It is easy enough to show how false and basically traitorous, even though unconscious, all this defense of Christianity is — yes, even the very form which discourse about Christianity ordinarily takes. The fact of the matter is that pastors and scholars, etc., do not believe in Christianity at all. If a person himself firmly believes that the good he is discoursing about is th ehighest good, if he almost sags under the impression of its exceedingly abundant blessedness — how in all the world could he ever come to defend it, to conduct a defense of its really being a good, or even to talk in the following manner: This is a great good for three reasons — this supreme good, this good which makes the wisest of men's understanding dizzy and reduces it to tiny sparrow-like understanding, this is a great good — for three reasons. What an anticlimax! Imagine a lover. Yes, he can keep on talking day in and day out about the gloriousness of his beloved. But if anyone demands him to prove it with three reasons, or even defend it &dmash; I wonder if he would not regard this as a demented proposal; or if he were a bit more sagacious, he no doubt would say to the person who suggested this to him: Oho, you do not know what it is to be in love at all, and you half believe that I am not either.
To hate father and mother, etc., for the sake of Christ is also the expression of the pure spirit-qualification of being a Christian. Christ's declaration that he who hears the word and acts accordingly is my brother, etc., means that all immediate qualifications of kinship and the like are nothing if they are in opposition to Christ.
There is something almost cruel about the Christian's being placed in a world which in every way wants to pressure him to do the opposite of what God bids him do with fear and trembling in his innermost being. It would be something like the cruelty of parents if they were to threaten and sternly order their child to do thus and so — and then place the child together with the kind of children who would pressure him in every way to do just the opposite.
A whole country is Christian; there are several million Christians, 10,000 preachers, and there is constant talk about faith, faith.
Let us take a look at it! Moses is commanded by God to be an instrument by which a miracle is to be performed. (We only imagine the torture, what a maiming it must be for an individual to be used in that way — we imagine it but do not grasp it.) Moses is willing, he strikes the rock, but doubtingly, and as punishment — we imagine it, as punishment he does not get to enter the promised land.
And this terribly strenuous life! What a scale it is on, this life that overwhelms me and makes me a nothing beside a Moses — and this life is lived by every man in Christendom!
If I should need a new pseudonym in the future, he shall be called: Anticlimacus. And then he must be recklessly ironical and humorous.
The secrecy with which a passion can dwell in a person who is closed up within himself is very remarkable. A quiet, modest, but very competent practising lawyer, a man who commands great confidence and in whom one must have unqualified confidence. He comes to see me one day, and it turns out that for twenty years he has been the most ardent lottery player: he brings along a compilation of combinations and calculations which I literally did not dare look at because it made me dizzy.
This cannot be used, however, since he is an actual person. I do not actually know his name, although I know him well, and if I did know it I would not record it.
"Seek first the kingdom of God" — these words could be presented in such a way that one negatively examines everything else and shows that this is what one should not do, or in such a way that one shows that the first manifestation of seeking God's kingdom first is, in a certain sense, to do nothing; for to seek the kingdom of God first is at first the same as to renounce everything.
* In margin: Seek first the kingdom of God. But what am I supposed to do? Shall I seek an office to be influential? No, first you shall seek God's kingdom. Shall I give all my fortune to the poor? No, first you shall seek God's kingdom and his righteousness. Shall I go out in the world as an apostle and proclaim this? No, first you shall seek God's kingdom. But isn't this in a certain sense doing nothing at all? Yes, to be sure, in a certain sense this is what it is.
If the one who says these words: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, is himself surrounded by all the favors of temporality, is healthy, handsome, rich, powerful, distinguished, etc. — then the words are taken in vain, Christianity is taken in vain. People very much want to hear it; they think that if the speaker, the one who is saying this, looks like this, then it certainly is worth listening to and perhaps we, too, may be helped in the same way. But in connection with what is Christian, there always stands an awkward N.B. Christ is the one who says it — not this fantastic nonsense such as Christ is in Christendom, no, a persecuted, despised, and much-avoided man, a man of whom it must be said: Look at the sort of man he is. Then no one wants to listen to these words, people become afraid of the speaker and think that if he wants to comfort them, he is crazy — never listen to him, for he probably wants his listeners first to become just as wretched as he is, before the consolation comes.
Strangely enough, Socrates always spoke of having learned from a woman. O, I, too, can say that I owe my best to a girl. I did not learn it from her directly, but she was the occasion.
John 16:20. (The gospel for the third Sunday after Easter.)
"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy."
This is the relationship between the Christian life and the secular mentality. In the first race it seems that secularity wins (the world will rejoice — you will weep and lament); but in the second race &dmash; yes, it is really only in Christianity that there is talk about a second race; the secular mentality is too empty and vain to run more than once, which is nothing at all. The Christian life means a second time (jsut as "spirit" means a second time), and then sorrow will be turned into joy.
When one himself realizes that his life is retrogression and not progress and that this is the very condition, precisely this, which one before God is supposed to work for with all his sagacity — then he can speak with no one. Everyone else inversely understands what happens to a person (what one freely and voluntarily works for with God's help), thinks he grieves over it, wants it taken away. — But God comforts beyond measure, he strengthens, he fills a person with joy!
If I had just one-tenth of my capabilities, had more pride, stood less in fear and trembling before God: then I would get along well in the world. The point is that in everything I undertake, the thought that always possesses me in the presence of the lowliest man or the most distinguished, is that I am before God. The very thought that I might allow myself to ignore a single human being! — And just this is my misfortune. Without a doubt, and I dare maintain this in eternity, all my trouble with men is caused by my not being aristocratic and exclusive — which neither the people of status nor those with no status can grasp. But there is one who knows it along with me. But justify myself? No, that I cannot do. Before God I am within my rights when I remain silent. After all, I do not demand an easy life; on the contrary, I console myself that the sufferings of these times (which I have understood as my penance, also as the meaning of Christianity) will benefit those with whom I live; an awakening will surely come, God will surely place an accent upon my life — when it is over, not before. My life must not be another unchristian edition of the essentially Christian, so that one will benefit from it even during his own life. Christ's self-denial is unto death; otherwise it is no different from the secular.
Strangely enough, the very moment I had written the above, I quite by chance opened Plutarch's moral writings, which I had not read for a long time, and opened the book to the essay on talkativeness, where I read a passage in chapter 12, marked in my copy:
Die Meernadeln, und die Ottern sagt man, zersterben beim Ge-
bären; so richten auch Geheimnisse, welche entfallen, den zu
Grunde, welcher sie nicht bei sich halten konnte.
The same work, chapter 13:
Ganz artig war die Antwort, die Archelaus einem geschwätzigen Barbier gab, als dieser ihm das Handtuch unlegte und ihn fragte, wie soll ich Dich rasiren: Stillschweigend, erwiderte der König.
After all, many people think that the Christian message (i.e., to love one's neighbour as oneself) is purposely a little too rigorous — something like the household alarm clock which runs a half-hour fast so that one does not get up too late in the morning.
Here again is one of the most important points concerning the God-relationship.
If a person could have empirical certainty that God wanted to use him as an instrument (as a king, a cabinet member) — how easily he would be able to submit to everything in every sacrifice. But is it possible to have an empirical or even a purely immediate certainty of a relationship to God? God is spirit. To a spiritual being it is impossible to have a relationship other than a spiritual relationship; but a spiritual relationship is eo ipso dialectical. — How then does an apostle understand that he has been called by a revelation and the like and has an immediate certainty which is not at all dialectical? I do not understand him — but this can be believed.
As far as an ordinary man's relationship to God and to Christ is concerned, this I understand Socratically. Socrates did not know definitely that there is immortality. (O, the rascal, for the fact is that he knew that immortality is a qualification of the spirit and eo ipso dialectical and on the yonder side of all immediate certainty. Even though he did not know to what extent he was immortal — which so many dunces know positively — he nevertheless did know what he said.) But his life expresses that there is immortality and that he is immortal. Immortality, he says, preoccupies me so infinitely that I put everything into this if.
The relationship to Christ is this — a person tests for himself whether Christ is everything to him, and then says, I put everything into this. But I cannot get an immediate certainty about my relationship to Christ. I cannot get an immediate certainty about whether I have faith, for to have faith is this very dialectical suspension which is continually in fear and trembling and yet never despairs; faith is precisely this infinite self-concern which keeps one awake in risking everything, this self-concern about whether one really has faith — and precisely this self-concern is faith.
But what has brought such enormous confusion into Christianity is that preaching is done dialectically at one time and at another time as if faith were the immediate, the immediate certainty.
Alas, and all this, on which I could continue to work and ponder year in and year out — what do men care about it — not the slightest. And this shallowness is Christianity — and I, who in fear and trembling hardly dare call myself a Christian — I am mad, an eccentric.
Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden!
Seven New Discourses
In margin: See journal NB., p. 163 [i.e., VIII1 A 637-39].
No. 1. The InvitationIn margin: See p. 12 [i.e., IX A 16]. No. 2. The Hesitation
Is it not true, my listener, that you do not want me to deceive you, you do not want me to coax you to tears like a languishing zither player — you want me to speak the truth. Then why the hesitation? It is because of the one who speaks these words, not as if he were not man in order to do it or even more surely God in order to keep what he promises. No, in that respect there are no misgivings at all. But look more closely at him — he is a scorned and abandoned man, an object of pity on the streets. He is greeted out of a kind of pity, for he is excluded from the synagogue; no one wants anything to do with him; anyone who has anything to lose, the least to lose, shuns him, only flagrant sinners with whom no one wants to associate, reformatory prisoners and the like, only lepers whose society no one would seek at any price, despised tax collectors — and then a few stray individuals of the lowest class and who called themselves his apostles. But to be helped in this way — indeed, it is better to keep the toothache, if it is a toothache you have, it is better to keep it just as it is than to be helped in this way — this, you see, is why these words sound like paganism's holy words: procul o procul est profani. But the difference is that he invites; yet his invitation is so earnest that in another sense he scares away.
No. 3. The InvitationAnd in this way it should continue to alternate until number seven ends with the Invitation.
It is really impossible to explain Mynster. In one paragraph he can speak of the dreadful confusion prevailing in the world as if it were the end of Christianity. Then in the next the subject is — that therefore the great festivals are to remind us of what we owe to Christianity. For example, now Pentecost. He preaches a sermon about it. Then he goes home. On the whole he handles his office like a lawyer bureaucrat.
No, the very confusion of the times constitute an examination of the lives we live, and here Mynster is without a compass. His greatness is a personal virtuosity à la Goethe. That is why he maintains a certain dignity. But his life actually does not express anything.
He has always been very fond of "these quiet hours in holy places" because: (1) he distributes the religious as an ingredient in life, not as the absolute, (2) he takes a thousand things into account and wants to be sure of them before he opens his mouth (in short, his discourse has to be a masterpiece and delivering it a triumph), (3) he personally wants to protect himself and remain aloof. — It would be impossible, yes, most impossible of all, for Mynster to preach in the public square. And yet preaching in churches has practically become paganism and theatricality, and Luther was very right in declaring that preaching should really not be done in churches.
In paganism the theater was worship — in Christendom the churches have generally become the theater. How? In this way: it is pleasant, even enjoyable, to commune with the highest once a week by way of the imagination. No more than that. And that actually has become the norm for sermons in Denmark. Hence the artistic distance — even in the most bungled sermons.
It is, after all, very comical that a man, a clergyman, "in quiet hours" describes the confusion of the age, confusion appalling as perhaps never before, that is, confusion so dreadful that if the same man used twenty-four hours of every day simply and solely for this, toiling and moiling with no other goal but this, his effort would still be a drop in the sea compared to the immensity of the confusion. — It is, then, very comical that this man thinks he has said it in "one quiet hour" once a year, thinks he has done his part and has accomplished something. Merciful God, if my life were at stake, I could not understand it. — Alas, alas, and when I consider that Bishop Mynster is the one who did it this last festival day (second Pentecost day), not disdaining a purely rhetorical device, too, a flattering of the nationalism now in vogue — I could weep, and in any case I must say there is aroused in me what Mynster himself in his younger days talked about, a longing for a better world.
The whole thing pains me indescribably. When I look at Mynster — and he has the appearance of earnestness itself — this peerless Erscheinung [appearance, apparition, vision; phenomenon; aspect, mien, physiognomy, bearing - KJ] will always be unforgettable — and yet I would regard myself as an irresponsible visionary if I could ever think of behaving that way.
But it must be remembered that Mynster is an old man, and that he has once and for all settled down to being an optimist and has wanted to make Christendom out to be an assembly of Christians. That was a lie, and now it is all too starkly clear. But that is why this reminiscence appears so contradictory.
God be praised, there will be time in eternity to think every thought through to the smallest particular. There, thinking will not mean anything but to think; it will not mean earning a living, acquiring honors and status — and being understood by others — by means of a few half-digested thoughts.
My season of penitence is no doubt soon over. I have nothing to complain about; in an understanding with God I realize why I suffer — and I give thanks. I am living — and with God's help I shall die in the faith that when I am dead (and it cannot happen before, for then it would not be penitence to the end) He will place the stamp of Governance upon my life so that it will be useful and lead men to be aware of God and of how frivolously they prevent themselves from leading the highest life, a life in fellowship with God.
It is not because I imagined myself to be better than other men that I chose this life which I have continually felt to be my allotted task. It was because I felt more wretched — and a greater sinner.
This is why I conduct my life in rigorous repudiation of any worldly recompense — and this is why I have been quite consistently (in the spirit of Christianity) treated badly, loathed, scorned, exposed to every crudity, while exclusive circles rejoice in silent envy.
There is no point in speaking about this to anyone. There is a time to be silent. The supreme prototype demonstrates that. He was silent. I have learned it from a lesser one, for Socrates, after all, had it in his power to save his life — by flattering the people.
But even if I were to consider my life as an author altogether isolated from the rest of my life — there nevertheless is a dubious aspect to it, namely, the fact that I have had the privilege of being able to live independently. I am fully aware of this and for that reason feel exceedingly inferior to men who have been able to develop an authentic life of the mind and spirit in actual poverty. Back in antiquity this was the great thing, even more so in Christendom. If it had not been for my melancholy, all my mental-physical wretchedness, I might perhaps have attempted to risk such a life. Whereas I now humble myself under my preferential treatment which, like my wretchedness but in another sense, has taught me to be satisfied with a humble station in life.
But from the beginning I was never able to think like this, for just when the need was greatest, help was nearest, and just when things were blackest for me in my wretchedness, God did for me and continues to do for me, as I repeatedly say, that which inexpressibly exceeded anything I ever expected.
By the help of God I will never forget my miserable condition and how I felt it so — so my inability to find words for my gratitude to God is easy to understand. The injustices of men against me and all that have no bearing on the cause; that, after all, is part of my task, what I may call my commission. If men were to kill me, my gratitude to God would remain the same; it is simply part of the cause which he in his indescribable love permitted me to serve — I who looked upon myself as a poor wretch who would only make others unhappy and could only be a burden and almost a curse to those with whom I entered into a closer relationship.
Periissem, nisi periissem ["I would have perished if I had not perished"] still is and will be my life motto. This is why I have been able to endure what long since would have killed someone else who was not dead.
One thing I do have to my credit — I am not responsible for the birth of anyone — there are, to be sure, too many of them, and yet this is the only thing that concerns the majority of people — having children.
Being a Christian is neither more nor less, without a doubt neither more nor less, than being a martyr; every Christian, that is, every true Christian, is a martyr.
But I hear one of those shabby pastors (by shabby I mean one of those who is shabby enough to accept two or three hundred thousand rix-dollars a year, prestige with decorations, etc. — in order to betray Christianity) say: But, of course, we cannot all be martyrs. To this God would reply: Stupid man, do you not think I know how I have arranged the world. Fear only that it will never happen that all become Christians, that only 1/10, only 1/1000 become Christians.
The point is this — becoming a Christian is an examination given by God. But for this very reason in every age (year 1 and year 1848) it must continually be equally difficult to become a Christian. In a certain sense God has squandered so much upon existence [Tilværelsen] that at any and every moment there will be thousands upon thousands in abundance to persecute the true Christians — and yet in another sense it continues to be possible for every one of these thousands also to become a Christian.
The purpose (and this will also be the end of the matter) of Christendom's suddenly being called out for inspection is that in a more serious way all the sweat will be tormented out of all those shabby, profusely sweating clergymen.
Let us then once again in a noble Christian sense get shabby pastors, poor men who walk about in poor clothing, despised men whom all ridicule, mock, and spit upon. I hope and believe that with the assistance of God I would be able to preach fearlessly even if someone spat in my face as I climbed the stairs to the pulpit. But if I were dressed up in a velvet cloak with stars and ribbons and then name the name of Christ — I would die of shame.
By the help of God my life will contribute a little bit to putting an end to the appalling wickedness of deluding men by the millions into thinking that they are Christians and of achieving status in the world by means of proclaiming Christianity. Really and truly, Pilate was more worthy of respect than a Christian secularism of that sort. Pilate at least did not profit from being a friend of Christ's.
Originally I had thought to end my work as an author with Concluding Unscientific Postscript, to withdraw to the country, and in quiet unobtrusiveness to sorrow over my sins. The fear and trembling in my soul about being a Christian, my penitence, seem to me to be sufficient suffering. I had almost forgotten that being a Christian is and should be a thing of scorn in the world, like unto him, my Lord and Master, who was spit upon: then Governance came to my assistance again. I became aware of it and now stay where I am. God in heaven, who has reason to be disgusted with me because I am a sinner, has nevertheless not rejected what I, humanly speaking, honestly intended. Yet before God even my best work is still a bit squalid.
I blame no man for anything; they have not understood me. Yet even now I cannot get away from the thought I have had from the beginning: does not every man in his quiet mind think about God. I have never ignored any man, the humblest farmhand or housemaid — for he who is "before God" must simultaneously shudder deep in his soul at the thought: suppose now that God in recompense ignored me. My misfortune is and remains that, humanly speaking, I have made much too much of men. Perhaps I have seemed to ignore them — alas, it was simply because I scarcely dared let it be known how much they lay on my heart — lest I should be regarded as mad.
Merely to have forgotten to greet a housemaid has disquieted me as if I had committed a crime, as if God would have to abandon me.
I have seen duty in every situation, and God has been there with me — but no one seems to have had any obligation to me.
