HOME     Library     CONTENTS: Journals & Papers of Søren Kierkegaard
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VIII1 A   -   VIII1 B -  VIII2 B -  VIII2 C




The structure of the three discourses about the lilies and the birds is as follows: the first is esthetic, the second ethical, the third religious.


It is certainly fine to write pithy proverbs, but the one who is supposed to realize them has the difficult task. The particular proverb is always not only one-sided but almost epigrammatically one-sided, but the person who is to live according to it also has to take the other proverbs into consideration.

As an example I cite Jesus Sirach 4:29: Do not struggle against the stream, and 4:30: Defend the truth unto death and the Lord God will then fight for you.


Despite everything people ought to have learned about my maieutic carefulness, in addition to proceeding slowly and continually letting it seem as if I knew nothing more, not the next thing — now on the occasion of my new upbuilding discourses they will probably bawl out that I do not know what comes next, that I know nothing about sociality. You fools! Yet on the other hand I owe it to myself to confess before God that in a certain sense there is some truth in it, only not as men understand it — namely, that when I have first presented one aspect sharply, then I affirm the other even more strongly.

Now I have my theme of the next book. It will be called:

"Works of Love."


. . . . . And you, who even though humanly speaking cannot be charged with misusing your gifts, you still do possess fortunate advantages and no doubt sometimes have the self-satisfied feeling that you are able to win people to your side, you who perhaps rarely find anyone you cannot captivate, you who thus seem from the very beginning to have been an object of preference — have you profoundly perceived that God is unchangeable — that all your ingenuity, all your gifts, all your cleverness is not merely wasted but is also as unnoticed and over-looked as a little insect crawling on the ground.



The situation will soon become properly ironic again. Over against fatuous political earnestness and the appalling jollity of the speculators, I raised the jest of irony — in a changed context, such as the present one, where practically everyone has become ironic, I become, quite ironically, the most earnest of all.


The Relations of the Three Parts of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits

  1. Part One

    The design is essentially ethical-ironic and thereby upbuilding, Socratic.

    The most ironic category (notice also that it is the absolutely moral category) is singleness, that single individual [hiin Enkelte]. The single individual [den Enkelte] can, in fact, be every man and, eminently so, any man who ethically and ideally wills to be the highest. No one is excluded by individual differences from eminently being the single individual, and yet it probably is the case that there is no single individual living. This is the relation between facticity and ideality, which is simultaneously just as much moral and ethical as it is ironical.

    Incidentally, in order to give maieutic support, in the pseudonymous writings I always used "that single individual" [hiin Enkelte] in the sense of differentiation, for of course differential presuppositions are required in order to pursue dialectical developments completely. In the upbuilding or edifying discourses, however, the category "the single individual" [den Enkelte] has been used in the clear sense of equality and the moral.

    The category of the single individual is just as ironic as it is ethical and definitely both, and then again it is decidedly upbuilding (in the religiousness of immanence) in that it completely abolishes the differences as illusion and establishes the essential quality of eternity.

    Note. At times the tone of discourse borders on the comic, yet with ironic pathos. If anyone wants to test it, he will see that wherever in this confessional address he is moved to laughter, he laughs ironically. For example, when it says: A large number of friends of the good, or of good friends, attached themselves to him — it is true that they believed that they were also attaching themselves to the good, but that certainly must be a misunderstanding, since he himself went around outside [the good]. Or: They erected a building; it was half-timbered (there were many others like it) — and so on in many passages.

    This comic tone definitely belongs.

  2. Part Two is humorous.

    The dialectical in the concept: to learn means that the learner relates himself to the teacher as to his more ideal genus proximum. As soon as the teacher takes a lower position within the very same genus and stands below the learner, the situation becomes humorous. For example, to learn from a child or from a dolt, for the child or the dolt can only humorously be called the teacher.

    But the situation becomes even more humorous when the teacher and the learner do not have even the same genus in common but in qualitative heterogeneity are related inversely to one another. This is the definitely humorous relation. The lilies and the birds.

    The presentation is upbuilding, mitigated by the appealing jest and the jesting earnestness of the humorous. The reader will smile at many points but never laugh, never laugh ironically. The tale of the worried lily, which is also a parable, is clearly humorous. So also is the entire discussion on being clothed. On the whole, the humorous is present at every point because the design itself is humorous.

    The three discourses are again related to one another esthetically, ethically, religiously.

  3. Part Three


About the Three Discourses 1847

It is not by chance that the fairy tale is used in the first discourse, for this is the way life is, especially when habit takes over — so far from the ideal that the ideal requirement must sound like a fairy tale. — Furthermore, all comparisons are avoided this way.

Some may find that these discourses lack earnestness. They think that earnestness in this situation is to make financial contributions, think up public works, start a new collection campaign, etc., all of which may be very praiseworthy but in the strictest sense is not earnestness. Meanwhile the world has become so prosaic that the only concern conceded to be reality [i]Realitet[/i] is concern for making a livelihood and that again in a vexatious sense as emphasized for provocative purposes by agitators who make money on the poor. Love, repentance, etc., are regarded as chimeras, but money, money, money —

I pledge myself to read these three discourses aloud sometime in eternity, and I am convinced that they will be listened to with pleasure, also by those who here object to them and perhaps insult me. Concern is here gently modified in a childlike and pious way, and this as a happy spirit will remember it. Whether a man here in time is able to act in this way, I will not decide; but if he is so vexed that he defiantly and insultingly turns away from pure evangelical gentleness, then he is not earnest at all but rebellious. Even the sufferer ought to be able to listen sympathetically to an almost childlike but moving interpretation.

Incidentally, Holy Scripture speaks far more severely. Luke 21:34: Do not be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, or cares of this life.

When the apostles say to the paralytic: Gold and silver have I none, but what I have I give you: Stand up and walk — it is said very exaltedly, for a miracle, after all, is more than gold and silver. But if they had said: We have only an idea, an eternal and blessed thought, to offer you: would that not have been a good way to phrase it? In the same way I have neither silver nor gold but a mitigating, moving, truly upbuilding meditation.

In the first discourse we see how the rich birds actually corrupt the poor ones. An almost comic light falls on the rich doves who strut around, and also an ethical accent, that they are the very ones who have the cares of making a livelihood.


There is no modern philosopher from whom I have profited so much as from Trendelenburg. At the time I wrote Repetition I had not yet read anything of his — and now that I have read him, how much more lucid and clear everything is to me. My relationship to him is very special. Part of what has engrossed me for a long time is the whole doctrine of the categories (the problems pertaining to this are found in my older notes, on quarto pieces of paper [i.e. IV C 87 - 96]. And now Trendelenburg has written two treatises on the doctrine of categories, which I am reading with the greatest interest.

The first time I was in Berlin, Trendelenburg was the only one I did not take the trouble to hear — to be sure, he was said to be a Kantian. And I practically ignored the young Swede travelling with me who intended to study only under Trendelenburg. O, foolish opinion to which I also was in bondage at the time.


What is essentially Christian and the point in the fifth of the Christian Discourses is specifically that the authority of the Bible is affirmed, that it is not something one has thought out but something commanded, something with authority, the command that tribulation is the task. Consequently the analogy of the child of whom the parents require something is continually used: in the same way the Bible, God's word, commands the parents. In an upbuilding or edifying discourse [opbyggelige Tale] I could not so rigorously maintain that the Bible says this.


"The crowd" is really what I have aimed at polemically, and that I have learned from Socrates. I want to make men aware so that they do not waste and squander their lives. The aristocrats take for granted that there is always a whole mass of men who go to waste. But they remain silent about it, live secluded, and act as if these many, many human beings did not exist at all. This is the wickedness of the aristocrats' exclusiveness — that in order to have an easy life themselves they do not even make people aware.

That is not what I want. I want to make the crowd aware of their own ruin, and if they are unwilling to respond to the good, then I will constrain them with evil. Understand me — or do not misunderstand me. I do not intend to strike them (alas, one cannot strike the crowd) — no, I will constrain them to strike me. Thus I will still be constraining them with evil. For if they strike me first — they will surely become aware — and if they kill me — then they will become unconditionally aware, and I will have won absolute victory. In that respect my constitution is thoroughly dialectical. Already there are many who say, "What does anyone care about Magister Kierkegaard? I'll show him." Ah, but showing me that they do not care about me or taking the trouble to get me to realise that they do not care about me is still dependence. It will work out just that way if one simply has enough ataraxy. They show me respect precisely by showing me that they do not respect me.

Men are not so corrupt that they actually desire evil, but they are blind and really do not know what they are doing. Everything centers on drawing them out into the area of decision. A child can be somewhat unruly toward his father for a long time, but if the father can only get the child to make a real attack, the child is far closer to being saved. The revolt of the "masses" is victorious if we step aside for it so that it never comes to know what it is doing. The crowd is not essentially reflective; therefore, if it puts a man to death, it is eo ipso brought to a stop, becomes aware, and deliberates.

The reformer who, as they say, fights a power (a pope, an emperor, in short, an individual man) has to bring about the downfall of the mighty one; but he who with justice alone confronts "the crowd", from which comes all corruption, must see to it that he himself falls.


For many years my depression has prevented me from saying "Du" to myself in the profoundest sense. Between my "Du"and my depression lay a whole world of imagination. This is what I partially discharged in the pseudonyms. Just as a person who does not have a happy home goes out as much as possible and would rather not be encumbered with it, so my depression has kept me outside myself while I have been discovering and poetically experiencing a whole world of imagination. Just as a person who has inherited a great estate is never able to become fully acquainted with it, so I in my depression have been related to possibility.


Something about my Punctuation

With respect to spelling I submit unconditionally to authority (Molbech); it never occurs to me to want to rectify it, because I know that I am not equipped in that sphere and therefore I readily admit that just about any Danish author is perhaps more meticulous in his spelling than I am.

It is quite different with punctuation. Here I yield to absolutely no one, and I very much doubt that any author can compete with me here. My whole make-up as a dialectician with an unusual sense for rhetoric, all the silent conversations with my own thoughts, and my practice of reading aloud must necessarily make me superior in this field.

I make distinctions in my punctuation. I punctuate differently in a scholarly work than in a rhetorical work. For the majority, who know but one grammar, that is probably quite enough. It follows as a matter of course that I do not by any means presume to submit my books to school boys and very young men as formal patterns of punctuation, just as a good Latin teacher does not usually teach his pupils the finer nuances of the language and the many lovely little secrets of the subjunctive, but he himself uses them in his writing. But sad to say I actually do not know any Danish author who in the ideal sense really pays attention to punctuation; they simply comply with the grammatical standard.

My punctuation is especially deviant in the rhetorical writings because they are so complex. My chief concern is the architectonic-dialectical, that to the eye the shape of the sentences becomes apparent, which, again, if one reads aloud, is rhythm to the voice — and I always have in mind a reader who reads aloud. — This explains why I at times use the comma sparingly. Thus where I want to make a subdivision that formally could be indicated by a comma, I do not subdivide the sentence. For example, "What one owes another or what one owes himself." On this point I carry on a running battle with compositors who well-meaningly insert commas everywhere and disturb the rhythm for me.

It seems to me that most Danish stylists use the period altogether wrongly. They break up all their writing into nothing but short units, but with the result that the logic never comes to enjoy proper respect and logically subordinated sentences are coordinated with each other by making each one a sentence.

Above all I must repeat that I have in mind readers who read aloud and who have had practice both in following every little variation in the idea and also in being able to reproduce it orally. I am quite willing to put myself to the test of having an actor or orator accustomed to modulating his voice read a little piece from my discourses as a test — and I am convinced he will concede that much of what he usually has to decide for himself, much that is usually explained by an instructive hint from the author, is here provided by the punctuation. Abstract grammatical punctuation does not suffice for rhetorical writing, especially with the addition of irony, subtlety, malevolence with respect to the idea, etc.


In margin of previous:

Just now I note that the elder Fichte, in his correspondence with Schiller now published by his son, complains apropos of his style that people cannot read aloud with expression.,/p>


Generally speaking the question mark is fatuously misused by formal appendage to every interrogative sentence. I often use a semicolon and then a collective question mark. This is also rhetorically correct; one cannot keep on reading numerous questions aloud and give each one the form of a question. Therefore one simply maintains the sustained pace of the question through the whole series.


It is also common practice to use a dash in the sense of a division-mark to begin a minor clause where a new departure would be too much.


Ethical accent, pithiness of concept, antithesis, lucidity of two parts of a figure on one line, rhetorical emphasis, etc.: for all this I use a colon and dash, especially for the ironical in order to make it clear. — As a rule I use the colon for speech.


My Future Punctuation

Wherever something is quoted, I will not, as previously, use a colon and quotation marks but only quotation marks. In certain cases where the logical accent falls on the single word the colon is not used but spacing or quotation marks. For example, the concept: the neighbour is now written the concept "the neighbour".

Therefore, the colon will be used to form the conclusion and wherever it should be indicated that two clauses are placed on a par with one another in a total context. The colon does this, even makes it perceptible to the eye.

- : -

The colon establishes reflexivity, perspective, and transparency in the sentence in such a way, for example, that by the colon the antecedent clause is carried through the consequent clause and the reverse. The antecedent clause and the consequent clause do not stand alongside each other but in a fundamental relation stand on a par with one another.

So is with the relation between two clauses. But basically the same is the case with the relation between two ideas in one clause (for example, antitheses); therefore I must use the colon there also. When one clause is a remark and the other is a reply and precisely this is to be expressed, and consequently two ideas ought not to be expressed one after the other but their zugleich in the relation of remark and reply, then I use the colon.

Incidentally, the colon ought to be used much more than is done, for example, in connection with definitions. It is one thing to construct a sentence as a simple object; it is a quite different thing also to express thereby that it is a concept. For example, it is one thing to say: what double-mindedness fears is to suffer punishment; it is a quite different thing to say: what double-mindedness fears is: to suffer punishment. This punctuation expresses that to fear punishment is constitutive of double-mindedness, is the definitional mark of double-mindedness, precisely because in it is contained a self-contradiction, a vacillation, a doubleness, which are characteristic of double-mindedness.


Now they can do with me what they will - insult me, envy me, stop reading me, bash in my hat, bash in my head, but they cannot in all eternity deny what was my idea and my life, that it was one of the most original thoughts in a long time, and the most original thought in the Danish language: that Christianity needed a maieutic and I understood how to be that, although no one understood how to appreciate it. The category "proclaim Christianity, confess Christ" is not appropriate in Christendom — here the maieutic is exactly right, which presupposes that men possess the highest but wants to help them become aware of what they have.


Andersen can tell the fairy tale about the galoshes of good fortune — but I can tell the fairy tale about the shoe that pinches, or, more correctly, I could tell it, but because I do not want to tell it but hide it in deep silence I am able to tell something quite different.


Some Observations About the Song of Watchmen

The accidental, the distinctive in each individual watchman, in his voice, in the way he begins, his intonation, how he begins when the very moment he is supposed to begin he is standing and talking with someone. The "Hau". It is well-known that this is also shouted to oxen. I remember seeing a drove of oxen one time on Vesterbro; they obviously thought that the "Hau" being shouted was for them — but it was the watchman and it almost sounded like: "Hau watchman." — Whether the watchman sings and acts with self-esteem. The variations, for example, "girls and boy" instead of "girl and boy" etc. The genuine romanticism in the watchman who shouts out at the black horse. To call out in the night; the situation out on the highway, the nocturnal stillness.


Pastor Lind, who is reforming at the reformatory, is an excellent man, and assuredly no one can be happier than I am that he has been so fortunate as to get what he himself no doubt regards as the only position perfectly suited to him. For a long time now he has had a tendency and propensity to view the world around him within the category "reformatory" and by preference concentrated on an understanding of individuals, wanting to improve them. This tendency could have developed very easily into something Don Quixotic, whereas by now getting such a natural and meaningful channel it will certainly make him outstanding and his work extraordinarily significant in the reformatory.


In all likelihood the wiseacres who know how to rattle off everything will charge my Christian discourses with not containing the Atonement. Consequently, after five years of having the chance to learn from me how maieutically I proceed, they have remained every bit as wise — will probably go on being that. First the first and then the next. But these confounded men muddle into one speech all that I develop piece by piece in big books, always leaving behind in each book one stinger which is its connection with the next. But the insipidness of the speculators and of some clergy is incredible.


The Holy Scriptures are the highway signs: Christ is the way.


The most thankless existence [Existents] is and continues to be that of an author who writes for authors. Authors can be divided into two types: those who write for readers and, the genuine authors, those who write for authors. The reading public cannot understand the latter type but regard such writers as crazy and almost scorn them — meanwhile the second-class authors plunder their writings and achieve a great sensation with what they have stolen and distorted. These second-class authors generally become the worst enemies of the others — it is, of course, important to them that no one finds out about the true relationship.


The Incorruptible Nature of the Inward Man
A Christian Reflection


Job 17:1-2, "My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the grave is ready for me; no one is around me but mockers." This is the way to arrange it, and then omit the next clause; then it is rhetorically excellent. In the Bible there is a period before "no one."


In the same book by Carriere a remarkable line is quoted on p. 214: der Mensch steht höher, wenn er auf sein Unglück tritt.

And on p. 215 a line by Boccaccio: "lieber thun und bereuen als nicht thun und bereuen."


