My life is exceedingly trying; I feel so alien to, so at variance with, what commonly preoccupies men. Day in and day out I detect my heterogeneity in practically every contact and in the most varied ways. Encompassed at all times by curiosity, always a stranger, now envied, now the butt of laughter, of boorish stares — everything possible is done to prevent me from being myself and to prevent anyone else from being himself in relation to me. In every situation I am not actually treated as a person but as a kind of interesting object, variously understood, something to talk about. If I were to say to a shoemaker: I have a defect in one foot, could you alter the boot to compensate for it, I risk that his first concern as soon as he gets home to his family will be to report: Søren K. has a defective foot. And it may go farther, perhaps get into the papers; perhaps I may get to read about it in Swedish (as I read about my walking), read about it in the papers (just as the way I dress, for that matter, is subjected to journalistic circulation), and then I may have every passerby looking (as they have looked at my legs and pants for a year now) at my feet and forgetting to get out of the way although I have the right of way, simply because they must look at my foot ——— all that I may achieve, but still the boots would not be satisfactory.
Certainly this is extremely comical, but it also says something about how exhausting my life is.
As mentioned, the strain is due, among other things, to my being altogether different from other men. Either they live solely for finite goals, and this is the class of men I like best, with whom I would have been on good terms if the rabble-rousing press had not intervened, or they pretend to be living for something higher, but this is just a hoax. In any case the kind of life I lead for the idea is just as different from the lives men live hereabouts as speaking the Hebrew language is from speaking Danish — we not only do not share a common effort but in a sense we do not share a common language insofar as they use the language fraudulently.
Consider a criminal — his life is different from the life of other men. But then again there usually are several criminals and together they form their own world. But imagine being the only criminal — would it not be exceedingly trying.
Conversely, consider the highest example, the God-man — living in that manner, knowing that he has come to light a fire — and it is not a question of setting fire to a house or two, no, but of setting fire to the human race — — the appalling strain of being a man and of living among men and yet being differentiated this way from what it is to be a man — of this I can form a slight conception.
From this I can also understand what nonsense it is with these millions of Christians and thousands of clergymen, for if a man has to experience the tension I do merely to get a slight conception of Christ's suffering — what is it then that the preachers, as the more advanced, preach and the congregations take after.
The Savior of the World
Whenever I think of the insipid, mawkish, syrupy concept of the Savior of the world which Christendom adores and offers for sale, reading his own words about himself has a strange effect: "I have come to set afire," come to produce a split which can tear the most holy bonds, the bonds God himself has sanctified, the bonds between father and son, wife and husband, parents and children, etc.
An Altogether Unique Kind of Proclamation
has been entrusted to me, and how strenuous it is to the nth power.
Wherever I look, the law for proclamation until now has always been: If men are willing to accept the proclamation and say to him, "What is it you want us to do? Do you want us to do just what you are doing?" — the answer has always been, "Yes." Not so with me. If all the millions of people alive approached me all together with the greatest receptivity and said: "What do you want us to do? Do you want us to do as you do?" — I would be obliged to answer: "No, there is not one single person alive who shares my task, and, in my opinion, not one person among these millions shares a task with one another" — — and precisely this is what I must proclaim. The difference is similar to that between collecting and dispersing; as a rule all proclamation aims at collecting people; mine aims at dispersing them, making them single individuals.
This much is clear. The person who answers "Yes" to the question (Shall we do as you do?) may himself be an individuality, but his proclamation is not the proclamation of individuality. He obviously has a doctrine, and his doctrine does not really make men individualities but specimens.
My proclamation is the proclamation of reduplicated individuality.
But how can I possibly be understood even in the remotest manner in a period when every strategy aims at collecting men and when no one, of course, has any intimation of a strategy aimed at dispersing them or how the one is more strenuous than the other by a whole quality.
Yet this is the path the human race must take.
And my task is this: myself an individuality and keeping myself that (and in infinite love God in heaven keeps an eye on this), to proclaim what boundless reality [Realitet ] every man has in himself when before God he wills to become himself. But consequently I do not have a stitch of doctrine — and doctrine is what people want. Because doctrine is the indolence of aping and mimicking for the learner, and doctrine is the way to sensate power for the teacher, for doctrine collects men. The proclamation of individuality is: blessedly compensated within oneself — to be sacrificed to men.
In the strictest sense my proclamation is a service of the spirit. Everything proclaimed with the aim of collecting men is connected in one way or other to an animal definition of man. That is why it is so easy. For if the whole thing is just the encompassing of more and more, if specimens are reckoned with and not individualities, then thousands can be had quickly — alas, in a certain sense there are enough of them. But the proclamation of individuality is so slow that just one is already something great, and one must be able to be satisfied with none at all — which in another sense the authentic individual can already do since he is himself.