The real issue is that Jesus Christ be presented as he walked and tarried and lived 1,800 years ago. Only in this way is he present and wills to be here upon earth; in eternity he will come again in glory.
With Jesus Christ it is quite different than with a man who perhaps did live despised, looked down upon, socially inferior, poor, misunderstood, and then died — and men discovered that there was something great in him, and now he is that great man. Now men do not ask anymore about his social inferiority — never mind that; at most this has historical interest; now he is and continues to be the great man he was. This means that social inferiority is not essentially related to him.
It is quite different with Jesus Christ. He is the paradox. Social inferiority belongs to him absolutely essentially; he is this very paradox, the compounding of God and a socially insignificant man.
But this is not the way men do it. They regard Jesus Christ as a great man who lived misunderstood as long as he lived, but after his death he became a great somebody and this is how he is regarded now.
Aha! This is why all Christianity is nonsense. All the danger in Christianity is taken away. It is flirtation and blathering consolation and the like.
No, Jesus Christ is the sign of offense and the object of faith. Only in eternity is he in his glory. Here upon earth he must never be presented in any other way than in his social insignificance — so that everyone can be offended or believe.
To regard Christ as something great in the way cited above is blasphemy. If at every moment the greatest possible human danger is not unconditionally bound together with being a Christian — as it once was — then Christianity is abolished.
In regard to Columbus, for example, it is proper merely to speak about his greatness and let it be forgotten that men regarded him as mad, that children were taught (this is historical) to point to their heads when they went past him, signifying that he was mad.
It is different with Christ — the fact that he willed to be the socially insignificant one, the fact that he descended from heaven to take upon himself the form of a servant — this is not an accidental something which now is thrust into the background and forgotten.
Columbus goes forward; he was regarded as mad — and now lives in history as a great man.
Jesus Christ will not live in history in any other way than as Jesus Christ; he wills to be the sign of offense and the object of faith.
This means that the eternal in Columbus is his greatness, but the eternal in Jesus Christ is this compounding of insignificance and being God.
But how do we manage in this respect? Certainly we cannot keep men from the knowledge they have privately. Quite simple. Every true follower of Christ must approximately express existentially the very same thing — that insignificance and offense are inseparable from being a Christian. Christ shall be preached, indeed, but always in such a way that he is presented existentially. As soon as the least bit of secular advantage is gained by preaching Christ, then the fox is in the chicken house. The preacher must thrust this away from himself — and then people will become angry, look upon it as pride — and then the matter is set right again.
Christ is the very opposite of Columbus and the like. Columbus wanted very much to be a great man, he was conscious of being it, but injuria temporum he did not become it. Christ wanted to be insignificant. What impudence to make someone great who wants to be insignificant! And he wills to be insignificant in order to save men, but this salvation is also the judgment. Christ did not come to the world in order to judge it but in order to save it; but by the very fact that He came to save it the world becomes judged.
The whole appeal to these 1,800 years as proof of the truth of Christianity is the most mendacious of all. The truth of Christianity must not be proved, not for all the world. No, Christ must be presented as he was, what he himself would be — the Savior, but the sign of offense. It was no injuria temporum that it turned out bad for Christ in the world; he does not need the rehabilitation of history — merciful God, what nonsense and blasphemy! No, he wants to save you — but also test you. The life of Christ has nothing to do with history, does not garrulously join up with history, remains outside of history as the eternal sign by which every generation shall be judged.
If all Europe were to declare itself honestly and openly regarding the existing state of Christendom, it would have to pronounce the existence [Existents] of Christ a fantasy, exaggeration, and so on.
Yet this is all wrong. It is the result of an established Christendom, of making a living, etc.
Room must be made. It should not and must not be the highest and most earnest aim to get a secure position in the state church and make a living. No, because of human frailty everyone should be allowed to find security for himself in this way — but this certainly ought to be admitted.
Right here lies Mynster's basic heresy. This business about going along with the established order of things, getting a secure position — all of which may be all right — if this is going to be life's highest earnestness, then Christ, the apostles, all Christians in the strictest sense of the word — are impractical visionaries.
But this is the way it always is with secular-mindedness — you win in two ways: first security and comfort and a good income and assured advancement — and then in addition honor and reputation as a genuinely earnest person.
If I had never loved God before, everything he has done for me during the time I have been the victim of coarse brutality, mistreated for the gratification of envy, is so unbelievably and unspeakably a pledge of his love, that he is love, that, God be praised, I feel very strongly that I can spend a whole eternity doing nothing else but thanking him.
I feel no bitterness at all at the thought of all the indignities I have suffered and all the times I have been betrayed; I never think of escaping all of this all at once, so to speak, by death. If there is time and place for joking in eternity, I am sure that the thought of my thin legs and my ridiculed trousers will be a source of salutary amusement to me. It is a blessed thing to dare say: What I have suffered in that respect I have suffered in God's name for a good cause and because, humanly speaking, I did a good deed in a truly unselfish sacrifice. This I dare say — directly to God — I am more sure of this than I am sure that I live, more sure than of anything else, for I already feel that he will answer: Yes, my dear child, you are right, and he will add: Everything negative, when you sinned, when you were wrong, has been forgiven you in Christ.
I have never been a Diogenes, have never bordered on cynicism; I have dressed properly and decently — I am not guilty for a whole country's being a madhouse. I have been able to crack jokes with an individual over my thin legs — but when it is the rabble, the utterly brutish humanity, the rowdies, silly women, school children, and apprentices who abuse me: that is the meanness and lack of character of a people directed against one who truly merits something from his people. The most tiresome aspect is that I am the only one who has the right to joke, but on those terms I cannot and will not joke. And yet I need the refreshment of laughter so often. But then, alas, that the one who is clearly the wittiest in a little country is the only one who is not witty — but the riffraff and the fools are all witty and ironic.
I almost feel an urge to say not one single word more except: Amen, for I am overwhelmed with gratitude for what Governance has done for me. That everything actually can turn out for a man this way — I know of nothing that has happened to me of which I poetically might not say it is the only thing which is appropriate to my nature and disposition; I am in want of nothing. I became unhappy in love, but it is impossible for me to conceive that I could be happy without having to become someone else. My unhappiness became my blessing. I am saved, humanly speaking, by one who is dead and gone, my father, but it is impossible for me to conceive of any living person's being able to save me. Then I became an author, precisely according to my potentialities; then I was persecuted — but without it my life would not have been my own. Melancholy shadows everything in my life, but that, too, is an indescribable blessing. That is precisely how I became myself by the indescribable grace and help of God; I could almost be tempted to say by his partiality, if this were not less to me than the blessed thought which I believe and which puts my mind at rest: that he loves every man in the same way.
In all literalness I have lived with God as one lives with a father. Amen.
If I dared become reconciled with her, this would be my only wish, would be a deep joy to me. But I bear a responsibility for her marriage. If she found out for certain from me how I did love her and do love her, she would repent of her marriage. Her sustaining thought is that no matter how much she saw in me and admired me and loved me, I nevertheless treated her shabbily. She was not sufficiently religious to stand alone in an unhappy love — I have never dared help her directly; that has cost me enough suffering.
If I had not found my melancholy and depression to be nothing but a blessing, it would have been impossible to live without her. The few scattered days I have been, humanly speaking, really happy, I always have longed indescribably for her, her whom I have loved so dearly and who also with her pleading moved me so deeply. But my melancholy and spiritual suffering have made me, humanly speaking, continually unhappy — and thus I had no joy to share with her. But I dare write no entries about her — as long as I live I bear responsibility for her future.
I am indebted to my father for everything from the very beginning. Melancholy as he was, when he saw me melancholy, he appealed to me: Be sure that you really love Jesus Christ.
How wonderful that very early in my life (that is, in my youth after my father's death), when I was independent and had no thought of looking for a position, when I went around in a depression and regarded myself as the most wretched of all men — how wonderful that I nevertheless prayed every morning that God would give me the strength for the task you yourself would assign to me. Thinking about this now, how in the world did I ever think of praying like that! And how true it has turned out to be that I got work to do which was assigned to me by God himself.
But my father's death was also a frightfully disturbing event for me; how much so I have never told a single person. After all, my whole past life was so encompassed in the blackest depression and the fog of profoundest brooding wretchedness that it is no wonder I was as I was. But all this remains my secret. On someone else it may not have made so deep an impression, but my imagination — and especially at an early stage when it still had no tasks to apply itself to. A primitive depression like that, a huge dowry of distress, and in the profoundest sense the sad fate of being brought up as a child by a melancholy old man — and then with the native virtuosity of being able to deceive everyone into thinking me a jolly good fellow — and then that God in heaven has helped me as he has.
How wonderful that all this which for some centuries now has been an enigma, something one does not know whether he should laugh or cry about — namely, that God intervenes in the world and helps a man so that he actually has nothing to do but obey[*] — how wonderful that all this happens to me, I who have always gone around feeling so wretched and unhappy, and I, who, if I am anything at all, am the most dialectical of those with whom I live.[*] In margin: and that God is willing to help every man in the same way if only one does not completely forget him or keep oneself a Sunday's distance away from him.
Everything my father told me is true. "There are sins which a man can be saved from only by extraordinary divine help." Humanly speaking, I owe everything to my father. In every way he has made me as unhappy as possible, made my youth incomparable anguish, made me inwardly almost scandalized by Christianity, or indeed scandalized, even though I decided out of respect for it never to say a word about it to any man, and out of love for my father to present Christianity as truthfully as possible in contrast to the nonsense which is called Christianity in Christendom — and yet my father was the most affectionate of fathers, and my longing for him was and is sincere, and no day goes by that I am not reminded of him morning and evening.
Only now have I reached the point where everything is clear to me. Just as a woman becomes quiet and serious when she feels that she is pregnant and thinks of nothing but the child, so also I at present have seen enough in the world, and my task is now clear to me — whether I live an hour more or a hundred years, my task is there before me just the same.
It is a matter neither more nor less than an auditing [Revision] of Christianity; it is a matter of getting rid of 1800 years as if they had never been. I believe fully and firmly that I shall succeed; the whole thing is as clear as day to me. Yet I note all the more soberly that if there is the very slightest impatience and self-assertiveness, then I shall not be able to do it, then my thought will be confused.
I get up in the morning and thank God — then I begin to work. At a definite time in the evening I break off, thank God — and then I sleep. This is the way I live, although not without assaults of depression and sadness, yet essentially in the most blissful enchantment day in and day out. Alas, and so I live in Copenhagen — and in Copenhagen am the only one who is not serious, the only one who bestows no benefits and accomplishes nothing, a half-mad eccentric. That is how the crowd judges me, and the few who see a bit more deeply really have nothing against this being the general estimate of me.
He who from childhood has never had an idea of Christianity — and has such things happen to him — must necessarily shatter, become anxious and afraid for himself. I feel so at peace, for only now am I at home, with the old and familiar.
Humanly speaking, my misfortune is that I am not sufficiently corporeal; my intense inwardness (and this is the God-relationship, where in fear and trembling I constantly feel like a nothing, not to mention the pain of repentance) trembles in practically the least thing I undertake; I wonder whether God will not be angry with me and let me go. This is why I am so uneasy in my relations, particularly to all who are called suffering mankind, all who are more lowly than I. And God knows how it goes, that I am accused of pride and egotism.
But no matter how blessed it is to be before God in this way, from the other side it is enormously strenuous. That is why I feel so unhappy and have felt so unhappy in comparison with other men. To be a strong, healthy man who could take part in everything, who had physical energy and a carefree mind — O, how often in earlier years I desired that for myself. In my youth my agony was dreadful.
There was some truth regarding heroes, as the Greeks did (for example, Plutarch), as a separate race, different from the human race. It is similar to the Christian qualification: spirit. But humanness consists in this: that every human being is granted the capability of being spirit; it is not that nonsense about a company of brainy people; one often finds a simple man existing within the realm of spirit and a professor a long way away from it.
The real crime, the one people regard as the worst of all and punish cruelly, is to be not like others. This proves precisely that men are animal-creatures. For sparrows have a right to pick to death the sparrow who is not like the others; here the class is superior to the particular — that is, sparrows are animals, neither more nor less. — In respect to men, on the contrary, the qualification is that each one should not be like the others, should have distinctiveness.
Yet every crime is forgiven by men except, in their thinking, the inhuman crime — of being man.
What Bishop Mynster has sown I am harvesting. For Bishop Mynster has proclaimed true Christianity — but in an unchristian way, has derived great advantage from it, has enjoyed all the good things of life because of it, has gained enormous prestige, and also has ingratiated himself by making Christianity into "the gentle comfort" etc.
As a result he in many ways has distilled Christianity out of the country. Then when the one who is supposed to move forward with the task and the specific orders to observe the way, that is: to reflect doubly, then it becomes outright martyrdom. And Bishop Mynster is responsible for this. Such a person would always have opposition, but it would not have needed to become a martyrdom if Mynster had not gone in advance.
This being the case, I have worked against myself by strengthening Bishop Mynster, but Governance certainly is aware of why I did it and will also know how to show me why it was good. If I had not done it, I perhaps would have gotten away with a good bargain.
Bishop Mynster's service to Christianity is essentially that, through his outstanding personality, his culture, his superiority in distinguished and most distinguished circles, he has created the fashion or more solemn way of regarding Christianity as something no deep and earnest person (how flattering to the persons concerned!) could do without.
However, this service, eternally and Christianly understood, is dubious, for Christianity is something much too distinguished to need patronage.
And yet in his earnestness there is something of a mélange — so touched, so profoundly moved by the thought of those glorious ones — and so sensitive when it comes to the part where this should be made earnest by minimizing oneself just a little bit.
And yet I love Bishop Mynster; it is my only wish to do everything to reinforce the esteem for him, for I have admired him and, humanly speaking, do admire him; and every time I am able to do anything for his benefit, I think of my father, whom it pleases, I believe.
It seems to me that I have written things which must move stones to tears — but it moves my contemporaries only — to insults and envy.
From The Diary of an English Physician
The scene where he visits a poor wretched scholar dying in extreme poverty and says to him: You yourself surely are not to blame for your poverty, you surely have nothing to reproach yourself about. A hypocritical, sanctimonious Doctor! How pleasantly cruel to enjoy his own righteousness that way.
Peter knows that my finances are in a precarious state, he knows that it is up and down with my health, he knows or has some notion of how strenuous it is to do what I am doing in a context of fools and daily abuse — since that time I have not heard a word from him. He probably has become utterly afraid, and pusillanimous as he has always been, he no doubt is sitting there very self-satisfied at the thought that this is God's punishment upon me. O, he is a mollycoddle, and conceited to boot; he receives all the tokens of respect from those Grundtvigians and it is all "so loving" and so lovable.
It is beyond me how a man can be like that. If one actually realizes that a man is having a bad time, it seems to me that all other considerations must disappear. His past difficulties with the Bishop had scarcely begun before I got busy and wrote to him again and again. But the orthodoxy which does not have a bold childlike confidence toward God but regards him as a tyrant one flatters rather than worships in love — those people always have a kind of joy when they believe that now God is punishing someone else.
Enough of that — I feel the same toward my brother as always. As usual the one to whom God grants the extraordinary is misunderstood, especially by friends and relatives. Basically, Peter has always regarded himself as better than I and pettily [regarded me] as the prodigal brother. He is right in so thinking, for he has always been more upright than I. His relation to Father, for example, was that of an upright son — mine, on the other hand, was often blameworthy: ah, but yet Peter has never loved Father as I did. Peter never brought grief to Father, to say nothing of the grief I brought him, but then Peter has long since forgotten Father, while I remember him every day, unconditionally every day since that August 9, 1838, and will remember him until a blessed reunion in the hereafter. And so it is in all my relationships. — A long time went by during which I was essentially regarded as a bright fellow gone to ruin — Peter, on the other hand, was always the upright one. Then I became a scoundrel (every third person must have thought so) — Peter is, and it is true, the upright one; in the light of contrast he is the lovable one. Then I turn over a new leaf. Peter cannot understand me: he looks anxiously and fearfully at me. In any case he is waiting now for me to seek his confidence. And this I simply cannot do. He is getting a little offended. No wonder the whole relationship is so wrong.
It is God who has humbled me in this way, but truly it was for my own good. This whole troublesome affair with people would have made me only prouder and more defiant, for I would have felt my superiority to a dreadful degree. But the fact that my financial situation was precarious weakened me somewhat, and in that weakness, as a penitent I bore my troubled responsibility before God for what I myself had done wrong. That is the basis of the humility so salutary for me.
But the world missed the point; it did not perceive that from the beginning I was a penitent. It has thought me a proud person who would become fearful and step aside; alas, I am a penitent who humbly remains on the spot — for it is not the world I care about, it is God. I was a penitent when I put the first line in print, and I am that now.
The words "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me" were understood as Nemesis, that he who had had so much in his power had not been smart enough to assure his own future, etc. If I were to talk purely humanly about it, it is as if Christ in his human nature had become so lost in the God-relationship that everything else was forgotten. It is an expression of being extremely close to consummation, this feeling for the last time of the chasmic depth of separation between being man and being with God; therefore, it is the final expression for what comes next — being blessedly with God.
Christianity should not be lectured about. This is why Christ says, my teaching is food — this is to show that it ought to be existed in [der skal existeres deri].
My father died — then I got another father in his place: God in heaven — and then I discovered that my first father actually had been my stepfather and only figuratively my first father.
Reply: "O, how hard it is to be as old as the eternal makes a person when he is still a man, man most of all, and when all existence speaks to him in the language of youth. I loved a young girl, lovely was she, and so young (how blissful it must be to be so young!) and persuasive and inviting: O dreadful sorrow: I was an eternity too old for her."
The Middle Ages culminates in Raphael, his conception of the Madonna. Protestantism will culminate in the Christ-image; but this will be the flower of the most thorough dialectical development.
I have read somewhere in Plutarch (Moral Epistles, in my own copy of the little German translation it was volume III; as far as I can remember I opened the book at random and therefore did not note it down) an anecdote which illustrates very well that there can be a double reason for shaking and trembling, that it can also express strength. The story goes that a person who sometimes would shake when making his appearance (in a crucial moment or some such) answered: Yes, if the body knew in what danger it was going to be, it would shake even more.
Humorous lines: "And then God will say to me: God knows you are right, or what am I saying, I know that you are right."
