Mary Astell 1666-1731 Some Reflections upon Marriage 1706
An ill husband may deprive a wife of the comfort and quiet of her life, give occasion of exercising her virtue, try her patience and fortitude to the utmost, which is all he can do; it is herself only that can accomplish her ruin.
Is it the being tied to One that offends us? Why this ought rather to recommend it to us, and would really do so, were we guided by reason, and not by humor and brutish passion. He who does not make friendship the chief inducement of his choice, and prefer it before any other consideration does not deserve a good wife, and therefore should not complain if he goes without one. The Christian institution of marriage provides the best that may be for domestic quiet and content, and for the education of children.
Whether it be wit or beauty that a man’s in love with, there are no great hopes of a lasting happiness; beauty, with all the helps of arts, is of no long date; the more it is, the sooner it decays; and he, who only or chiefly chose for beauty, will in a little time find the same reason for another choice.
She must be a fool who can believe a man, proud and vain as he is, will lay his boasted authority, the dignity and prerogative of his sex, one moment at her feet, and in prospect of taking it up again to more advantage; he may call himself her slave a few days, but it is only in order to make her his all the rest of his life.
The better our lot is in this world, and the more we have of it, the greater is our leisure to prepare for the next; we have the more opportunity to exercise that God-like quality, to taste that divine pleasure, doing good to the bodies and souls of those beneath us.
The numberless treatises of antiquities, philosophy, mathematics, natural and other history written originally in, or translated to our tongue, are sufficient to lead us a great way into any science our curiosity shall prompt us to. The greatest difficulty we struggled with, was the want of a good art of reasoning, which we had not, that I know of, till that defect was supplied by Locke, whose Essay on Human Understanding makes large amends for the want of all others in that kind.
Mary Astell An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex. P. 54
Jean Jacques Rousseau published his book Emile in 1762. It has had a huge effect since its publication. He are a few things he thought.
Locke would have us begin with the study of spirits and go on to that of bodies. This is the method of superstition, prejudice, and error; it is not the method of nature, nor even that of well-ordered reason; it is to learn to see by shutting our eyes. We must have studied bodies long enough before we can form any true idea of spirits, or even suspect that there are such beings. The contrary practice merely puts materialism on a firmer footing.
I am aware that many of my readers will be surprised to find me tracing the course of my scholar through his early years without speaking to him of religion. At fifteen he will not even know that he has a soul, at eighteen even he may not be ready to learn about it. For if he learns about it too soon, there is the risk of his never really knowing anything about it.
It would be better to have no idea at all of the Divinity than to have mean, grotesque, harmful, and unworthy ideas; to fail to perceive the Divine is a lesser evil than to insult it. The worthy Plutarch says, “I would rather men said, ‘There is no such person as Plutarch,’ than that they should say, ‘Plutarch is unjust, envious, jealous, and such a tyrant that he demands more than can be performed.'”
The chief harm which results from the monstrous ideas of God which are instilled into the minds of children is that they last all their life long, and as men they understand no more of God than they did as children.
It is in matters of religion more than in anything else that prejudice is triumphant. But when we who profess to shake off its yoke entirely, we who refuse to yield any homage to authority, decline to teach Emile anything which he could not learn for himself in any country, what religion shall we give him, to what sect shall this child of nature belong? The answer strikes me as quite easy. We will not attach him to any sect, but we will give him the means to choose for himself according to the right use of his own reason.
Emile is no prodigy, neither is Sophy. He is a man and she is a woman; this is all they have to boast of. In the present confusion between the sexes it is almost a miracle to belong to one’s own sex.
Nicolas de Condorcet 1743-1794 wrote Outlines of an Historical View of the Progress of the Human Mind in French. It was translated into English and published in 1795. It is an excellent example of Kierkegaard’s idea of repetition.
Contempt for human sciences was one of the first features of Christianity. It had to avenge itself of the outrages of philosophy; it feared that spirit of investigation and doubt, that confidence of man in his own reason, the pest alike of all religious creeds. The fight of the natural sciences was even odious to it, and was regarded with a suspicious eye, as being a dangerous enemy to the success of miracles: and there is no religion that does not oblige its sectaries to swallow some physical absurdities. The triumph of Christianity was thus the signal of the entire decline both of the sciences and of philosophy.