"The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." From a distance, this seems peaceful enough. One envisions the sheep gathered around the shepherd, and now come the wolves. Ah, but just suppose that the sheep themselves are stupid enough to side with the wolves in putting the shepherd to death.


.....And when I see utter confusion and sheer misunderstanding I know that there is one ally I can still call upon for help. Well do I know that your form is terror, that you are not given to men for consolation, but yet I dare find consolation in you, for behind you I find reassurance; then no one prevents me anymore from striving for what is right. Happy is the man who, no matter how much the envy of men has worked against him while he lived, yet lived in such a way that as soon as he is dead everyone will envy him for having lived in that way, lived in such a way that everyone would say in the hour of his death that it was the right [for which he had lived]. What human envy and corruption use to accuse the living becomes a eulogy for him when he is dead.


I now would like to give a series of twelve lectures on the dialectic of communication. After that, twelve lectures on erotic love, friendship, and love.


When I consider the death of Christ, the sigh (regarded as the prototype) is scarcely upbuilding or edifying. (1) There is little edification in seeing that the holy and innocent one has to suffer in this way, consequently that the world is so corrupted. (2) What upbuilding is there for me (the guilty) in the innocent one's suffering in this way? But it is the atonement. Therefore, at the same time that he thrusts me away from himself as if to say: What fellowship is there between you and me? — at the same time he draws me to himself by the atonement.


Men do not really understand the dialectical, least of all the dialectic of inversion. Men have the same experience with this kind of dialectic as dogs have with learning to walk on two legs: they succeed for a moment but then promptly go back to walking on all fours. They understand the dialectic of inversion at the time it is being presented to them, but as soon as the presentation is over they understand it again in terms of the dialectic of immediacy. — For example, to have but one reader or very few is easily understood in terms of the dialectic of immediacy: that it is too bad for the author etc., but that it is very nice of him to make the best of it etc. But in the dialectic of inversion the author himself voluntarily works to bring this about, desires only one or a few readers — this, you see, will never be popular. — Yesterday Molbech wrote to me (in a note dated April 29, 1847) that the sell-out of Either/Or is "a phenomenon in the literary history of our day which may need to be studied." And why? The Councillor of State did not know that it has been sold out for a long time, he did not know that a year ago Johannes Climacus in Concluding Unscientific Postscript expressed his opinion in the matter, that two years ago Reitzel talked about a new edition, that I am the obstacle: he has no idea of how I work against myself in the service of the dialectic of inversion and, if possible, in a somewhat cleansing service of truth. Whether right now at this time it would be possible to sell out a book of mine, I do not know, but before I began to set teeth on edge somewhat I really did manage to do it. A few flattering words to this one and that, no more than a half or a tenth of what an author usually does to get his books sold — and they would have been sold out. And even now, when I have set people's teeth on edge so much, even now it would all begin again if I simply let up a bit, became less productive (for what actually antagonises them the most is the extent of my productivity), write a little book or a smaller book and only one (Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits) — then it would all begin again. That I was playing a cunning game, that I had a very large book finished and ready, that in order to have a witness to refer to, I showed it to Giødwad the same day we began proof-reading the Discourses, that I had counted on trapping P. I. Møller or some other bandit to write a eulogy of the Upbuilding Discourses and say: "It is obvious that Magister Kierkegaard, if he is willing to take the time, can produce something great etc.; much greater pains than usual have been taken with this book and for that reason it has taken him longer etc." A pack of lies which, however, would be believed and would be regarded as very sensible, also that I did a botchy job with the larger books. O, what a fate to be something out of the ordinary in a market town! Then I would have had to rush ahead with the large book, with Giødwad's testimony that it was finished at the same time, etc. And then what? Then the provincials with whom I live would have become angry once again, and why? Because they cannot bear the scale. They cannot understand working on that scale and doing it as assiduously as I do: ergo, the author is doing a botchy job.

No wonder I am nauseated time and again by the rabble one must live with, no wonder that I can keep on working only by shutting my eyes. For when I shut my eyes I am before God, and then everything is all right, then I personally am not of any importance, which, humanly and comparatively speaking, I am insofar as it is my lot to live in a small town and with nonentities.


All art is essentially involved in a dialectical self-contradiction. The truly eternal cannot be painted or drawn or carved in stone, for it is spirit. But neither can the temporal essentially be painted or drawn or carved in stone, for when it is presented in these ways, it is presented eternally; every picture expresses a fixation of that particular moment. If I paint a man who is lifting a spoon to his mouth or blowing his nose, it is immediately eternalized — the man continues to blow his nose this one time as long as the painting endures.


To be trampled to death by geese is a lingering death, and to be torn to death by envy is also a slow way to die. While rabble barbarism insults me (for what comes out in a newspaper once would not mean much if it did not give the vulgar the mandate to insult one day after day, abuse one on the public street — schoolboys, brash students, storeclerks, and all the scum yellow journalism stirs up), upper class envy looks on with approval. It does not grudge me that. And does one want to live or does one choose to live under such conditions? No, but I am nevertheless happy that I know I have acted. Incidentally, nibbling mistreatment like that is the most distressing kind. Everything else has an end, but this does not cease. To sit in church where a couple of louts have the impudence to sit down beside one in order to gawk at one's trousers and insult one so loudly that every word is audible. But this is what I am used to. The fact that brazenness has a mandate in the newspapers makes the smart alecks think they are justified, yes, that they are agents of public opinion. And I realize this, but in a certain sense I have been in error about Denmark, for I did not believe that rabble barbarism actually was public opinion in Denmark, but I shall gladly testify that this is the case, something that can be factually demonstrated very easily.


If I were to die now, the world would believe that I died from mortification over persecution, and it might serve the world right, for in a certain sense it may be said that it did not contribute to prolonging my life. But otherwise the real truth about my life is something altogether different. When I left her I chose death — for that very reason I have been able to work so enormously. That she cried out in parody: I will die, while I pretended to be just beginning a frivolous life, is all in order — she is a woman, I am an ironist, and yet the cause lies even deeper. That which induced me to leave her, my deep-seated unhappiness, naturally took on an entirely different meaning for me, since because of it I had to make her unhappy and take a murder on my conscience. From then on my dejection won out over me; it could not be otherwise. To justify my behaviour to her I must constantly be reminded of my basic unhappiness. So it is.

Strange that I have lived out thirty-four years. I cannot fathom it; I was so sure of dying before that Geburtstag or on it that I actually am tempted to assume that the date of my birth is a mistake and that I will still die on my thirty-fourth.


I know very well that for ecclesiastic vestments some pastors use broadcloth, others silk, velvet, a silk-cotton cloth, etc. But I wonder if this is the genuine vestment. I wonder if the Christian vestment is not rather to be detested for a good cause, to be derided and spat upon, and that this should be the rule for establishing rank and precedence. Christ certainly was not a suicide; consequently, it is self-evident that the guilt of the world was made known the crucifixion. Yet how much better has the world really become? But then in silk and finery to go preaching about this in the crush of curiosity-seekers! Revolting!



1847 May 14


Naturally I could have made my life far easier, humanly speaking, and in just that way I could have been loved and highly esteemed. But do I have the right to do this to God? And God is still the one with whom I associate most. No one gives this a thought. Alas, this is why life is so strenuous for me. When God as it were withdraws himself a little from me, I have no intimate to cling to, and then there is the incessant charge that I do that — precisely what I am doing — because God is all important to me.[*]

[*] In margin: Everyone who in truth has a conception of what it means to be associated with God will also understand me.

If I had lived in the Middle Ages I dare say I would have entered a monastery and devoted myself to doing penance. In our day I have interpreted that need in me differently. All self-torturing in a monastery only leads to delusion, but I have chosen something else. I have chosen to serve the truth, and at one of the two points where it is the most thankless work of all. Here I have the unity of doing penance and doing something beneficial. If such work is to lead to anything, it is to sheer sacrifice, sheer inconvenience, and the remuneration is never anything but ingratitude, lack of appreciation, scorn. But this satisfies me in another sense, just like penance. It is sufficiently clear that I am doing something of benefit, and I am convinced that later on it will become more clear, especially after my death, for it belongs to my idea of penance just as to my idea of work: the work is of such a nature that it will not be essentially understood until after my death, but this corresponds to my idea of penance.

I know very well that God does not wish a person to martyr himself in order to please him, that precisely this does not please God; but God will permit or forgive that way of doing penance if I do not attach any meritoriousness to it but do it only because I cannot do otherwise. — The penance of the Middle Ages was wrong in itself and wrong again in that it was supposed to be meritorious. No, penance, if it is to be tolerated and permitted, must be a need in a person and he must therefore constantly be willing to pray God for forgiveness for doing it. A young girl really in love does not regard it as meritorious to caress her beloved; it is her joy to do it, and yet she asks for forgiveness.


What strengthens me more and more is my original, my first, my deepest, my unaltered view that I truly have not chosen this life because it would be brilliant, but as a consolation of penance in all my wretchedness. I have frequently enough set forth the dialectic of the paradox; it is not higher than the universal but in fact lower. And only subsequently a little higher. But the first, the pressure, is so strong that joy over the latter cannot be taken in vain. It is the thorn in the flesh.


In accordance with journal NB, p. 251 [i.e., VIII1 A 82], I have recently begun to work out some lectures on the dialectic of ethical and ethical-religious communication. In the meantime it has become clear to me that I am not qualified to give lectures. I am accustomed to working things out in detail; the burgeoning fertility of my style and exposition, every line thoroughly thought out, is too essential for me. If I were to give lectures I would insist on working them out like everything else and as a consequence read them aloud from manuscript, which I do not care to do. But I cannot be satisfied with any other method.

It is quite true that a little class would contribute to my effort, create a greater ingress for my ideas, etc., at the moment. But let it go. My ideas will gain entry, all right, and then will have just the right place. The situation will change, however long I must put up with the impertinence of my contemporaries who at most have just a few minutes to spend looking into books, or hardly that, but plenty of time to be insulting.

As a rule, contemporaries always miss the point; they cannot forget that the author, after all, looks like them and everybody else etc. But my contemporaries are particularly clever about appraising the cut of my trousers — and there my contemporaries are right, that is just about the only thing about me they understand.


So I once again have put the lectures away and have taken up my interrupted work (the first part of which I have finished): "Works of Love". The dialectic of communication must be done as a book.


The beauty of the antiphonal Amen which the school children sing in Our Savior's Church really lies in the way each individual voice emerges and then, one by one, joins the flock. The flock of voices resembles very much a flock of doves. First each individual dove comes flying out of the dovecote door; thereupon they wheel about joined and united as a flock.

I do not recall this observation except that I must have already written it somewhere. In the meantime I have not been able to locate it, but it still has value for me as a most striking example of the analogy between the audible and the visible. To be sure there is something audible about doves (the individual wing-strokes and the cooing of the flock), but the more immediate analogy is nevertheless to the visible.


It would not be difficult for me to make my life far easier and myself loved and respected merely by making my existence dialectically much less strenuous, by not standing unconditionally alone but, instead, chattily becoming a little association of a few individuals, acquiring adherents. No enemies are more dangerous than those who really do want to become adherents. I also have a few of these. They have understood me up to a point; they have come so close that they now wish me to join — through a misunderstanding on my part — with them.

In other respects human stupidity is extremely likable. I am constantly charged with being an egotist. What, then, is egotism? It is making one's personal life as strenuous as possible, and not wanting to have a comfortable life.

But I will hold out and will hold myself to the long perspective. If, by means of an inconsistency and by surrendering, I were to win, let us make the assumption for the time being, the approval of all men so that they came over to my side — ah, then I would have failed my idea and everything is lost. On the other hand, if I have stood entirely alone, with my every sacrifice an alienation, and I die this way: then everything will be in order. The greater the tension of the bow on the bow-string, the greater the momentum of the arrow, and the farther the momentum can carry it, the better. Therefore my whole life exists for one purpose alone — to give the idea momentum into the future. I do not intend to parcel myself out and use a few years for giving the idea momentum and then in the remaining years settle down in this accomplishment. The category of "individuality" [Enkelthedens] is all too crucial to risk being bungled. When I am dead, then the adherents may come, but the impression I have made is unchanged. The category of individuality is the category of eternity, and therefore within temporality it is altogether the most strenuous and the most sacrificing. It will be a long time before it gets any power in temporality, where cowardice flourishes.

Although I constantly alienate and am not at all flattered by the approval of temporality, I still have a considerable rapport with men, yes, no other living author has it to the degree I have. People are busily engaged in insulting me and ridiculing me, but they are not aware at all that a card laid is a card played, that in the end I will still have made an impression on them. It is all part of the consistency of my idea, it will all contribute to give the idea momentum if I fall or am separated from it by death.

The tragedy of our time is that it is altogether momentary. If a man gets an idea, he wants to have it promptly accepted. Ja, Glück zu! If someone else had gotten the idea of individuality, he would immediately have supplied it with so many adherents that the whole thing would have fizzled out since the manifestation would have become the mob of followers and the idea of individuality would have been disregarded. Qua dialectician I am still a little better informed. At this moment there are no irregularities, not a single straw, and I hope there will be none before my death, in order that what becomes manifest will be that it was the idea of individuality, in the service of which I stood completely alone just for that reason, and yet noticed by almost all. This is correct. To live alone in an out-of-the-way place with the idea of individuality is not consistent, not the most scrupulous expression for the idea. But to stand alone and then have everyone against one is dialectically self-evident, for the very fact that all are against me helps make it conspicuous that one is standing alone — that is dialectical and that is the victory.

I dare boldly say that every man, if I were to explain this to him in a calm and quiet hour, would understand it completely, and the next second he would not understand it. I have tried, I can explain something to a man and then say to him: Watch out now, I am going to play a trick on you. And even though I have forewarned him, I can still confuse him with the deception. An essential ironist must always be inexhaustible in changing the deception. Therefore when a person has not himself completely understood something, one can take it away from him again by means of the deception. In the first few moments he says: Aha! it is deception. He relies on the direct communication. But now the deception is placed between us, and the trick on my part is to keep in character. As soon as I consistently maintain it, he is again confused. Only the person who himself understands what he understands cannot be deceived. Everyone else can be deceived, even if in no other way than by getting him to imagine that no one can deceive him. If I had said to a man: Watch out now, I am going to trick you, he would perhaps answer: That you cannot do. Then I would answer: You are right; some time must elapse, for now you are too prepared — but in a few days. And having said that, I would begin at once, for now he would have been made unwary the very first moment.


People are always busy to win adherents. And it is extremely important (to them, that is) that it happens immediately. They rush to employ every means and to reject everyone who declines. God wins his adherents patiently; he wins them at the last moment. That is why a man's adherents fall away — at the last moment; but God's adherents persevere.*

* In margin: This is precisely the way Christ won Peter, that time when he denied him — consequently at the last moment. A witness was needed, a witness before whose thought the crucified and risen one could hover day and night. Peter became this witness. The memory of that most shocking sight might not have been able to arouse his zeal adequately. But Peter had one more memory — the denial, which reminded him of the same thing. What he had seen and experienced could not possibly ever be forgotten. It was quite impossible that Peter's testimony to it could ever be silenced. But that look of love which overtook Peter on the path of perdition reminded him day and night of what he had to make up for.


With the press as degenerate as it is, human beings eventually will surely be transformed into clods. A newspaper's first concern has to be circulation; from then on the rule for what it publishes can be: the wittiness and entertainment of printing something that has no relation to communication through the press. How significant! How easy to be witty when misuse of the press has become the newly invented kind of witticism.

For example, they write that a certain well-known person (mentioned by name) wears an embroidered shirt. This is written and then read by the whole market town where the lunatic press thrives. The man is cartooned with an embroidered shirt and this treatment goes on for half a year — and naturally is the most widely read of everything read in the market town. If this is not either lunacy or idiocy, then I know of no other alternative. People are simply too immediate and momentary, but on this scale it is a non plus ultra — to use the circulation of the press to discuss for half a year something which, after all, the most addle-brained person ought to be sufficiently human not to talk about for more than five minutes — it can only lead to idiocy.


After a laborious process of study and development and after painstaking effort continued over a long period, the most gifted intellects of a country eventually become authors — and authors of books. But books are seldom read in this country. But the daily newspaper has wide circulation and is read by everybody. Here, then, seen from the point of view of the idea, are all those hollow and bandy-legged, clumsy and flat-footed as well as clumsy-fingered, half-witted but sly, reprehensible fellows called journalists, busily operating, and their cogitations are read by all. Pro dii immortales! Suppose there is only one megaphone on a ship and the cook's mate has appropriated it, an act which all regarded as appropriate. Everything the cook's mate has to communicate ("Some butter on the spinach" or "Fine weather today" or "God knows if there's something wrong below in the ship," etc.) is communicated through the megaphone, but the captain has to give his commands solely by means of his voice, for what the captain has to say is not so important. Yes, the captain finally has to ask the cook's mate to help him so that he can be heard. When the cook's mate was so good as to "report" the order, by going through the cook's mate and his megaphone the order sometimes became completely garbled. In that case the captain strained his small voice in vain, because the ship's mate, aided by his megaphone, was heard. Finally the cook's mate got control, because he had the megaphone. Pro dii immortales!