No doubt there has been many a one who has done irreparable harm in the world with his talking about being the extraordinary. But the question is whether I am doing harm by constantly saying and believing that every man knows what I know.
It does not surprise me that someone who considers my life will think me mad, for how many would agree with me, I wonder, in the view of life that to be sacrificed is the highest victory, and that this is Christianity.
Lines: Ah, to be caught up into the third heaven just once in a whole lifetime — and as a memento of that to keep a thorn which reminds one perhaps many times every day.
In human weakness, this is the proper motto for my life: No one puts a new patch on an old garment. — The opposite is the wisdom of the prudent, who therefore are on good terms with the present moment, that is, they place their little smidgen of improvement directly upon the established order.
Very strange! In one of my first conversations with her, when I was deeply moved and my whole being was profoundly agitated, I told her that in every generation there were a few individuals who were destined to be sacrificed for others. She scarcely understood what I was talking about and perhaps I myself scarcely understood (and in any case really only about my own inner suffering), least of all that it would begin with her having to suffer. But just her spontaneous, youthful happiness alongside my dreadful melancholy, and in a relationship such as that, was bound to teach me to understand myself, for I had never suspected before how melancholy I was, I had no proper criterion of how happy a person can be.
By being sacrificed I meant that my suffering and anguish would make for resourcefulness in digging out the truth which could then benefit other men.
So God has gently led me farther and farther, and now I stand at the point where it is also true externally that there are men who are sacrificed for others.
There is a prophetic word by her about me: You will definitely end up becoming a Jesuit. In the romanticism of youthful imagination Jesuitism is the striving whose τελος goes far beyond the understanding of this youthfulness.
But nothing about my relation to her may be written down. I bear responsibility for the rest of her whole life, and therefore even now any direct information would cause endless confusion.
.....If one looks around at people, it is fine that there is someone who is able to say, "I am only thirty-four years old and am already department head. I am only twenty-nine and already have a big business etc." It is fine that every individual has a successful, comfortable life; God grant that every individual has it or still might get it. But, Good Lord, when it comes to being a nation, we are, after all, a little people; consequently there ought to be some concern in every generation about having something to show, a little something of which the nation could say: This I do have. But in this respect the situation in Denmark is utterly hopeless. In the end mediocrity and finite prudence about earthly advantage will be deified, and it will be regarded as immoral not to have earthly advantage from one's efforts.
But it is not true that every individual who has made his life secure is supposed to insist defiantly that this kind of striving is the earnestness of life and that belonging to an idea is fanaticism — just the opposite, an admission must be made.
But even worse, as far as distinction and greatness are concerned, Denmark is able to tolerate only possibility, not actuality. It can tolerate a man of whom it can be said: he could — woe unto him if he does it.
This is what I mainly do in the book "Come to me, all you" etc.: I place what is said on Sunday together with what one says and does the rest of the week. Contrasted in this way, the cleavage shows up, and all the mendacity in their Sunday preaching.
Proverbs 14:13: The heart of the ungodly man, even when it laughs, is sad. I found this quoted in Kirketidenden (III, no. 44, p. 710), in L¨tken's account of his wife Cornelia's life.
Perhaps someone or other who smugly thinks he understands life has in the past said: It is beneath Magister Kierkegaard's dignity to demean himself by getting mixed up in all this wretchedness of rabble barbarism. O, how elevated. No, I would say that it is beneath my dignity to have lived in such demoralized times and to have remained silent in order to maintain trimness and neatness in a worldly sense, but instead all the reek and stench of rabble barbarism is, in an eternal sense, my adornment.
This, too, is a scurvy human intervention, that it is supposed to be a great thing to avoid getting mixed up in evil in order not to be exposed to the consequences. No thanks! The world always wants to have two advantages: first to sneak away from any inconvenience and then in addition to be admired for it, for that is greatness! But I am not so easily deceived.
What I have said to myself about myself is true — I am a kind of secret agent in the highest service. The police use secret agents, too. It is not always just the men with the best and purest lives who are selected for this, quite the reverse; the police use the ingenuity of cunning, wily criminals, at the same time forcing them with the consciousness of vita ante acta. Alas, God uses sinners in the same way. But the police do not think of reforming their secret agents. God does. At the same time as he mercifully uses such a man, he educates and reforms him. But the consciousness of vita ante acta here again influences unconditional obedience, because such a man, humbled and crushed, must admit that if a man could claim anything of God at all, he himself has absolutely no claim to make but must only submit to everything and yet be grateful for merciful punishment.
Humorous lines: I know very well that I may die, but I think like this, one day more or fifty years less is all the same to me.
But if Christ came into the world not to take away suffering, so that we can be comfortable, but to bring new suffering, does not this supposition make his coming into the world futile? Not at all. He came into the world to remake men in such a way that all these human sufferings (poverty, wretchedness, sickness, loss of status, etc.) would become childishness to be reckoned as nothing. Christ wants to remake the man partly by teaching him greater fear, fear of sin, partly by the salvation he promises, therefore by hope.
This is Christianity — but with the slightest diminution of the dialectical, it is no longer Christianity.
I as an author am a penitent, but if I let men perceive this, I would eo ipso not be a penitent; then they perhaps might even esteem me, that is, I would win them over directly, that is, I would deceive them.
I concede that I began my work as an author with an advantage: being regarded as something of a villain but extremely brilliant — that is, a salon hero, a real favorite of the times. There was a bit of untruth in it — but otherwise I would not have gotten people along with me. As they gradually became aware that this was not quite the case, they fell away and continue to fall away. If it gets to be known that I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling, then it is goodbye to the world's favors.
But here lurked the secret agent. — And that went unobserved. For someone to be first of all a dissipated sensualist, a party-lion, and then many years later, as they say, to become a saint, this does not capture men. But they are not at all accustomed to having a penitent, a preacher of repentance, begin in the costume of a party-lion as a kind of cautionary measure.
This has also served to provide me with an almost prodigious knowledge of men.
When everyone in a little country reaches an agreement to regard what any other just tolerably cultured person can see is coarseness, vulgarity — not wittiness — to regard it as wittiness, and as a consequence the highest levels of society read such things and are witness to it and as a consequence the young women of the most refined families allude to it without blushing: then the country eo ipso has foundered, it is guilty of treason against itself and against all the goodness and nobility it had, and prevents itself from achieving it in the future.
The only way to get air is to die; in that same instant I will be in my ideality, for the trouble with me is that I am too ideally developed to live in a market town. How disgusting to live in a situation where the only thing that can help me is to die. Every day I live, I become more of a burden to the envy of this market town.
As early as the article "Public Confession" there was a signal shot (I was at the time finished with the manuscript of Either/Or, and immediately after that followed Either/Or; the article was also a mystification; after having disavowed the authorship of the many newspaper articles, which, to be sure, no one had attributed to me, I ended by asking people never to regard anything as mine that was not signed by me, and that was just the time I planned to begin using a pseudonym) suggesting that Professor Heiberg was the literary figure I wanted to protect; he and Mynster both were mentioned there and as unmistakably as possible. But then Heiberg himself came along with his impertinent and foppish review of Either/Or, also with a careless promise which he never kept. Then the opposition of his clique, his attempt at the silent treatment, fakery in such a small literature — all this gave the occasion for rabble barbarism to emerge so strongly. I was the one who could and should strike but could not because I constantly had to keep the way clear for a possible polemic against Heiberg. Finally I struck at the barbarism — and Heiberg left me in the lurch. Prior to that time it had often been whispered about that I approved or indulged that revolt. Now one got an insight into the affair — but Heiberg thought: Now if Kierkegaard could get shafted, it would be a good thing. Pfui!
What I Have Written in PapersIn Flyveposten:
"Yet Another Defense of Woman's Eminent Talents"
Three political articles
"Kjøbenhavnpostens Morning Observations"
"On Fædrelandets Polemic"
"To Orla Lehmann"
"Who is the Author of Either/Or" over the signature FF
Then a little article about the sermon in "Either/Or" and one I had given in the seminary
"A Fleeting Comment on a Detail in Don Juan"
"A Declaration and a Little More"
And then the two articles by Frater Taciturnus.
.....O, one can be cruel in many ways. A tyrant can have a person mistreated cruelly. But one also can be cruel in another way, for example, as one person has been cruel to me. With tears in his eyes and on his knees he begged me for Jesus Christ's sake to do what I could not do — O, it was very cruel; I have never gotten over it! What, after all, is cruelest, to choose to be the cruel one — or to impugn another as being very cruel!
Even if Denmark would do it, it is highly questionable whether it could rectify the wrong it has done me. That I am an author who definitely will bring honor to Denmark is indisputable; that I have lived qua author practically at my own expense with no subsidy from the government or the nation, saw it through, continued producing even without the least literary assistance from a journal because I saw what a small country it was — and then to be treated this way, my major work not even reviewed — and the machinery of the total plan hardly suspected — and then its author singled out by rabble barbarism to be recognized by every shoemaker's apprentice, who in the name of "public opinion" insults him on the street (for the press, after all, is the organ of public opinion): No, no, Denmark has condemned itself.
..... Thus in a certain sense I began my activity as an author with a falsum or with a pia fraus. The situation is that in so-called established Christendom men are so fixed in the fantasy that they are Christian that if they are to be made aware at all many an art will have to be employed. If someone who does not have a reputation of being an author begins right off as a Christian author, he will not get a hearing from his contemporaries. They are immediately on their guard, saying, "That's not for us" etc.
I began as an estheticist — and then, although approaching the religious with perhaps uncustomary alacrity, I denied being a Christian, and so on.
This is the way I present myself as an author to my contemporaries — and in any case this is the way I belong to history. My thought is that here I am permitted and able to speak of myself only as an author. I do not believe that my personality, my personal life, and what I consider my shortcomings are of any concern to the public. I am an author, and who I am and what my endowments are I know well enough. I have submitted to everything that could serve my cause.
I ask the more competent ones in particular to be slow to judge the capabilities and the use of capabilities which do not appear every day — I ask this especially of the more competent, for there is no use in requesting this of fools. But as a rule every more competent person has respect for himself and for his judgment — and for just this reason I request him to judge carefully.
It is Christianity that I have presented and still want to present; to this every hour of my day has been and is directed.
In margin of previous:
It was essential for me to learn to know the age. Perhaps the age found it quite easy to form a picture of this author: that intellectually he was an exceptionally gifted person, dedicated to pleasure and wallowing in a life of luxury. Ah, it was mistaken. It never dreamed that the author of Either/Or had said goodbye to the world long before, that he spent much of the day in fear and trembling reading devotional books, in prayer and supplication. Least of all did it think that he was and is conscious of himself as a penitent from the very first line he wrote.
Yet in a certain sense it is unwillingly and only with great reluctance that I explain the coherence of my whole endeavour. Mainly for one reason, because despite all my, humanly speaking, enormous reflective and systematizing powers, a third power, Governance, constantly intervenes, and while I, by means of reflection, grasp many relations, he has me in his power and leads me in such a way that it is always afterwards that I understand best how precisely that serves my cause.
And then to have to live in such a small country! Eventually I become almost revolting to myself because I feel my disproportion. It is, indeed, as if I were staggeringly vain. And yet it is not entirely so, but in a large country I would more or less disappear.
I have been thinking these days of having the little article: "The Crisis in the Life of an Actress" printed in Fædrelandet. The reasons for doing it are the following. There are some minor reasons, but they have persuasive power, and therefore I must first subject them to a critique. I believe I owe it to Mrs. Heiberg, partly also because of the piece about Mrs. Nielsen at one time. I would like to poke Heiberg a little again. This way certain things can be said which I otherwise could not say so lightly and conversationally. It would make me happy to humor Gjødwad, who has asked for it. And then the main reason that argues for it: I have been occupied now for such a long time exclusively with the religious and perhaps people will try to make out that I have changed, have become earnest (which I was not previously), that the literary attack has made me sanctimonious, in short, they will make my religiousness out to be the sort of thing people turn to in old age. This is a heresy I consider extremely essential to counteract. The nerve in all my work as an author actually is here, that I was essentially religious when I wrote Either/Or. Therefore, I have thought that it could be useful in order once again to show the possibility. I regard this as my task, always to be capable of what the vanity and secular mindedness of the world hankers after as supreme, and from which point of view they patronizingly look down on the religious as something for run-down subjects — always to be capable but not essentially to will it. The world is sometimes so insipid that if it believes that one who proclaims the religious is someone who cannot produce the esthetic it pays no attention to the religious.
This is a very important reason pro. But the contra speaks. I now have gone so decisively into the essentially Christian, have presented much of it so forcibly and earnestly that no doubt there are some who have been influenced by it. These people might be almost scandalized to hear that I had serialized a piece about an actress. And surely one has a responsibility to such people.
Allowing the article to be published will mean that perhaps someone will be made aware of the essentially Christian simply by avidly reading that little serialized article. But there may also be the one who is almost offended.
Furthermore, at the moment I have no religious book ready for the printer that would come out at the same time.
Therefore it must not be published. My position is too earnest; a little dialectical mistake could do irreparable harm. An article in a newspaper, probably about Mrs. Heiberg, creates much more of a sensation than big books.
It is now a matter of faithfulness in serving my cause. There may have been crucial significance in beginning as I began, but not any more. And the article itself is in fact much older.
N.B. This whole matter is interpreted to be conceitedness; it is reflection which wants to make me so extraordinary, instead of placing my confidence in God and being the person I am.
[A page removed] it to Gjødwad — and then I left it alone, and became very sick in the afternoon — ah, I would rather write a folio than publish a page.
But now it must come out whatever happens; I will bitterly regret having remained suspended in reflection.
July 20And now the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins must come forth in earnest.
The title can be:
The Radical Cure
The Forgiveness of Sins and the Atonement
It may be best to write a smaller book prior to this one
"Blessed is he who is not offended in me."[In margin: See journal NB., p. 250 (i.e., VIII1 A 381).]
This will be an appendix to "Come to me." It will be shorter discourses, one for every time Christ said these words. Thus at the same time a complete development of the concept "offense" will be developed, since Christ himself knew best where the possibility of offense lies.
In every discourse, therefore, the occasion, the setting, the situation, and the one addressed will be emphasized.
It will be best to arrange these discourses quite simply in chronological order. The simpler the better. They could also be arranged according to the development of the concept to be used as the basis.
No, no, the little article must be published. I am a prey to nothing else than melancholy reflection. Lately I have been possessed with the thought that I am going to die soon, and therefore I have constantly produced and produced in the hope that it will not be published until after my death. Then the thought of publishing this little article awakens; it appeals to me very much; Gjødwad gets the same idea at the same time. I hope it is a hint from Governance — and then, my melancholy changed what was undeniably a trifle, an innocent matter, a little joy I had wished to have by making a few people happy — my melancholy reflection transformed that into something so big that it seemed as if I would create a scandal, as if God might abandon me. It is indolence, melancholy, nothing more nor less. I have pondered publication of one of the manuscripts already finished. But no, I have the fixed idea that I am going to die, and I coddle myself by shunning the inconvenience and trouble of publishing.
The point is that the issue is too minor, I dare not entreat God's help — but that is wrong. If I remain suspended in reflection, I will lose myself. I will never come out of it. And my relation to Gjødwad, who knows of the article, is a perpetually open sore which will be a frightful drain on me since I actually have nothing with which to counter his requests but a despondent whim.
As far as offense is concerned, let me above all not pass myself off as more religious than I am or be credited with any kind of pietistic excess. Before God I have been able to justify writing it. Well, now I can and will publish it, for I must be honest. Granted that I would not do it again — but it is, after all, an older work. That is why the article is dated: Summer, 1847, and therefore all that troubled doubt is removed.
So in God's name — O, it is difficult to use God's name in connection with such a minor thing. But it is really a much different issue, that of being true to myself, of having the bold confidence before God to be myself and take everything from his hand.
Perhaps it will turn out in the end just as I began, that I will have joy in having done it.
Furthermore, this whole question of the possibility of offense is something that just happened to occur to me momentarily, something I had never before thought of, something quite foreign to my nature, conflicting with what I may call the clue to my assisting role in relation to Christianity. It must be emphasized once again that I have not changed over the years but that originally it was my honest intention to serve Christianity.
From now on begins a decisive presentation of the essentially Christian in a stricter sense than before — and thus I do not dare do more — and it follows as a matter of course that I will not have time or energy, either, to present anything esthetic.
But the worst thing at this point seems to be that I have gotten this matter so confused in reflection that I am at my wit's end. Therefore even if there had been no other reason for it, I had to act. Nothing exhausts me so terribly as negative decisions, to be ready to do something, consequently to have found it completely right, desirable, etc., and then suddenly a mass of thoughts drifts in, almost overcoming me. It is not right that something which in itself is unimportant and has been pondered suddenly should be able to acquire such horrible reality [Realitet]. It is a sign that the reflection has become sick. If this is so, there must be action in order to save life. Then indolence is ready to make one think that the negative was, after all, better — but that is an outright lie. The only right thing is to flee to God — and to act.
It was good that I carried out my intention, and Pfui! on me for having to be shaken up this way, for swelling up this way in the dropsy of despondent reflection. But that was why I was not allowed to get away before I did as I should. I would have regretted it in a thousand ways had I not done it, caused myself horrible torment, and deadened or stupefied myself.
Before pushing on for the last time it was important and appropriate to my nature once more to place a decoy in the course, to tempt, and as far as possible to give a presentable impression of my differential virtuosity.
I have the honor of serving the contemned and disdained cause of Christianity. But there must be no possibility of the illusion that I fled to Christianity because I was no longer able to move about and handle myself with esthetic ease. O, no, by the help of God it must be made impossible for the world to do that. Yet I am not the parading victor who enjoys condemning the world in this way — ah, in other ways I am far, far more humble.
[In margin: Psalm 116:10: I believe, therefore I speak, but I am very humble.]
But now, as I begin for the last time, I feel much more joy in advancing toward what awaits, me, for I am committed to being sacrificed — if it is required. But I also would like to avoid having a man like Professor Heiberg complain that I have not done everything possible for him and his.
But here I put an end to these entries. They are too extensive, and yet they do not exhaust what I carry around inside of me, where before God I understand myself far more easily because there I am able to get everything together at one time, and yet in the end I understand myself best by leaving everything to him.
I need encouragement, humanly speaking — perhaps it will come. But maybe it is not encouragement I need after all, but a new shock or rap on the knuckles so that I will be able to pull even harder — perhaps it will come.