My proclamation is similar to someone's declaring: What a beautiful sight the starry evening sky is. Now if thousands were willing to accept his proclamation and said to him: "What do you want us to do, do you want us to memorize what you said" — would he not be obliged to answer: "No, no, no, I want each one to gaze at the starry evening sky and, each in his way — it is possible for him to be uplifted by this sight."
Alas, but man is still an animal-creature, and the indolent inclination to ape and mimic seems to be his second nature. That is why it is so very easy to collect them in a herd; that a proclaimer will get thousands who want to learn what he says by rote, perhaps become professors of it — but perhaps not one in ten thousand who himself gazes at the starry evening sky. But are not the proclaimers all too frequently to blame when the whole thing becomes aping and copying, for it is to their earthly and temporal advantage. Be unprincipled, if you will, toward the starry evening sky, make it seem that what is glorious is not the starry evening sky but your conception of it, get a few blaring knights of commerce on your staff, and you will soon get a crowd who will pay a fancy price for your wonderful instruction. Ah, but if you are honest toward the starry evening sky, if you tell the truth and declare that the glory belongs to it and that every man could if he would see its glory in his own way, and that his own way means infinitely much more to him than yours to him or his to you: well, then there is really no occasion for making money or for animal-like crowding together in herds.
Certainly there is no one else in the kingdom of Denmark with the sense for individuality that I have. But there certainly are sufficient semi-intelligent fellows who conceitedly look down on the human throng as lower beings. This truly is not the case with me. A maidservant, a watchman, a cabdriver has had infinite worth to me. I also knew (as no one else in Denmark) how to talk with unconditionally any and every person and idealise them in the conversation. That was my practice (inhuman?) —and that was why I was abandoned to rabble-maltreatment or that was why the rabble's mistreatment took on an utterly distinctive meaning in my case, since I felt that I ought to expose myself to it. What pains me is that I no longer can come in touch with all these people whom I love but who now either feel obliged to make a fool of me or are afraid that I am making a fool of them.
What a tragedy, these thousands and thousands — every single one could grasp the highest, acquire the infinite worth that is his — but all goes to waste, and everything is also done by the politicians and their like to transform them into specimens. Think of a housewife's shock and distress at seeing good, nourishing food thrown into the gutter — this is but a poor illustration of the shock and distress which must fill the heart of someone who, himself an individuality, sees in every single human being something of absolutely equal significance, something of infinite worth, an individuality — and then sees them wasted by the millions as specimens!
Act as an individuality yourself, engage a half-dozen Corybants, trumpeters, and drummers to proclaim that one becomes an individuality through a relationship to you — it will work like a charm, will soon become a brilliantly successful business. Proclaim the truth that every man, unconditionally every man, is an individuality, becomes that by the relationship to God, who in no way has assigned you to collect his debts — and you will see that it becomes an affair of which one can say (as that woman in Barselstuen tearfully says of the meat which nevertheless cost — a pound): There is not an ounce of fat on it.
If Christ had agreed to regard baptism as Christendom regards it today, as analogous to circumcision, an opus operatum, he would hardly have used the word baptism figuratively, as, for example, when he speaks of being baptized with a baptism — "Are you able to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" — an expression which refers to his suffering.
An Apostle — My Inferiority
An apostle's task is: to spread Christianity, to win men to Christianity.
My task is: to disabuse men of the illusion that they are Christians — yet I am serving Christianity.
Christianity has now existed for 1800 years — show me that this idea has ever been advanced before in Christendom.
My life, like everything else in the sphere in which I belong, for which I work, is in the sphere of the paradox: the positive is recognisable by a negative. Alas, it is true my life is utter sadness, like nighttime (so those words from the Diapsalmata in Either/Or are entirely appropriate: When I die, I will be able to say: Du bist volbracht nachtwache meines Daseins); it is true my life is pain and suffering, and God — lovingly and out of love — tortures me where it hurts the most: yet his negative is a mark of the positive, a primitivity that does not relate to the contemporary age but to coming generations, and a significance which is properly expressed by the fact that I am superfluous to my age.
By and large my age is entirely right in pretending to be ignorant of me as anything else than a caricature recognised by everyone on the street; my age is especially right in not getting involved in judging me. For of course none of my contemporaries has any intimation of my task, even less of the strategy related to the task. But it would be the most ridiculous thing one could ask for: my work (aiming to disabuse men of the idea that they are Christians) judged by the current criterion, the common, trivial, insipid, shabby notion of spreading Christianity. Think of a soldier who knew nothing but offensive tactics, and that perhaps rather poorly, and then he wants to use this criterion to judge a defensive military operation — this would be somewhat analogous: he would have no conception of the strategy that must be used. Another analogy: if someone who could play a game in which the lowest score wins were to see a high-scoring game and then wanted to judge a player's moves, his way of playing, by his own method. It does not help that those who are engaged these days in what is called spreading Christianity are mediocre partners; they do not thereby come any closer to understanding my task, my tactic. It would be more likely to happen if they were distinguished in their own enterprise. For real competence in proclaiming Christianity — and also reflection on the depth of confusion implicit in the concept "Christendom" might very well lead them to understand my cause or bring them closer to it.