Had the art of printing been known, the sciences would have been able to preserve their ground; but the existing manuscripts of any particular book were few in number; and to procure works that might form the entire body of a science, required cares, and often journeys and an expense to which the rich only were competent. It was easy for the ruling party to suppress the appearance of books which shocked its prejudices, or unmasked its impostures. P. 128
Immanuel Kant gave lectures on Anthropology in 1773 and published them in 1798. Here are a few things he had to say.
From the day when a man begins to speak as I, he brings his beloved self in front whenever there is the least chance, and his egotism progresses steadily, in order that he may — if not openly, for then the egotism of others comes to oppose him, at least covertly and with seeming self-denial and pretended modesty — place a preeminent value on himself in the judgment of others.
nausea, an inclination to relieve ourselves of what we have eat or drunk by the shortest way of the esophagus, that is, to vomit, has been given to man as a vital sensation of unusual degree; since so intense an appropriation might become dangerous to the animal.
But since there exists also a spiritual enjoyment, which results from the communication of thoughts, and which, when forced upon us and is not healthy for us as spiritual food, but found to be disagreeable — as, for instance, a repetition of the same witty or supposed to be witty sayings — and which may, therefore, also become unwholesome to us on account of that very sameness: we call the instinct of nature to get rid of this spiritual food, also nausea, for the sake of analogy; although it belongs to the internal sense.
Deception, occurring through the force of imagination reaches sometimes such a degree in a man that he believes he sees or feels outside of himself what, after all, is merely in his head. Hence the dizziness which seizes a person who looks down into an abyss, although he stands on a platform large enough to prevent his falling, and perhaps even has hold of a stout railing. Very odd is the fear which some people of sickly mind have of an inner impulse to throw themselves voluntarily down from a steep height.
If someone has purposely caused a disaster, and it is questionable whether he is at all, or in what degree he is to be, blamed for it, and whether or not he was insane at the time of the commission of the deed, the court should not refer him to the medical facility – the court itself being incompetent to decide upon such a case – but to the philosophical faculty. On this ground the question whether the accused was in the possession of all the faculties of his understanding and judgment, is altogether of a psychological nature….
Helmont says, that, after having taken a certain dose of “napell” – a poisonous root, he felt as if he thought in his stomach. Many people have experimented with opium to such an extent that they finally felt their minds weaken when they neglected to use this stimulant of their brain.
To distinguish in the representation of the conceptions that belong to morality, which constitutes the essence of religion, and that therefore appertain to pure reason (which conceptions are called ideas, the symbolical from the intellectual part – church-service from religion-and thus to separate and perhaps, temporarily useful and necessary hull form the subject-matter itself – this is enlightenment” since otherwise an ideal (of pure, practical reason) would be exchanged for an idol, and the object aimed at would thus be missed.
Kant’s categorical imperative:
What else then can freedom of the will be but autonomy, that is, the property of the will to be a law to itself? But the proposition: “The will is in every action a law to itself,” only expresses the principle: “To act on no other maxim than that which can also have as an object itself as a universal law.” Now this is precisely the formula of the categorical imperative and is the principle of morality, so that a free will and a will subject to moral laws are one and the same.
Kierkegaard had this to say about Kant’s imperative.
Kant thought that man was his own legislator (autonomy); that is, subjecting himself to the law that he gives to himself. Properly understood, that is to postulate lawlessness or experimentation. There will be as little seriousness in this as in the mighty blows Sancho Panza dealt himself on the back. It is impossible for me, in A, really to be stricter than I am in B, or wish to be that. There must be a constraint if there is to be earnest. When nothing higher than myself is binding, if it is simply that I am to bind myself, then where as A, the one who binds, am I to acquire the strictness I do not possess as B, the one to be bound, if A and B are the same self?
This is evident these days, especially in all religious realms. The conversion which is properly from immediacy to spirit, that dying away, will not be serious, will be an illusion, experimentation, if there is no factor, which is not the individual itself. That is why all eminent individualities are also compelled, they are instruments. Not only is there no law that I give myself as a maxim, it is the case that there is a law given me by a higher authority. And not just that: the legislator makes so free as to take part in the capacity of education and exerts the compulsion. If someone never acts so decisively that this educator can get hold of him; yes, then he gets to live on in comfortable illusion, fantasy, and experimentation.