The trouble with the whole affair about the little article was that I originally thought it a little thing I could take care of on my own. Therefore it seems to me easier to publish a book, a very important book, for then it is assumed right away in the beginning that I resort to God. But it is so very difficult to ask God for help to do a trifling thing as a trifling thing. But God can help here as well, for in his divinity his love is still more human than that of the best human being.
Although I work extremely hard as an author and see very well both what God gives and what he makes out of it, which I do not always understand in spite of my reflective powers, my true test is in being the poor, insignificant, sinful man that I am, to be that before God — my work as an author I actually do not dare talk about; in a way it is not my own.
Now I perhaps could publish a little collection of all the short articles (but with their respective signatures or pseudonymous names) which I have written up until now (mainly so as to protect myself against being regarded as author of what I have not written and so that I might exist in toto). This would show that I have not written occasional-claptrap.
It could be called
A preface to the book should be as unpretentious as possible. It possibly might seem pretentious to publish a collection of small articles such as these. But [they would show] that I did it in order to exist as I in fact do exist as an author down to the least little line, and I hope that one who has followed me with particular attention would like to own this little book as well.
Then I will have withdrawn once and for all from periodical literature. Every line I have written will then exist in book form.
Lest it seem strange that I was prompted in any way to publish separately the little article "The Crisis and a Crisis" etc., the pseudonym should be kept, but the thing is dedicated to Professor Heiberg.
ToProfessor J. L. Heiberg
a subordinate esthetician,
God knows that I have always thought well of Heiberg, sticking as always to my first impression. But his treatment of me is not defensible. And even after that time I have still done what could be done to maintain him essentially in a position of honor.
Praise God, it is just the opposite with Bishop Mynster. He was a rural pastor, became an assistant pastor, an altogether regular man of the cloth, and preached every Sunday year in and year out — and the church was attended as it should be. Now he is an old man; he has had his day, and his position does not allow him to preach more than every fourth Sunday — and now his church does not have the unusual attendance as before. In a certain sense, praise God. These are the proper proportions. It is apparent that he has not been aided and abetted by any illusions. On the contrary, he now has the illusion working against him that he is an old man and therefore can never do any harm preaching only every fourth Sunday.
But it is bad enough in Christendom that being a clergyman is a salaried profession, this is one illusion; still worse and altogether unchristian is the illusion of elegance and unusualness which indulges and flirts with the lethargy of the senses and conjures up an appearance of tremendous piety — because such a preacher as this has the church chock full to overflowing.
It was really fortunate that I finally did publish that little article, thereby remaining true to myself to the last, so that my life may not become a detriment rather than a benefit.
If I had died without doing it, I am convinced that in the horrible irresponsible confusing of concepts in our day some would have stepped forward and gabbled up something about my being an apostle. Good God, instead of being a positive influence and holding the essentially Christian in a position of honor, I would have ruined it. What a charming fruit of my life to help establish the masterful category: such a one also is an apostle and so on.
From the very beginning I have kept an Argus eye on that confusion, that horrible confusion. In such a garrulous time as ours, which flirts with everything — if it merely spots someone somewhat different from the clergy — O, the creation of confusion lies perpetually imminent. Did not Magister Adler aspire to this? I have worked against this with fear and trembling. To that end my continual use of the phrase: without authority; to that end the essay on the difference between a genius and an apostle. But all that still would not have helped — so now an article about an actress.
As a man I am personally a poor unhappy child whom a despondent old man in his love made as unhappy as possible — and whom God then took in hand and for whom he has done "so indescribably, O, so indescribably more than I ever expected," and so indescribably that I long only for the stillness of eternity in order to do nothing but give thanks. As a man I am personally in more than an ordinary sense a sinner who has traveled a long way on the road to perdition, whose conversion all too frequently was and is characterized by relapse — a sinner who nevertheless believes that all his sins are forgiven in Christ, even if he must bear the consequence of punishment, a sinner who longs for eternity in order to thank Him and His love.
As an author I am a somewhat strange kind of genius — no more and no less, unconditionally without authority, and therefore continually under orders to annihilate himself so that he does not become an authority to anyone. What is most unusual, in case anyone wants to know, is that I have just as much imagination as I have dialectical talent and the reverse, and in addition that that my thinking is essentially present tense.
I probably do not have long to live, but whether I have an hour or seventy years, my choice is made, to present Christianity at all times (except for the time I must take for recreation, but for that I ask God's permission). It is all too true that essentially it has been abolished. In this connection I am like a secret agent.
The defect in the life of Christendom is neither in the form of government nor in anything of this sort — no, the error is that people on the various levels of that life live too remote from one another. In the absence of close acquaintance with others, everything becomes too much a matter of comparison and too rigid in its comparativeness. This is true especially of the clergy. In Copenhagen there really are no clergy at all. For this reason it has been possible for a city like Copenhagen to become so appallingly demoralized, and not one person has felt authorized to witness against it.
Alas, it goes with me and so it will go with me and my age as it did with my father. I gave him much grief — then he died, and I inherited him. The age is doing its part to torment me — that alone torments the best energies out of me — then I will die — and the age will inherit me. There will come a time when a Dane will be proud of me qua author — and therefore at bottom proud that they mistreated me.
That little article was all right. The most decisive consequences will come later. But then perhaps the habit of thinking that I have become earnest will be broken and the collision will be all the more violent. Those who live esthetically here at home have no doubt given up reading me since I "have gone religious and do not write anything but sermon books." Now maybe they will peek into the next book, hoping to find something for them —and perhaps I will get the attention of one or two of them and help him to wound himself.
That explains why the more stoutly orthodox, Rudelbach, too, influence only a small circle, because they have no resources for nipping into the common life of the people. The orthodox write only for and talk only to the orthodox, and that is that. They pay no attention at all to the fact that a whole country calls itself and imagines itself to be Christian, and to the whole business of Christendom.
On the whole there are two decisive mistakes with regard to Christianity.
- Christianity is not a doctrine (its being regarded as a doctrine accounts for all the disorders of orthodoxy, with strife over this and that, while existence [Existentsen] remains entirely unchanged, so that men quarrel over what is essentially Christian just as they quarrel over what is Platonic philosophy and so on) but an existential-communication [Existents-Meddelse]. For this reason it begins over again with every generation. All the scholarship about the preceding generations is essentially superfluous, not to be scorned when it understands itself and its limitations, yet extremely dangerous when it does not.
- Consequently (since Christianity is not a doctrine), it is not a matter of indifference — as with a doctrine — who presents it if he only says objectively the right thing. No, Christ has not appointed assistant-professors — but imitators or followers [Efterfølgere]. When Christianity (precisely because it is not a doctrine) does not reduplicate itself in the one who presents it, he does not present Christianity; for Christianity is an existential-communication and can only be presented — by existing. Basically, to exist therein [at existere deri], to express it in one's existence etc. — this is what it means to reduplicate.
To reduplicate [reduplicere] is to be what one says. Men are therefore better served by someone who does not speak in lofty strains but is what he says. I have never had the nerve to say that the world is evil, I make a distinction and say: Christianity teaches that the world is evil. But I do not dare say it, for that I am far from being sufficiently pure. But I have said: the world is mediocre, and my life expresses exactly that. But many a greenhorn of a clergyman stands and thunders that the world is evil — and what does his life in fact express. — I have never had the nerve to say that I would venture everything for Christianity. I still am not strong enough for that. I begin with something smaller. I know that I have ventured various things and I think and believe that God will educate me and teach me to venture more. But Mynster weeps at the thought that he is willing to sacrifice everything, that even if everyone falls away he will stand fast. God knows what he has ventured. One should never talk that way. The little bit of fever for an hour on Sunday only leaves more languor and indolence. A person should never talk about doing what he has not done. One may say: Christianity demands it, but since I am not tested in this way I dare say nothing of myself. I have always been independent, therefore I have always talked with great caution about the cares of livelihood. I am often reminded that I really have no experience, that here I speak as a poet.
O that there were truth in communication between man and man! One person defends Christianity, another attacks Christianity, and after all is said and done, when it comes to auditing their experiences, neither one nor the other cares much about Christianity — perhaps it is their career.
For my part, I have a thorn in the flesh from my early years. If I had not had it, I would easily have been far gone in worldliness. But I cannot, even if I wanted to very much. So I have no meritoriousness whatsoever, for what is meritorious about going along the right way when one is riding in a go-cart or about a horse's following the track when it is bridled with a sharp bit.
The evil principle in the world still is, as I have always maintained, the crowd — and blather. Nothing is as demoralizing as blathering gossip. When I think of all the cackling about my legs and trousers! Here everybody agrees — their Excellencies and the shoemakers' apprentices, and the street sweeper who stops sweeping just to have a look, and the maids, and the shopkeepers, and the fine young ladies, and the young scholars, and so on. And if I had a friend to whom I had remarked, "This certainly is annoying," he would have answered, "It's nothing at all" — and then we would have walked arm in arm, but he — absorbed in looking at my legs and trousers.
Everything else I would have been able to endure, would have been able to endure the attacks of men far more easily (for where that is concerned I am adequately conscious of my own superiority) — if my financial future did not distress me.
I cannot repeat enough what I so frequently have said: I am a poet, but a very special kind, for I am by nature dialectical, and as a rule dialectic is precisely what is alien to the poet. Assigned from childhood to a life of torment that perhaps few can even conceive of, plunged into the deepest despondency, and from this despondency again into despair, I came to understand myself by writing. It was the ethical that inspired me — alas, me, who was painfully prevented from realizing it fully because I was unhappily set outside of the universally human. If I had been able to achieve it, I no doubt would have become terribly proud. Thus I related to Christianity again. It was my plan as soon as Either/Or was published to seek a call to a rural parish and sorrow over my sins. I could not suppress my creativity, I followed it — naturally it moved into the religious. Then I understood that my task was to do penance by serving the truth in such a way that it virtually became burdensome, humanly speaking, a thankless labor of sacrificing everything. That is how I serve Christianity — in all my wretchedness happy in the thought of the indescribable good God has done for me, far beyond my expectations.
The situation calls for Christianity to be presented once again without scaling down and accommodation, and since the situation is in Christendom: indirectly.[*][*]In margin: but not as one who enthusiastically proclaims Christianity but as a dialectician does it, in Socratically starving the life out of all the illusions in which Christendom has run aground. For it is not that Christianity is not proclaimed, but it is Christendom which has become sheer expertise in transforming it into illusion and thus evading it.
I must be kept out of it: the awakening will be all the greater. Men love direct communication because it makes for comfortableness, and communicators love it because it makes life less strenuous, since they always get a few to join them and thus escape the strain of solitariness.
Thus do I live, convinced that God will place the stamp of Governance on my efforts — as soon as I am dead, not before — this is all connected with penitence and the magnitude of the plan. I live in this faith and hope to God to die in it. If he wants it otherwise, he will surely take care of that himself; I do not dare do otherwise.
Yes, it had to be this way. I have not become a religious author; I was that: simultaneously with Either/Or appeared two upbuilding discourses — now after two years of writing only religious books there appears a little article about an actress.
Now there is a moment, a point of rest; by this step I have learned to know myself and very concretely.
So the publication must proceed (that is, of course I have more, I have finished what is to be used: (1) A Cycle of Ethical-Religious Essays, (2) The Sickness unto Death, (3) Come unto Me All You . . . . .), if I do not happen to die beforehand. My health is very poor, and the thought of dying has gotten the upperhand with me as I use this half year to sorrow for my sins and work further in the presentation of Christianity. Perhaps it is a despondent thought, perhaps also because I have become disinclined to make the finite decisions involved in publication — in any case I have now been prodded by it.
The next publication will be very decisive for my inner life. I always have held on to the remote possibility of seeking a pastoral call if the worst comes to worst financially. When I publish the last books, this may well be denied me even if I were to seek it, so the problem will not be as before, if I do dare to undertake it, but rather that it will not even be given to me.
This is one more heavy burden added to my inner suffering and outer mistreatment, but no doubt it will be beneficial so that I do not rush on but come to need God more and more. For the more God entrusts to me, the more burdens he lays upon me.
So the work goes on, given time, if I do not die before that, carrying the enormous voltage of reflection as I virtually do every moment — and yet trustful as a child in my inner being. O, I can never sufficiently thank God for what he has done and is doing for me, so indescribably much more than I had expected, he who helps one, step by step, if one honestly tells him the situation and then allows himself to be helped, helps one by taking away the burdens one may not be able to bear, helps one little by little to carry the burdens from which one once shrank. He who loves God is loved forth by God in such a way that this is an education. At all times there is a world of help possible, because for God everything is possible: if I have done something wrong, even though I honestly considered it, there is at all times a world of help, because for God everything is possible — how blessed that he is also love, that for the loved one everything is possible, and that he for whom everything is possible is love. And if I stumble, if sin wins a temporary victory over me, O, at all times for the honest penitent there is a world of help in the Atonement for all our sins with him our Savior and Redeemer.To be surrounded everywhere by love in this way, O, who would not feel blessed in the midst of all his sufferings, which no doubt come so that one may not take salvation in vain but also to make one even more blissfully aware of salvation.
How often this same thing has happened to me that now has happened to me again! I am submerged in the deepest suffering of despondency, so tied up in mental knots that I cannot get free, and since it is all connected with my personal life I suffer indescribably. And then after a short time, like an abscess it comes to a head and breaks — and inside is the loveliest and richest creativity — and the very thing I must use at the moment.
I have been experiencing much spiritual trial [Anfægtelse] thinking about how far one dares to withhold direct communication. O, there are perhaps few men who have any idea of the few and trembling involved in having lightness enough to be able to be something else [in order] to act in the service of the truth — and then, then to sit in fear and trembling lest one do anyone harm, all the while understanding that this is the truest way to help another.
And then this is the very thing I will use in characterizing offense with respect to the God-man. My life is often readjusted in this way. I suffer as a man can suffer in indescribable despondency — as always it has something to do with my life — and then it is just what I need to use.
But while the suffering lasts, it is often extremely painful. Yet, believing, one learns little by little by the help of God to remain with God even in the moment of suffering, or to come back to God as quickly as possible when it seems as if he had abandoned one for a brief moment during one's suffering. It has to be this way, for if a person could have God right there with him during the suffering, he would not suffer at all.
It was a good thing that I published that little article and came under tension. If I had not published it, I would have gone on living in a certain ambiguity about the future use of indirect communication.
Now it is clear to me that henceforth it will be indefensible to use it.
The awakening effect is rooted in God's having given me power to live as a riddle — but not any longer, lest the awakening effect end by being confusing.
The thing to do now is to take over unambiguously the maieutic structure of the past, to step forth definitely and directly in character, as one who has wanted and wants to serve the cause of Christianity.
If I had not published that little article, indirect communication would have continued to hover vaguely before me as a possibility and I would not have gotten the idea that I dare not use it.
I dare not say of myself that I have had a clear panorama of the whole plan of production from the outset; I must rather say, as I have continually acknowledged, that I myself have been brought up or educated and developed in the process of my work, that personally I have become committed more and more to Christianity than I was. Nevertheless this remains fixed, that I began with the deepest religious impression, alas, yes, I who when I began bore the tremendous responsibility of the life of another human being and understood it as God's punishment upon me.
The thought that I would soon die, the thought in which I have rested, has now been disturbed by the publication of that little article; it would disturb me if this were to be the last thing I publish.
But on the other hand the thought of dying now was only a gloomy notion — how good then that I published that little article. This very thing had to be probed — and the publication of the article served to do this.
In margin of previous:
But in my case there is R. Nielsen as one who can provide explanation.
But on the other hand, the understanding, reflection, is also a gift of God. What shall one do with it, how dispose of it if one is not to use it? And if one then uses it in fear and trembling not for his own advantage but to serve the truth, if one uses it that way in fear and trembling and furthermore believing that it still is God who determines the issue in its eternal significance, venturing to trust in him, and with unconditional obedience yielding to what he makes of it: is this not fear of God and serving God the way a man of reflection can, in a somewhat different way than the spontaneously immediate person, but perhaps more ardently. But if that is the case, does not a maieutic element enter into the relation to other men or to various other men. For the maieutic is really only the expression for a superiority between man and man. That it exists cannot be denied — but existence presses far more powerfully upon the superior one precisely because he is a maieutic (for he has the responsibility) than upon the other.
As far as I am concerned, there has been no lack of witness. All my upbuilding discourses are in fact in the form of direct communication. Consequently there can be a question only about this, something that has occupied me for a long time (already back in earlier journals): should I for once definitely explain myself as an author, what I declare myself to be, how I from the beginning understand myself to be a religious author.
But now is not the time to do it, I am also somewhat strained at the moment. I need more physical recreation.
But if someone says: If a man is so devout in his inmost being, wills the good to that extent, then let him say it quite directly; if God wants him to be honored and esteemed for it, then let him accept it — this is the simplest.
But who is speaking? He who dares say of himself that by means of revelations God immediately determines for him what he must do — yes, such a person is able to act with unmitigated immediacy.
It holds true of everyone else that God does not immediately determine for him in that way; he must himself deliberate, choose; the relationship between God and him is still through reflection, be it more or less.
Now I am at that point. Reflection then discovers that to serve the good in truth also implies avoiding the appearance of doing it, in order to have no advantage from it. This is self-denial, which reflection devises, which immediacy (also that with relative reflection) actually does not know, for self-denial is a [yield of] reflection.
What do we do now? Is a man not just as responsible to God for the use of his reflection as for everything else; when he is able to understand something to be right, is he not obligated to God to do it, even if this self-denial leads out into the painfulness of sufferings, a weight of responsibility of which the immediate person has no intimation?
Or is reflection in itself evil? By no means. It is evil when it is selfish: either finite reflection which covets the advantages of finitude, or reflection selfishly terminating in the infatuation of the self with itself.
But it is quite another matter — and this is precisely the duty — when reflection humbles itself under the hand of God, submits everything to God (because everything it encompasses is still nothing to God), does not find pleasure in being concealed but, humbled before God, understands that God, any second he wants to, can annihilate reflection, by means of which one avoids that appearance of willing the good, while on the other hand reflection cannot act any other way than it does. And it is also quite another matter when reflection humbly confesses that it quite literally is brought up by God for whom it is more or less a child and whom it needs every moment. — But among men there is a difference in that one man has more reflection than another. But is reflection's fear of God therefore less because its language is somewhat different from what is commonly called the language of spontaneity or immediacy (we are not speaking here of one who has an exceptional call), because the language of reflection has one more extension?