My Farewell Lines at Death:

"Now let me see you who have been my contemporaries decorate my grave and say: If we had been his contemporaries, he would not have been treated as he was."


Rarely does one make a real attempt to understand how it was that Christ (whose life in one sense could not possibly have collided with anyone since it had no earthly aims) ended his life by being crucified. Perhaps one fears getting to know anything of the implicit proof of the existence of evil in the world. So one pretends as if Christ himself and God's providence ordained it this way. (Here one also learns the meaning of all the chatter that one ought not venture out in decisions but ought to wait until they come to him, since the former is — to tempt God. I wonder then if Christ's life was not the one and only attempt to tempt God!) But the truth of the matter is twofold. The fact that Christ was willing to sacrifice his life does not at all signify that he sought death or forced the Jews to kill him. Christ's willingness to offer his life simply means a conception of the world as being so evil that the Holy One unconditionally had to die — unless he wanted to become a sinner or a mediocrity in order to be a success in the world. It is unbelievable how meager a conception of an essential view of existence [Tilværelsen] men have. They live out their lives in tomfoolery. They go out into life saying: Perhaps I shall become a somebody, perhaps I'll be a nobody, perhaps I shall even be persecuted. What foolishness! Please, simply choose, and you do not need to guess; the specific conditions of existence can be calculated very well. If you will unconditionally risk everything for the good — then you will be persecuted, unconditionally persecuted, tertium non datur. If you compromise, well, then you will certainly come to live in the ambiguity of tomfoolery, for then it is possible that you will become a somebody, but the opposite is also possible. Therefore all you prudent pastors ought to say forthrightly: We have omitted and set aside the most important view of existence; what we preach is a prudential life and a philistine-bourgeois gospel especially inspiring to lottery-players.

The death of Christ is the result of two factors — the Jews' responsibility plus a complete demonstration of the world's evil. Since Christ was the God-man, his crucifixion cannot signify that the Jews at this time were, by chance, demoralized and that Christ came, if I may put it this way, at an unfortunate time. No, Christ's fate is an eternal fate; given the specific gravity of the human race, Christ would undergo the same treatment at any time. Christ can never be the expression of something accidental.

Well, now, it would be appropriate right here to show how the Jews could become so enraged. But, as said, we shrink from doing this. Maybe we are afraid of getting to know too much — for example, that being high up on the world's totem pole might in itself constitute a case against a man.

Distance Theology


Just when I wanted to bring down the dictatorship of Copenhagen, orders came to appear in a new role:the victim of persecution. I shall endeavour to play it equally well. It has been said that it is not possible to be persecuted in this day and age. We will see, but if I succeed I am sure that people will say: He is himself responsible — and they are the very same people who protest that no one can ever be persecuted in this day and age. O, human stupidity, how inhuman you are!


With a thorn in my flesh, my life is pointed toward achieving something I never dreamed of. But the question I have to ask myself now and then is whether I should concentrate my attention on getting the thorn out of the flesh, if possible. That would make me happier in the finite sense, but I would be lost in the infinite sense. Have I the right to do it, even if it were possible, which I doubt — in my early days I did indeed try to do something like this. This explains why I am a long way from trying to become famous with high-flown ideas. The thorn in the flesh has shattered me finitely once and for all — but infinitely I leap all the more lightly. Perhaps this is the way it should be. Perhaps God would rather have a man who is unwell and licks his thorn and is neither healed nor infinitely helped. But there is a kind of pietism, a tragic spiritual asceticism, which believes that the thorn in the flesh is given to a man merely so that he may sit and whimper and look at the thorn instead of using the thorn to rise higher; for that is how it is, however odd it is in a certain sense: with the help of the thorn in my foot I leap higher than anyone with feet in the best condition.


But to what purpose is all this? First of all in human self-denial to renounce everything of body and of mind which a human being otherwise holds dear and then in Christian self-denial to reap scorn, disdain, persecution, and death as a reward — is this not madness? What can this lead to, why is it done, what is to be gained? Alas, it is all too clear that contemporary Christianity has utterly lost its basis in the eternal; or, as a painter would say, it lacks priming, everything has become flat. The most paltry of the fixed ideas lazily lodged in all men is that we are all going to be saved, somehow or other. If I were to say, "Do you not believe there is an eternal damnation?" the prompt answer would be that only an arrogant person can believe that he will be eternally blessed and another will be damned. If I then say, "Christ does say this," then they get rid of the Bible with the cooperation of the critics.

Then what shall I say? I would say to the single individual: Make this experiment — shut your eyes; do not let yourself be disturbed by any man's talking or thinking; then think of the eternal, God, your own guilt, and you will see that you will get no peace before you are willing to suffer everything, sacrifice everything; it will become clear to you that you must needs become eternally unblessed if you do not do this. — "I cannot do otherwise" is ultimately the only thing there is to say. Whether all are blessed or not, whether all who possess the treasures of earth and have a gay life of it become blessed or not, I cannot do otherwise.

But if anyone says that it is actually self-torment to close one's eyes in this way when one might be comfortable and also be blessed, that it is indeed really self-torment to develop the highest conception within oneself, because it does make life burdensome, to this I answer: Claim this to be a self-contradiction, but it can never be self-torment to develop within oneself the highest conception. And finally I answer: I cannot do otherwise.



God's eye has spotted me in my conscience and now it has been made impossible for me to forget that this eye sees me. Having been looked at by God, I had to and have to look to God.


In a way I am living like a fish in water to which a disagreeable ingredient has been added, making it impossible for fish to breathe in it. My atmosphere has been tainted for me. Because of my melancholy and my enormous work I needed a situation of solitude in the crowd in order to rest. So I despair. I can no longer find it. Curiosity surrounds me everywhere. I drive thirty-five miles to my beloved forest looking for simple solitude: Alas, curiosity everywhere. These tiresome people are like flies, living off others.

I know very well that Heiberg and the like Christianly explain my walking the streets so much as vanity — that I do it to be seen. I wonder if it is also to be seen that I walk about even more, if possible, in Berlin, where not a soul knows me?


Absolutely right. My Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits met with approval, especially the last one, and why? Because they are short and because the whole book, compared to what I usually come out with, is small. This, you see, is the heart of the matter. Pamphlet literature. I have held back the big book about Adler, and now people have been deluded into becoming profound and perspicacious critics — they see but one little book, ergo, I have spent all my time on that, ergo, it has been written with painstaking care. — I am actually obliged to disguise my capabilities. If I let them see the actual wingspread, the gossip that I scamp my work will start all over again. Wretched market town! And Heiberg and his kind take part in this nonsense — because he himself is a pamphlet author, and therefore has to maintain that as a rule a large work is slovenly, especially since it took such a short time.


That Napoleon always had poison in his possession is really an expression of the despairing energy with which he lived. Yet this is something compared to the animal sloth and routine security in which most human beings drowse — until they die. It is not really worth the trouble bothering with others, except those who have sacrificed their lives for a cause or at least have had enough religious or despairing energy to reflect on death every day.


It will surely end with my collapse. And when I have collapsed, when they wake up to the fact that something ought to have been done for me because my severely strained existence was doubly taxed by concern about making ends meet — then I will once again be misunderstood. Then they will say: But why didn't he say anything, he who could so easily have achieved something; why did he keep still and act as if the nonsense of the world were the only external trouble he had. What do people understand anyway! No, a philosopher may die but he may not speak; a philosopher may die for his consistency, but he may not be inconsistent. The very silence that kept me in infinity was my strength — one single word, and my strength would have gone. If this is a mistake, then my greatness is in the same area as my mistake. But that is the way I have been brought up, and that is how I have understood life.

An essential part of my work was to give the appearance of living in abundance. For that very reason I am regarded as lacking earnestness — and I did not have a job either. That again indirectly condemns my life. But I have said nothing — I have simply acted by existing infinitely myself.


At one time my only wish was to be a police official. It seemed to me to be an occupation for my sleepless, intriguing mind. I had the idea that there, among the criminals, were people to fight: clever, vigorous, crafty fellows. Later I realized it was good that I did not become one, for most police cases involve misery and wretchedness — not crimes and scoundrels. They usually involve a paltry sum and some poor devil.

My next wish was to become a pastor. But is it not just the same. How really few are the men who have a true religious need. The troubles and miseries of the majority of people are purely of this world — but that is too spongy ground for using the hydraulic jack of the religious. Give us what is strictly necessary, give us money, give us a job, etc.: that is the concern — and that is the consolation sought. Here again it farcically involves a paltry sum and is a comedy of having to lift trifles with a screw-jack.

In that respect one can presuppose nothing and actually has to begin by developing the need, if possible; but again that is just as difficult, since most people do not have the need to have the need developed.


The high prices and the bread riots are very supportive and resuscitating to my whole author-existence. Ten eulogizing reviews, one hundred adherents could not benefit my cause in the same way. Now it will become apparent that I have carried the future, not myself — while all have looked upon me as queer, vain, etc.


No city in Europe is as demoralizing as Copenhagen. That is because Copenhagen cannot be compared to other large cities — for it is the only one in a country, the only one in a language — and in a country which is completely wrapped up in Copenhagen, for it has never had a landed aristocracy (as Sweden, for example). Any large city which has a consciousness of being a small part of a large country must, for the sake of appearance, maintain a little modesty and decorum — for, after all, the other cities may find out. But in Copenhagen demoralization can say (as the fool in David's psalm): No one sees me. That is, when everybody or the majority in the only little big-city in this country is infected and then agree to capitulate more and more to all these loathsome passions of envy, stupidity, the market-town spirit: for no one sees us.

Furthermore, if an individual living in a large city in Europe became a victim of the meanness of envy, he would, as author, artist, etc., belong to the whole country and could then go to another large city in the same country. And who would suffer thereby? Quite rightly the city where he lived previously. But one cannot leave Copenhagen without leaving Denmark, the Danish language, the nationality. But this is altogether out of proportion. Here again Copenhagen benefits — insofar as total demoralization can be said to be fortunate. Instead of perceiving for itself and considering what a little country it is and how careful it ought to be with whatever good and excellent thing it has, the country boasts that it can force people to remain here — and be mistreated.

Moreover, only in a city like Copenhagen is it conceivable that someone can be so prominent that all are able to agree to envy him. But this situation is the climax of envy.


June 9

In a certain sense all my troubles are due to this: if I had not had private means, it would not have been possible for me to keep the dreadful secret of my melancholy. (Merciful God, what a dreadful wrong my father did me in his melancholy — an old man who unloads all his depression on a poor child, to say nothing of what was even more dreadful, and yet for all that the best of fathers). But then I would never have become what I have become. I would have been forced either to go insane or to fight my way through. Now I have succeeded in making a salto mortale into the life of pure spirit.

But then again as such I am completely heterogeneous to men generally. What I actually lack is the physical and the physical presuppositions.

June 9, 1847


People have continually done me an indescribable wrong by continually regarding as pride that which was intended only to keep the secret of my melancholy. Obviously I have achieved what I wanted to achieve, for hardly anyone has ever felt any sympathy for me.


As stated, one must be constrained to decisions of finitude — the joy of freedom is precisely to venture out in decisions of infinity, and only through freedom can one make decisions of infinity. Most people do not understand this at all, for they are constrained to venture out in decisions of finitude — and they have no acquaintance with the infinite. It is just the opposite with me. I ventured out on the sea of life with a major leak from the very beginning — and simply by the enormous effort to keep my life afloat I have developed a high level of mental-spiritual life. It has been successful. I have looked upon my torment as my thorn in the flesh and have recognised the eminent by the rankling of the thorn and the rankling of the thorn by the eminent. This is how I understood myself. In any other circumstance I would have tried to get the damage more or less repaired.

In a certain respect people disgust me because their sufferings are so nichtige. They have no intimation either of the torment or of how it increases in relation to talent.

But if I had not been favored externally, I would have been compelled to see whether repairs could be made. It might have been successful, too, simply because I would have been constrained. But precisely because I was as free as I was, when I as well as my physician had to say the outcome of the repair job would be very doubtful (and it was doubtful precisely because I was not constrained), I did make the right choice. In such a situation constraint is the only thing that helps, for infinity is too great a power to be applied all by itself to something like that.

Paul speaks of being — this I have been from my earliest childhood. My torment was first of all the suffering within me and then again that suffering and misery were always regarded as pride. I am like the lord whom the poor day laborer envied — until he saw that he had no legs.

People have admired my talents and for that very reason have wanted me to participate with others, come along, etc. When I would not, they regarded it as pride and therefore they grudge me everything. Ah, the reason was suffering and torment which would have driven the average man insane in half a year. They think it is pride, and therefore, I might almost say, they hope and expect me to go mad. What saves me, again, is not pride but suffering.


Diogenes is supposed to have said that he who has never made another person angry is a poor sort of man.


What I lack is the physical energy — to loaf; my energies are mental-spiritual, and all one can do with them is work.


This is an excellent story; a little pruning would improve it.

A clergyman passes himself off as an ordinary man of the world and looks for a frivolous woman who will have an affair with him. He makes one condition, she must guarantee that no one will find out, "for imagine what that would mean, since I am of the cloth." She takes him several places in the vicinity but none seems sufficiently safe to the clergyman. Finally she takes him to a completely lonely place and says that no one can see us here — except God. The clergyman says, "How can God see us here — and he was the very last person I wanted to see me."

Abraham of St. Clara, Sämtl. W., Lindau, 1845
Vol. 15, pp. 54-55


From earliest childhood my heart has been pierced by an arrow of grief. As long as it is there I am ironic — if it is drawn out, I will die.


On the picture which has Command Sølling and a pilot boat on one side; a wreck on the other, there is inscribed underneath on one side: poverty and violent death, on the other: prosperity and natural death — alas, consequently "death" on both sides.


Abraham of St. Clara (S.W., XV and XVI, p. 200) relates that when Dominicus became very popular in Tolosa for his preaching he left and went to Carcasson. When asked the reason, he answered: In Tolosa there are many who esteem me; in Carcasson there are many who mock me and speak against me.


The Gospel about the Unfaithful Steward

Suppose that the steward himself owns everything — then it is commendable that he sits down and writes receipts canceling one-half of the bills. But this would be madness, the world says. Right. But nevertheless this is what Christ intends us to learn from the steward — to jest with one's means and with the accounts just as lightly as the steward did with the owner's property. The owner is usually scrupulous about giving nothing away, but the steward made friends for himself by being lenient — do the same yourself, but out of your own holdings.

In margin: "The unrighteous mammon" must by no means be understood as unrighteously gained mammon. No, "money" is unrighteous, for it makes no difference to money whether its owner is a thief or an honest man.


The following words could be used as a motto for a "Self-Defense."

Open your hearts to us; we have wronged no one, we
have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no

II Corinthians 7:2


There is a form of envy I have often seen in which the individual wants to get something by defiance and provocation. For example, when I walk into a place where several people have congregated, it often happens that one or the other arms himself against me by laughing; presumably he feels that he is the agent of public opinion. But when I address a word to him, the same man becomes extremely docile and cordial. That is, basically he regards me as somebody important perhaps even more important than I am, but if he cannot manage to participate, as it were, in my greatness, then he laughs at me. As soon as he becomes participant, so to speak, he boasts of my greatness.

This is because of the limited setting, but it is very interesting to observe.

One day outside the gate I met three young fellows who began to gape and grin the minute they laid eyes on me and started out with all that brazen effrontery that is bon ton in this market town. What happened? When I got near enough to make contact I discovered that all of them were smoking cigars; I turned to one of them and asked for a light for my cigar. All three of them snatched off their hats, and it was as if I had done them a service by lightning my cigar with them. Ergo: the same ones will be delighted to shout Bravo for me if I merely give them a friendly, to say nothing of a flattering, word; now they shout pereat and act provocatively.

What Goldschmidt and P. L. Møller practiced on a large scale, every individual here does on a smaller scale. If one did not want to greet Goldschmidt, refused to visit him: he was put in the paper. He wanted to gain equal footing by defiance and provocation. It is the same with the readers of his paper. If one is unwilling to flatter them, they use his paper to insult one; if one is unwilling to flatter them, their real opinion emerges.

And I, who have always been courteous, especially to the poorer class! Now the whole thing is a comedy. But it is inestimably interesting to have one's knowledge of human nature enriched in this way.


August 2, 1847

I have finished Works of Love, final copy and all. While working on No. VIII I felt a little tired and thought of traveling to Berlin. I did not dare allow myself that for fear of getting too far away from the decisive mood. I stuck it out. God be praised, it went all right. God be praised. O, while people deride and ridicule all the work I do, I sit and thank God who grants success to it. Yes, take everything else I have had, the best is still an original and, God be praised, indestructible blessed conception that God is love. No matter how hopeless things have seemed to me many times, I scrape together all the best thoughts I can muster of what a loving, affectionate person is and say to myself: This is what God is every moment.

Eventually I hope to awaken similar thoughts in men, to make them hear or to stir them up so that they quit wasting their lives without ever really considering how loving God is.—


I have been under some strain for a few days. Now I am once again calm and indescribably happy, God be praised! It goes with me as I read somewhere of the Jews: a remarkable people, for when they are in harmony with their God no one can defeat them; but when they are out of harmony with him: then everyone can conquer them.


I once thought that Copenhagen was a great city — now I know that it is a little market town. But one cannot live in a market town as he lives in a great city.