But this also implies he is in the very highest disfavor. A person can at least be strict enough with himself to grasp that this business of my own strictness amounts to nothing; I must have another to help, one who can be severe even if he can also be lenient. But to have dealings with this other does not mean giving assurance upon assurance, it means acting. As soon as one acts decisively and emerges into actuality, existence can get hold of one and guidance bring one up.
Papers and Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, 50 X 2 A 396 – Hannay 1996, p. 467
The twenty two hundred plus year project started by Pyrrho, Descartes and Immanuel Kant. (Repetition) The Philosophical common mind is still standing around in 1780.
The very numerous treatises on Ethics of the present time indicate the whereabouts of philosophical activity. The philosophical common mind (so to speak) stands where the mind of Kant stood more than one hundred years ago. It is the positive side of the “Aufklarung” — the clearing up of consciousness — first a negative movement of revolt from all tradition, all customary beliefs, all habitual modes of thought, all conformity to institutions — a cleansing of the mind from all that is imposed upon it from without.
Next, the mind begins the positive movement of taking an inventory of its possessions, of its own inalienable matter and force, its inseparable ideas and principles. From these innate ideas and principles it proceeds to reconstruct its view of the world, and to find what there is in it that is demanded by man’s nature. He asks for the nature of the first principle of the universe, his own origin and destiny, and the true form of the conduct of life.
If one wishes to strip people of their illusions in order to lead them to something more true, here as always you are “at your service in every way.” On the whole you are tireless in tracking down illusions in order to smash them to pieces. You talk so sensibly, with such experience, that anyone who does not know you better must believe that you are a steady man. But you have by no means arrived at what is true. You stopped with destroying the illusion, and since you did it in every conceivable direction, you actually have worked your way into a new illusion-that one can stop with this. Yes, my friend, you are living in an illusion, and you are achieving nothing.
Soren Kierkegaard Either/Or Vol 2 1843 Hong translation p. 78
The perverse and absurd modern philosophy referred to in our last lecture, as the peculiar organ and voice of common opinion, comes forward and unblushingly declares: “Outward sense is the only source of reality, and all our knowledge is founded upon experience alone;” as if this were an axiom to which no one could adduce a single objection.
To explain this more fully: You perceive that I distinguish Being (Seyn] essential, self-comprehended Being from Ex-istence (Daseyn), and represent these two ideas as entirely opposed to each other, as not even indirectly connected with each other.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel thought about guilt in his Phenomenology of the Mind in 1807.
As man is immediately, man is good, qua natural consciousness per se, absolute qua individual, and all else exists for him: and further, since the moments have the significance of universality for him qua self-conscious animal, everything exists to pleasure and delight him, and, as he first comes from the hand of God, he walks the earth as in a garden planted for him.
He is bound also to pluck the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; he claims to have a use for it which distinguishes him from every other being, for, as it happens, his inherently good nature is so constituted that the superfluity of delight does it harm, or rather his particularity contains as a factor in its constitution a principle that goes beyond it; his particularity can overreach itself and destroy itself.
To prevent this, he finds reason a useful means for duly restraining this self-transcendence, or rather for preserving himself when he does go beyond determinate limits: for such is the force of consciousness. As everything is useful for man, man is likewise useful too, and his characteristic determination consists in making himself a member of the human herd, of use for the common good, and serviceable to all. The extent to which he looks after his own interests is the measure with which he must also serve the purpose of others, and so far as he serves their turn, he is taking care of himself: the one hand washes the other. But wherever he finds himself there he is in his right: he makes use of others and is himself made use of. (569-570)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe thought about doubt in his Autobiography in 1811/1833.
We (Goethe and Herder) had not lived together long in this manner when he confided to me that he meant to be competitor for the prize which was offered at Berlin, for the best treatise on the origin of language. His work was already nearly completed, and, as he wrote a very neat hand, he could soon communicate to me, in parts, a legible manuscript. I had never reflected on such subjects, for I was yet too deeply involved in the midst of things to have thought about their beginning and end. The question, too, seemed to me in some measure and idle one; for if God had created man as man, language was just as innate in him as walking erect; he must have just as well perceived that he could sing with his throat, and modify the tones in various ways with tongue, palate, and lips, as he must have remarked that he could walk and take hold of things. If man was of divine origin, so was also language itself: and if man, considered in the circle of nature was a natural being, language was likewise natural. These two things, like soul and body, I could never separate.