The danger is that reflection wants to please itself and end in itself instead of ending in worship. But God-fearing reflection does not do this, it easily understands and with much fear and trembling that God is the Almighty who, any second he wants to, can draw the threads in such a way that a man's reflection cannot remain hidden. But reflection itself dares not do this, for it understands avoidance of the appearance of willing the good to be the true form of the good. On the other hand, the fact that God is along in this way prevents all self-complacency.
But then is there not still some meritoriousness in the relationship to God? How? Suppose now that a particular reflective estimate of reflection were — humanly speaking — superior: What then? Who is it who gabbles this standard for reflection into the God-relationship. Before God even the most brilliant human wisdom is still nonsense, but it does not follow that a man, if he has this reflection, is supposed to stop using it; he must simply learn humility before God and then do what he unselfishly acknowledges to be the wisest thing, but without forgetting that when God looks at it, it is quite possible he will regard it as very stupid.
Furthermore, how could it become meritoriousness when reflection early and late presents itself before God and consequently again and again and a thousand times must learn to realize its inferiority? And finally, if reflection, which is in fact part of a man, consequently is in a sinner, must flee to grace every moment, simply because reflection itself grasps that before God it infinitely needs grace and mercy: how does it then become meritoriousness?
No, this is all in order. But on the other hand, it still stands that there must at some time be a definite and direct communication of how I understand myself or my authorship.
And at present I need recreation and rest.
In many ways Christendom could benefit even from the experience (actually it is probably the only remedy) of killing someone for the sake of Christ just so as to get its eyes open to what Christianity is. But I do not have the physical strength for that, perhaps not the courage either, and finally, I am a dialectician who, it is true, can do a great deal when it comes to thinking and the interior life and can also stimulate an awakening but not in a situation which is not really appropriate for the dialectical.
My Work as an Author]
In order to get men along, one may (out of consideration for what men are like these days and what one is himself) reduce the Christian requirements, reduce Christianity, make concessions in that direction. This way one gets to be the most earnest Christian himself and wins many such people over to Christianity. This does irreparable harm, and it is inconceivable that anyone has dared to take this responsibility upon himself, for it is winning men over to Christianity by doing away with Christianity.
One may, however, do the reverse and present Christianity without such deference, and then, lest one seem to be judging others, judge oneself as being so far behind that one can scarcely claim the name of Christian, yet deeply desires to become a Christian and strives to be that. This is the right way. In due times it may have a resemblance to the relation of Socratic ignorance to the glut of human knowledge.
And this is the point in the change from the time when Christianity was embattled with paganism; then to become a Christian was relatively quicker, in order to be used promptly as a warrior in the service of Christianity. But in Christendom there is a quite different kind of peacefulness for the inwardly directed struggle to become and be a Christian. Now becoming a Christian is such an enormous task (because this task has now been cast into reflection) that one scarcely dares call himself a Christian but says only that he aspires to be that, loves it, battling all day long for that alone.
Here is an analogy. First of all, in antiquity, came the wise men (σοφοι.) Then came a time when no one dared call himself wise, when Pythagoras therefore invented the more modest name, φιλοσοφοι;, and why? Because the task had become infinitely greater. Those σοφοι; were essentially the wise men of immediacy. Reflection's definition of what it really is to be wise began, quite properly, with first of all making the task so enormous that in relation to it there was only a relationship of reflection, and yet it was far more strenuous to become a φιλοσοφοι; than to be a σοφοι;.
With this interpretation, I believe I can defend going ahead and declaring that Christendom has abolished Christianity. It is neither my intention nor my task to insult or personally agitate and attack one single man. If so, I no longer understand myself. Here it is not a matter of getting the teacher dismissed etc. O, no. It is a purely ideal task: casting Christianity completely and wholly into reflection.
I may well drop under this task, but God be praised that he has let me see this and become essentially prepared for it already. However much I suffer, his goodness and love constantly overwhelm me. And when my head is weary of all this intense reflection, when my soul is weary of all the misunderstandings and insults and mistreatment by men, he grants me the ability to rest in the concise thought that he is love, that Christ died for me as well — and then I begin my work again and God is with me once again.
It is true that Christianity seems to be inimical to men, but that is because man, the natural man, is lazy and weak and sensate, and Christianity is the absolute. What the natural man understands by human love is nothing more nor less than this: Be lenient with yourself and with us. If a man will cling to God, repent of his sloth as soon as it asserts itself, and not conceitedly delude himself that God has to be remodeled after him but just the opposite, then Christianity is in fact love. But it certainly is not this wretched silliness that human sympathy and stupidity have made it out to be.
yes, it was a good thing to publish that little article. I began with Either/Or and two upbuilding discourses; now it ends, after the whole upbuilding series — with a little esthetic essay. It expresses: that it was the upbuilding, the religious, which should advance, and that now the esthetic has been traversed; they are inversely related, or it is something of an inverse confrontation, to show that the writer was not an esthetic author who in the course of time grew old and for that reason became religious.
But it is not really to my credit; it is Governance who has held me in rein with the help of an extreme depression and a troubled conscience.
But there still would have been something lacking if the little article had not come out, the illusion would have been established that it was I who essentially had changed over the years, and then a very important point in the whole productivity would have been lost.
It is true I have been educated by this writing, have developed more and more religiously — but in a decisive way I had experienced the pressures which turned me away from the world before I began writing Either/Or. Even then my only wish was to do, as decisively as possible, something good to compensate, if possible in another way, for what I personally had committed. That I have developed more and more religiously is seen in my now saying goodbye to the esthetic, because I do not know where I would find the time that I could, would, might fill up with work on esthetic writings.
My energies, that is, my physical energies, are declining; the state of my health varies terribly. I hardly see my way even to publishing the essentially decisive works I have ready ("A Cycle of Essays," "The Sickness unto Death," "Come All You Who Labor and Are Heavy Laden," "Blessed Is He Who Is Not Offended"). It is my opinion that here I am allowed to present Christianity once again and in such a way that a whole development can be based on it. The emphasis upon the situation of contemporaneity, that Christ's life is infinitely more important than the result; unrecognizability is the incognito in relation to the God-man; the impossibility of direct communication etc. — in my opinion all the articles contain such a wealth of ideas that again and again I cannot praise God enough for having granted me so infinitely much more than I had expected. And I am convinced that it will serve for the inward deepening of Christianity — for it has been taken in vain, made too mild, so that people have forgotten what grace is; for the more rigorous it is, the more grace becomes manifest as grace and not a sort of human sympathy.
Just one wish for this endeavor of mine if I happen to be separated from it. I live in the faith that God will place the accent of Governance on the life of an extremely unhappy, humanly understood, man who nevertheless by the help of God has felt indescribably blessed — but my wish is that now R. Nielsen might be relied on. The same cause which has cost me my health and an enormous strain, the same cause which as long as I live occasions only insults and humiliation, the same cause, as soon as I am dead, will be a triumphant affair! — if only he does not sell too cheap.
So I turn to the other side, forgetting all these many thoughts, mindful only of my sins and entrusting myself to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The relationship to R. Nielsen in this matter has made me very uneasy in fear and trembling. I had given R.N. a direct communication. But on the other hand, to what extent R. N. had really understood me, to what extent he was capable of venturing something for the truth, is not at all clear to me. Here was the opportunity to make a test, and I felt that I owed it to the cause, to him, and to myself. Fortunately, he was staying in the country. He has maintained constantly that he understood the esthetic to have been used as an enticement and an incognito. He has also maintained that he understood that it always depended entirely upon involvement. But whether that is entirely true he never did really put to the test. He scarcely understood the significance of Either/Or of the two upbuilding discourses. Not until much later, especially when I became an exclusively religious author, and when I drew him to me did he understand it. Well, fine, that means he did not understand it in the form of reduplication; he understood it as a direct communication, that I explained to him that it was done that way. We must now find out; the question of what he thinks of this seemingly suddenly esthetic article about an actress must be put to him. Furthermore, the article contains a little allusion to Martensen. If R. Nielsen in some way wants to avoid holding a judgment in common with the persons concerned, that is up to him. In brief, for a moment he must stand entirely alone so that I can see where we are. It is something entirely different to talk afterwards about this reduplication, consequently in direct form, than to have to pass judgment at the moment oneself.
O, it is very strenuous to serve the truth in self-denial. I had given many people in many ways the impression that I was a devotional author — and then to disturb this impression myself. I did cherish R. Nielsen's having understood me as much as he did — and then to have to lose all this.
Yes, it is very strenuous to serve the truth in this way, constantly exposing oneself to misunderstanding — in order if possible to keep men awake, in order that the religious may not again become an indolent habit, and it might be like that for R. N. I must in fear and trembling let God judge between him and me, so that he does not attach himself too much to me but to God. But, humanly speaking, it is hard for me to work against myself in this way simply in order to serve the truth.
It is good that I did it. It has matured me exceedingly much. As so often happens, so often here again the summa summarum of actuality becomes a triviality — but again and again I am educated by God and formed by possibility. Many a time it is almost mad, this disproportion — the corresponding actuality and the possibility by which I am educated.
And now the point has been reached for a direct communication and conception of my work as an author. What I have to say about the esthetic and myself as a religious author who has used it would otherwise have become to a certain degree an assertion — that little article is an entirely different kind of argument for testimony and confrontation.
Thus in a sense I am a poor child, in another sense a poor sinful man — but one whom God educates. And therefore I can never sufficiently thank God for all the indescribable good he has done for me.
O, R. N. scarcely dreams of how he has occupied me on this occasion, and why? Because he has become involved in my God-relation. That is infinitely crucial. In this way I am strong and weak. Actually there is not a man living with whom I would not dare to take this up, relying on my superiority over him — and any man, whoever he is, who comes in touch with my God-relationship, becomes a prodigious concern to me.
That was a strong gust — but what I have learned!
Mynster has let down Christianity in these two ways. (1) He has converted it from divine compassion and "the truth" to human sympathy, gentle, friendly, loving consolation for the suffering, which we all need since we all suffer a lot and even the happiest person does not know when he will suffer. (2) By making the relationship of the proclaimer purely human: the most talented shall be the most prominent, have the most honor and prestige — instead of the essentially Christian principle: the true servant of the Word must suffer, and the more true he is the more he will suffer.
Strange, strange about that little article — that I was so close to being carried away and forgetting myself. When one is overstrained as I was, it is easy to forget momentarily the dialectical outline of a colossal structure such as my authorship. That is why Governance helps me.
Right now the totality is dialectically right. Either/Or and the two upbuilding discourses* — Concluding Postscript — for two years only upbuilding discourses and then a little article about an actress. The illusion that I happened to get older and for that reason became a decisively religious author has been made impossible. If I had died beforehand, then the writing I did those two years would have been made ambiguous and the totality unsteady.
In a certain sense, of course, my concern is superfluous when I consider the world of actuality in which I live — for as a matter of fact I have not found many dialecticians.* In margin:Note. And these two discourses quite properly did not appear at the same time as Either/Or but a few months later — just as this little article now.
Far be it from me to insist that I am a superlative Christian — among real Christians, but in relation to Christendom I still am ahead in that I know what it is all about. It may be assumed that most people have never gotten any impression of what Christianity is and therefore have not even detected the possibility of offense. What I know is not to my credit but is actually due to my father's upbringing.
There must once again be some single persons. It may have been quite all right for Luther to marry, but if he had been married he would never have become Luther. There must be single persons particularly in these times, for the evil that must be fought hides in the "crowd" and in prudence and in fear of men. Nowadays it is conceivable that a wife could even reconcile herself to the thought that her husband would risk sacrificing himself in battle with a great power — a king, for example, or an emperor. Warum? Because it appeals to her imagination. But to expose oneself to people's gossip, to be laughed to scorn by them, that is something from which a woman's nature shrinks. She perhaps would have the fortitude to think of him beheaded by the state — but mistreated by the rabble, laughed and scorned by the crowd — no, no, that she cannot endure. Here a woman will beseech and implore the man for God's sake not to expose himself to that; she will tearfully maintain that she cannot bear to see him mistreated that way, will beg for the sake of their children, so that they may not have to suffer the torture of having the father abused in this way, and of being the children of such a father.
And how entrenched this evil is in the daily press! And almost all journalists are unmarried persons — and is it not apparent, then, that there must be unmarried persons to serve the good.
From a purely historical point of view (therefore not as the object of faith) the point where Christ's heterogeneity with every human being reveals itself most vividly is perhaps this, that the nation to whom he belonged was destroyed. Usually the relationship is such that the nation appropriates to itself the most eminent among them, even if he died as a martyr. But this probably never occurred to the Jews with regard to Jesus. Therefore the nation was destroyed: this is the expression for Christ's being the single individual who is more than the whole generation. And the nation was destroyed and thus disappeared from history — no, it remains standing in the situation of ruin, giving expression to that ruin: this is (ad modum of military honor) divine honor to Christ in history. All the consequences of his life are dialectically not nearly so noteworthy as this consequence. How marvelous and gripping that providence has to watch continually to hold a nation at the same point of ruin, century after century, as if in an eternal refrain repeating the expression of respect for Christ.
My martyrdom is a martyrdom of reflection, is the martyrdom which can manifest itself in the world after reflection has come to occupy the place of spontaneous, immediate passion. The reflection consists in being bereft of all pathos: it is child's play, nothing. And therefore without question men shrink from no martyrdom more than from this.
From on High He Will Draw All Men to Himself
Seven Discourses at the Communion on Fridays
- lies finished in the tall cupboard.
- To draw is a compound concept (two factors), especially when it involves drawing a free being (who in fact is himself to choose).
Thus there is here: lowliness and elevation,
not lowliness alone or elevation alone.
- That you must first of all feel yourself drawn to him in his lowliness — otherwise it is a delusion because of elevation.
- Use this as a criterion for the Christianity that is in you: Do you feel drawn to him more by lowliness or by elevation.
- The prayer: Draw me to yourself; the different ways in which it can be said by various people.
Parents on behalf of the baby
The young man at the beginning of life
The sinner entering the path of conversion
The sufferer in his last hours
I now the last
Can see" etc.).
The elderly person — as an oldster who happy in God
is separated from the world.
And we would wish the same for everybody.
R. Nielsen is a curious fellow. We had an agreement or understanding that there should be a relationship between us but that it by no means must become a coterie. But what is a coterie? It implies an advance agreement among the persons concerned about future action and a mutual judgment about what has been done, which is then broadcast. Consequently that must not be done. So I write a note to him, an altogether proper one, and yet — and this certainly was not unfortunate — yet done in such a way that it was sufficient to maintain the relationship while it became an alienating factor with respect to that little thing I wrote, something of such great importance to my whole authorship that I scarcely dared communicate anything about it directly right away. Had I done so, I would have lost myself, become saddled with an inconsistency which I perhaps never would have lived down. But R. N. was offended — and then chooses not to answer at all, so I actually had to believe that he had not received the letter.
And he was the one who almost imploringly wanted to make me an apostle! — something I quite properly would have nothing to do with. But it did not help. On the other hand, a little precautionary measure, then everything becomes clear. God knows whether it was his idea that I should be the apostle and he disciple No. 1. God knows if he has developed so profoundly that he actually could be in earnest about suffering in the world.
Nothing can be done for her. God knows how willingly I would, both for my sake, and if she so desires, for hers.
She would be completely unhinged if she found out the real truth of the matter. The keystone of her marriage is and will continue to be that I am a villain or at least someone who wanted to be important in the world.
I began thinking of her situation again during those incredible days (especially Thursday or the night from Wednesday to Thursday [changed from: Thursday to Friday] when I had not prayed for R. N. because I had been a little impatient with him but felt it a terrible sin against him and promptly took him into my God-relationship again) Thursday, Friday, Saturday, August 24, 25, 26. On Saturday (August 26) I drove to Fredensborg [40km north of Copenhagen]. An unexplainable presentiment took me there, I was so happy and almost sure of meeting the family there — and that an attempt must be made. I arrived there. No one was there. I took my usual walk, talked with Thomas or whatever his name is, the solitary sailor, who remarked that it was the first time I had been in Fredriksborg this year, which was true. I asked him casually en passant if Councillor Olsen had been there much this year. He answered: No, only once, on First Easter Day.
Then I went up to Kold's again, sat and ate — a man walked by the window: it was Councillor Olsen.
He is the only one I safely dare become reconciled with, for here there is no danger as with the girl. I was about to leave, but I walked just once down Skipper-Alleen with the purpose of going there just this once and then, if we did not meet, giving up the attempt on that occasion. But sure enough, I do meet him. I go up to him and say: Good day, Councillor Olsen, let us talk together. He took off his hat and greeted me but then brushed me aside and said: I do not wish to speak with you. O, there were tears in his eyes, and he spoke these words with tormented feeling. I went toward him, but the man started to run so fast that, even if I had wanted to, it would have been impossible to catch up with him. But I did manage to say this much, and he heard it: Now I make you responsible for not listening to me.
For the time being nothing more can be done.
Now I see my way to writing a short and an as earnest as possible explanation of my previous authorship, which is necessary before a transition to the next. And why do I see my way to doing it now? Simply because I am now clear about the relation between direct communication and decisive Christianity. For this very reason I now am able to illuminate and interpret indirect communication. Earlier I had been continually unclear. For one always must be over and beyond what he wants to interpret. Previously I had been uncertain about the whole thing, because I was not myself clear and basically maintained the connection with indirect communication. This relation would have altogether ruined the entire presentation.
The Friday sermon I gave today was one I had previously worked out in its essential features. I find this better than to do it at the last minute under the stimulus of creativity. It is so easy then for something esthetic to creep in.
It originally was scheduled to be given January 14, 1848, but there was no communion either in Frue or in Helliggeistes Kirke.
How willingly I would do everything for her, both for her sake and for mine, but it cannot be done; I dare not, I fear her unreckoning passionateness if she gets the least thing to go on! I actually am guaranteeing her marriage; God knows what a terrible strain it is. And what I have endured I best perceive from the indirect indication that for the first time now, after seven years, I dare confide on paper my thoughts about her.
[In margin: See journal NB, p. 65 bottom (i.e., IX A 66)].