What holds true for the apostles, who were very simple men of the poorest class (for in this very way their authority was all the more accentuated; they were nothing in themselves, not geniuses, not council-men or state governors, but fishermen — therefore all of their authority was from God), holds true also for the bad Greek of the New Testament. Earlier, Socrates had considered it improper to use the brilliant speech prepared by a young man for his defense, because he, as he said, had grown too old for childish things. How much more unsuitable for God to employ elegant Greek!


Aug. 3, 1847

For a moment I thought of going to Stettin simply for the journey. It would hardly have occurred to me but for a casual remark Nutzhorn made. For one thing, the state of my health, my whole constitution, all my physical habits, are diametrically opposed to doing such a mad thing as traveling in the 85 degree heat of dog days — a time when I hardly venture out for a ride at noon — but when I feel best by keeping very quiet. What is the sense of going at this time of the year to a desert where the burning sun is unbearable; what is the sense of trifling with one's sleep, for I never sleep on board ship and consequently am very tired the next day, and then in a strange place, which always makes the temperature [seem] 20° warmer.

Besides, August 9 draws near (thus I could not even do it except by staying in Stettin just one day and going straight home again), and this year I do want to be in Copenhagen August 9, as is my custom.

Furthermore, I have business to attend to. I am dealing with Reitzel, and I know how careless he is; if I set a bad example, then I might as well forget it. Furthermore, every day I am expecting a man who said he would come again to talk with me about the place.

There is still one more reason. A fleeting impulse now and then can be fine, but one must also be able to do it in another way. Instead of taking this hurried trip, which would be an over-exertion, I have thought instead of having a little vacation here t home. During the time I will do little reading, allow myself lots of space in order to rest my head. This can also be very important for the future. As everyone knows, it is most difficult to stop a ship in motion. In the same way I have always had a difficult time when I have finished a larger undertaking. For that reason I usually do something different and forget everything, get it off my back, as it were, by taking such a trip. But it cannot be done this year. So I am learning another way of doing it. This year I have no real desire for a journey, and for something like that to be of any benefit there must be a desire for it, a high degree of motivation. I have been very happy these days to remain completely quiet. A change in my nature is very clearly in process, and it ought to be respected. I am becoming more calm, do not feel the need of such violent motions any more. True renewal, after all, is not a vehement diversion but a welling up from within.

Of late — and this is also a change — I have frequently entertained and found appealing the thought of making a proper journey abroad this fall. This in itself signifies greater poise in my soul. My first journey abroad was unhappy due to the unhappiness connected to my engagement. In a certain sense that matter certainly has not changed, but nevertheless it is mitigated.


Sometime I should read a book by Wieland: Aristipp und sein Zeit, also one of his latest treatises, Euthanasia: "wie hat es der Mensch anzufangen um heiter und schmerzlos zu sterben."



From now on the thrust should be into the specifically Christian.

Again a pseudonym is necessary to cut loose and provide the elasticity of limitlessness. For this will be used: de occultis non judicat ecclesia, a psychological experiment. (See Journal JJ [i.e., VI A 55].)

"The forgiveness of sins" must be emphasized. Everything should concentrate on that point; it must be established again as a paradox before anything can be done. Christianity these days has become nonsense; that is why one is obliged to take on the double task of first of all making the matter beneficially difficult.

A more rigorous, scholarly work about the art of religious address with constant reference to Aristotle's Rhetoric. (See Journal JJ [i.e., VI A 17] — and what is in a portfolio lying in the top drawer of the lone tall cupboard.)


It would be a very good text for a wedding:

"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."
Proverbs 31:30


Professor Heiberg and company will say something like this: "Magister Kierkegaard is himself to blame for the whole affair, why did he not attach himself to us and live in princely privacy." So I am to blame for all this! Fine. But what then. If it is maintained that I am guilty, am I therefore guilty? I should think just the opposite, that I would be guilty if I cravenly and cleverly shirked speaking about a danger which it was my duty to enter into. But Heiberg and Martensen and the whole lot have absolutely no ethical backbone; for them everything revolves around prudence, an easy life, reputation, a fat living, and status. Presumably it must hold true of every one of those noble ones from whom we wish to learn that he himself was guilty of being persecuted and put to death. If he had wanted to live some other way, if he had not been true to his idea, had haggled and bargained, whored with the public, etc. — he of course would have been honored and esteemed. The amusing thing about Heiberg is that he, Heiberg, Heiberg the Wise, who tried to profit from every illusion, has nonetheless gotten into a rather awkward position. Heiberg's life is reminiscent of those scintillating lines in Debatten i Politivennen, where the linen merchant is so despondent about getting into the paper, he, who all his life had scrupulously avoided getting into the papers.

And it is such authorities who are supposed to judge my efforts! If H. only understood me, how I literally and deliberately work against myself in order, please note, not to serve the truth by means of illusions, he would promptly take me for mad.

And now Martensen — what a display of abjection! With Heiberg there is still the good point that he knows how to enjoy life; there is some point to his prudence. But Martensen has a strictly Christian upbringing and does not have the kind of talent Heiberg has.

As for Bishop Mynster, that is another matter. He is so competent that one must make allowance for a little heresy. There certainly is some irregularity. If the world is no better than he pictures it in his sermons, then it is rather awkward to be highly regarded and esteemed — by the world, or to have as much world as he has. It is no art to picture the world darkly, but the art is that one's life scrupulously expresses and reflects what one learns about the world, that one's personal life manifests the relationship.

The world, after all, is the medium. Just as we say that water has such and such characteristics and the test bears it out, so must the same thing be said of the world.

But Mynster is and remains a man of eminently great ability and one of the rarest government officials. His irregularity is his own responsibility before God; and one thing is certain, he is naturally destined to have power.


Perhaps there is not one person besides me who would care to live the life I live; and yet there is not one person who, if he had time to consider it at the hour of his death, would not be happy to have lived as I have qua author.


It is a familiar fact that police do not use people with the best records as their trusted agents. This is the way God does it too. More often than not he fetches the ones he uses from the paths of perdition, some of them from far along the way. God is able to use such people because they dare not argue or demand an easy life but have to submit to everything and thank God for it. But the police do not worry about their trusted agents' becoming even more degenerate — if only they continue to be shrewd, inventive, and thorough-going. God, on the other hand, also educates the lost whom he uses in this manner as his agents.



Men come more and more into kinship with the animals — nowadays we no longer speak of the power of a thousand men but of a thousand horses.


Daub speaks the truth and expresses it very well (in his Philosophische Anthropologie; Berlin: 1868; I, p. 25) when he says of the mob, "dem Alles zur Lebensfrage wird, am Leben Alles und desswegen am Rechte Nichts liegt."


Aug 14, 1847

Strangely enough, the journey to Berlin is constantly in my thoughts. But I cannot. There is a man who has approached me about the sale of my house. He came so opportunely, actually so unaccountably opportunely for me that I cannot be adequately thankful for it. Under such circumstances I dare not leave. If he were to come when I am away it would be most distressing.

Previously it has been my custom to seize opportunities for necessary diversion, venturing rather than not venturing. That is why it is so difficult for me this time to make a negative decision. A negative decision is also the most difficult when one is completely free, because there is always the possibility of doing the opposite. Once I have jumped into the carriage or aboard a ship, I am there — in that there is a kind of decision. The negative decision is far more difficult.

Unfortunately, it is all too obvious to me now how unsuited I am for practical affairs. My ideality labors indescribably under the bumbling and vagueness and drivel which are the secret of practical life. That a person does not come at the time specified or comes at the wrong time or wastes my time etc. is a torment for me. I would far rather undertake all the work myself, the most tedious work of copying — if I may just take it on alone, for then I can do it methodically and with precision. But this disgusting ambiguity is to me a nightmare.


Aug. 15, 1847

When I had the urge to travel to Berlin (while working on discourse VII of Works of Love, part II), I did not give in. Instead I visited the King one day, something I had no desire at all to do. I must be able to forego such great distractions. Now the point is to reduce productivity and to loaf a little here at home rather than have these intense distractions which promptly make me productive again.


Aug. 16, 1847

So it is decided; I will stay at home. Tomorrow the manuscript will be delivered to the printer. — To make sure that what kept me from making the journey was in no way a possible distaste for all the fuss involved, I have — with typical suspiciousness of myself — begun a bath-cure which I knew was extremely repulsive to me.

There is a far deeper reason for my staying at home, a need within me. I must learn to do without such intense distractions. If I consider committing myself to a definite external task, it does me no good after such a forced removal to have the craving come upon me suddenly and with such a melancholy cast. Therefore just as well now as later. Now I am finished with the books; if I went on a journey, I probably would begin again and would not be convinced that I could stop without needing, like a leviathan, to break away by hurling myself in the very opposite direction.

I now feel a need to find myself in a deeper sense by coming closer to God in an understanding of myself. I must remain where I am and be renewed inwardly. That I might be able to take a regular journey abroad for a longer time toward the end of autumn is something entirely different. But it must not in any way have an emotional cast or a concentration of emotionality such as a little Berlin expedition would have had.

I must get hold of my melancholy. Up to now it has been deeply submerged and my enormous intellectual activity has helped to keep it there. It is clear enough that my work has helped others and that God has sanctioned it and helped me in every way. I thank him again and again for having done infinitely more for me than I expected. It comforts me that just as surely as no man has any merit before God, he has nevertheless looked upon my efforts with favor, so that through this help in my terrible suffering I have stuck it out to the end. I am aware before God that my work as an author, my readiness to respond to his beck and call, to sacrifice every earthly and secular motive, will mitigate my own impression of what I personally have done wrong. Simply because I began my writing with a burdened conscience, for that very reason I have tried my utmost to make it so pure that it could be partial payment on the debt. In the eyes of the world this purity, unselfishness, and industry seem insane. I know that God looks at it differently, although it does not follow as a matter of course that in his eyes it is so pure that before him I dare congratulate myself on it.

But now God wants something else. Something is stirring within me which hints at a metamorphosis. That is why I dare not go to Berlin, for that would induce abortion; therefore I will be quiet, by no means work too hard, not even hard, and will not begin a new book, but try to find myself and, here where I am, to think through the idea of my melancholy together with God. In this way my melancholy may be lifted and Christianity may come closer to me. Up to now I have armed myself against my depression with intellectual activity which keeps it away — now, in the faith that God has forgotten in forgiveness whatever guilt I have, I must try to forget it myself, but not in any diversion, not in any distance from it, but in God, so that when I think of God I may think that he has forgotten it and in that way myself learn to dare to forget it in forgiveness.

August 16, 1847


With respect to Adler, the only mitigating thing one could do for him would be to explain that in former times it frequently happened that a religious spoke of what Christ had said to him or to her, or that a religious spoke in the name of Christ and said I. There are examples of this on every page of Abraham à St.Clara. But the point is that it had its place within the whole consciousness of the age. Furthermore, none of them thought of referring to such words as a special commission (unlike Adler, whom Christ asked to write it down). And then to do it in our day, when he is utterly abandoned by any corresponding notion in the contemporary consciousness, and to do it in such a way that he himself is no help at all in determining more precisely how he understands his role.

I do not like this whole business with Adler at all. Truthfully speaking, I am all too inclined to keep Adler afloat. We need dynamic personalities, unselfish persons who are not perpetually motivated and exhausted by job, wife, and children.

Perhaps for the present one could write to him and request him to recall that preface and then drop publication of the book. And yet the book deserves to be read. But the trouble is that it will hurt A., and I am almost afraid that the reaction will be too strong for him. Everyone presumably will find Adler's concern misplaced, like my concern at one time that Goldschmidt would take my article too hard. What, did he not win, he who got all the peddlers and shopkeepers, all the riffraff, brash students, and loose women to ridicule and insult me. Yes, he certainly did win. But there was something better in Goldschmidt; he honestly thought that I was the only person he actually esteemed and admired. The question now is this: That better side of Goldschmidt, what happened to it, was it not damaged? To win the way he won could be most dangerous for him personally. Through this very victory he has come to have a self-image that perhaps will plunge him into total despair. What held Goldschmidt up was that better fragment he had; because of his contempt for others it naturally did not matter what others thought of him. But the judgment of the one person he esteems usually is all the more important to one who scorns everyone that way. O, you grinning fools who do not even know what you are grinning at. If I had power over Goldschmidt before, my power from that moment is naturally far greater. One never becomes as dependent on a person as he does by getting carried away opposing the person he actually respects. He does not have at his disposal an illusion that can fool him into thinking he has been in the right against me; Goldschmidt himself knows best of all how unselfishly I acted, I who never concealed from him that he was the stronger — when it came to inciting the riffraff and the fools against me. But the point is this, Goldschmidt personally despises the legions he commands; he himself knows best that their judgment is less than nothing; but he values my judgment very highly. Yes, he was so infatuated that I am convinced that he would have given anything to find out what I thought about the articles in which he abused me. It sometimes happens that a bandit places himself at the head of a mob, or a peddler at the head of peddlers — there is something to that, for the commander believes in the reality of those he commands. But with Goldschmidt there is a ludicrous self-contradiction: he is victorious — at the head of and with the help of those he despises, and with their help he wins over the only one he respects. Thanks for the victory! And Goldschmidt understands this himself. He is like a person who despairs over being ejected from the exclusive, cultured, noble circle where he longs and craves to be, and who is now admired in a public dance hall — that is, by those whose opinion he despises. I believe that only a Jew could endure this; for in a Jew there is once and for all a certain despair.


Men have no idea at all of what mental suffering really is. I know how profoundly I have been pained by the conduct of people toward me, not because of what it cost me but because I know before God how well-intentioned I was toward them. There is no one, no one here at home who has sympathy with the poorer classes as I do — and yet they are incited against me. I saw that more distinguished persons were being wronged, and I threw myself into the jaws, and for thanks they interpret this as vanity. O, but praise God, for the memory is priceless to my life.



"The Book on Adler" lends itself best to division into many small separate parts. It will not be understood as a whole — and the fact that it is continually about Adler will be fatiguing, which, however, in my thinking is just the point. So there will be, for example, a section about the concept "Premise-authors," about the universal, the individual, the special individual. A second section: A revelation in the situation of contemporaneity. A third: about the relation between a genius and an apostle, etc. This can be done easily and then the book will be read in an entirely different way, and I will be spared mentioning Adler, for it is cruel to slay a man that way.


Text for a Friday Sermon

II Timothy 2:13.

If we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are
faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

The difference between denying and being
faithless, which every believer is more or
less, weakness, etc.

Here, then, are the Law and the Gospel.



What is humanness [Menneskelighed]? It is human equality [Menneske-Lighed]. Inequality is the unhuman.


The New Book Will be Entitled:         N.B.

How did it happen that Jesus Christ could be crucified? Or: Has a man the right to sacrifice his life for the truth?

The point is that the dogmatic discussion about Christ's atoning death has made us completely forget the event.

His death is an atoning death, a sacrifice he wills to make. Right. However, he was not himself responsible for being condemned to death. Here is the dialectic: he wants to save the world by his death; otherwise he cannot save it — but for all that he is not himself to blame for being persecuted and put to death.

As a rule we speak only of Christ's purity and innocence, but here again a problem is overlooked. That is, the good and the true can be proclaimed in such a way that men are compelled to persecute. — In his first skirmishing with the world a man actually regards the world as the stronger, but when he has really felt his strength, he actually sympathises with men for doing him wrong. Then it may occur to him (not on his behalf, but on theirs) that he is putting the price too high. After all, one may be so conversant with the world and with men that simply by doing what is good and true he is saying very precisely: I want to be persecuted. Is this not being too hard on men. Indeed, in that way one may almost be putting a murder on their consciences. Is it not being too hard on men to structure one's own life on the most prodigious scale, to hold to it unswervingly, to compel men in a tragic kind of self-defense to put him to death? — Here I can say, as in Fear and Trembling, that the majority do not understand at all what I am talking about. The minute a man sees that from now on he must either pare down the truth a little in order to take men along or in a way compel them to persecute him, take this responsibility upon themselves — is it his duty to do the former or the latter?

Thus Christ at all times must have wanted to avoid persecution (not for his own sake, for he was, in fact, willing to suffer, he who had come to suffer) but for the sake of men, lest he be the one who contributed to making them "guilty." —

Then his relationship to the powers (the clique) and to the lowly will be developed. How imprudently he must have lived.

Has any man the right to hold unreservedly to the truth to such a degree that he can foresee that his contemporaries will become guilty by doing away with him? For Christ is the truth, and therefore it could not be otherwise; and furthermore his death makes it good again, since it is atoning death.

So you see I am back again as before with Fear and Trembling. From whom can I try to find some clarification of thoughts like these? There are not ten who can think them once I have posed them, to say nothing of before. They all think in the opposite direction, in the direction of not being afraid of risking one's life. But their thinking does not begin with that as the given in order to ask whether one has the right to do it.

See this book, p. 194 [i.e., VIII1 A 307].


If I do not have the right God-fearingly to call something ungodliness which humanly and good-naturedly I would call weakness, then I do not have the right to sacrifice my life for the truth, either, that is, to be put to death, or let myself be put to death.


