Crucial Situations as Stages 1845

Soren Kierkegaard published two books in 1845, one was signed by him and the other was published under a pseudonym, Hilarius Bookbinder. He began publishing his books in 1843 at the age of 30, possibly following Christ, with the intention of not existing anymore by 1846 at the age of 33. He identified three modes of Christian existence that were crucial for individuals, finding out you are a sinner and learning to confess your sins before God, making a good decision about marriage or not marriage as well as about your vocation, and making decisions about death.

Kierkegaard thought much about what it means to be a Christian. He was a Lutheran in the Danish State Church of Denmark and his father wished that he would become a married preacher and teacher in that church. His brother, Peter, became a preacher in 1842, he was married that same year. Soren made a decisive negative resolution about marriage and therefore about preaching and he made a decisive positive resolution about trying to imitate Christ as one on the way to becoming a Christian. The video below was added to YouTube by NkindleTV.  It comes from Kierkegaard’s 1847 book:

Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, March 13, 1847 by Soren Kierkegaard, copyright 1993 by Howard Hong, Princeton University Press

He advocated learning that the best way to deal with sin and confession, marriage, and death is through yourself, with yourself, with God as the middle term and with the other.


Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions – April 29, 1845 by Soren Kierkegaard
A resolution is a “leap of faith” 

a. On the Occasion of a Confession. (What it Means to Seek God)
Christ went off alone to pray to God.

Isaiah (Jesaja), 1509, Michelangelo

b. On the Occasion of a Wedding.
Christ never married.

And then there is required for the resolution of marriage a real conception of life and of oneself; but herein there is already contained the second great requirement, which is like the first: a real conception of God. The one corresponds to the other; for no one can have a real conception of God without having a corresponding one about life and himself, nor can he have a real conception of himself without a similar one about God, and no real conception about life without a similar one about himself.

A poetically creative imagination or a conception at the distance of an indifferent contemplation, is no real conception. Nor does the conception of God come as an accidental supplement to the conception of life and oneself; on the contrary it comes and crowns the whole, interpenetrating everything, and it was present before it became manifest.

 Thoughts on Crucial Situations (Love Conquers All) Swenson translation p.68

Soren and Regine 2

Soren Kierkegaard and Regine Olsen

Alas, the life of marriage and the circumstances of marriage are so very different in the world, and yet there is one resolution that is, or may be common to every marriage: that love conquers all. This resolution is the beginning, and in this resolution there is contained a real conception of life and of oneself, and thereby also of God-so that the end may well be as the beginning, that love has conquered all. But imagine two marriages, my hearer. The one must wearily pursue its narrow way through many difficulties, the other is borne as on the hands of fortune through life, and love has conquered all.

Of the first marriage it must be said that the wedded pair learned much in the strict school of life, but then it must also be said that in the evening of life they were not essentially different in their earnestness than when in the beginning they gained earnestness in the strict discipline of the resolution: was this not most beautiful? And if of the other couple it must be said that in the evening of life they were not essentially different in their earnestness, but had also through a long life, been essentially as earnest as when on their day of happiness, resolution had made them mature in earnestness: was not this most beautiful?

For the youthful earnestness of the resolution is not formed piecemeal, but with God’s help it is formed of a conception of life, and of one’s self, and of God, and is therefore an eternal soundness, and perhaps never gained it later this way.

Soren Kierkegaard, Thoughts on Crucial Situations 1845, (Love Conquers All) Swenson translation p. 74

To say that he is thinker does not mean that he reads many books and purposes to ascend the cathedra as Privatdocent. That sort of a thinker could well unite divers activities and so attain mediation. He on the contrary is essentially a self-thinker, and that in the sense of always having to have the idea on his side in order to exist. This preoccupies him with all the passion of a self-thinker, not with the affected assumption of solemn responsibility characteristic of the Privatdocent. The girl has life and light for her part, with which she is graciously clothed. She has no objection to his studies though they were to include Syro-Chaldaic, but she cares not a pin for learned subjects, which in her is an admirable trait, and not without charm. But what preoccupies him is not the Syro-Chaldaic tongue nor the Eleamitic; no, it is the very life itself in which he has his existence. Consequently they cannot understand one another.