Silberschlag, with a realism crude yet somewhat fantastically devised, had declared himself for the divine origin, that is, that God had played the schoolmaster to the first men. Herder’s treatise went to show that man as man could and must have attained to language by his own powers. I read the treatise with much pleasure, and it was of special aid in strengthening my mind; only I did not stand high enough either in knowledge or thought to form a solid judgment upon it. But one was received just like the other; there was scolding and blaming, whether one agreed with him conditionally or unconditionally.
The fat surgeon (Lobstein) had less patience than I; he humorously declined the communication of this prize-essay, and affirmed that he was not prepared to meditate on such abstract topics. He urged us in preference to a game of ombre, which we commonly played together in the evening. Autobiography of Goethe Vol 2 P. 349-350
Kierkegaard was against putting so much stress on external proofs of God’s existence.
It has really made me uneasy to hear the jubilation with which younger men, just like the terrorists in the French Revolution, shout: de omnibus dubitandum. Perhaps I am prejudiced. But I do believe, however, that we must distinguish between personal and scientific doubt. Personal doubt is always a special matter, and such an enthusiasm for destruction, which we hear so much about, has at best the result that a goodly number of men venture out but do not have the power to doubt, and they succumb or become irresolute, which is likewise certain destruction.
But if an individual’s wrestling in doubt develops the power that in turn overcomes the doubt, such a sight is elevating, since it shows the quality of the person, but it is not really beautiful, because to be that requires that it have immediacy within itself. Such a development produced in the highest degree through doubt aims at what in an extreme expression is called: making one into a completely different person. Beauty, however, consists in this, that immediacy is acquired in and with the doubt.
I must emphasize this in opposition to the abstraction in which doubt has been affirmed, the idolatry with which people have engaged in it, the rashness with which people have plunged into it, the blind trust with which people have hoped for a glorious result from it.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or II 1843, Hong translation p. 95
He was for each single individual finding tasks before others assign them to them.
If a person is sometimes in the right, sometimes in the wrong, to some degree in the right, to some degree in the wrong, who, then, is the one who makes that decision except the person himself, but in the decision may he not again be to some degree to the right and to some degree in the wrong?
Or is he a different person when he judges his act then when he acts? Is doubt to rule, then, continually to discover new difficulties, and is care to accompany the anguished soul and drum past experiences into it?
Or would we prefer continually to be in the right in the way irrational creatures are?
Then we have only the choice between being nothing in relation to God or having to begin all over again every moment in eternal torment, yet without being able to begin, for if we are able to decide definitely with regard to the previous moment, and so further and further back. Doubt is again set in motion, care again aroused; let us try to calm it by deliberating on: The Upbuilding That Lies In The Thought That In Relation To God We Are Always In The Wrong. Soren Kierkegaard Either/Or II p. 346 Hong
August Comte 1798-1857 wrote many books in his life time that are still relevant today, especially for sociologists. This is from System of Positive Polity Instituting the Religion of Humanity 1851.
Unless the new philosophy can obtain the support of women, the attempt to substitute it for theology in the regulation of social life had better be abandoned.
On philosophers rests the duty of giving logical coherence to this principle and saving it from sophistical attacks. Its practical working depends upon the proletary class, without whose aid it would almost always be evaded. But to maintain it in all its purity, as an inspiration that needs neither argument nor compulsion, is the work of women only. So constituted, the alliance of the three classes will be the foreshadowed image of the normal state to which Humanity is tending. It will be the living type of perfect human nature.
From the time when Women acquired in the Middle Ages their proper freedom in the household, opportunities for social intercourse arose which combined most happily the advantages of private and of public life; and in these women presided. The practice afterward extended, especially in France, and these meetings became the laboratories of public opinion.
Just as almost every philosopher believes he has found the truth, just as almost every poet believes he has reached Mount Parnassus, just so we find on the other hand many who link their lives entirely to another, like a parasite to a plant, live in him, die in him (for example, the Frenchman in relation to Napoleon).