From time immemorial the work has gone on as follows: the more outstanding and competent people have all suspended judgment on whether Christianity exists, on the matter of Christian states and countries and races — and then they thought to remedy deficiencies in details and if possible to bring in a little new life — before they realized the result of their activity, that they fostered the misunderstanding, nurtured the sickness, which was very quick to assimilate weak remedies and transform them into sustenance for itself.
No, no, the matter must be treated basically, the terrain must be cleared, it must be made effectually evident that Christianity does not exist....
A View of Christianity
which, according to my knowledge, has never been advanced is that Christianity is Satan's invention reckoned to make men unhappy through the imagination. Just as the worm and the bird look for the best fruit, so Satan has set his cap for the very superior ones, those with high imagination and feeling, aiming to lure them astray through the imagination, to get them to make themselves unhappy and, if possible, the others along with them.
This view should be listened to. Certainly when that high plateau has been reached where becoming a Christian can actually be said to begin, every single step is such a strain, so dangerous, that it is continually a question of "black or red," whether it is God or it is Satan. To be a Christian, just to approach it, is such an ideality that it continually is: either God or Satan.
But how in the world did we get into this mess of Christendom, these millions of Christians! A harmless, grunting, prosperous bourgeois, provided that he is generous to the pastor, is supposed to be the earnest Christian, typical — but this is really as ridiculous as if the Round Tower were to pass itself off as an eighteen-year-old-dancer.
How is it possible that this confusion came to be! I, of course, attribute it mainly to "the clergyman", because it is to the interest of his trade that there be as many Christians as possible. Suppose a recruiting officer were sent out to recruit and he was promised a specific sum for everyone he recruited and there was no investigation of his recruits — what then? I believe it would end with his recruiting cripples, the bedridden, old crones, in short, those who would be useless in war but whom he could get for the cheapest price — whereupon he would hand in his lists and get paid for each one. So it is with Christendom. The fact that the auditing does not come until eternity has practically the same effect as if there were none — and now the clergyman himself, himself not a Christian, of course, stakes everything on winning paying souls. Anyone who can pay is a Christian, that is if he is willing to pay — otherwise he is a pagan. If he is willing to pay — fine, then he is an earnest Christian. If the household pets could pay for themselves, I am certain that "the clergyman" would make them Christians as well.
What disgusting nonsense and villainy! Alas, I can certainly see that in a certain sense Bishop Mynster was right in saying of my position: "It is pitched altogether too high." I really am not very good at dealing with people. What one of my pseudonyms with a tinge of paganism declares: I dance to the glory of the god, and what I have sometimes said to Professor Nielsen: My life is a service in the royal court — this is indeed true.
That is how I have lived among men. Among the Danish poets now living there is not one who can ever reach as high in imaginative performance as I do in actuality. A few people, those who are a little more advanced, seem to find it quite amusing to watch me, talk a little with me, otherwise flatter themselves as being more sensible, for my position, after all, is an exaggeration — but there was no one, not one, who could or would venture out. And from the moment I began to withdraw a little from men, so as not to indulge in their nonchalant point of view myself but demonstrate earnestness, even though very slightly, they were offended.
"A Better Future"
There is something naive and undialectical about letting oneself get enthusiastic at the thought of a better future, a future time when one will be better understood — quite as if things did not substantially remain just as bad, or, if there is a change, then for the worse.
A better future, that is, a time when one will be better understood, a future when admiring scoundrel professors and the preacher-rabble turn the life and activity and witness of those who are dead into profit for themselves and their families. Is this a better future, is this becoming better understood.
Take the highest example of all: which misunderstanding is the greater, which must be most loathsome to Christ — that of the Jews who put him to death or of Christendom which turned him into profit? Unquestionably the latter, yes, only the latter must be really loathsome.
And yet all the men I have read about who have fought for something (Socrates the only exception) have always been inspired by the thought of a better future when they would be better understood.
This thought does not inspire me the least, and in my opinion to require an inspiring idea like this (an illusion) is an indirect proof that one is not intrinsically self-possessed in this enthusiasm. In any case this thought does not inspire me; on the contrary, what incites me most of all is to contemplate this knavish posterity. The misunderstanding of the contemporary age is not nearly as embittering or, if you please, as hopeless — no, everything is hopelessly lost and one's life is tortured by misunderstanding when that misunderstanding is devoid of character, is unthinking admiration.