It must be dreadful to be made to look like a fool the way Martensen is: to preach Christianity for such an audience, a man of distinction and for the distinguished, and for fools who run with the pack simply because it is exclusive. What satire! Martensen is indeed a preacher, presumably then a disciple of the teacher, our Lord Jesus Christ, on whom the world spits — Christ is the prototype [Forbillede] and Martensen the disciple who resembles him. Martensen must then either be appallingly secular-minded (that the insignificant title and distinction can be so important to him) or very stupid. I prefer to think the latter. The point is that such a man never comes to think primitively about the slightest thing; he patterns himself on this one and that, always does exactly the same thing.

And the most corrupt segment of society is the world of high society. For what, indeed, are prostitutes and drunks, etc., compared to that whole game of pernicious passions, that pandering moral laxity, etc.

No, I do not wish to be made a fool of in church. That is why I desire an empty church — then God is present, and for me at least that is more than enough.

In this day and age a full church in the capital city (far out in the country it is a quite different matter if the whole parish goes to church, something quite different from all Copenhagen streaming to one church) is a satire on His Reverence or His Most Eminent Reverence.


Concerning a portion in Christian Reflections, II. No. 6: That to become something great in the world is a dubious matter — it must be noted here that the reference is not to the state. In that sense Mynster may well be said to have become something great, but he has a strong tendency to want to be in the minority.



Most likely no one is aware that the cue for the word "reflections" has already been given in the introduction to one of the Christian Discourses, No. VI.


In the reference to the people of love, there is also a fling at Grundtvig, for it is really presumptuous that a particular group will call itself "the people of love;" it is vain and self-loving.


Deus ita artifex in magnis, ut minor non sit in parvis.



Here, in the temporal world, Christianity cannot be and ought not be viewed complacently. If there were a spot where there lived none but true Christians, they would have to be missionaries. And this is a question everyone must face before he is done.

But nowadays there is none at all; there is nothing but mimicry [Efteraberie], one mimicking the other.



Far be it from me to indict the present age as if the world had been so wonderful before. No, as far as I am concerned, I would have a bad time of it in any age. Socrates was right in saying that banishment would have helped him very little, since it would have gone badly for him in every country. The root of the matter was that Socrates was the inciter.


Wonderful! The contemporary generation hates and persecutes and crucifies Christ — and then that very generation benefits from Christ's death. In this way Christ never did, as it were, get justice from men. But this is not what he wanted at all — he wanted to save them. Usually the innocent victim can still say: My death will become your punishment — but Christ's death became a salvation for them. It was not Christ who said: My blood be upon you; it was the people.


Right away the first time I talked with him and several times later I said to Bishop Mynster, and as solemnly as possible, that what I expressed was the opposite of what he expressed and that was the reason (besides my veneration for him) that he was of importance to me. He was very attractive and answered, as we carried on a formal conversation, that he understood me. At one point he said that we complemented one another, which, however, I did not enter into, since it was more courteous than I expected, but merely reiterated very firmly my dissimilarity. I have said to him that frequently there was something I knew must displease him, but that I certainly kept him in mind and have kept him particularly in mind — without, however, changing it.

So I know that my relationship to him is as pure as possible.


Oct. 3, 1847

Henrich Steffens, Religious-Philosophie, II, p. 260 medio:,

so spricht sich die furchtbure Gewissheit aus, dass auch innerlich, in der Geschicte, das Böse — Masse ist.

P. 262, der Heiland ist für die ganze Welt gestorben, aber nur für die wahren Christen auferstanden


I would like to create a little literary mystery by, for example, publishing something I would call "The Writings of a Young Man"; in the preface I would appear as a young author publishing his first book.

I would call myself Felix de St. Vincent. The contents would include:

  1. The Crisis in the Life of an Actress
  2. A Eulogy of Autumn
  3. Rosenkilde as Hummer
  4. Writing Sampler


It is so heartbreaking that Christ, who is the teacher of love, is betrayed — with a kiss.


From the beginning Christ knew that he would suffer and die. How gruelling, before it actually comes, hoping at one moment to escape it and dreading the next. That is, Christ's suffering was a choice.


Hi self-abasement was in earnest. It was not like a pope's washing the feet of the poor, when everyone knows that it is the pope — then he has a double gain: his papal status and also the status of humility.


How much we appreciate in this life not only to have someone who does favors for us — but the friend who gave his life for us, the friend who for my sake also let himself be mocked — to him we do not give a thought.


I am the last stage of the development of a poet in the direction of small-scale reformer. I have much more imagination than a reformer as such would have, but then again less of a certain personal force required for acting as a reformer. Aided by my imagination — which, please note, is not at all prior to the dialectical, hence immediate, but follows the dialectical — I can grasp all the Christian qualifications in the most faithful and vital way. The times obviously require this. There are certain things which must be kept in mind constantly or the standard is lost. To be reminded of the qualifications of the Christian life that demand the utmost is like the flight of the wild bird over the heads of the tamed birds. — But simply because I am a poet whose task is to jack up the price and, if possible, to whisper to each individual what the requirement could be, I must be especially careful not to acquire adherents.


In order not to be guilty of any exaggeration in Christianity, I can apply the standard my father followed with respect to confessing Christ. But if I do that, it would soon be evident that this would not be permitted to go unnoticed. The reason my father managed to do it was that he was completely unknown. But then someone will say: Well, if you are so devoted to religion, then become a pastor. Here, you see, is an illusion. Let us be honest now; I wonder if anyone gets the impression that a man who becomes a pastor these days is ardently occupied with religion? O, no, he gets the impression that he is someone who wants a job and some kind of impressive position in the community. Because of that illusion the clergy have become essentially impotent.


The foolish virgins are not presented as having completely forgotten the bridegroom's coming; they are instead represented as having gone to purchase a new supply of oil — and yet they were excluded. Therefore one is not to excuse himself because he is, after all, doing something, occasionally thinking about the salvation of his soul, waiting for the publication of a new book, etc.


Deep within every human being there still lives the anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the world, forgotten by God, overlooked among the millions and millions in this enormous household. One keeps this anxiety at a distance by looking at the many round about who are related to him as kin and friends, but the anxiety is still there, nevertheless, and one hardly dares think of how he would feel if all this were taken away.


It is very difficult to know how a Christian who actually acknowledges his faith would look today, how he would be judged. The Christians who most closely approximate this are, of course, the clergy. But the trouble here is the presence of that unholy middle category — the fact that it is their paid occupation; they are officeholders. This means that people get no pure impression at all of a person who chooses to dedicate his time and his life to obeying Christ, occupied with the divine; they find it entirely in order that everyone seeks a paid occupation for himself and consequently one person becomes a clergyman, another a businessman, etc.


It would be easy for me to justify my entire work as an author on the basis of Mynster's sermons — to what extent his life matches up is not so easy to decide. But no one can be angry with me for doing what has been told to me, what I have been brought up to follow.



No one wants to be a "human being" — this is nothing to be. No one wants to be "a Christian" — this is nothing at all. Such tasks are not regarded as adequate for a life. Yet everyone strives and battles and grubs to become something. But this something is a departmental consultant or a fleet medical officer, etc.


Friday Sermon

John 12:32

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.

When a ship is to put to sea, the end of a cable is cast out and fastened to a tugboat — and in this way the ship is drawn. When a human life is to be commenced and continued without too much dependence upon the temporal, a cable must be cast out. In this a dead loved one can be helpful. But Christ above all is the drawing power from eternity to all eternity.

He is lifted up — he has to be if he is to draw — lifted up with the Father*

and He draws to himself.

In this hour he is indeed closer to earth, present at the altar, but this, again, is only in order to draw.

Yes, draw us wholly unto yourself
Let thoughts, etc. (from an old hymn).

There is so much which resists and holds us back (diverts); therefore You draw us.

* Addition:
Yet in his exaltation He is neither indifferent nor inactive. He is always ready to appear before us with unspeakable sighs. Nor does he sit down, for when the danger is great, he rises up — as Stephen saw him.


Christ is God's right hand.


If Christ were to examine us, we should perish, for this would exanimate us.


Pious Phrase Book
Handbook for Pastors
Containing 500 platitudes
alphabetically arranged
A sexton who has been employed by all churches and therefore
is well acquainted with platitudes.

dedicated to Councillor Hiorthöy
the expert connoisseur,
the careful collector
of platitudes.


Esaias Strandsand


Of course, the idea cannot be developed; it would get to be boring. Therefore it is best to make it a subscription offer; then one can get the most important part said in the announcement.


On almost every page of Mynster's sermons one can show how few people he himself supposes are really Christians or even care about being Christian. But what is all this talk about a state-church, a Christian nation and people, then, but an illusion? And what does it mean — this regarding his position as paid by the state, receiving honors and esteem, almost as if he were professor of Hebrew, which naturally entails no responsibility for the few or the many who want to learn Hebrew but merely for him to have the prestige of the position. Given the admission Mynster has made, it is obvious that every teacher in the church, in the state church, has eo ipso a kind of missionary work, risking everything to make men aware and guaranteeing the state that everything is being done so that as many as possible can become Christians. If Mynster should in the apostolic sense become the teacher of the few Christians he himself speaks of, it would be rather a poor living and without political distinction. But one moment there are only a few Christians; the next moment the state is Christian, and a pastor or bishop has nothing more to do than a bureaucrat who holds office hours in his office — this is the way he preaches in a church — and above all carefully avoids too close contact with people — for the sake of advancement.


Nov. 4

Today I looked in on Bishop Mynster. He said he was very busy — so I left at once. But he was also very cold toward me. Very likely he is offended by the latest book. That is how I interpreted it. Perhaps I am wrong. But I am not wrong on another point, that this has given me a serenity I have not had before. I have always winced at writing anything I knew might offend him, yes, almost embitter him. Now I assume that it has happened. It has happened many times before, but he has not let himself be offended. But a momentary hurt just livens things up for me. I have never done the slightest thing to win his favor and support, but it would have made me indescribably happy to have him agree with me — for his sake as well, because that I am right I know best of all — from his sermons.


.....for "He" did not go to meet his suffering the way a man does who at every moment has the possibility of avoiding it and even of having everything turn out well. He knew it in advance; he knew it when the people rejoiced and cried hosanna when he appeared. — In this way the weight of suffering was infinitely increased.


Much of the love for Christ in our so-called Christendom is like that of a child playing in a pleasant sun-filled room with all the conveniences and answering his mother's question: Whom do you love most of all? by saying: Mother. But this is not Christianity at all. They have, as they say, given a lot of thought to the problem and have reflected on the contemporary scene, etc. But this is not at all the way Christ relates himself to a believer. Get into the thick of it! There is a kind of Christian sentimentality which is only a refined Epicureanism. In order to keep at a distance the question whether they really have the right, whether any man has the right, to enjoy such a soft pleasant life, they give thanks, as they call it, for all this good fortune. Can this really be Christianity?


I have never had a confidant. In being an author I have in a way made the public my confidant. But as far as the public is concerned, I must make posterity my confidant. The same people who join in laughing at someone to scorn cannot be used very well as confidants.


I was brought up on Mynster's sermons — by my father. This is the trouble; of course it could never have occurred to my father to take those sermons otherwise than literally. Brought up on Mynster's sermons — by Mynster: yes, a problem.


....."It is his own fault." Yes, this he has in common with all who have suffered for a conviction — it was their own fault.


It should have been perceived that my practice of walking the streets subsequently could have been a practical means against anonymity. It is extremely regrettable and demoralizing that robbers and the elite agree on just one thing — living in hiding. The cowardly wretch who sits and scribbles and personally does not have the courage to let himself be seen also enjoys the advantage — that it is distinguished not to be seen. Yet thousands and thousands and thousands judge and judge, and God knows if there is one who has actually thought about life — not about what occupation he ought to take up or which girl he should marry, etc., in these things constantly aping the others, but about life. — To be somebody when one must live in the street all day — that is an art. To be somebody — when one is never seen — is very easy.


November 20

The fundamental derangement at the root of modern times (which branches out into logic, metaphysics, dogmatics, and the whole of modern life) consists in this: that the deep qualitative chasm in the difference between God and man has been obliterated. Because of this there is in dogmatics (from logic and metaphysics) a depth of blasphemy which paganism never knew (for it knew what blasphemy against God is, but precisely this has been forgotten in our time, this theocentric age) and in ethics a brash unconcern or, more accurately, no ethics at all. The derangement has come about in many ways and has many forms, but mainly as follows. As the crowd intimidates the king, as the public intimidates counselors of state and authors, so the generation will ultimately want to intimidate God, constrain him to give in, become self-important before him, brazenly defiant in their numbers, etc. Thus what we have today, in modern times, is actually not doubt — it is insubordination. It is useless to want to bring religion to the front; it is not even possible to mount the machinery, for the soil is a swamp or a bog. "Of course, we will all be saved" etc. is approximately the refrain. This being the case, what is meant by all this about the consolation of religion!

On this frontier, where smugglers as well as rebels traffic, I have been assigned my place as an insignificant official who by any means, by cunning, by force (that is, spiritual force) must confiscate all illusions and seize those arrogant fancies based on effrontery toward God, unparalleled in either paganism or Judaism, since it is a prodigious fraud, a debasing of the doctrine of the God-man. — As a reward for my work I must be prepared, of course, to suffer all things from men, who, in the first place are by no means happy to be torn out of all those grandiloquent fancies in which sophists in abundance still continue to strengthen them.

Humbled and crushed and annihilated, I myself have had to learn as profoundly as anyone will come to learn arduously from me or through me: that a man is nothing before God. This is what I have to teach, not directly but indirectly. To be able to do that I must constantly go to school with God, who, when necessary, starts me all over again at the beginning to make me understand what I am, what a human being is, before him.

My task is in the service of truth; its essential form is: obedience. Nothing new is to be introduced, but everywhere the springs will be repaired in such a way again that the old, nothing but the old, will be like new again. As long as I live I will, humanly speaking, have nothing but trouble and will reap ingratitude — but after my death my work will stand despite the efforts of anyone. As long as I am living I cannot be acknowledged, for only a few are able to understand me, and if people began trying to acknowledge me, I would have to exert all my powers in new mystifications to prevent it.

The only contemporary I have paid any attention to is Mynster. But Mynster cares only about holding office and administering, thinking that this is the truth. He cares nothing about the truth, even if it were suffering right under his eyes. He can only understand that the truth must and shall rule — that it must and shall suffer is beyond his understanding.


According to Mynster's view, Christianity is related to the natural man in the same way as horsemanship is related to the horse, as the trained horse to the untrained horse, where it is not a matter of taking away its nature but of improving it. That is, Christianity is an educational process, being Christian is approximately what the natural man in his most blissfully happy moment could wish to be at his best: poised, harmonious perfection in itself and in himself consummately prepared virtuosity. But such talk is 100,000 miles removed from the Redeemer who must suffer in the world and who requires the crucifixion of the flesh, all that agony as the birth pangs of salvation, because under the circumstances there is in fact an infinite, a qualitative difference between God and man, and the terror of Christianity is also its blessedness: that God wants to be the teacher and wants the disciple to resemble him. If God is to be the teacher, then the instruction must begin with disrupting the learner (man). For the sake of quality it cannot be otherwise. There is not much use in speaking of God as the teacher and then have the instruction be only a purely human improvement program.

In many ways Mynster himself is the inventor of this confusion of Christianity and education. But in another sense he has done an extraordinary service and has demonstrated the deep impression made by his former days. If there is not to be any conflict between Christianity and the world, if the insignia of battle are not to be carried, if there is to be peace of that sort, then it is really something great to have a figure such as Mynster. He has resolved a most difficult problem. If a debate starts which brings the very concept of "state church" under discussion, then Mynster's position is dubious — if the concept of state church is accepted, then Mynster is the master, and it must always be remembered that in judging a man it is an outrageous wrong unceremoniously to delete all the very presuppositions within which a man is to be judged.

Let us pay tribute to Bishop Mynster. I have admired no one, no living person, except Bishop Mynster, and it is a joy to me to be reminded always of my father. His position is such that I see the irregularities very well, more clearly than anyone who has attacked him. But the nature of what I have to say should not affect him at all — if only he himself does not take it wrong. There is an ambivalence in his life which cannot be avoided, because the "state church" is an ambivalence. But now it is very possible to ascribe to him the whole element of renewal within the established order — and then he would once again stand high. If he makes a mistake, if instead of calmly sitting in lofty eminence, holding his scepter, and letting a second lieutenant decide things, he makes the mistake of believing that he should handle the battle, then no one can guarantee the results. My corps is just the support he needs. If he makes a mistake, he will have lost not only my auxiliary-corps — that is of least importance — but he will also have lost his own position.


"Authority" does not mean to be a king or to be an emperor or general, to have the power of arms, to be a bishop, or to be a policeman,* but it means by a firm and conscious resolution to be willing to sacrifice everything, one's very life, for his cause; it means to articulate a cause in such a way that a person is at one with himself, needing nothing and fearing nothing. This infinite recklessness** is authority. True authority is present when the truth is the cause. The reason the Pharisees spoke without authority, although they were indeed authorized teachers, was precisely that their talk, like their lives, was in the power of seventeen finite concerns.

*In margin: This is the conception of immanental authority, not the paradoxical conception of authority.

**In margin: Those with authority, therefore, always address themselves to the conscience, not to understanding, intelligence, profundity — to the human being, not to the professor.