But in the heart of nature, where a person, free from life’s often nauseating air, breathes more freely, here the soul opens willingly to every noble impression. Here one comes out as nature’s master, but he also feels that something higher is manifested in nature, something he must bow down before; he feels a need to surrender to this power that rules it all. (I, of course, would rather not speak of those who see nothing higher in nature than substance — people who really regard heaven as a cheese-dish cover and men as maggots who live inside it.)
Soren Kierkegaard, Journals 1A 68 1 1835
Soren Kierkegaard by David Swenson part 2
What had been his eye’s delight, his eyes craved to see again and his ingratitude punished him by inducing him to believe it to be more beautiful than it had ever been. What his soul delighted in, it now thirsted for, and ingratitude punished him by picturing it to him as more delightful than it had ever been. What he once had been able to do, he now wanted to be able to do again, and ingratitude punished him with fantasies that had never had any truth. Then he condemned his soul, living, to be starved out in the insatiable craving of the lack.
Soren Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 1843-1844, Hong, p. 117
Henri-Frederic Amiel kept a journal like Kierkegaard did. He said, “Christianity brings and preaches salvation by the conversion of the will, and humanism by the emancipation of the mind.” in his entry for 7 April 1851.
The concept of “neighbor” is actually the redoubling of your own self; “the neighbor” is what thinkers call “the other,” that by which the selfishness in self-love is to be tested. As far as thought is concerned, the neighbor does not even need to exist. If someone living on a desert island mentally conformed to this commandment, by renouncing self-love he could be said to love the neighbor. To be sure, “neighbor” in itself is a multiplicity, since “the neighbor” means “all people,” and yet in another sense one person is enough in order to be able to practice the Law.
Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love 1847, Hong p. 21-22
Someone who has lived his whole life in a remote place and in addition has had only slight interest in getting to know nature-how little he knows, he who also speaks of the multiplicity of creation. A natural scientist, on the other hand, who traveled around the world, who has been all over, both above and under the surface of the earth, has seen the abundance that he has seen, and moreover with armed eyes he has at a distance discovered otherwise invisible stars and at extraordinarily close range has discovered otherwise invisible creeping things-how amazing much he knows; yet he uses the same phrase, “multiplicity of creation.”
And further, although the natural scientist is happy about what he has succeeded in observing, he willingly admits that there is no limit to discoveries since there is not even any limit to discoveries regarding the instruments used for discovery; therefore the multiplicity, as it is discovered or as new instruments of discovery are discovered, continually becoming greater and greater and can continually become even greater, that is, proves to be even greater-yet all in all it is still, comprehended in the phrase “the multiplicity of creation.”
The same is true of the multitude of sins. The phrase means something very different, depending on who the speaker is. Therefore one discovers the multitude of sins to be continually greater and greater; that is, through discovery it continually proves to be greater and greater, of course also by means of the discoveries one makes with regard to how craftily, how mistrustingly one must conduct oneself in order to make the discoveries. Accordingly, the one who does not discover hides the multitude, because for him the multiple is smaller.
Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love 1847 Hong p. 282-283
Take the joyful one, let him rejoice in his good fortune-if you, the unfortunate one, were joyful again over his good fortune, would you not then both be joyful?
Take the person of distinction, let him delight in his advantages-if you, the insulted one, had forgotten the affront and now saw his excellence, would the difference indeed be great?
Take the youth, let him hurry on with the confidence of hope-if you, although disappointed by life, perhaps assisted him secretly, would the difference then be so great?
Ah, good fortune and honor and wealth and beauty and power-these do indeed constitute the dissimilarity. But if the only difference is that one person’s good fortune and wealth and beauty and power are a field plant and the other’s a grave flower that is cultivated in the sacred soil of self-denial-is the difference then so great; after all, they are both fortunate and honored and rich and beautiful and powerful.
Alas, no, then a person needs no compensation, least of all the kind that deceitfully suppresses the fact that he himself becomes nothing. However oppressive the dissimilarity was, the earnest thought about the equality of death, like the strict upbringing, did help to renounce worldly comparison, to understand annihilation as something even more terrible, and to want to seek the equality before God.