Steps were taken at the time to break up the engagement, and in a manner as humiliating to me and as sympathetic to her as possible; so it was easy enough to see that it was despondency. I did everything to spare her the slightest humiliation; thus I was the superior one etc. Here lies her guilt, her only guilt, for apart from this I know best how innocently she has suffered, how frightfully, I who have had to suffer as the cause of it. But here lie her guilt and essentially her self-love. She took my despondency in vain — she thought it was possible to alarm me into giving in. Being somewhat imaginative, also, perhaps not essentially, but now that she was distraught, she assured me that if I could convince her that I was a villain she would submit readily to the whole thing. That is, she had some idea of my despondency. She ought to have given in at that time, accepted her suffering, accepted separation from me in such a moderate way, because I was despondent. She overstepped the bounds of what one person has a right to do to another, she troubled me terribly, she did not consider that behind my enormous despondency lay an equally great resiliency. It emerged. The scale she herself evoked; it had been set.
The trouble is that she was especially proud of her relationship to me. In that connection a little explanation now perhaps would ease and enhance her marriage. God knows how willingly I would have done it; what a constant torment it has been to me that she should be humiliated because of me, even though I did everything to prevent it. But nevertheless the guilt is mine, for my guilt toward her is so great that it swallows her guilt toward me.
As soon as I die (which I continually expect to happen soon), she of course will be reinstated in her rights. Everything is ready for that. Her name will belong to my authorship and be remembered as long as I am remembered. But while I am alive — if she has not changed much — she is a very dangerous person.
For me it was an indescribable relief, for the actual situation was never too burdensome for me, but it has been dreadful to keep her in possibility that way. But that is the condition for her marriage.
No one wants to learn anything; there are thousands and thousands who want to be flattered.
I could almost be tempted to ask: Why was I brought up in Christianity? Except for that, it would never have occurred to me to establish such a standard for my life. Humanly speaking, how would it cross any man's mind that his life destiny was to be sacrificed? I would have used my copious endowment of sagacity — and then I would have come to lead the very opposite kind of life.
It does not help to speak with someone. For the majority would see me in terms of my sagacity and then barely understand that — i.e., how cleverly I could have acted. But not the next — my not daring to use the least bit of this sagacity.
A thoroughly Christian Christian I have not seen. The highest examples I have seen are some few of what I call human-lovable Christianity. But here the authentic qualification of the absolute is missing. It is more a quiet human kindliness, sympathetic concern, and the like, which of course was also found in paganism.
The Christian requirement of sacrifice stops at no point. One gives up everything, unconditionally everything, chooses God, holds to God. Enormous task, how rarely, how rarely does it happen. And yet Christianity does not stop here. I seem to hear such a man say: Well, now, I choose God — and forsake everything. But then — then God can surely be depended upon, then he will certainly not abandon me. Here we have the ultimate. The prototype teaches that Christian suffering also includes God's abandoning you right in your heaviest suffering. Frightful! And this is the teaching those job-holding men call the mild doctrine of truth.
A Christian pastor I have never known. The whole battle of orthodoxy and heterodoxy has no useful purpose whatsoever.
But now as to my situation. Without being so bold as to maintain that I am a fairly perfect Christian, I have existentially striven to express something of what is distinctive to Christianity, that there is some absolute — and I am regarded as mad, proud, selfish. Most ridiculous of all is that the setting is in Christendom and that there are 1,000 preachers, approximately 2 million Christians, and they all flatly regard me as mad.
Yes, right here is the real conflict between Christianity and man — the fact that Christianity is the absolute, or teaches that there is some absolute, and demands of the Christian that his life express that there is an absolute. It is in this sense that I say that I have not known a Christian; I have never seen any man whose life expresses this. The Christianity of Christians is profession and profession, an accent upon orthodoxy and an attack upon heterodoxy, etc., but their lives, just exactly like the pagans', express that men live in relativities. Their lives are nothing but relativities.
On this point I am stymied. If I open myself to others, then ipso facto, my life is less strenuous. Humanly speaking (that is, in the sense of human self-love), men have a right to demand this of me, but over against God do I have the right to do it? I can see with half an eye that, far out as I myself am, I gain no one; for me to open myself will mean that I get dragged under. On the other hand my progress forward is certain destruction. But is there, then, not an absolute? Here it is again. The moment I lay my life out in relativities, I am understood, and in a deeper sense my cause is lost — humanly speaking it is then won.
The only true way of expressing that there is an absolute is to become its martyr or a martyr to it. It is this way even in whole-hearted erotic love.
The human race is so far from the ideal that in a few generations there is occasionally one who more or less expresses that there is an absolute, and he is trampled upon by the generation.
This is how I actually am treated in Copenhagen. I am regarded as a kind of Englishman, a half-mad eccentric, with whom we jolly well all, society people and street urchins, think to have their fun. My literary activity, that enormous productivity, so intense that it seems it must move stones, portions of which not a single contemporary is able to compete with, to say nothing of its totality, that literary activity is regarded as a kind of hobby ad modum fishing and such. Those who are able to produce something themselves envy me and are silent — the others understand nothing. I do not receive the support of one single word in the form of reviews and the like. Minor prophets plunder me in silly lectures at meetings and the like but do not mention my name. No, that is unnecessary.
Consequently that hobby is regarded as a lark. The game is really to see if they can drive me crazy — that would be great sport — or get me to decamp, that would be great sport.
Behind all this is a tremendous impression of what I am, of the extraordinariness granted to me, but the envy of a market town fosters the desire that my having such advantages be, if possible, a greater torment than being the most wretched of all; and everything is left up to the capriciousness of the market town.
A somewhat more lenient version is this. I am supposed to be a genius, but such an introverted genius that I can see and hear nothing. All this sport is something the market town is supposed to share in common (society people in common with the commoners and they with the street urchins), something which consequently is nothing.
Well, let it be! When I was a child I was taught that they spit upon Christ. Now, I am a poor insignificant man and a sinner and no doubt will get off more leniently. This, you see, is the Christian syllogism and not the preacher-nonsense which says: Be a nice, good, altruistic man and men will love you — for Christ, who was love, was loved by men.
Generally speaking, there no doubt will be no one in eternity who will be judged as severely as those professional pastors. From the point of view of eternity, they are what public prostitutes are in temporality.
It is Christianity's absolute character, the fact that what ought to help makes everything worse, which really brings reason to a standstill and constitutes the possibility of offense; people were better able to escape this in Luther's time. Actually, Luther here moves in the direction of imagination. Now the devil appears. Luther explains the contradiction to which reason points as being instigated by the devil. That means the matter does not become dialectical. The dialectical is this: here consolation is offered — and behold, the consolation is worse than what one otherwise suffers. Luther says of Christianity: Here is consolation. But then he does not dialectically place the next part together with it, but says: When one is ready to permit Christianity to help him, the devil is immediately there and from him come all the sufferings. This is entirely undialectical. The fact of the matter is that Christianity helps absolutely, but in its initial form the absolute means suffering for the relative man.
Luther's approach is similar to one's teaching a child to attribute everything good to God — evil comes from evil men, a bad man, etc. This is undialectical.
It is the same with Luther's understanding of Christianity. He distributes: the good is credited to Christianity; all sufferings, spiritual trial, etc., come from the devil. Dialectically one must say: both the consolation and the suffering come from Christianity, for this is the dialectic of the absolute, and Christianity is the absolute.
Luther smuggles away the real objection. Human reason, from its point of view, quite rightly says: What do I want with doctrine or help which makes the matter worse than it was before. To this Luther answers: What silly talk; Christianity is the help, sheer consolation and healing; all the disturbance comes from the devil.
This, to repeat, is undialectical. Upon closer examination one will also see that it does not explain anything; for then reason says: If what you say is so, why does not Christianity secure itself once and for all against the devil?
Dialectically the matter must be formulated this way: Christianity is the absolute; therein is found both the one and the other. Absolute help (it is found in the category-relationship themselves, since the actual relationship is lacking) is first of all suffering for one whose life is in the relative. But man as man lives in the relative.
For this reason Christianity cannot answer the question: Why? For in the absolute sense, "Why?" cannot be asked. The absolute is the absolute. But if "Why?" is asked relatively, Christianity cannot answer a relative why. In the one case it cannot be asked; in the other it cannot be answered. If I am absolutely seized by Christianity I cannot ask: Why is this doctrine? If I am living in the relative and ask why, Christianity cannot answer.
I am still very exhausted, but I have also almost reached the goal. The work The Point of View for My Work as an Author is now as good as finished. Relying upon what I have done in existential action in the past to justify my productivity, in the recent period I have been only a writer. My mind and spirit are strong enough, but regrettably all too strong for my body. In one sense it is my mind and spirit that help me to endure such poor health; in another sense it is my mind and spirit that overwhelm my body.
The Rarity of a True Christian
The rarity of a true Christian can be calculated as simply as an algebraic problem.
The first requirement is a man who in one way or another is desiring, seeking, possessing, etc., wholeheartedly — or, absolutely with passion or with absolute passion. Secondly, this desire, etc., is denied him, that is, his absolute passion gets an absolutely mortal wound (which, again, can only happen because he is absolutely in passion) — and then the question is whether he chooses faith.
The poet may be used as the deputy-auditor and examiner. For the poet can use a man who is absolutely in passion (and this is the first step in relation to becoming Christian). But how rare is such a person! The poet witnesses to the fact that there are scarcely ten in any generation. As for becoming a Christian, which consequently begins there where the poet leaves off — the poet finds practically no one.
But does not Christianity relate itself, then, to the common man? Yes, and this the poetic does too. It is poetically true that all are equal in passions, that a servant-girl and a princess, a shoemaker and a count, etc., are absolutely equal in being able to fall in love. Yet the poet teaches and insists that the poetic (absolute passion) is prodigiously rare. Then what about becoming a Christian?
The curious thing is that men actually are not offended when the poet protests that men's lives are poetically usable, all too prosaic; yet, on the other hand, they are enraged with the person who submits this protest in the name of Christianity. Here one sees (indirectly) what the situation is in Christendom, that in Christendom the poetic is really regarded as something far higher than being a Christian, so that in a country with one million Christians or, to put it more strictly (!), 100,000 Christians — there are scarcely ten poetically usable human beings.
What gibberish this established Christendom is!
From an appendix (4) to "The Point of View for My Work as an Author," which was not used.
My heart has expanded, not as if it ever had been constricted in my breast, but the inner intensity which has been my life and which I believed would be my death has gotten a breathing spell, the dialectical bond has been broken, I dare to speak openly.
I love my fatherland — it is true that I have not gone to war — but I believe I have served it in another way and I believe I am right in thinking that Denmark must seek its strength in the spirit and the mind. I am proud of my mother tongue whose secrets I know, the language I treat more lovingly than a flutist his instrument.
I can honestly say that I have loved every man; no matter how many have been my enemies, I have had no enemy. As I remarked in the book, I have never known thoughts and ideas not to present themselves. But I have known something else. If, on my way home after a walk — during which I would meditate and gather ideas — overwhelmed with ideas ready to be written down and in a sense so weak that I could scarcely walk (one who has had anything to do with ideas knows what this means) — then if a poor man on the way spoke to me and in my enthusiasm over the ideas I had no time to speak with him — when I got home all the ideas would be gone, and I would sink into the most dreadful spiritual tribulation at the thought that God could do to me what I had done to that man. But if I took time to talk with the poor man and listened to him, things never went that way. When I arrived at home everything was there and ready. All assurances are disdained these days — and yet the best assurance that a man loves men is and will be that God is as close as life to him, which is the case with me almost every moment.
The same passion which, when God-fearingly tightened, leads to martyrdom, the same passion, when it is humanly relaxed along the way, changes into human sympathy, which spreads itself about and gets to be loved, esteemed by men.
This is or can be a spiritual trial [Angægtelse] which comes in weak moments when the soul cannot hold to the absolute: "But then you can do a little for others" (just as if sacrifice in the service of truth were not doing something for others), "You could knock off a little; there are so many everywhere who know less than you, so many sick you could comfort," etc. If this temporary interruption is victorious, then essential Christianity is reduced to a merely human sympathy. The essentially Christian and the absolute are unconditionally one: absolute recklessness. Christ says: Let the dead bury their dead.
More particularly, the spiritual trial is: to the question "Why?" one has no why — this is precisely the absolute.
The only Christianity there is in Christendom is really Judaism. Rightly so, for Christianity thought about in repose (established) is Judaism; Christianity in motion is Christianity.
Now it seems as if I am going to be on good terms with the exclusive people, partly because they themselves have become polemical; now they are or think that they are in the minority, and I, well, if my genius can be said to be connected with anything, it is with being in the minority.
The kind of respect with which most people in Christendom talk about Christ is nothing but affectation and goes together with the fact that in a deeper sense they are not involved with him at all. The person who in earnestness is involved with God or Christ in such a way that he understands it applies to his life, that he pledges himself to submit in all things, to give his whole life in service whatever the sacrifice — he speaks in quite a different way. From those quasi-Christians one hears, of course, not an impatient word — well, I can believe that — they really have nothing at all to do with Christ or God. But even from the apostles is heard the impatience of the purely human.
If I were not personally a penitent there might have been moments when I would have been offended by Christianity, but I dare not breathe a word about it. And afterwards I am reconciled to what otherwise would have offended me. This is how I understand Peter's word: To whom shall we go. I understand them to mean that the consciousness of sin binds a man to Christianity.
That is how I understand myself as well. But is it not a peculiar explanation to say that I am now so conscious of myself as a sinner that I dare do nothing else? To a certain extent, yes, for I make no secret of the fact that I have sinned in a way different from what is usually meant by being a sinner. But on the other hand I have perhaps also had the prerequisites for discovering and understanding offense in a quite different way. And since it is God who binds each and every individual to God through the consciousness of sin, it must no doubt be assumed that he determines the collisions for each and every individual. In this way, it is still the consciousness of sin which binds men to Christianity. Everyone not bound in this way is not Christianly bound; all that sentimental talk about its being deep and elevated and a friend etc. is rubbish. The correlations are: if I were not personally conscious of being a sinner, I would have to be offended with Christianity. The consciousness of sin shuts my mouth so that in spite of the possibility of offense I choose to believe. The relationship has to be that penetrating. Christianity repels in order to attract. But Christianity has been diluted, the aspect of Christianity which, so to speak, turns a man upside down, has been diluted, and therefore the impetus of sin-consciousness is not needed to drive one into it — that is, it is all sentimentality.
They say that a person who is going to console others must himself have suffered. Fine, that is the case with me. I perhaps have suffered so much that I am more likely to dismay others. But, after all, I can keep that to myself and then perhaps my consoling will become all the more inward, fed by this hidden fire. As a matter of fact, I do know how to console; as my physician says, no one he knows is as capable of it as I am. And so I do it. I also know that it will not miscarry. The sufferer is relieved and will take a great liking to me. But the trouble is that I also know that this is not Christianity. I take it from another flask. It is poetry with an invigorating addition of the ethical. But Christianity it is not. As a rule Christianity is dismaying rather than consoling. Even I, who have been brought so far out, can scarcely bear Christianity's consolation — and then the average man! But if I am a Christian clergyman, I am obliged to bring consolation in the Christian way. The question remains whether I would have the courage to be Christianly cruel. The thing is: momentary relief is always human sympathy. A whimpering mother who coddles her child has the most sympathy, but we find fault with that. She has the most sympathy, always helps at the moment, therefore cannot educate. Then come the dimensions of the universally human. But Christianity goes further qualitatively and educates with the help of eternity and to eternity. Therein lies the dismaying aspect of Christianity's help, for when a person suffers, Christianity's help begins by turning the whole temporal life into suffering.
The more quickly help comes, the more inferior and meaningless the education; for this very reason Christianity denies all temporal help — in order to educate for eternity. But to be denied all temporal help, to proclaim all temporal life to be destined for suffering, is of course worse than every particular suffering in temporal life or makes it worse for the sufferer.
Now, do I have (as a human being) the right to do this to another man, even if I could be Christianly cruel? On the other hand, if I am a Christian pastor, I must be that.
When it comes to children, we adults deny that the child is right when it complains because help has been denied momentarily so that the child will be educated and learn to help himself. But we adults are related to eternity (as a child to the adult). When we ourselves are the adults (for eternity, after all, is not visible among us as a father or teacher to the child), we apply our own criteria. But this means essentially the abolition of Christianity.
It is certainly true that I have never seen a single man who really applied the Christian criterion — but we are all Christians!
Only patience and faith! However distressing it is to live as I am living right now, completely superfluous, seemingly only for the amusement of the rabble, for the refreshment of envy, and for the strengthening of mediocrity — it comes again, just that will serve to give me and my cause a better recommendation in the future than the bravos of the critics.
This is why I in a sense feel alien among my contemporaries, for I understand that when all is said and done, even if they were to make a big fuss over me, my cause would be ruined.
Yes, humanly speaking, there is something cruel about Christianity. But this is not due to Christianity; it is due to the fact that it has to exist [existere] in a sinful world, manifest itself and expand in a sinful world. The cruelty is not Christianity but what happens to Christianity. Christianity itself is gentleness and love, or love itself or itself love.
Yes, humanly speaking, there is something cruel in what is required of the Christian — yet, no, not in what is required of him but in what happens to him, for this is not due to Christianity — it is due partly to the fact that he himself is a sinner, partly to the fact that the world in which he has to live is sinful. Christianity requires simply that he should love men with his whole heart; it is not the fault of Christianity that this is rewarded with persecution. But answer this question honestly: Could you wish that Christianity did not require as much, not quite as much, wish that it compromised and thus made life a little more comfortable for you — coul dyou then love Christianity as much? It is your own weakness which in a weak moment might wish Christianity were different, and were it then to be different, you would disapprove of it. It is the same as when a young girl in love requests out of weakness something from her beloved which she afterward basically regrets, partly because he has gone down in her estimation, must go down in her estimation because of his indulging her — and yet she is weak enough to ask.
Remember the eternal — and that tale in A Thousand and One Nights. A poor couple who only by scraping and scratching can make a living implore heaven again and again for help. One night a precious gem falls down to them. Thus they are helped. But then the woman dreams one night that she is in heaven where she sees gorgeous thrones inlaid with precious gems for all the righteous. She asks if there isn't one for her husband. They show it to her — but it lacks that precious gem. Then she reflects — better to lack a little in this world than to go through all eternity sitting on a throne which lacks the precious gem. So they ask God to take that precious stone back again.