In Denmark, the promised land of paid jobs, everything revolves around a paid job, not only that everyone pursues it and is satisfied with it — no, if anyone wants to work disinterestedly for an idea but without being paid for it, he loses all the respect of these people on the mountain because to go out after a paid job, to get it, to be lulled to sleep in it — that is morality — the other is immorality.


.....And this is why the time will come when not only my writings but my whole life, the intriguing secret of the whole machinery, will be studied and studied. I venture also to claim that there is hardly a diplomat who has such a good overview of an age, even though he also stands on the street and perceives every detail, as I do. I never forget that God is my helper, and therefore it is my final wish that everything will serve to his glory!


.....It is still true: it is blessed to suffer mockery for a good cause; not only can one endure it, but it is blessed.


The entire confusion and tragedy of the modern age can be expressed in just one sentence: it has taken Christianity in vain. Just as a cursing sailor gives little thought to the name of God he utters, just so do we give little thought to being a Christian, which we say we are. The clergy preach and they are listened to just about as much as the town-crier &dmash; and the town-criers also proclaim Christianity. The enventual fruit of the Reformation will be to abolish the clergy completely and be satisfied with town-criers.


The situation is like this. The one who proclaims Christianity (the clergyman) in a vehemently orthodox way against all heresies, and not without sweat and tears besides, is embarrassed to say of himself and would probably be embarrassed to do it: I have accepted Christianity because I must, because it is God who commands. No, he has accepted Christianity because it is so profound and so elevated. Aha! Now we shall see if the eternal will accept him! All this nonsense about profundity — what else is it but a way "this wicked generation," to which one belongs in intimate fellowship, has of being ashamed of Christianity, of being ashamed of Christ.

They want so very much to win men to the truth. And to accomplish this, they give them an untruth — and, sure enough, they win men. What else is this but to be ashamed of the truth, to be ashamed of standing alone. There is nothing arrogant here, for the simple reason that there is no talk about depth and profundity, which others may not be able to understand, but about the willingness to understand the simple you shall.

But people are embarrassed by being obedient to the King because he is the King — therefore they obey him because he is clever. They are embarrassed by obeying God because he is God; and so they obey him — because he is a very great genius, perhaps almost the greatest, greater even than Hegel.

In margin: So it is with all this about depth and profundity and the "matchless".


December 1, 1847

I have now planned and drafted the book on Adler again. The arrangement now makes everything luminous and clear as possible.

The book is very useful. The trouble is that there are very few in our age who have enough religiousness to be able to benefit from it. In the long run, Adler with all his confusion has more religiousness than most. The other trouble is that one gets involved with this confused man who has nothing to do and therefore writes and writes. But then the whole thing gets a wrong slant. In the book Adler is still a Nebensach, but how easy it is for the matter to turn into a cockfight between Adler and me for a curious public.

No, let Adler go his way. Then the book will be a book of essays. In that respect the book will be all laid out when the appendices are organized.

  1. Something on premise-authors (that is the introduction). It can end like this: Just as Lichtenberg has felicitously pointed out, accurately in any case, that there is a kind of prose, a very extensive kind, which may be called "graduate student prose," so I hereby introduce the ultimate: premise-authors.
  2. A premise-author on the fact of revelation (conclusion of the introduction).
  3. A revelation in the situation of contemporaneity
    Hypothesis: it is assumed that a man has come forth suddenly and claimed a revelation — how would this be evident.
  4. Appendix 1. The dialectical relations: the universal, the single individual, the special individual.
  5. Appendix 2. On the difference between a genius and an apostle.
  6. Magister Adler as a satire on Hegelian philosophy and the Christianity of our time.


P. L. Møller has had the audacity to publish all his newspaper articles (from Kiøbenhavnsposten, Flyveposten, Figaro, etc.) in two volumes. Of course I promptly sent them back to Reitzel. This little episode lends itself to vaudeville, for which P. L. M. would be usable. He has gotten a state subsidy. All one has to do is to write an article about it — the title "P. L. Møller" would be enough — a state subsidy!

There certainly has never been so much talk in the papers about someone who has gotten a state subsidy as there has been about P. L. M., who quite properly, in order if possible to get even more benefit from it, does not travel. One is always reading in the papers that a book is coming out by P. L. M., who is contemplating a journey to the art centers of the world, for which he has received a state subsidy. I have read something like this seven or eight times for sure, and now again on the dust jacket. The point is, which he is well aware of, that it is a kind of recommendation to have a state subsidy, and that is why he mentions it so often; he no doubt feels that his wretched life needs every possible assistance. It is just as much a swindle as those scurvy-snobby mendicant artists who appeal to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince or the King. It is indefensible to give a man like P. L. M. a state subsidy. I do not say this because of the piddling 500 rix-dollars; as far as I am concerned he could get 1,000 if it is paid to him at the workhouse, but it compromises a nation to let a man like that get a state subsidy; it insults the others who get it, and it outrages the better minds in the younger generation.

But with regard to P. L. Møller I have done enough for the sake of the public, and on my own account I do not care about anything. But this form of swindle, using a state subsidy in such a way, is perhaps worth remembering for purely poetic use at some other time.


A book could be written

Clues to Illuminate the Modern Religious Confusion

Perhaps this form (glints and glimmers) would be most illuminating; a rigorous development of certain concepts which the age has completely forgotten might promote the sickness: didacticism. In any case, I may do it myself sometime, or perhaps my successor.

These journals could be useful. Concerning "authority", the relationship between God and man, the mission in present-day Christendom, etc.


As a motto for part of my life's suffering I can, with a curious freemasonry, use these words by the poet:

Infandum me jubes R e g i n a renovare dolorem.


The girl has given me enough trouble. Now she is — not dead — but happily and well married. I said that on the same day six years ago — and was declared the basest of all base villains. Curious!


Totius perfectionis verissima regula haec est: esto humilis, et ubicunque te ipsum inveneris, te ipsum relinque.


Alas, yes, I admit it, it has concerned me very much and very sincerely to recognize each and every poor man who recognised me, to remember to greet each and every servant with whom I have been related in the slightest way, to remember that the last time I saw him he had been ill and to ask how he was. Never in my life, not even when I was most preoccupied with an idea, have I been so busy that I could not take time to stand still if a poor man spoke to me. Is that then a crime? I would have been ashamed before God and would have distressed my soul if I had become so self-important that I might give the impression that "other men" did not exist for me. Do not these other men exist before God, and before him is not the requirement even greater that I do not conceitedly become self-important but confess in action that obedience is dearer to God than the fat of rams.

Was that a crime — since I am derided for doing it? Yes, it was imprudent — imprudent according to the understanding of wretched prudence.

And now the poorer class, who are being indoctrinated by degrees to see in me a haughty fellow who wants to muscle in on them. O, you fools, it is easy enough for you to get catchpenny writers who steal money out of your pockets as an honorarium for confusing your conceptions, but it is much more difficult to find one who really loves you. One has to be very unhappy and melancholy, yes, if one is a man, one almost has to have a troubled conscience to assist in loving the neighbor in order to endure all that one thereby exposes himself to. — It is not noticed that those who hide behind their aristocracy are the very ones who scorn the poor.


My habit of walking the streets a great deal was once regarded as vanity and aroused anger. It was not suspected that I did it to undermine the impression I made (the maieutic). Now it is realized that walking the streets a great deal robs one of esteem — and so now they are angry with me because I do not keep to myself more, because I am not exclusive.


Yet I could never wish to live at some other time. The knowledge of men, the knowledge of the race which I am acquiring, is not exchangeable for gold, and this is precisely what I needed to illuminate Christianity.


With respect to the acceptance of Christianity it is really another fallacy on Mynster's part (Christianly understood it regards the soundness of the natural man a little too highly) to say of those whom Christianity makes too melancholy and unhappy: I do not know why I should adopt the doctrine if I do not benefit from it. For the category is: one shall accept Christianity, whether it promptly makes a person glad or sad. The Mynster theory could easily lead to analogies with the reasoning of Job's wife: Are you still going to keep on.

But as a rule Mynster swings all too soon away from the religious to commercial life and the bustle and hustle of activities. It is very clear that with Mynster Sunday comes but once a week — the other days are still lived partly in other categories. That is precisely why he sometimes is so powerfully gripped on Sunday, but he simply does not discover the inner difficulties of putting the religious to daily use.


Contemptible Lack of Character

Mr. Hostrup writes a student comedy, naturally as hairbrained and inconsiderate as possible, using no restraints whatsoever — after all, it would be unsporting for someone to have anything against it! Fine. But then should it not keep on being a student-comedy — that is, for students. But what happens, the play travels around the whole country, is finally performed in the Royal Theater — and now, as I see today in Flyve-Posten, in Norway, and in Rigs-Tidenden, the character who supposedly represents me is named outright: Søren Kierkegaard. No doubt the billboards have already carried my name openly in order to attract interest to the play.

And this is supposed to be a student comedy! And consequently the Danish stage has been demeaned to being The Corsair!

How cowardly the whole thing is. Either my name should have been on the billboard outside the Student Union from the very first or the whole character should have been removed.

It is loathesome to see how the Danes disgrace themselves and eagerly do their best to exhibit our shame to neighboring countries.


See journal notebook, pp. 33 ff., pp. 166 ff. [VIII1 A 145: 271-79].

How was it even possible that Christ could be crucified.*

*In margin: the book will be pseudonymous.

There was once a man who as a child had been piously instilled by his parents with faith in Jesus Christ — but as he grew older, he could understand it less and less. "I understand very well," he said, "that he was willing to sacrifice his life for the truth and that He, if He sacrificed his life, sacrificed it for the truth. But what I do not understand is that He, who was love, did not out of love for men prevent men from committing the worst of all crimes: murdering him."

The fact of the matter is: Christ is not love, and least of all according to the human notion of love. He was the truth, absolute truth; therefore he could not simply defend himself, but he had to permit men to become guilty of his death — that is, to reveal the truth in a radical way (the opposite would have been not to defend himself because of weakness).


When I eventually publish the discourses on the Atonement, it will be best to entitle them:

"Work of Love."


There has really been great effort here at home to settle if possible the question of my significance and my work as a thinker in a rather unphilosophical manner: by the rabble — with fists.


Some Discourses to be Written for Awakening

Thoughts which from behind — for awakening.*

* In margin: "An assault by thoughts"

"Guard your foot when you go into the house of the Lord" (Ecclesiastes). See one of the earlier journals+ [i.e., VIII1 A 256].

This will be the introduction.

+ Journal NB2, pp.147-48 [i.e. VIII1 A 256]. Ditto, pp. 242, bottom, and 243, top [i.e., VIII1 A 367.

In the following discourses the text is to be chosen in such a way that it appears to be a Gospel text, and is that also, but then comes the stinger.

No. 1.   "What shall we have, we who have left all?" And Christ answers: You will sit on thrones etc.

The satire for us in this question — we who have not left anything at all.

No. 2.   All things serve for good, if we love God. If we love God. (The irony.)

No. 3   The resurrection of the dead is at hand, both of the righteous and the unrighteous.

Rejoice, you are not to ask for three proofs — it is certain enough that you are immortal — it is absolutely certain — for you must come up for judgment. This is a new argument for immortality.

No. 4 — It is blessed — to be mocked for a good cause. (Rejoice when men speak all sorts of evil about you.)

So rejoice, then — but perhaps there is no one present to whom this discourse applies. You, my listener, rejoice perhaps because you are highly honored, esteemed, and regarded. Yes, then indeed for you it is a meal like the stork's at the fox's house.

The satirical.

"Woe to you if everyone speaks well of you." Here is not appended "and lies"; it is not necessary, for if everyone speaks well of a person, it must be a lie.

No. 5.   "For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed." But are you sure you have become a believer.

No. 6   He (Christ) was believed on in the world (I Timothy 3:16). But this is perhaps merely a bit of historical information.


What is written on the subject of the hymnbook is very mediocre. The singing of hymns engages me more than anything else in the whole church service. For a good hymn, I insist on altogether simple and to a certain extent insignificant words (in this respect there are many in the evangelical hymnbook which are outright excellent, quite as they should be, and which it would be impossible for the impetuous Grundtvig to write) and then one of those fervent melodies. I know Kingo's hymns by heart, but they are not at all suitable for singing, the whole expression is too strong, the lyrics far too pretentious. Such hymns are read at home for one's own upbuilding.

But of the piety which actually is the piety of a quiet suffering person (and this is the proper piety) Grundtvig has no knowledge at all. Grundtvig is and was and remains a boisterous fellow; even in eternity he will irritate me. It is not as if Grundtvig has not gone through anything — of course he has — but always boisterously. There are a few things which bring him to a halt, but then he makes a big noise like a train pounding on its way. The deeper, inward pain which in quiet sadness is reconciled with God is unknown to Grundtvig, and precisely this is the hymn's true tone. Grundtvig is a jaunty yodeler, or a bellowing blacksmith.

What inwardness in such a song as "Hjertelig mig nu lœnges." I could no more become tired of repeating such a song than tired of looking at the sky in autumn's gray weather when the soft, gentle colors shift and change in the finest design.


This is the idea of Christianity: that the most unfortunate person, the one who suffers most, is the very one who is to bring consolation to others. This is the very expression of the infinitude of his suffering, that it is not a matter of anyone's consoling him, but only that he is to console others — so inconsolable, in a certain sense, is his suffering!

This is poetry and dialectic. The grounds of consolation which the preachers sweep together are nonsense and at best can be of help only to those who really have nothing in particular to whimper about.


Should one laugh or cry over it. Aftenbladet apologizes because the review of my Works of Love is so disproportionately long. A few days later the same paper produces an article just about as long which is a police report in the trial of a thief. Here no apology is necessary, for it is enormously important.


I do not deny it, I am firmly convinced of it, although Bishop Mynster himself might not maintain it; it is my firm conviction that if the world one day suddenly were to be turned upside down and Bishop Mynster were threatened with death if he did not give up Christianity, he would choose death. But, but that is not the issue. If one is prudent and things are going smoothly, it is possible of course to calculate danger in advance and avoid it. As yet there is no question of sacrificing one's life; it is a negligible matter — and precisely because it is a negligible matter there are no recriminations for avoiding it — and one never enters into danger. Furthermore, one may be right, it may be true that if it were a matter of life, one would risk his life. Aber, Bishop Mynster dominates many by means of his prudence, but there is one thing he cannot dominate: his prudence; he does not have his prudence in the power of enthusiasm. Since life rarely provides the great scenes where it is a matter of life and death (and least of all do they come like Christmas to a spoiled child; they come in the train of not avoiding danger with the help of prudence), and since he wards off every minor decision with the help of prudence, his life is in the power of a great illusion.


Instructions for "Joyful Notes in the Strife of Suffering"

These discourses are presented in such a way as to be continually tangential to the consciousness of sin and the suffering of sin — sin etc. are another matter: these discourses come to the subject of sin. Because the consolation lyrically rises as high as possible over all earthly need and misery, even the heaviest, the horror of sin is constantly banished. Thus another theme is cunningly concealed in these discourses: sin is man's corruption.

In the ordinary sermon this is precisely the confusion: need and adversity are preached together — with sin.

Thus the category for these discourses is different from "The Gospel of Suffering," which leaves the suffering indefinite. Here the distinction is made: innocent suffering — in order to approach sin.


I cannot entertain the thought of forming an alliance with anyone. It is certainly possible to get men to endure some difficulty and opposition in the hope of victory as soon as possible. But the thought of having to lose more and more (which is the essentially Christian idea), to see before one a whole life dedicated to suffering, to be compelled to renounce the advantages offered (since no earthly advantage can be won and cashed in on without corrupting the undertaking itself — just as one corrupts an unselfish, sacrificial act by taking money for it): nobody can be persuaded to accept that.


Mynster's religion is something like this: living essentially as an upright pagan, making one's personal life comfortable and good, enjoying its amenities — but admitting in all this that one is very far from having reached the highest. It is this admission that he essentially regards as Christianity. Those he fights against as pagans are not the ones who live this pleasant life but those who will not make this admission. — It is a rather cheap edition of Christianity; it is fairly easy to make this admission.

And yet this is the summa summarum of his orthodoxy. Just as zealously as he fights those who will not make this admission, he fights, perhaps even more zealously, those who want to try to raise it a bit higher, although they also willingly make the admission. He fights them most zealously of all, unless they have died — then he honors them.


When secular sensibleness has permeated the whole world as it has now begun to do, then the only remaining conception of what it is to be Christian will be the portrayal of Christ, the disciples, and others as comic figures. They will be counterparts of Don Quixote, a man who had a firm notion that the world is evil, that what the world honors is mediocrity or even worse. But things have not yet sunk so deep. Men have crucified Christ and called him an enthusiast, etc. — but to make a comic figure of him! Yet this is unquestionably the only logical possibility, the only one, which will satisfy the demands of the age once the secular mentality has conquered. Efforts are being made in this direction — for the world progresses!


When a person voluntarily exposes himself to dangers and loss for the sake of a good cause, people reproachfully say, "It is his own fault," and become angry with him. What are they angry about? It is because of the voluntariness, the fact that he is disinterested, that he scorns what they aspire to as the highest. One can hurt a self-loving person in two ways: as a thief, a robber, gossip, et al., one can take away from him his earthly goods, but one can also by disinterestedness and sacrifice take the value away from those goods, those goods which he values as the highest. Men get just as bitter about the one way as the other. It is also a kind of reduction when that which a person regards as supreme and which he possesses is not actually taken from him but is shown to be empty and worthy of disdain.