Soren Kierkegaard, Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions, Soren Kierkegaard, June 17, 1845, Hong 1993 p. 90-92
The wish is indeed the sufferer’s relation to a happier temporality (faith and hope are the relation to the eternal through the will) and the wish is, as it were, the tender spot where the suffering hurts, the tender spot that suffering continually touches. Where there is no longer any wish, the suffering, even if there could be any question of suffering, is an animal suffering, not a suffering that is distinctive for a human being.
It is a kind of spiritual suicide to want to kill the wish, because we are not speaking of wishes but of the wish with the essential accent of excellence, just as we are not speaking of transient sufferings either but of one who is suffering essentially. The wish is not the healing; that is only through the eternal. But the wish is the life in the suffering, the health in the suffering, is the maintenance of the suffering, for it is as the thinker has said: “Temporality’s comfort is a dubious matter, because it lets the wound close although it is not healed, and yet the physician knows that recovery comes through keeping the wound open.” (Johannes Climacus, Postscript p. 84)
In the wish the wound is kept open so that the eternal can heal; if the wound grows over, if the wish disappears, then eternity cannot heal, then temporality has really bungled the illness.
So let us speak about the wish and thereby about sufferings let us properly dwell on these, convinced that one learns more profoundly and reliable what the highest is by reflecting on sufferings than on reflecting on achievements, in which there is that is distracting.
There are, of course, wishes that die at birth; there are wishes that are forgotten like yesterday; there are wishes that one outgrows and later scarcely recognizes; there are wishes that one learns to give up; and how good it was that one gave them up; there are wishes to which one dies, which one hides, just as a departed on is hidden in transfigured recollection – these are the wishes that could be the more or less dangerous sicknesses to which a person who acts is exposed, while the healing here can be that the particular wish disappears. But then there is also a wish that dies slowly, that remains with the person who suffers essentially in the loss and dies only when he dies, because wishes pertain to the particular and the multifarious, but the wish pertains essentially to the whole life.
But if the matter of the wish is so sad, how joyful is the matter of hope! There is a hope that is born and dies; a brief hope that is forgotten tomorrow; a childish hope that the adult does not recognize; a hope to which one dies; but then – in death, in the decision of death, there is born a hope that does not die at birth, because it is born in death; through this hope, underneath the pain of the wish, in the decision the suffering one is the good! So it is with the hope in which the suffering one aims from a distance, as it were, at the eternal.
Even more joyful is the matter of faith, for there is a faith that disappoints and disappears; a faith that is lost and regretted. There is a faith that is like death when it swoons, but then – in death, in the decision of death, there is won a faith that does not disappoint; is not regr4etted, does not die. It grasps the eternal and holds it fast; through this faith, underneath the pain of the wish, in the decision the suffering one is with the good.So it is with faith, in which the suffering one draws the eternal closer to himself, and with love it is most joyful of all.
For there is a love that flares up and is forgotten; there is a love that unites and separates; there is a love until death, but then – in death, in the decision of death, there is born a love that does not flare up, does not equivocate, is not until death, but on the other side of death it abides – in this love, underneath the pain of the wish, in the decision the suffering on abides with the good. 101
O you suffering one, whoever you are, do you want, double-minded, to seek the palliative of temporality that makes you forget your suffering – so you think, but no, it makes you forget the eternal! Do you want, double-minded, to despair because all is lost – so you think, but there is indeed everything to gain with the eternal!
Do you want, double-minded to despair? Have you reflected upon what it means to despair? It means to deny that God is love! Really think this through, that a person who despairs is giving up on himself – yes, that is what he thinks – no, he is giving up on God! Ah, do not weary your soul with makeshift, temporary palliatives; do not grieve the spirit with temporal consolations; do not suicidally kill the wish; through hope, through faith, through love you win the highest that the most powerful is capable of – in the decision to be with the good!