It is curious that today in Arndt's True Christianity I read a line which is just like my description of the confusion of our age, but the author probably did not mean the same by it as I.
It reads (p. 255): Wenn anders das Haupt und nicht die Füsse im Lande regieren. It reminds me very much of the postscript to the second essay in A Cycle of Ethical-Religious Essays.
Counsel, guidance I almost never find. The few outstanding religious individualities usually are rooted in spontaneity or immediacy. A person like that is spontaneously enthusiastic; he is convinced that he will soon be victorious, so ( —spontaneously—* ) convinced of the rightness of his cause that he has the fixed idea that if he merely gets it publicized it will be accepted with open arms. In this kind of enthusiasm he talks to the others, he sweeps them off their feet, since spontaneous enthusiasm always charms. So they storm ahead — and now comes the opposition. Perhaps the leader does weather the battle gallantly, but from him I learn nothing of what occupies me — the beginning.
For in reflection everything looks different. In reflection a person understands in advance that the danger must come, knows its consequences exactly. He sees it every moment and step by step. On the other hand, he cannot sweep anyone off his feet, for if anyone wants to attach himself to the reflective person, he must above all make that one aware of the danger, thus warn, repel — instead of charm him.In margin: *Note. For in reflection he can also be convinced of the rightness of his cause without necessarily being ignorant of the nature of the world or lacking an essential view of life — and truth.
This beats all, this humble objection to Christianity: that Christianity seems too lofty. O, one himself feels all too keenly that he is far from being good — and then to have to be good in such a way that he is persecuted for it. When one considers human life, sees how demanding it is merely to keep in line with civil justice, if then one ponders the moral demands upon a man's innermost being if he is to be considered good — which no one, however, is, not even Christ wanted to be called that — and then to be good in such a way that one suffers for it. That this was the case with Christ is something entirely different. So it seems that Christianity really is suitable only for Christ.
But to this must be answered that this is the way it is as soon as a man or a Christian turns toward God; but he must let himself be instructed by Christianity that the world is so evil that one needs to approach the good only at a remote distance before one begins to suffer some persecution.
And yet, I dare not leave the impression that I suffer because I am good. What is to be done, then, if this is the way it is — that if I do not want to abandon the good, I must carry the distinction of suffering for it. There is nothing else to do than constantly, as much as is possible, to turn one's gaze inward so that I am before God, where I shall not be troubled by the thought that I am so good, and on the other hand, if possible, be as if absentminded about the sufferings which the world inflicts upon me.
At the same time it can also be an untrue weakness if a God-fearing man, because he is in awe before God, almost makes it appear that those who do him wrong are justified. A Christian should have the confident courage freely and positively to witness against the world; in suffering he should not get away with the erhabne Lüge that the others are right. To be patient in this way is not godly.
What is to be done then? This — that a Christian remembers every day that Rome was not built in a day, that in one year he may perhaps accomplish what he does not accomplish today, if only he is honest before God. If he is so overwhelmed by his God-relationship that his patience is pretty close to committing the untruth that the others who are doing wrong are in the right — then he should hope and believe that he will get sufficient courage in time.
The fact of the matter is that Christianity is really all too joyous, and therefore really to stick to Christianity a man must be brought to madness by suffering. Most men, therefore, will be able to get a real impression of Christianity only in the moment of their death, because death actually takes away from them what must be surrendered in order to get an impression of Christianity.
The passage in John 10:1-10 is noteworthy because Christ compares himself with the door and says that the good shepherd (the true teacher) goes through the door; whereas he later likens himself to the shepherd and says he is the good shepherd. It is like his being the truth and the way — he is both the door and the shepherd.
But whatever happens or however it turns out, I hope to God that my daily prayer for a long time now will be granted, that my last words when I for the last time have repented my sin and received the gracious forgiveness of my sins, consequently my last words as a dying man, will be words of gratitude for the indescribable good he has done for me, far more than I ever expected. And this is eternally true. For what I am suffering either has its basis in my sin and my sins or it is what it is simply because God has done so extraordinarily much for me. The consequence of that in this world can be nothing else but to suffer. By this it becomes altogether sure and true that God has done the extraordinary for a person.
When I sold the house I considered putting an end to writing, traveling for two years abroad, and then coming home and becoming a pastor. I had, in fact, made about 2,200 rix-dollars on the place.
But then it dawned on me: But why do you want to travel abroad? To interrupt your work and get some recreation. But you know from experience that you are never so productive as when you are abroad in the extreme isolation in which you live there, so when you return from your travels in two years you will have a staggering amount of manuscripts.
So I rented rooms, an apartment which had tempted me in a very curious way for a long time and which I frequently had told myself was the only one I could like.
This plan to travel for two years was no doubt just a whim. The fact is that I had a complete book ready to publish, and, as I said, by going abroad the sluice gates of my productivity would be opened.
But it was the thought of traveling for two years that prompted me to take the cash I got from the sale of the house, which in general I had decided to leave alone, and buy government bonds — the most stupid thing I ever did and which I probably should regard as a lesson, for I have now lost about 700 rix-dollars on them. [In margin: For the rest of the cash I later bought shares, on which I perhaps have not lost anything.]
So I rented that apartment, printed Christian Discourses, and sat in the middle of the proof-reading when the whole confusion started — Anders was taken from me: and it was fortunate that I had the apartment.
I moved in. In one sense I suffered greatly because the apartment proved to be unsuitable. But on the other hand here, too, Governance came to my assistance and turned my mistake into a good. If anything helps me to be less productive and diminish my momentum and in general limit me, it is finite anxieties and inconveniences.
In that residence, however, I have written some of the best things I have written, but in this connection I have had constant occasion to practice pianissimo the idea of halting my productivity or in any case to pay more attention to my livelihood. It would never have happened abroad, where, far from all distraction, less despondent, I would have plunged into the most enormous productivity.
Last summer I drew R. Nielsen a little closer to me; that means that I reduce my writing and yet do little to put an end to my endeavour.
If I could travel without becoming productive, travel and travel for some time, it perhaps would be a good thing. But a prolonged sojourn in one place makes me more productive than ever. I have been much better off learning a little by not having Anders and other such conveniences which perhaps encourage the writing too much.
I wanted to travel for two years; among other things, I was also sick and tired of this whole mess in Copenhagen. But it would not help. I am well suited to seeing things like this through, if only I stay patiently where I am.
But the economic situation in these confused times has been a drain on me in various ways. It is no doubt good that I became aware of it in time. It also helps burn out whatever selfishness there is in me and my work: for my position as author is in fact becoming serious enough.
"A little while" and "At last"!
That these words say one and the same thing; it depends entirely on how close the eternal is. If it is very close, then all our suffering and unhappiness is "a little while"; if it is far away, we sign "at last."
They preach about the rich man and Lazarus. They preach that one should be compassionate. But I almost never find presented the double danger here. On the other hand, be genuinely compassionate, have money to give to the poor, and not only that but truly have a heart in your bosom, be kind to every poor and needy person — and this certainly is required to be truly compassionate — either so unhappy deep down inside of you or so sad that earthly honor and status do not tempt you and consequently you are willing to be greeted by the poor and you respond in a friendly manner (not aloofly, in the third person en passant, but affectionately as one greets an acquaintance), be willing to talk with the poor on the street, be willing to let yourself be addressed by him on the street: in short, be in truth tender and compassionate — and you will see that if you enjoy any kind of reputation for being out of the ordinary or unusual you will be laughed at and ridiculed for doing it; and if you enjoy this out-of-the-ordinary reputation, you will be regarded as extremely strange and your behavior very peculiar. The frivolous majority will grin every time they see you standing in conversation with a poor man, and if this becomes known about you perhaps also through the press (which, after all, works for the well-being of the simple classes!), it perhaps will end with the rabble insulting you, the shrewd fellows who aspire to finite goals will consider you mad, not so much because you give money this way as because you are losing and diminishing your reputation, since, of course, poor people do not always have tact enough to avoid placing you in peculiar situations. And the exclusive ones, who have a bit more understanding, swiftly take in the awkwardness of the situation, quickly avert their eyes so as not to see you, and with the full marching equipment of their worldly honor and status pass by — an object of the startled crowd's defence. A man of such distinction would be able to weep on Sunday as he preaches about compassion. He will rapturously declare that Christianity does not establish a separation as if we should be holy only on Sunday; no, Christianity should penetrate the whole of life, the everyday as well. And if tomorrow you were to consult him about what you should do in a particular case or other, well, let us not speak about the advice he would give. And he will not blush when he does it, for he is no hypocrite — he is merely a sentimental blabber who on Sunday piously entertains himself and the congregation with the diversion of these exalted feelings, while on Monday it quite literally never occurs to him to think of what he himself said yesterday.
This I have seen; and however disgusted I sometimes get at life when I think of this, one thing comforts me: by seeing this and at such close hand I learn to understand Christianity. Fortunately something like this has happened to me many times: I have experienced something, a relationship, and have myself mused and pondered on it, and not until later have I thought — but that, indeed, is the teaching of Christianity. Most people do the opposite, they lecture on Christian doctrine and do not perceive how they themselves act or how things go in the world. It is different with me, if I do say it myself. I am eminently attentive to how things go in the world. I experience now that things do go in a certain way — and only then do I come to consider: yes, but that is precisely the shape of things that Christianity teaches.
Youthfulness is looked upon with favor during certain years, but then one is supposed to become earnest — that is, be interested in money and finite things. It goes without notice that just as childlikeness the second time (becoming a child again) is the highest, so also youth and the recklessness of youth the second time are the highest — yes, only this, eternally understood, is earnestness. Temporality cannot possibly know what earnestness is, for earnestness is the relationship to the eternal — and in earnest, i.e., recklessly, absolutely.
Perhaps it would be best to publish all the last four books ("The Sickness unto Death," "Come to Me," "Blessed Is He Who Is Not Offended," "Armed Neutrality") in one volume under the title
Collected Works of Fulfilment
[Fuldendelsens samtlige Vœrker*]
with "The Sickness unto Death" as Part 1.In margin: *Perhaps rather: Collected Works of Consummation and the volume should be quarto.
The second part would be called "An Attempt to Introduce Christianity into Christendom" and below: poetic — without authority. "Come to Me" and "Blessed Is He Who Is Not Offended" would be entered as subdivisions. Perhaps there could also be a third part, which I am now writing, + but in that case Discourse No. 1 would be a kind of introduction which is not counted.
And then it should be concluded.+ "From on High He Will Draw All Men unto Himself." The three: "Come to Me," "Blessed Is He Who Is Not Offended," and "From on High," would then have a separate title-page: poetic attempt — without authority.
If I lived in a rigorously religious period when, as in times past, a person realized that Christianity means that all this earthly life must be suffering, I would more easily discover if there is a little element of self-torment in my religiousness. But I am unable to find any help the secular indifference in which Christendom lives now, for however unsound it is, a little bit of self-torment is far preferable to this paganism which, while wanting to be Christian, is also this shameless lack of concern.
It is still unconditionally certain and true that if a man in all earnestness would comply with the words: Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them, and if God impinged upon a man so powerfully in the God-relationship that with his gaze only upon God he became blind to everything else and acted according to these words — then his contemporaries would at the very least burst out into laughter. Fot the wisdom of the secular mind is always a relativism; in doing well I should also be relative: be careful, differentiate between a person of status and a simple man and a beggar, etc., and organize my well-doing in proportion to his relativity. If I forget this relativity, then the comical appears. And no one will care about my acting out of fear and trembling before God. It is absolutely impossible, absolutely, for a Christian not to make himself laughable. For what is more laughable than the absolute in this world, which is a world of relativity (the category determination is dialectically accurate), but the true Christian fears God absolutely. He dares not be content with relatively expressing that he finds a certain relative likeness between himself and a poor man; no, he expresses what before God is the truth, absolute likeness — and then it is altogether impossible to avoid the world's laughter, and esthetically the world is completely justified in this laughter, for it is quite according to the rules of esthetics.
This, again, here as everywhere else, is not anything I have hit upon and perhaps make a big noise about — that the world is like this, so evil, now. No, it was this way in the year 1, the year 335, and the year 1848 — and it will be just the same in the year 10,008.
Take a child who has not been spoiled by chatter and by letting him memorize that Christ was crucified; take such a child, place in front of him several different pictures — a man with a three-cornered hat on a horse, etc., Alexander, Napolean, and the like — and place among them a picture of the crucified one. The child, with this picture as with every one of the others, asks: Who is it? Say to the child: That was the most loving man who ever lived — then the child will ask: But who killed him and why did they kill him?
O, even though one has become an adult but still has retained some childlikeness — how gripping it can be when walking by a store with Nürnberg pictures in the window he sees this picture among all the others.
Like children playing war games (in the security of the living-room), so all of Christendom (or the preachers insofar as they are the actors) plays at Christianity; in the security of worldliness they play the game that the Christian is persecuted (but no one persecutes him, the speaker), that the truth is crucified (but the speaker himself already ranks with the court justices). The Middle Ages was more honest in its divine comedies. If I myself live in security, then I (if I am to be esthetically scrupulous) should at most talk humorously about the truth being persecuted; as far as I am concerned, men see the opposite. Therefore, either what I say is a lie or it is a lie that I say it, a contradiction, without question a highly satirical contradiction.
I could be tempted to say that I have taken one examination more than most people, although it is true enough that this examination is of such a nature that one or another has submitted to it who otherwise is not an examinee — I allowed the ardor of my feelings to be examined by a woman. Whatever I have suffered because I staked everything on that desire and once again staked everything on it since she asked for it, and yet once again staked everything on it, I who must bear the responsibility and be the agent — I still had strength enough, in order to mitigate the affair for her, to give the impression that I was a villain, a deceiver. Thus a murder was placed upon my conscience; it was said and repeated as solemnly as possible, that this would be her death. Therefore this girl was the examiner. One and a half years later she was engaged again — since that time I have scarcely spoken to a young girl, and no thought has been more alien to my soul than to want to fall in love again or even to think about it.
If at times it has satisfied my anger to be like an epigram over my contemporaries, here I have learned how woeful it is to be an epigram in that way.
It is appalling to think even for one single moment about the dark background of my life right from its earliest beginning. The anxiety with which my father filled my soul, his own frightful depression, a lot of which I cannot even write down. I acquired an anxiety about Christianity and yet felt powerfully attracted to it. And then what I suffered later from Peter when he became morbidly religious.
As mentioned, it is frightful to think for a single moment of the kind of life I have led my most hidden inwardness, literally never a word about it spoken to a single human being, of course, not even daring to write down the least thing about it — and then that I have been able to encase that life in an exterior existence of zest for life and cheerfulness.
Therefore how true it is what I so often have said of myself, that as Scheherezade saved her life by telling stories, I save my life or keep alive by being productive.
If anyone were to say: "But if your conception of what it is to be a Christian is right, then there are as good as no Christians, or at most no more than there were in the first generation — twelve." To that I would answer: No, you give my descriptive art or power too much credit. I am not able to draw up the past so that it becomes altogether present in that way. If anyone could do that, I also think the result would be that becoming or being a Christian would be as rare a thing as in the first generation, or in any case in the first generation after Christ's death.
If then the same person went on to say: "Then being a Christian would be such a rarity — it is indeed absurd." Then I would reply: Why do you talk that way? I wonder if it is not because you want to impress me by means of the human sympathy which holds that Christianity must be scaled down in such a way that practically everybody becomes a Christian. But if human sympathy is to be the authority that judges Christianity or the truth, what then is one to think of Christ — why did He not scale down, or, not to speak of Him, then the apostles, why did they not scale down but jacked up the price as high as possible by getting themselves killed instead of scaling it down. [In margin: Human sympathy is a scaling down of the requirement; divine sympathy arranges the requirement in such a way that it is not a matter of individual differences, but every man is capable of it.] No, Christianity is the absolute, and the absolute must hold; even if 100 million rebel or shout or scream: We cannot — the absolute must hold, must not be scaled down, and it must take hold by letting itself be put to death. And precisely this discipline could well be needed in our time to teach that there is an ought that refuses to have its corners filed with angles to please men, but absolutely will prevail.
That is how I would talk. Having said that, I would add: But as for the rest, I also am a human being, a poor humble man; I do not pretend to be such a Christian myself, and yet I trust that God will show me his grace as a Christian. But of course there is one thing I will not do either, I do not feel the need to go further than being a Christian.
But when a whole generation, like the most recent, has the rashness to dare to ignore Christianity, to want to go further; then it is high time that the ideal comes along or is presented in order to pass judgment.
And here is where I believe the merit lies, or not my merit but the singularity granted me. I have won a victory, but it is not as when someone wins a battle against tyrants and the next year he or someone else has to begin from the beginning. No, the battle I have won consists in successfully establishing the categories of what it is to be a Christian so firmly, in nailing them down in such a way, that no dialectician can get them loose. I am in the right in seeing that what should be maintained again is not Christianity but being a Christian, and then the concept of contemporaneity, and then the possibility of offense, and then at the top, the highest of all concepts, the concept of faith.
But first of all rigorousness, the rigorousness of the ideal, then mildness. I myself need to be spoken to gently as much as anyone, my would is very much inclined to be spoken to gently — but in confused times the first things must be first so that mildness does not get to be sluggish indulgence.
How strenuous, how enormously strenuous this task of bringing forward the ideal has been, I myself know best. The fear and trembling, the sleeplessness in venturing far out, losing all sign of finiteness, of keeping up this increasing pace year in and year out, it is dreadful. But God be praised who has given me the strength for it.
I have no right to jack up the price of being Christian this way for one who is downcast (and God knows how it goes against my nature to do it). But in the face of all this brazen impudence which wants to go further than being a Christian, I have the permission to do it, yes, it is God-pleasing that it be done, and therefore it is granted to me to be able to do it. I have not trifled with it, have not taken it in vain, have not played the game of myself personally being this ideal Christian who judges everyone; no, I have first and foremost humbled myself under it. But it is also true that I have not wanted, that is, have not dared, to pay any attention to a whining human sympathy that is all mixed up.
To be a Christian involves a double danger.
First, all the intense internal suffering involved in becoming a Christian, this losing human reason and being crucified on the paradox. — This is the issue Concluding Postscript presents as ideally as possible.
Then the danger of the Christian's having to live in the world of secularity and here express that he is a Christian. Here belongs all the later productivity, which will culminate in what I have ready at present and which could be published under the title: Collected Works of Consummation (cf. this journal, p. 21) [i.e., IX A 390].