Soren Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, 1845, Lowrie translation 1967 p. 391

 c. At a Graveside.
Christ said, Thy Will Be Done when confronted with death.

thoughts swenson

Stages on life’s way. Studies by various persons. April 30, 1845 by Hilarius Bookbinder

Kierkegaard really ought to be read, not merely respected. Stages on Life’s Way is a work of genius. Kierkegaard dramatizes, as few writers since Plato have been able to do, the personality of knowledge, the knower as intensively as what is known. This book will help the reader reach up toward that inwardness from which men work out their own salvation.

Paul Sponheim, Introduction to Stages on Life’s Way, 1845, Lowrie translation 1940, 1967

Kierkegaard on Christ and Christian Coherence (1968) by Paul Sponheim Ph.D. (University of Chicago)
Copies_van_gogh_echantillon - Copy

Faith as a Guiding Image for the Thought of Kierkegaard by John Daniel Wild

As is well known, Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish thinker, was brought up in a Christian home and, through his aging father, was given a profound sense of the meaning of religion. He was led to read deeply in Biblical literature and to embark on a course of training for the ministry. At the same time, he was steeped in the classics of Greek philosophy, and wrote his master’s thesis on the irony of Socrates. He knew medieval theology well, and a set of St. Augustine’s works is known to have been in his library. He was also deeply concerned with the thought of his own time, and in particular with the reigning philosophy of Hegel. He was extremely sensitive to the style and atmosphere of what he read, and was able to think for himself.

One thing especially struck him in the Biblical writings which set them apart from all the philosophy with which he was then familiar. These writings were not concerned with formulating theories about things and persons from a detached point of view. Nevertheless it seemed to him that they were pervaded by a very deep and accurate understanding of human life, not as viewed from the outside, but as existing from within. This kind of understanding he found nowhere in classical or modern philosophy, except in a few striking figures, especially in Socrates, and probably in Augustine. …

In classical thought, the world (kosmos) is viewed as a hierarchy of beings whose structure is already fixed apart from human choice. Man is fitted into this closed system and occupies an intermediate position in the hierarchy. He has nothing to do with determining the meaning of this world-unless he misunderstands it. His proper function is to let its real, cosmic meaning float into his empty mind from the outside, and then to adjust himself to it as it already is. The general pattern of the good life he is to pursue has been inscribed forever on his nature. His freedom has no effect on this end. It is restricted to a choice of means within his reach.

In the New Testament, the term kosmos is employed in a very different way. Take, for instance, the saying in the Gospel of John: “He was in the world-and the world knew Him not” (John 1:10). Many other examples of this sort could be quoted from the Johannine literature and the Pauline Epistles. The term world in these passages does not refer to a fixed, objective cosmos, existing in complete independence of man.

It refers rather to man and his world together, to man as existing in a certain condition in a world that is relative to him. In his early work Either/Or and his later work Stages on the Way of Life, Kierkegaard tried to work out this man-world conception, showing in a purely phenomenological manner, without any special appeal to faith, how, in fact the basic choice of a way of life effects not only the thought of the human individual, the way he understands himself, but his feelings, his action, the objects of his attention, and the whole structure of his world. …

I am not suggesting that we all become Kierkegaardians. I am pointing to him as an illuminating example of autonomous, philosophic thought inspired by the Christian faith.

Human freedom and social order; an essay in Christian philosophy, by John Daniel Wild 1959  p. 129, 132, 134

Stages on Life's Way0002

A “systematic” handicraftsman may be unpopular, but he is not intrinsically unpopular, because he does not attach much thought to the exceedingly strange things he says (and, alas, this is a very popular art); Socrates, on the other hand, was the most unpopular man in Greece, precisely because he said the same thing as the simplest man, but attached infinite thought to it. To hold on persistently to one thought, to hold on to it with ethical passion and intrepidity of spirit, to see the essential duplicity of this one thought without loss of equanimity, and at one and the same time to see in it the deepest seriousness and the highest jest, the deepest tragedy and the highest comedy, that at all times is unpopular for everyone who has not comprehended that the time of immediacy is past. But what is intrinsically unpopular is not a subject to be learned by rote.

So this is the problem I have propounded to myself; a story of unhappy love where love is dialectic in itself and in the crisis of the infinite reflection acquires a religious aspect. One easily sees that this presents a different problem from that of any other type of unhappy love; one sees this easily when one sees both the contrasted sides, otherwise one sees perhaps neither of them.

Soren Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way 1845, Lowrie translation 1940, 1967 p. 377


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thesixfootbonsai
    May 19, 2016 @ 20:52:59

    Thank you for putting this together! Blogging philosophy especially of the Christian bend is not the best ticket to a blogging career but it is noble and worthy nonetheless.



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