Soren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, March 13, 1847 by Soren Kierkegaard, copyright 1993 by Howard Hong, Princeton University Press p. 99-101
The Lord gave-this is a short statement but for Job it said a great deal, because Job’s memory was not short and his thankfulness was not forgetful. With thankfulness resting in his soul in quiet sadness, he said a gentle and friendly farewell to everything all together, and in this farewell everything vanished like a beautiful recollection-indeed it was as if it were not the Lord who took it away but Job who gave it back to him. If he had never known happiness, then the pain would not have overwhelmed him, for what is pain but an idea that the person knows nothing else does not have, but now it is precisely joy that has educated and developed him to perceive pain.” Then his joy became his own ruin; it was never lost but only lacking, and in its lack it tempted him more than ever before. What had been his eye’s delight, his eyes craved to see again and his ingratitude punished him by inducing him to believe it to be more beautiful than it had ever been. What his soul delighted in, it now thirsted for, and ingratitude punished him by picturing it to him as more delightful than it had ever been. What he once had been able to do, he now wanted to be able to do again, and ingratitude punished him with fantasies that had never had any truth. Then he condemned his soul, living, to be starved out in the insatiable craving of the lack.
Soren Kierkegaard, Four Upbuilding Discourses 1843 The Lord Gave, And The Lord Took Away; Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord. (Job 1:20-21), (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses) P. 116-117
But if he nevertheless is unwilling to be an instrument of war in the service of inexplicable drives, indeed, in the service of the world, because the world itself, the object of his craving, stimulates the drive; if he nevertheless does not want to be like a stringed instrument in the hands of inexplicable moods or, rather, in the hands of the world, because the movement of the soul is in accord with the way the world plucks its strings; if he does not want to be like a mirror in which he intercepts the world or, rather, the world reflects itself; if he does not want this, if he himself, even before the eye aims at something to make a conquest, wants to capture the eye so that it may belong to him and not he to the eye; if he grasps the hand before it grasps for the external, so that it may belong to him and not he to the hand; if he wants this so earnestly that he is not afraid of tearing out the eye, cutting off the hand, shutting the window of the senses if necessary-well, then everything is changed: the power is taken away from him, and the glory. He struggles not with the world but with himself.
Observe him now; his powerful figure is held embraced by another figure, and they hold each other so firmly interlocked and are so equally matched in suppleness and strength that the wrestling cannot even begin, because in that moment that other figure would overwhelm him-but that other figure is he himself. Thus he is capable of nothing; even the weakest person who is not tried in this struggle is capable of far more than he.
Soren Kierkegaard, Four Upbuilding Discourses 1844, To Need God Is A Human Being’s Highest Perfection (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses) p. 308-309
There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act. These are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect. If I ask myself how to judge that this question is more urgent than that, I reply that one judges by the actions it entails. I have never seen anyone die for the ontological argument.
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays, An Absurd Reasoning : Absurdity and Suicide p. 3 (1942, 1955)
God’s greatness lies in forgiving, in showing mercy, and in this greatness He is greater than the heart which condemns itself. Behold, this is that greatness of God which we have to speak of especially within the sanctuary; for here we know God differently, more closely – from the other side, if one may say so – that out there, where doubtless He is revealed, is to be known in His works, whereas here He is to be known as He has revealed Himself, as He would be known by Christians. The tokens of God’s greatness can be known in nature everyone can behold with wonder, or rather there is no special token, for the works themselves are the tokens; thus every one can see the rainbow and must wonder when he sees it. But the token of God’s greatness in showing mercy exists only for faith; this token is in fact the Sacrament. God’s greatness in nature is manifest, but God’s greatness in showing mercy is a secret which has to be believed.
Soren Kierkegaard, Three Discourses at the Communion on Fridays.1 John 3: From Cristian Discourses & The Lilies of the Field & The Birds of the Air, & Discourses at the Communion on Fridays. 1848 Translated by Walter Lowrie 1940, 1961 Galaxy Books P. 298-299
Accept the invitation so that the inviter may save you from what is so hard and dangerous to be saved from, so that, saved, you may be with him who is the Savior of all, of innocence also. For even if it were possible that utterly pure innocence was to be found somewhere, why should it not also need a Savior who could keep it safe from evil! –
The invitation stands at the crossroad, there where the way of sin turns more deeply into sin. Come here, all you who are lost and gone astray, whatever your error and sin, be it to human eyes more excusable and yet perhaps more terrible, or be it to human eyes more terrible and yet perhaps more excusable, be it disclosed here on earth or be it hidden and yet known in heaven-and even if you found forgiveness on earth but no peace within, or found no forgiveness because you did not seek it, or because you sought it in vain: oh, turn around and come here, here is rest!