When this has been done, the question bursts forth as with elemental power: But how can it occur to a human being to want to subject himself to all this, why should he be a Christian when it is so demanding? The first answer might be: Hold your tongue; Christianity is the absolute, you shall. But another answer may also be given: Because the consciousness of sin within him allows him no rest anywhere; its grief strengthens him to endure everything else if he can only find reconciliation.
This means that the grief of sin must be very deep within a person, and therefore Christianity must be presented as the difficult thing it is, so that it may become entirely clear that Christianity only is related to the consciousness of sin. To want to be involved in becoming a Christian for any other reason is literally foolishness — and so it must be.
The difference between Jewish piety and Christian piety is that Christian piety understands straightway that it has to suffer. We read the psalms of David: the whole struggle, aided by spontaneous good health, the expectation that God will smash his enemies, hold back their attack, etc., is really not Christian piety. That is the way the natural man behaves, but the Christian knows that being a Christian means to suffer and therefore relates himself at once to the suffering, occupying himself only with suffering in the true God-pleasing way.
At best these words are added: Is it possible that I might avoid it — but this thought gains no dominion.
"Let not the heart in sorrow sin"
Under this title I would like to write a few discourses dealing with the most beautiful and noble, humanly speaking, forms of despair: unhappy love, grief over the death of a beloved, sorrow at not having achieved one's proper place in the world, the forms the "poet" loves and which only Christianity dares to call sin, while the human attitude is that the lives of such people are infinitely more worthwhile than the millions that make up the prosy-pack.
Mynster's whole sermon about Christ's relationship to his friends is really a web of deceit. To call Christ's relationship one of friendship and to use the occasion to preach about making friends! Can anything more polemical be imagined than being forced to sort through a whole contemporary age that way in order eventually to find a few from the most simple class. If Mynster, instead of becoming what he is, perhaps with the help of friendship, had followed Christ's example and held to the truth so rigorously that his relationship to all who could be called his equals became polemical and he eventually found an apprentice shoemaker and apprentice tailor who became his closest friends — I wonder if Bishop Mynster would not have split his sides laughing at the friendship.
How strange, after all, are the outlook of the moment and the outlook of history. In a way it was just plain cowardice for men to speak about The Corsair as nothing at all, but although that is not the case, the majority honestly believe that The Corsair will be forgotten quickly; all the other papers look down on it in this respect and console themselves that they belong to history. But if I were to express my opinion to the contrary, this would be interpreted as my supposed instability. And yet sie irren. It is the history of the disintegration of Denmark we are living — and The Corsair is the normal phenomenon of one sort and the March ministory another, but The Corsair has a longer life and covers an enormous area. In a certain sense it was important, that is, in the realm of evil — and to history it is in a certain sense indifferent whether it is good or evil if only it is important, carried through with talent, consistency, and boldness. Up to a point The Corsair has understood this, and therefore its attempt at being a sort of moral enterprise in which ethical satire would be beneficial to the good (à la Aristophanes). I regard it as very important to have gotten this lie exposed, and I was successful in doing it. But, on the other hand, Goldschmidt was in one sense right over against most of his contemporaries, for their supposed disregard was an untruth, insofar as the issue was one about talent, an attempt to ascribe falsely to themselves the ability to overlook his talent because he misused it. I consider it important to my whole historical position that it be scrupulously maintained that I regard the two articles as belonging unconditionally to my total literary activity. Therefore, I must also see about doing what I thought of earlier, getting the newspaper articles I have written published in a separate little book.
Luke 10:23: Blessed are the eyes which see what you see.
This is the passage which pandering pastors and currying Christendom have misused to secularize Christ, as if this were something to see directly. It certainly is a misuse; but let us see if the Bible has not done everything to prevent it.
Christ is talking especially to the disciples (then turning to the disciples he spoke privately). Strangely enough, in the passages in the Sermon on the Mount where Christ talks about what is required of the Christians, the pastors are very attentive to the fact that it says he was speaking especially to the disciples. But here the sermon finds it most convenient to overlook this.
Therefore he spoke especially to the disciples. The whole chapter explains this, for Christ complains about the sluggishness and wickedness of the others, that they saw nothing (12, 13, 14, 15). In exact contrast to this, to this human sluggishness and sensuousness, Jesus becomes aware of his infinite significance or his God-consciousness, and it is then that he says this to the disciples.
This means, then, that all this gloriousness is only for faith.
In the main a reformation which sets the Bible aside would have just as much validity now as Luther's breaking with the pope. Emphasis on the Bible has brought forth a religiosity of learning and legal chicanery, sheer diversion. A kind of knowledge of this sort has gradually trickled down to the simplest people so that no one can read the Bible humanly any more. But this works irreparable damage; with regard to what it means to exist, its presence is like a fortress of excuses and escapes, etc., for there is always something we have to take care of first, always this illusion that we first have the doctrine in perfect form before we can begin to live — that is, we never get around to the latter.
The Bible societies, those pale caricatures of the mission, an organization which quite like all the others operates essentially with money and is just as secularly busy about spreading the Bible as other businesses are in their enterprises — the Bible societies have done irreparable damage. Christendom has long needed a religious hero who in fear and trembling had the courage to forbid people to read the Bible. This is something just as necessary as preaching against Christianity.
What a change! In the old days each drama was usually presented only once; now special performances are on a subscription basis.
Now the presentation of a drama very frequently signifies (in contrast to the old days) that basically interest has passed from the poetry to other objects of attention: the staging, the actors, finally to the scene-painter, the scenery, the hairdresser, the seamstress.
Through my writings I hope to achieve the following: to leave behind me so accurate a characterization of Christianity and its relationships in the world that an enthusiastic, noble-minded young person will be able to find in it a map of relationships as accurate as any topographical map from the most famous institutes. I have not had the help of such an author. The old Church Fathers lacked one aspect, they did not know the world.
In this, too, as in everything else, we were very different; she wishes or had wished to shine in the world — and I with my despondency and gloomy views on suffering and of having to suffer. For the time being, she no doubt would have been satisfied with her relationship to me, who at first would have gratified her in terms of shining. But when it got to be an earnest matter with my receding into unimportance or my plunging into actual suffering and into Christian suffering, where there is no honor or status to be gained, then she easily would have lost her good humor. And I — I never would have become myself.
But it is very wearing, it is a school for patience, to be reminded again and again, day after day, year after year, of the same old thing (now by a child, now by a shoemaker's boy, a brewery hand, a student, a burgher, etc. etc.) of my poor skinny legs. And then these collisions of reflection everywhere, that at the same time I am supposed to express that I am a sort of esteemed figure among the people etc. etc. And then to be so extraordinarily endowed that I can keep on producing — for if I were a simple citizen, all this mistreatment would be unthinkable, they would be tired of it all in just a week.
This is how distinction is recognized in the market town Copenhagen. An unselfishness of endeavor which is not to be found here, a talent which seeks its equal, a primitive Christian willingness to be equal with everybody: qualities which it seems to me must needs touch the little nation which I truly do not harm: this is how it is rewarded.
How easy the whole thing would be if there were only a few who could do the dance steps with me, but there is no one with the courage to swing so high, and the stage is too small; that is why all oppress me since all are more or less accomplices. Even the individual who in the beginning was most indignant obviously has become insensitive over the years and in the end condemns me.
Why do I take it, why did I not travel long ago? For the time being I cannot do otherwise; I am convinced that I would repent of my journey abroad as unfaithfulness to my idea; I must stay on the spot as long as possible, believingly assured that Governance will let the emphasis fall on my life when I have seen it through and let all this serve to illuminate Christianity and be of service to the cause I have the honor to serve.
Infant baptism can very well stand, but confirmation ought to be postponed to the twenty-fifth year.
To some extent I do have it in my power to put an end to this whole unpleasantness here at home: one simple turn, and I will be able to win men to my side, but I dare not do it. If help comes, I will rejoice, but I dare do nothing but what I have been doing all the time, present my cause clearly, vividly, convincingly — but no private hand-shaking to get people to do something in my behalf.
I cannot very well discuss my innermost feelings with anyone, for what in so many ways cheers me up, my trained eye for the historical perspective, which, besides my faith, already sees the rightness of my cause; all this I cannot very well open up to others — in a way they are interlopers and would not be able to share it with me.
The only person I can say I envy is he, when he comes, whom I call my reader, who in peace and quiet will be able to sit and purely intellectually enjoy the immensely comic drama I have allowed Copenhagen to perform just by living here. No doubt I perceive the worth of this drama better than he, but I have had a bitterness and loathsomeness in daily life, as well as the new misunderstanding of people not daring to laugh along with me because they are suspicious and cannot get it into their heads that in all this unpleasantness I still could have an eye for the comic. From a poetic point of view, it is not at all interesting. Yes, poetically it is all wrong for this drama to go on being performed every single day year after year; poetically it must be abbreviated. So it will be for my reader. But in and with the dailiness begins the religious, and this is how I interpret my life: this immensely comic drama is for me a martyrdom. But one thing is sure, if I were not convinced of being under infinite religious obligations, I would be inclined to go away to some solitary spot and sit down and laugh and laugh — even though it would pain me that this Krähwinckel is my beloved native land, this residence of a prostituted bourgeois mentality is my beloved Copenhagen.
In relation to all my contemporaries, things will probably go as they did with my engagement and prior to that with my father and at every crucial point in my life. A young girl says a word to me, a word that does not have great significance for her (for she was not very religiously mature) — and she produces an enormous effect, although she has no inkling of it and marries again. In the same way my contemporaries presumably have fancies they can have a little sport with me. They do not realize that because of my imagination and my upbringing religiously to obey orders to the uttermost, the matter becomes completely different. Things will go with my contemporaries as with that girl: suddenly they will discover what they have caused, and only afterwards will they come to repent.
In the everyday life of the world one can scarcely be a success if one is not in the social register or has no honorary degree. But that, again, comes in time, especially if after one's death he is elevated to sainthood. True enough, the age of saints is past; they are not created any more; but Protestantism especially has actually become too conformed to the secular mentality for it to be done without sounding satirical. Take, for example, someone who when alive had been in the social register, honorary doctor, and father of five children (2 boys ad 3 girls), of which one was married to Major Marcussen, the other to candlemaker Nielsen, the third unmarried, the one son married to wholesale merchant Jespersen's divorced wife, etc. — this story would be a complete satire. A saint's existence requires significant heterogeneity during his life. But from this one sees in a certain sense how shabby "reality" [Verkeligheden] is: having been very involved in it makes one ludicrous to the next generation.
How little resuscitation there is in life, after all, for one almost never gets a clear perception of the idea in an endeavor, but always mixed together with the illusions of finitude.
Let us take Hegel. How does he happen to become the great philosopher-author of seventeen volumes. Well, he probably had a pretty good head on his shoulders, was very industrious, and then he became B.A., M.A., and later professor — and now he begins to work. Now what call to life is there in this — always this triviality in the background: this is the way he makes a living. And then he probably makes money on his books — there we have it again.
To be sure, there is lofty talk that no one thinks about such things — well, maybe so, but it is the world's hypocrisy that at bottom it privately wants to have a shabby explanation of everything — and then talks in lofty tones. Make a test: place an endeavor right in front of people's noses (here in Copenhagen or wherever you want to), but a task which does not have a single illusion in it (neither money, office, honor, nor reputation), a task which, besides this, is so laborious and strenuous that one cannot speak of it as a kind of pleasure: and you will see, if people are encouraged in some way to express themselves completely openly, they will regard this man as crazy or so peculiar that he teeters on the border of insanity.
There is constant talk in the world about wanting only the truth, etc., but something else is always implied. A journal which seeks only the truth: well, this is regarded as all right if the journal has many subscribers, to seek only the truth in this way is understandable. And why? Because the great number of subscribers shows that it is earning a lot of money and that the journal must have a great influence. Think of a journalist who wants only the truth, and consequently, if he originally had many subscribers, they steadily become fewer and fewer; at last he has so few that it is clear that he subsidizes the publication, and still he works just as diligently and industriously as anyone — and you will see that he is ridiculed or at least is regarded as odd.
Woe, woe, woe to these preachers who either are hulks who do not know how it all hangs together or are servile enough not to reveal it, fearing for their wages.
Opportunities come my way to discover this, even where I did not expect it. I can remember saying to Peter a year and a half ago: I believe I will give up being an author for good and start riding horses or something like that — and he answered (and with real earnestness): that would be the best thing to do. So purposeless, then, do my efforts seem to him. Had I become famous as an author, had I earned much money, then he would have said: You are not crazy after all.
More and more God becomes my only comfort. To whom should I turn? The general opinion about my life is not entirely true, and therefore it is not easy for people to be reconciled to me. They consider me a visionary and that it is ambition which drives me on. Good Lord, to be ambitious in Denmark! What honor, indeed, does this little speck have to give me, I who as author had essentially taken a place of honor even with my first book. But if I were to tell men bluntly what motivates me, that I know very well that with every forward step I take I am working against myself, they promptly would call me crazy.
If my despondency has misled me in any way, it may have been to make me look upon what perhaps was only unhappy suffering, spiritual trial, as guilt and sin. This is a frightful misunderstanding in one sense, namely, it is the sign of almost demented anguish; but even if I went too far in that respect, it has nevertheless been helpful to me.
My health is failing day by day; soon I may very well be released, but I do not fear death; just like the Roman soldiers, I have learned that there are worse things.
493One single vote, absolute, withoutAs a political author Sibbern is different from Gert W. only in that he never shaves the beard off anyone but only pesters people with talk.*
any further additions.*In margin: cannot even shave but only pester people.
There is something sad that a man in such a distinguished position in the state, a teacher at the university, consequently a man who is responsibly committed to set a good example+ for young people, like a low-comedy character who fools around in dance halls and other such places, fools around as an author in a certain class of newspapers that belong in the basement of literature. As far as S. is concerned, one is certainly obliged to yield to grief.+In margin: that is, as a vagrant and loafer slouches around in the dance halls.
In the latest number of Aftenbladet he orientates us for the thirty-seventh time to the domestic situation — for S. always feels called to give orientation. In a slightly more fantastic costume than the careless jumble of old and new in which he usually goes about, he appears as a prophet. He predicts a reaction against the present administration, a frightful reaction, as frightful as possible, that is, from all four corners of the globe. The first corner is the old bureaucratic competence. Praise be to it!++++In margin: First of all comes the first corner — that it functions in the regular way it does is all to its credit.
The second corner is really curious: Nord og Syd — for a corner, especially a corner of the world, with "North and South" corners also, is really a remarkable corner. And then two more corners are added, making six corners. What dreadful confusion! How fortunate that S. knows where to go for comfort amid the confusion that possibly could ensue in the dreadful moment when the storm begins simultaneously in all four of the other world's — six corners. In that event he entrusts himself to "the editor of Adresseavisen and Flyveposten."
This can be called orientation in the state of affairs, but perhaps in all this Sibbernism it has never been demonstrated clearly that he has been called to orientate, and that is why we emphasize it.
In any case, perhaps this little account of Sibbernism may contribute to orientating us to Sibbern once and for all: that as a political vagrant he is a complete Gert W., which also accounts for his drinking "Dus" with the executioner — the wretched discarded tool of literary despicableness and envy — or as Sibbern calls his Du-brother, student Goldschmidt: the young genius. These two understand each other — of course, not the lovable, remarkable thinker, Councillor Sibbern, but the political Simple-Peter [corrected from: naughty] Sibbern — and the naughty boy of literature Goldschmidt — who make a practice of handing each other compliments — alas, what a miracle it is, they already have accepted honor from each other many times.
"Let not the heart in sorrow sin"
Here the finest, humanly speaking, the most lovable forms of despair (which is the "poets'" ultimate) are to be treated — for example, unhappy love, grief over one who is dead, grief over not having achieved one's destiny in life.
Perhaps the three or four themes left over from "Notes in the Strife of Suffering," which are some place in a journal [i.e. VIII1 A 500], could be combined with these. Each discourse would first of all develop or describe the particular sorrow which it is to treat; then the admonition: Let not the heart in sorrow sin — consider this: and now the theme. For example, about one who is dead — description — let not the heart in sorrow sin — consider this: the joy in the fact that at last and for a little while are identical (but this is used lyrically in another piece, "From on High He Will Draw All to Himself"); or consider this: the joy in the fact that it is for joy that one does not believe the highest etc.
But perhaps (instead of leading backward by means of joyful thoughts) it would be better to concentrate attention constantly on the infinite distinction between sorrow and sin, after each discourse show explicitly how this sorrow is sin, or can become that by a hair's breadth.
Addition to previous:
Let Not the Heart in Sorrow Sin
[Changed from: Sorrow in Sin]
My Listener, do you almost shudder at these words, are you seized by the anxiety that of all sins this sin might be the most dreadful. You find it almost superfluous, you look around involuntarily to see if there could be someone like this, you think of the people you have learned to know, whether among them there could be anyone like this who hides this very sin in his conscience.
If you do, you make a mistake. There is perhaps no sin as common as this one, which the old poet has described in such a way and so excellently that he did not need to say more to be remembered; no doubt there is scarcely a man who has not once in his life (if not all his life) sinned in this way, in the time of sorrow — and indeed every man has sorrow in this life. But not only this; this sin is also so well-regarded among men that it is even praised and extolled. Ask "the poet" what it is that especially inspires him to songs which praise heroes and heroines — it is this very sin of the heart in sorrow. It is in fact the highest form of despair. When Juliet kills herself, or Brutus, or, if it does not go so far, when a man's mood is such that every one of his words betrays that he believes that for him and his pain, his sorrow, there is no cure either in heaven or on earth, neither from God nor with men, neither in time nor in eternity — well, that is precisely when the poet becomes inspired, and it is precisely then that he has let the heart sin in sorrow.
Addition to previous:
Let Not the Heart in Sorrow Sin
- Let not the heart in sorrow sin so
you abandon faith in God
- Let not the heart in sorrow sin so
you abandon faith in men
- Let not the heart in sorrow sin so
you abandon the hope of eternity
- Let not the heart in sorrow sin so
you abandon hope for this life
- Let not the heart in sorrow sin so
you abandon love to God
- Let not the heart in sorrow sin so
you abandon love to men
- Let not the heart in sorrow sin so
you abandon love to yourself