A few people bunch together and persuade each other that they are the only true Christians and are then to asssociate only with each other. Excellent! It must be admitted that by doing so they avoid the inconvenience of making men aware and of all the attendant danger. But could it also be Christian to insist that there are but so few Christians, and then not do everything, even to risk one's life if needed, in order to make men aware? To insist that the Christians are so few and then not become missionaries is an unchristian self-contradiction.


..... I may live for thirty years, or perhaps forty, or maybe just one day: therefore I have resolved to use this day, or whatever I have to say in these thirty years or whatever I have to say this one day I may have to live — I have resolved to use it in such a way that if not one day in my whole past life has been used well, this one by the help of God will be.


This is the difference. If persecution comes from the government, one shows up well; a vain person could be tempted for the sake of the cause to go too far because it looks so good to be the object of persecution by such a power. But when one suffers persecution by the mob, the people, the public, in short, the scum which the daily press is able to dredge up, at best by an anonymous dredger: then one has to use nine-tenths of his energy in minimizing the persecution itself; one cannot very well be celebrated for talking about such things, etc. This is the difference. When one is persecuted by the government, by the powers that be, there is a focus on decisions which time and again will make an impact (a fine, a sentence, etc.), but mob-persecution or persecution by the public is sheer dailiness, day in and day out, every day the same, every moment a new arrival knowing nothing about a person except that people grin at him in the most impudent way. They know that they are supposed to do it, it is their duty, for the press has ordered it. Here there is no question of modesty and bashfulness — they are doing a good deed authorized by the public mind when they ridicule a person, abuse him, shout after him, etc., when they even insult his driver so that he almost becomes afraid because he cannot understand what it all means.

What I do lack is physical strength. My mind is calm. I have always thought of myself as having to be sacrificed; now I have received my orders and I will abide by the command I have been given. Ordinarily I can take it. But when, for example, seeking recreation, I take a drive of fifteen or twenty miles and sit in the carriage in the happy ferment of thought, my body gradually becomes somewhat weak, partly from the riding, partly from the purely mental exertion, and then when I get out and it so happens I am received by a smirking, grinning crowd, and some of those present are nice enough to call me names, then my physical state is powerfully affected. Or when I have taken a long walk out on some solitary path, lost in my own thoughts, and then suddenly meet three or four louts way out there where I am all alone and they start to call me names, my physical state is powerfully affected. I do not have the physical strength for a fight — and I know nothing which makes me more depressed than such a scene. I have the ability to make any man listen to reason — except the raw boor, to say nothing of three of them who have orders from the press: there can be no discussion with him.

Yet my faith is unshaken that I will remain standing on the spot. There must be an awakening if coarse brutality is not to prevail altogether in Denmark. For me it has had a good side. I really would not have been able to illuminate Christianity the way I have been allowed to do if all this had not happened to me.


My brother's petty-mindedness and envy are all my family has done for me. He has been interested only in getting a free copy of what I wrote. Then when I plunged into The Corsair, he was gratified, for now he found that everything that happened to me was God's punishment. God's name can be misused in many ways. Now he is commencing to write a little — he borrows a little from me but without mentioning it; he is after all a Grundtvigian, and in all likelihood he does not read what I write, as they say in his circle of acquaintances — and then one can be utilized very nicely. And when I die, then he will come sneaking up and be — my brother, my brother who with brotherly concern has followed my endeavours, who knew me so intimately, etc.

But he does lead a more fortunate life. He sets himself up against the government. And what then? He enjoys honor and status and admiration as a martyr — and what then? Then he keeps his position. No one rumples a hair of his head. You see, candidates for this kind of martyrdom can be found!


Can there be the slightest doubt that what Christendom needs is another Socrates, who with the same dialectical, cunning simplicity is able to express ignorance or, as it may be stated in this case: I cannot understand anything at all about faith, but I do believe. It is this everlasting understanding which has been the misfortune. At various times true teachers have arisen in Christendom, teachers who in simplicity have held to the faith. But these teachers have never been dialecticians in the strict sense. Now that science and scholarship have developed more and more, such simple persons are no longer able to penetrate. Consequently, a dialectician is now needed, and this eminent dialectician in particular must be the simple one.


If one aims to elevate a whole period, one must really know it. That is why the proclaimers of Christianity who begin right off with orthodoxy actually do not have much influence and only on a few. For Christianity goes way back. One has to begin with paganism. For example, I begin with Either/Or. In that way I have managed to get the age to go along with me without ever dreaming where it is going or where we now are. But men have become aware of the issues. They cannot get rid of me just because they went along with Either/Or so happily. Now they may want to abandon me, they could put me to death, but it is of no use, they have me for good. If one begins immediately with Christianity, they say: this is nothing for us — and put themselves immediately on guard.

But as it says in my last discourse, my whole huge literary work has just one idea, and that is: to wound from behind.

Praise be to God in heaven — I say no more; anything else a man adds is rubbish.


My whole life is an epigram to make men aware. That is why I must strive to the uttermost to stand alone — when its time comes the epigram will wound all the more deeply. It is a frightful strain; many is the time I scarcely dare think of the enormous weight I carry on my head. But every day I tackle a little bit and say to myself: Obedience is dearer to God than the fat of rams.

I can be understood only after my death; while I live I can be happy in the conviction that I will be understood; I myself can understand why I cannot be understood before and that it is my task, the work of self-renunciation, but it is truly an enormous labour.

When one is in this position, he does not need three proofs of the immortality of the soul. Great God, if by faith in eternity I did not have that right at hand, I would have succumbed long ago.


What a clever story it is, the one in 1001 Nights (Geschichte der zwei neidischen Schwestern, Nacht 617-637, III) that tells of an expedition in search of the talking bird, the singing tree, and the golden water. The task was to climb a high mountain. But the resistance was invisible (as the dervish in fact says to the one prince who was not afraid of any danger: Have you considered what it means to do battle with the invisible); it was nothing more nor less than voices that shouted and made an uproar, scolded, shocked, whined, ridiculed, etc. — and if one looked around he became a stone.


N.B.     N.B.

A new book ought to be written entitled: Thoughts That Cure Radically, Christian Healing.

It will deal with the doctrine of the Atonement, showing first of all that the root of the sickness is sin. It will have two parts. Perhaps it is better to have three.

1. First comes: Thoughts that wound from behind — for upbuilding. This will be the polemical element, something like "The Cares of the Pagans," but somewhat stronger; then Christian discourses should be given in an altogether milder tone."

[changed from: (2)] On the consciousness of sin.

The Sickness unto Death
Christian Discourses

[changed from: (3)] Radical Cure
  [changed from:] Thoughts That Cure Radically

Christian Healing
The Atonement


I almost went and upset the whole design of Christian Discourses and their original purpose by including in them "Thoughts Which Wound from Behind for Upbuilding" simply because these discourses were lying there ready. A polemical piece like that belongs there least of all; it will itself be weakened by its surroundings and divert all attention away from the "Friday Discourses." No, my intention is to be as gentle as possible, right after that the powerful polemic in Works of Love. In this way the Christian discourses are sustained. Then, too, I may take a journey, and I would like to depart in peace. Finally, the book was getting too large; the smaller, the better I am read.


No, no, no, no — I did, however, almost fail to appreciate how in Part Three Governance had added what was needed. But I wanted to be a bit clever and arrange something myself.

As so often happens, so it happened here, too. I had not thought that the third part, which was written last, should go into Christian Discourses.*

* In margin: Part Three is the weaving of Governance — that it was finished at the right time without my really understanding how it belonged.

But that is precisely where it belongs. It had not occurred to me, but Governance ordained it in such a way that, sure enough, the little book was ready just when I was about to publish Christian Discourses.

Without the third part Christian Discourses is much too mild, for me not truly in character; they are mild enough as it is. And how in the world would I get a more felicitous juxtaposition than than with the enormous thrust in the third part — and the hidden inwardness in the fourth, simply because it is the communion on Friday.

The book does not become too large, either; on the contrary, without this section I would even have had to have it printed in larger type in order to reach a certain number of sheets.

Then, too, without Part Three Christian Discourses is too repetitious.

But as I said, I wanted to be clever. That is not good. In trust and confidence in God I would rather accept from his hand whatever comes than have a comfortable situation if I have shrewdly avoided a potential danger in order to achieve it. No doubt I do need some encouragement. If God will give it to me, I accept it with fervent gratitude. But the embarrassment that would make my heart stand still, the embarrassment that comes over me at the thought that I possibly had let God call and had shrewdly stepped aside — no, this I could not endure. When the devoted teacher looks affectionately at the child and says: Come, now, make a big jump, my little friend, but if you are afraid, if you do not feel like it, well, then, don't do it — what a shame if the child were to sadden the teacher by not doing it. So also in a man's relationship to God; he compels no one, he tells one of the dangers in advance, he frightens one through scary imaginings — and then looks at one and says: Just go ahead confidently, my child, but if you are afraid, I will not force you. Truly, there is no more compelling method than this!

At your word, O Lord! When a person does something in this spirit, then, humanly speaking, he is prepared for the worst — but yet, yet I cannot do otherwise. Then he does not expect a happy ending, humanly speaking; he believes that it is possible, that it may happen just the same — but one thing is certain: God will not let him go. God will remain with him in a cheerful boldness which is worth far more than all the world's bed of roses.

It follows as a matter of course that I again have considered the possibilities which, if I had initiated a single other person into them, would have prompted him to say: For God's sake, stop. This is why I keep silent, I cannot do otherwise — Amen. However, it could also be very possible that much of what I shudder to think about is a gloomy illusion. Perhaps so. But the impression it makes is just as powerful! And it is still true — what I have always said and taught — that true action is the inner decision.

But Mynster has touched me by retaining his friendship for me in spite of Works of Love. I would so much like to humor him once. I know he would like Christian Discourses if it did not have Part Three. But I cannot do it. I would also have liked to dedicate the fourth part to him, but that cannot be done. Perhaps here again it is only a gloomy illusion that he would get angry about Part Three; it would even be unfair of him; but in any case I have acted with this pressure upon me also. O, the more pressures there are, the clearer it is that one needs God and the clearer it is that one makes decisions trusting in God.



First of all, publish a book of essays. For this the book on Adler can be used as I arranged it formerly. And then a new one will be added: How was it possible that Jesus Christ could be deprived of his life.* This essay must come out, particularly together with the two about the collision between the universal and the single individual and the one on the relation between a genius and an apostle, before I begin on the doctrine of sin.

* In margin: N.B. If this essay is to be pseudonymous, I must add it as a supplement; then the title will be "Essays" by S.K., with a supplement.


One who truly believes that Christ was and is God (here is the main impact of offense), who prays to him repeatedly every day, who finds all his joy in association with him and in thinking of him — such a person does indeed come to terms with the historical. How silly to be upset if one gospel-writer said one thing and a second another; he can turn to Christ in prayer and say: This disturbs me, but is it not true that you still are and remain with me? It is nonsense that the significance of historical details should be decisive with respect to faith in Him who is present with one and with whom one speaks daily and to whom one turns.

The sequence is this: a person first must gain some knowledge of Christ. But if we start with all these scholarly nonessentials, the next part never takes place. The next step is that one now resolves to turn himself prayerfully to Christ. Yet Christ is actually treated as if he were merely a historical figure who lived 1,800 years ago.

Christ says: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, that is, are praying to me, calling upon me, believing in me, there I am. Here there is none of all this ungodly, weak, frivolous talk about the-book-or-the-symbol.

Believe that Christ is God — then call upon him, pray to him, and the rest comes by itself. When the fact that he is present [er til] is more intimately and inwardly certain than all historical information — then you will come out all right with the details of His historical existence — whether the wedding was at Cana or perhaps somewhere else, whether there were two disciples or only one.

A merely historical person, a human being, is present only historically — therefore every detail is of great importance. It certainly does not help me to pray to Socrates: what I am to know about him I must learn from history or shape it out of my own head. But Christ is present in an entirely different way. Once again it is seen how strict orthodoxy really downgrades Christ. For however paradoxical it is, it is true and it is Christian that with regard to Christ the historical details are not nearly so important as with Socrates and the like, simply because Christ is Christ, an eternally present one [en evig Næværende] for he is true God.


What It Means To Fast

To fast is to sorrow over one's sins.

And that is done best by anointing one's head and washing one's face so that one does not seem to be fasting.


In Christian Discourses, Part Three, No. 6

This discourse quite properly is constructed in such a way that it could almost just as well be a discourse about what has been interwoven as a commentary: Woe to you if everybody speaks well of you. Its polemical aim, therefore, must also be at such an existence: to be a joiner, to be a nobody, to be insignificant, etc. Anyone who has any kind of prominence must expose himself to something — but the numerical, gloating numbers, the crowd, is in the difficult position of being able to avoid all spiritual trials.



..... Yes, in one respect I willingly confess that most of my contemporaries have a great advantage over me, something they certainly never let me forget: viewed from the standpoint of animal qualifications, as a plough horse or a beef animal to be butchered, I am far behind them. I have neither muscles and strong arms nor fat flesh. No wonder I am looked down upon by others. The same thing, after all, is true of horned cattle. The steer walks around proudly with his head high, conscious of weighing a thousand pounds and that he will make an enormous, fat roast. And on the other hand there is the poor creature that slinks around in disgrace, the poor wretch that weighs only three hundred pounds, without an ounce of fat on its bones.


What a moving expression of human forsakeness there is in Christ's saying three times to Peter: Do you love me? O, He who is ringed about by a world of enemies, He who lives in such a way that whatever misfortune befalls him seems a joke to his contemporaries, whatever evil can be said of him seems to be a delight, whatever injustice and injury can be inflicted upon him seems to be a theatrical diversion — he learns to ask his only friend three times: "Do you love me?" — his only friend, yet, no, for this friend too denied him.


The contrast between the third and fourth parts of Christian Discourses is as sharp as possible and very intense: first there is something like a temple-cleansing — and then the quiet and most intimate of all worship services — then Communion service on Friday.


The reason behind all this conflict with the Grundtvigians is a misunderstanding. The charge is that the Grundtvigians imagine they are the only true Christians, a little flock who, to keep themselves occupied, now are busy with all kinds of trifles.

They must be reproached for something entirely different: that they do not do anything to communicate Christianity to other men. It is a kind of eudaimonism, a sort of opulence, to live on enjoying Christianity, to keep it for themselves, and their talk about tolerance is rubbish. Christianity has never been tolerant in such a way that it has let others be pagans or be lost. No, it has been so intolerant that the apostle would rather lose his life in order to proclaim Christianity. Intolerance, to be sure, is wanting to dominate others, but we forget that it certainly is not intolerance to be willing to suffer in order to help others.


Goldschmidt will no doubt end up becoming a cabinet minister. He quite properly began by despising himself; that is how one gets to be somebody these days, when the waves of agitation are too violent to notice that someone reverses himself seventeen times — if he only despises himself in such a way that there is no halting induced from within, it will work.


In Part Three of Christian Discourses, discourse six, the passage at the end: whose only concern is to achieve the ungodliness of having everybody everywhere speak well of them. It is altogether correct, precisely because Christianity teaches that this cannot happen to a person except through ungodliness. It is impossible for anyone with an earnest conviction (which everyone, Christianly, ought to have) to achieve this. Consequently if anyone does achieve it, it is eo ipso his ungodliness. Christianity does not have a frivolous idea of what happens to a man, that, for example, everyone speaks well of him. For Christianity says: Such a thing must not happen to you, any more than stealing, whoring, etc. You will not be able to defend yourself by saying that you did not covet it, that you are not responsible — for you are to live as Christianity requires you to live, and then it is eo ipso impossible for it to happen to you. If it does happen, then it is eo ipso proof that you are not living as Christianity requires you to live.


Just as the expert archer's arrow leaves the bowstring and has no rest before it reaches the target, so the human being is created by God with God as his aim and cannot find rest before he finds rest in God.


March 27, 1848

Once again for a moment I have been concerned about my responsibility in letting Christian Discourses, especially Part Three, be published.*

* In margin: And contrary to my custom for week-days, I opened Mynster and read my sermon, which I otherwise would have read on Sunday, and it was on Nicodemus. What an admonition against my beating a hasty retreat.

It is outright dangerous for me to have something written in a completely different situation be read under the current circumstances. But I cannot do otherwise. It is Governance which has arranged it this way for me. I have not plunged myself into any danger. My manuscript was sent in long before this latest event, which no doubt has changed men somewhat. Every word in my discourses is true — nothing is more certain. I have nothing to change. Should I take it back, then, because of personal danger? No, that I dare not do. What I am I am simply and solely by believing in and obeying God. The moment I catch myself cravenly fleeing any danger in which he has willed to take me, then I will have escaped the danger all right — but to my own degradation, alas — I will collapse into nothing. With God I can endure all things — in God I hope this; without God, nothing.

Perhaps there is considerable hypochondria in my fear, but that makes no difference. God knows how I suffer — but God will also help me, and my cause.