The invitation stands at the crossroad, there where the way of sin turns off for the last time and disappears from view in-perdition.
Oh, turn around, turn around, come here; do not shrink from the difficulty of retreat, no matter how hard it is; do not be afraid of the laborious pace of conversion, however toilsomely it leads to salvation, whereas sin leads onward with winged speed, with mounting haste-or leads downward so easily, so indescribably easily, indeed, as easily as when the horse, completely relieved of pulling, cannot, not even with all its strength, stop the wagon, which runs it into the abyss.
Do not despair over every relapse, which the God of patience has the patience to forgive and under which a sinner certainly should have the patience to humble himself. No, fear nothing and do not despair; he who says “Come here” is with you on the way; from him there is help and forgiveness on the way of conversion that leads to him, and with him is rest.
Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1850, Hong p. 18-19
If one were to state and describe in a single sentence the victory Christianity has won over the world or even more correctly, the victory by which it has more than overcome the world (since Christianity has never wanted to conquer in a worldly way), infinity’s change that Christianity has as its aim, by which everything indeed remains as it was (since Christianity has never been a friend of the trumpery of novelty) and yet in the sense of infinity has become completely new-then I know of nothing shorter but also nothing more decisive than this: it has made every human relationship between person and person a relationship and conscience.
Christianity has not wanted to topple governments from the throne in order to place itself on the throne; it has never contended in an external sense for a place in the world, of which it is not (in the heart’s room, if it finds a place there, it still takes not place in the world), and yet it has infinitely changed everything it allowed and allows to continue. In other words, just as the blood pulses in every nerve, so does Christianity want to permeate everything with the relationship of conscience.
The change is not in the external, not in the apparent, and yet the change is infinite.
Just as if a person, instead of having blood in his veins, had that divine fluid that paganism dreamed of-just so Christianity wants to breathe the eternal life, the divine, into the human race.
That is why Christians have been called a nation of priests, and that is why one can say, bearing in mind the relationship of conscience, that it is a nation of kings.
Soren Kierkegaard Works of Love p. 135-136
Think of an arrow flying with the speed of an arrow. Imagine that it for an instant has an impulse to want to dwell on itself, perhaps in order to see how far it has come, or how high it is soaring about the earth, or how the speed compares with the speed of another arrow that is also flying with the speed of an arrow – in that same second the arrow falls to the ground. So it is also with love when it finitely dwells on itself or itself becomes an object, which more accurately defines is comparison. In the infinite comparison there is no third factor; it is a redoubling, and therefore it is no comparison.
All comparison requires the third factor, as well as likeness and unlikeness. When there is no dwelling, there is no comparison; when there is no comparison there is no dwelling either. What can comparison’s third factor be? Love in the individual person can compare itself to love in others. He discovers that love in him is greater than in others. This is the halting; … he is starting to get out of debt.
Soren Kierkegaard Works of Love p. 182
In the Christian sense, to love people is to love God, and to love God is to love people-what you do unto people, God does unto you. If you are indignant with people who do you wrong, you actually are indignant with God, since ultimately it is still God who permits wrong to be done to you. If you gratefully accept the wrong as from God’s hand as a “good and perfect gift” you will not be indignant with people either.
If you refuse to forgive, then you actually want something else: you want to make God hard-hearted so that he, too, would not forgive-how then could this hard-hearted God forgive you? If you cannot bear another’s faults against you, how then should God be able to bear your sins against him? No, like for like.
God is actually himself this pure like for like, the pure rendition of how you yourself are. If there is anger in you, then God is anger in you; if there is leniency and mercifulness in you, then God is mercifulness in you.
It is infinite loving that he will have anything to do with you at all and that no one, no one, so lovingly discovers the slightest love in you as God does. God’s relation to a human being is at every moment to infinitize what is in that human being at every moment.
Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 1847 Hong p. 384
The Oath & Law of Hippocrates c. 460–c. 370 B.C. Plato’s Cave from The Republic John Chapter 1 in English and Latin, by Latin Audio Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (Valaam Monastery), Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople in the 5th century. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, by St. John of the Cross Audio The […]