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



Magister Adler's collision with the universal is, therefore, that of a special individual who has a revelation. To want to deny altogether the possibility of this extraordinary experience happening to a man in our age too would certainly have very dubious implications. But if there is nothing new under the sun, neither is there any direct, uniform repetition — there are continually new modifications. Our age is the age of reflection and good sense. It would be all right to assume, then, that the person who in our age is thus called by God would be related to his age. He no doubt would have superior reflective powers as an instrument at his disposal. This, then, would be the apparent difference between the "called" person in our age and one in an older age (for the essential likeness is and remains the call) — namely, that the called person in our age would have as his instrument a serviceable capacity for reflection, before which I, a humble critic, bow seven times, and before his call by revelation seventy times. The called person in our age will not merely be the instrument (spontaneous) but will consciously take possession of his call in quite another sense than what always has been the case in a divine call — to make up his mind about and to understand himself in this extraordinary thing that has happened to him.

To what extent it is possible to comprehend a divine call within human reflection, a joint activity, is a problem which I, a poor menial critic, do not dare presume to answer. The answer would first of all involve the life of the extraordinary person, were such a one to appear. But I can, up to a certain point, dialectically work through the idea until reflection runs aground.

If, then, everything is on the level in this matter of a man being called by a revelation, and he has a superior capacity for reflection at his disposal, he would understand that the ethical accompaniment to this call and this possession of a revelation is an enormous responsibility in all directions, not merely inwardly (that he himself was sure that this extraordinary thing had happened to him and understood himself in it, this we assume), but outwardly in relation to the established order, because in reflection the extraordinary has the dialectic not only of being the supreme salvation but also of being potentially the worst corruption. His responsibility in reflection would then be that he not become the worst misfortune for the established order and that with fear and trembling he see to it, as far as he is able, that no one is harmed by a direct relationship to his extraordinariness. If we now let the serviceable reflection give counsel all by itself, then the final consequence would be that he completely destroys himself, humanly understood, completely destroys his own impression, makes himself as humble and insignificant as possible, almost detestable, because in reflection (where every qualification is indeed dialectical) he properly understands that the extraordinary, beyond the point where it is in truth and is the extraordinary, is and can occasion the most frightful corruption. In the uttermost consistency of reflection he would then transform the act of revelation itself into his life's deepest secret, which in deathly silence becomes the law of his existence, but which he never communicates directly. — But look precisely this would be to fail completely in his task, in fact, would be disobedience to God. For the person who is called by a revelation is specifically called to appeal to his revelation; he must, in fact, use authority by virtue of being called by a revelation. In a religious revival it is not up to the person who has been awakened in an extraordinary way to go out and preach this to people; on the contrary, it can be completely right and pleasing to God and obedience to God for this to remain the awakened person's secret with God. But if the person who is called by a revelation and to communicate a revelation wants to be silent about the fact of the revelation, then he offends God and reduces God's will to nothing. It is the very fact of the revelation which is decisive; it is this which gives him divine authority. It does not depend — as they teach in the confused philosophy of our age — upon the content of the doctrine, but the fact of revelation and the divine authority which follows from it are decisive. If I imagined a letter from heaven, then it is not the contents of the letter, no matter from whom it came, which is the main point. The main point is that it is a letter from heaven.....


The book is to be dedicated to Bishop Mynster.


His Excellency

Your Grace, Bishop Dr. Mynster
St. D., DM., a.o.
this small book
is dedicated
in deepest veneration.


N.B. It is best to remove the allusions to the dogma of inherited sin which are found especially in chapter two (and anywhere else they are found). It would take me too far out, or farther than is needed here or is useful. What is appropriately stated about sin — that orthodoxy teaches that there must be a revelation to show what sin is — is not said with respect to the doctrine of inherited sin.


...if he were not properly composed originally of the temporal and the eternal, he could not despair at all. Thus despair in man is a misrelation between the temporal and the eternal, of which his nature is composed — but from God's hand in the right relationship.

How does the misrelationship happen, then? From the man himself, who disturbs the relationship, which is precisely to despair. How is this possible? Quite simple. In the composite of the eternal and the temporal, man is a relationship, in this relationship itself and relating itself to itself. God made man a relationship; to be a human being is to be a relationship. But a relationship which, by the very fact that God, as it were, releases it from his hand, or the same moment God, as it were, releases it, is itself, relates itself to itself — this relationship can become in the same moment a misrelationship. To despair is the misrelationship taking place.



The undersigned plans to give a little series of lectures on the organizing trend throughout my entire work as an author and its relation to the modern period illuminated by references to the past.

As auditors I have in mind particularly theological graduates or even more advanced students. It is assumed that the auditors will be well acquainted with the works, and others are requested not to consider this invitation. I would add that these lectures will in no sense be an enjoyment but rather hard work, and therefore I do not entice anyone. And this work will have times, in the understanding of the moment and of impatience, when it is plain boring, which in my opinion is inseparable from all deeper understanding, and therefore I warn everyone against participating. If I succeed in being understood, the auditor will have the benefit that his life will have been made considerably more difficult than ever, and for this reason I urge no one to accept this invitation.

As soon as ten have signed up, I will begin; the limit is twenty, inasmuch as I wish to have such a relation to the auditors that the lectures might be, if necessary, made colloquies.

The fee is five rix-dollars, registration with the undersigned.



Gratified to learn that my upbuilding writings, addressed to the single individual, are still read by many individuals, I have considered obliging these my readers, and perhaps gaining more individuals as readers, by publishing such works in the future in smaller sections on a subscription basis. The possible advantages are, first, that the books will be read better if they are read in smaller sections, second, that a certain calmness of understanding may enter into the relation between author and reader, so that a beginning need not be made each time, and finally, that the publication can properly take place quietly and unnoticed, avoiding the attention of all those not concerned.

From July 1 of this year I plan, then . . . .

S. Kierkegaard
January, 1848





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