And so I sit here. Out there everything is agitated; the nationality issue inundates everyone; everyone is talking about sacrificing life and blood, is perhaps willing to do it as well, but shored up by the omnipotence of public opinion. And so I sit in a quiet room (no doubt I will soon be in bad repute for indifference to the nation's cause) — I know only one risk, the risk of religiousness, but no one cares about that — and no one has any intimation of what is taking place in me. Well, such is my life. Always misunderstanding. At the point where I suffer, I am misunderstood — and I am hated.


It would be very interesting sometime to develop examples of what is meant esthetically and artistically by eternal images, what basic mood-relationships ought to exist between the particular details of the image in order for them to cohere as an eternal image.

A boat along Kallebro Beach, a boat with a man standing at one end spearing eel, thereby lifting one end of the boat into the air — a finely nuanced gray background — this is an eternal image. An ordinary sailboat along Kallebro Beach is not an eternal image — why not? Because a sailboat has no essential relationship to the special character of Kallebro Beach.

Lake Esrom requires a sailboat — but with women in it.


The abstract can produce a prodigious effect. If I say in a talk: There where the road turns, there by the gate where the hired man stands — pure abstractions: there, road, turns, gate, hired man.

The gate can be a hundred thousand gates; the hired man can be millions.

This is the eternal one of the imagination. Just like the eternal "once upon a time" of the imagination: then man goes out into the morning of life.



I understand people less and less. What is preached in the churches is really not Christianity. On the one hand the governmental officials and clergy seem interested in having the country regarded as being Christian, and on the other hand people themselves seem to have a dim notion that after all it might be a good thing to be a Christian, and therefore they still want to carry the name and want others to prove that this is what they are, but nothing really remains of Christianity. What the clergy preach is not far removed from blasphemy. Everywhere in life's trivialities they find analogies to the highest. Someone has had a loss, and presto! — the preacher refers to it as the Isaac whom Abraham sacrifices. What nonsense! Is loss a sacrifice? To sacrifice means voluntarily to bring a loss upon oneself. A man is sick, presto! — it is the thorn in the flesh. Pro dii immortales! Life is carried on as in paganism, where they also aspired to a certain external righteousness and then provided for earthly needs whereby they got consolation. But in Christendom they immediately talk about Gethsemane.

Therefore one can easily be put to death for proclaiming Christianity. For men want to be Christians, but they do not want to hear what Christianity in truth is. They fight to be called Christians, and therefore hate the person who makes it strenuous for them to be Christians.


It is customary to assume that there is an analogy between the life of a generation and the life of an individual, to assume that the generation has stages similar to those of an individual. Why not assume, then, that the generation ends by going into second childhood?


Brorson, no. 70, verse 5:

That heaven is my goal,
And the way is steadfastness.


Seven discourses could be written on these words:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest.

In margin: See journal NB5 p. 26 [i.e., IX A 33].

Come to me; for he assumes that those who labor and are heavy laden really feel the burden and the labor and now stand perplexed and moaning. One person is still looking all around for a way out, another sits in his bereavement and sees no consolation in sight, etc., but all are seeking; therefore he says: Come to me. He does not invite one who has stopped seeking.

Come to me. For he assumes that those who labor and are heavy-laden are so overstrained and exhausted that, as if in a stupor, they have almost forgotten that there is consolation, however much they wanted to be helped — it is a kind of swooning of the spirit. That is why he must call to them and recall to them that there is consolation.


Wednesday, April 19

My whole nature is changed. My concealment and inclosing reserve [Indesluttethed] are broken — I am free to speak.

Great God, grant me grace!

It is true what my father said of me: "You will never amount to anything as long as you have money." He spoke prophetically; he thought I would lead a wild life. But not exactly that. No, but with my acumen and with my melancholy, and then to have money — O, what a propitious climate for developing all kinds of self-torturing torments in my heart.*

How marvellously timed — just when I had resolved to speak, my physician came. I did not, however, speak to him; it seemed to sudden. But my resolution remains firm — to speak.

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have become true holy days for me.

Addition: * Alas, she could not break the silence of my melancholy. That I loved her — nothing is more certain — and in this way my melancholy got enough to feed upon, O, it got a frightful extra measure.+ That I became a writer was due essentially to her, my melancholy, and my money. Now, by the help of God, I shall become myself. I now believe that Christ will help me to triumph over my melancholy, and then I shall become a pastor.

In my melancholy I have still loved the world, for I loved my melancholy. Everything has been conducive to a higher tension of the relationship for me; her suffering, all my endeavour, and finally that I have had to experience derision and now am brought to the point where I am obliged to earn a living have all contributed with God's help to a break-through.

+ And yet she could not become mine. I was and am a penitent and only got a frightfully intensified punishment through having entered into this relationship.


N.B. N.B.

Easter Monday

No, no, my inclosing reserve still cannot be broken, at least not now. The thought of wanting to break it continually occupies me so much and in such a way that it only becomes more and more chronic.

Yet I find some consolation in having talked with my physician. I have frequently been apprehensive about myself, that I might be too proud to speak to anyone. But just as I have done it before, so I have done it again. And what could a physician say, really? Nothing. But for me it is important to have had respect for this human authority.

My intellectual work satisfies me completely and makes me submit to everything gladly, if I only may give myself to it. I can understand my life in this way: that I declare consolation and joy to others while I am myself bound in pain for which I can see no alleviation — except this, that I am able to work with my mind in this way. Ah, in this respect I cannot complain about the conditions of my life; on the contrary, I thank God every day that he has granted me much more than I ever expected; I pray every day that he will permit me to dare to thank him — this he knows.

But this was the situation. My future becomes more and more difficult economically. If I did not have this closedupness to lug around, I could accept an appointment. Now it is difficult. I have long pondered the possibility of a break-through, and because hitherto I have operated essentially as an escapist, trying to forget, I have frequently thought it my duty to make an attempt to take the offensive, particularly since this inclosing reserve can become an occasion of sin for me.

Had I not done this, I should always have this to reproach me. Now I have done it, and I understand myself again, better than before, for which this has been helpful.

Now I hope that God in some way or other will come to the aid of my work as a writer or will in other ways help me make a living and thus permit me to continue as a writer.

I do believe in the forgiveness of sins, but I interpret this, as before, to mean that I must bear my punishment of remaining in this painful prison of inclosing reserve all my life, in a more profound sense separated from the company of other men, yet mitigated by the thought that God has forgiven me. As yet, at least, I cannot come to such heights of faith, I cannot yet win such cheerful confidence of faith that I can believe that painful memory away. But in faith I protect myself against despair, bear the pain and punishment of my closedupness and am so indescribably happy or blessed in the activity of mind and spirit which God has granted to me so richly and graciously.

If my closedupness is to be broken, it is perhaps more likely to happen in some way or other by God's helping me into an occupation and then helping me to concentrate fully on this. But to want to break inclosing reserve formally by continually thinking about breaking it leads to the very opposite.

April 24, 1848


But I am in need of physical recreation and rest. The proofreading of the last book at such a time, spiritual trial [Anfœgtelse] with regard to its publication, the economic question amid the difficulties of the times, seven years of continuous work, having to move, and now that even Anders is being taken from me and I am all alone — yet constantly working and producing (thank God! This is the only thing that helps me. Even in these days I have written something on the new book about the sickness unto death) — all this has put me somewhat under a strain. I have counted on traveling considerably during the year — and now there is no place to travel to.

Out of all this a troubled spiritual trial — which nevertheless with God's help will help me and has helped me to understand myself better. God be praised: God is love — this, after all, is the happy side of my life, the up-until-now — God be praised — rejuvenating and continually renewing source of my joy.

More and more I understand the Christianity is really too blessed and beatific for us men. Just think what it means to dare to believe that God has come into the world also for my sake. Indeed, it almost sounds like the most blasphemous arrogance for a human being to dare presume to believe such a thing. If it were not God himself who had said it — if a human being had hit upon this in order to show the significance a human being has to God — it would be the most frightful blasphemy of all. But this is why it has not been invented to show how significant a human being is to God, but it is to show what infinite love God's love is. It is indeed infinite that he bothers about a sparrow, but to let himself be born and die for the sake of sinners (and a sinner is even less than a sparrow) — O, infinite love!


It is wonderful how God's love overwhelms me still — alas, when all is said and done I know of no truer prayer than the one I pray over and over, that God will tolerate me, that he will not become angry with me because I continually thank him for having done and for doing so indescribably much more for me than I had ever anticipated. Encompassed by derision, plagued day in and day out by the pettiness of men, yes, even those closest to me, I know of nothing else to do at home or in my innermost being but to thank and thank God, because I comprehend that what he has done for me is indescribable. A human being — and after all what is a human being before God, a nothing, less than nothing — and then a poor human being who from childhood on has fallen into the most miserable melancholy, an object of anxiety to himself — and then God helps in this way and grants to me what he has granted to me! A life which was a burden to me however much I knew at times all the happy strains but which was all embittered by the black spot which spoiled everything, a life which, if others knew its secret, I perceived would make me an object of pity and sympathy from the very outset and a burden to myself — God takes a life like that under his wing. He allows me to weep before him in quiet solitude, to empty and again empty out my pain, blessedly consoled by the knowledge that he is concerned for me — and at the same time he gives this life of pain a significance which almost overwhelms me, grants me success and power and wisdom for all my achievements, makes my whole existence a pure expression of ideas, or he makes it into that.

For now I see so clearly (again unto new joy in God, a new occasion to give thanks) that my life has been planned. My life began without spontaneity or immediacy [Umiddelbarhed], with a frightful melancholy, basically disturbed from earliest childhood, a melancholy which plunged me into sin and dissipation for a time, and yet, humanly speaking, almost more deranged than guilty. Then my father's death really stopped me. I did not dare to believe that this, the fundamental wretchedness of my being, could be lifted; so I grasped the eternal, blessedly assured that God is love indeed, even though I should have to suffer in this way all my life, yes, blessedly assured of this. This is the way I regarded my life. Then once again I was plunged down, and sympathetically, into the abyss of my melancholy by having to break off my engagement — and why? Simply because I dared not believe that God would lift the elemental misery of my being, take my almost deranged melancholy away, something I now desired with all the passion of my whole soul for her sake and also for mine. It was most grievous to have to reproduce my own misery. Once again I resigned myself. Thinking only of making her free, I turned away from such a life, but always assured and blessedly assured, God be praised, that God is love — nothing has been more certain to me.

And now, now when in many ways I have been brought to the breaking point, now (since Easter, although with intermissions), a hope has awakened in my soul that it may still be God's will to lift this elemental misery of my being. That is, I now believe in the deepest sense. Faith is spontaneity after reflection. As poet and philosopher I have presented everything in the medium of imagination, myself living in resignation. Now life draws nearer to me, or I draw nearer to myself, come to myself. — For God all things are possible. This thought is now in the deepest sense my watchword and has gained a meaning for me which I had never envisioned. Just because I see no way out, I must never have the audacity to say that therefore there is none for God. For it is despair and blasphemy to confuse one's own little crumb of imagination and the like with the possibilities God has at his disposal.


Report on "The Sickness unto Death"

There is one difficulty with this book: it is too dialectical and stringent for the proper use of the rhetorical, the soul-stirring, the gripping. The title itself seems to indicate that it should be discourses — the title is lyrical.

Perhaps it cannot be used at all, but in any case it is enriched with an excellent plan which always can be used, but less explicitly, in discourses.

The point is that before I really can begin using the rhetorical I always must have the dialectical thoroughly fluent, must have gone through it many times. That was not the case here.

In margin:

If it is to be structured rhetorically, it must be centralized under certain main points, each of which would become one discourse.

What must be understood by the expression "the sickness unto death."

  1. Its hiddenness.
    Not merely that the one who has it, or that one who has it, may wish to hide it. No, the dreadfulness that it is so hidden that one may have it without knowing it.
  2. Its universality.
    Every other sickness is restricted in some way or another, by climate, age, etc.
  3. Its continuance.
    Through all ages — into eternity.
  4. Where is it situated?
    In the self.

The despairing ignorance of having a self; aware of having a self, in despair not to will to be oneself or in despair to will to be oneself.

But the point is that the task is much too great for a rhetorical arrangement, since in that case every single individual figure would also have to be depicted poetically. The dialectical algebra works better.


But here it is still best to use the title "The Sickness unto Death" it is so rhetorical.

The doctrine of sin perhaps could be discussed as follows.

  1. The passage in James:
    No one is tempted by God, everyone is tempted by himself (the self).
  2. Romans 7
    Flesh and blood. Another law in the flesh.
  3. Ephesians
    We have not contended not only against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers.
    The selfishness here
    in despair not to will to be oneself or in despair to will to be oneself.
  4. Everyone who sins is a slave of sin.
    The thralldom of sin.


I see in the papers that my full name has appeared on the billboard, that I have been put on the stage, and that the actor who plays me has done it in such a masterly way that he has been greeted with applause. This seems to me to be inconsistent — for if it had been I in person, I would scarcely have been greeted with applause but no doubt with a little pereat — so the similarity still does not completely disappear.

Incidentally, I have nothing against anybody earning a few tips in these difficult times by turning me into money; here too he is not like me, for I can testify to the fact that the honorarium I have earned in Denmark amounts to less than nothing.



He gives the same impression in his program as a confirmand, or someone who has to stand up next Sunday and be examined; he knows everything inside out — about what a free-state is — has done all his homework, which everyone can do. It is graduate school prose — or like an essay written for the preliminary examination for Danish law students and veterinarians.

There is an unbelievable difference between the brash bold Goldschmidt secure behind privileged contemptibleness and the self-conscious little Goldschmidt. He looks something like a person who has been key man at all the dance halls and pubs standing in elite company and picking at his scarf. As a mother says to her child who has been naughty and now is being good again: Now I cannot recognize you.

But Mr Goldschmidt has help. The main thing is perhaps his connections, his European connections, his connections all over Europe. He himself says: They have stipulated that their articles to Mr. G. may be printed afterwards in foreign journals. Joy over Denmark! What the King of Denmark has barely managed through his ministers to secure for Denmark — to be the foremost state in Europe — G. has achieved by his travels "from which he has recently returned." — If only we can keep G. here so that he is not suddenly summonsed to a European Conference in Neuchatel (where he has been; see — ). Alas, alas. Unless he decides not to go in person but allows himself to be represented in the usual way (as kings by cabinet ministers) — by a blackguard. — In that case we can keep him here and benefit by his powerful connections abroad, all over Europe, his friends in Germany, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, etc. Yes, we are benefited — unless those friends are counterparts of the ones Gert W. (who also has traveled abroad) encountered in his travels: a hatter's apprentice, a strapping farm hand, a hangman with whom he drank Dus, etc.


Spirit in times like these has become a superfluity; art, science, and the like have become a luxury. There was a woman the other day who passionately complained that directly across from her lived a man who had a bowling alley; she found it offensive to national feeling that anyone in these days ran a bowling alley. And just as that poor wretch of a man presumably will slink around now and not dare lift his eyes because he is not a patriot but runs a bowling alley, so we poor authors, artists as well, etc., are becoming aware that if this does not stop we will (in the earnestness of the age) come to be detested as joy-girls.


At present the reality [Realitet] of my work as an author has become, of course, nil, less than nil, will soon be a crime. In order to get money from the state and status as a patriot, I ultimately will be compelled to offer my services to Fædrelandet as a paper boy to deliver papers.


Something about the Forgiveness of Sins

To believe the forgiveness of one's sins is the decisive crisis whereby a human being becomes spirit; he who does not believe this is not spirit. Maturity of the spirit means that spontaneity is completely lost, that a person is not only capable of nothing by himself but is capable only of injury to himself. But how many in truth come in a wholly personal way to understand of themselves that one is brought to this extremity. (Here lies the absurd, offense, the paradox, forgiveness of sins.)

Most men never become spirit, never experience becoming spirit. The stages — child, youth, adult, oldster — they pass through these with no credit to themselves; it is none of their doing, for it is a vegetative or vegetative-animal process. But they never experience becoming spirit.

The forgiveness of sins is not a matter of particulars — as if on the whole one were good (this is childish, for the child always begs forgiveness for some particular thing which it did yesterday and forgets today, etc.; it could never occur to a child, in fact, the child could not even get into its head, that it is actually evil); no, it is just the opposite — it pertains not so much to particulars as to the totality; it pertains to one's whole self, which is sinful and corrupts everything as soon as it comes in slightest contact with it.

Anyone who in truth has experienced and experiences what it is to believe the forgiveness of one's sins has indeed become another person. Everything is forgotten — but still it is not with him as with the child who, after having received pardon, becomes essentially the same child again. No, he has become an eternity older, for he has now become spirit. All spontaneity and its selfishness, its selfish attachment to the world and to himself, have been lost. Now he is, humanly speaking, old, very old, but eternally he is young.


Compounded Feelings

Under this title I have a mind to sketch something lyrical. The point, of course, would be that by means of strictly dialectical computations and by combinations of feelings and by coursing passions one could arrive at what could be called the combined numbers. "The mixture" will therefore signify the intensity, for the greater the compounding into oneness the greater the intensity, the more contradictions, indeed, and yet all the richer harmony.

Incidentally, it would be interesting to compute the whole area of feelings and passions this way, something no one has thought of, even less that the secret is simply to do it dialectically, not lyrically, but dialectically and then lyrically.

As an example of a number of compounded feelings, use could be made of the sketch "Something about Loving".





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