What money is in the finite world, concepts are in the world of spirit. All transactions are conducted with them.
When it so happens that generation after generation everyone takes over the concepts he got from the previous generation — and then devotes his days and his time to enjoying this life, works for finite goals, etc. — it all too easily happens that the concepts are gradually distorted, become entirely different from what they were originally, come to mean something entirely different, come to be like counterfeit money. Meanwhile all transactions nevertheless continue to be conducted smoothly with them, which, incidentally, does not disturb men's egotistical interests (which is not the case when counterfeit money appears), especially if the concept-counterfeiting is oriented precisely toward human egotism; thus the one who is actually fooled, if I dare say so, is the other partner in the business of Christianity: God in heaven.
Yet no one wants the business of auditing the concepts. Everyone understands more or less clearly that to be employed in such a way in this business is practically the same as being sacrificed, means that a person's life becomes so impounded that he cannot follow his natural inclination to occupy himself with finite goals. No, the human thing to do is to treat the concepts as superficially as possible and to plunge into the concrete details of life the sooner the better, or in any case not to be particularly scrupulous about the concepts, not so scrupulous that one cannot move full speed into the concrete details of life.
Nevertheless auditing is needed, and more and more with each decade.
Therefore Governance must take possession of an individual who is to be used for this purpose.
Such an auditor, of course, is nothing at all like the whole chattering company of preachers and professors — yet he is not an apostle either, but rather just the opposite.
Precisely what the auditor needs is what the apostle does not really need — intellectuality, superior intellectuality — moreover, he must be extremely familiar with all possible kinds of swindling and counterfeiting, almost as if he personally were the trickiest of all swindlers — in fact, his business is to "know" the counterfeits.
Since all this knowledge is so very shady and equivocal that it could occasion the greatest possible confusion, the auditor is not treated like the apostle. Alas, no, the apostle is a trusted man; the auditor is put under the strictest supervision. Because it is so descriptive, my one metaphor for this is constantly the same. Imagine that the Bank of London became aware that counterfeit notes were in circulation — so well counterfeited that the bank despaired of identifying them with certainty and of protecting itself against future imitation. Despite all the talented bank and police personnel, there was only one with absolute talent in this area — but he was a criminal, one of the condemned. So he is used, but he is not used as a trusted man. He is placed under the most terrifying supervision: with death hanging over his head, he has to sit and handle all that mass of money, he is periodically searched, etc.
It is the same with the Christian auditor. If the apostle has the task of proclaiming the truth, the auditor has the task of discovering counterfeits, identifying them and thereby rendering them impossible. If the apostle's personal attribute is a noble and pure simplicity (which is the condition for being the instrument of the Holy Spirit), the auditor's is this shady, ambiguous knowledge. If the apostle is in the power of Governance in a univocal and wholly good sense, the auditor is completely in the power of Governance in an equivocal sense. If with all his efforts and work the apostle still has no merit before God, the auditor has even less and could not possibly gain any (were it otherwise possible), since he has a negative service to fulfill and thus is essentially a penitent — but essentially both of them are sacrificed and both are chosen in grace by Governance, for it is not in disgrace that the one is chosen as auditor. And as it begins with the apostle, the auditor obviously can come only toward the end, since he has the dissemination as a presupposition. And if the apostle has his name from being sent out because he proceeds from God outwards, the examiner's task is to penetrate the counterfeits and lead back to God.
Apostles can never come again; otherwise Christ also must be able to come again in a way different than his second coming. Christ's life on earth is Christianity. The apostle signifies: Now Christianity has been introduced; from now on you men have to take it over yourself, but with responsibility.
So mankind took it over. And even if it is an everlasting lie that Christianity is perfectible, mankind certainly displayed a mounting perfectibility — in counterfeiting Christianity.
Confronted with this counterfeiting, God — even if he wanted to (and even if there were no other hindrance) — cannot use an apostle, because through its counterfeiting Christendom has so alienated itself from God that a trusting appeal to men, if I dare put it this way, is out of the question. No, as Christendom is a counterfeiting, and since sin nowadays is primarily prudence, on the side of Governance (whom man with his counterfeiting has alienated) all is distrust. Joyous emissaries no longer come from God, any more than we hail the police as such; no, only experts in frauds come, and even these, since they in fact essentially belong to the general fraudulence, are treated by Providence as shady and equivocal characters.
Christendom today is happy and satisfied. Not infrequently we are given the impression that a new epoch is coming, new apostles are coming — because Christendom, which of course has done an excellent job, has so perfectly practised and appropriated what the apostles introduced that now we must go further. The truth is that Christendom has done the shabbiest, trickiest job possible, and to expect new apostles (if there were any truth to this idea at all) is the most confounded insolence.
When I so frequently have compared myself to a secret agent, a doomed person with more than ordinary knowledge of all kinds of counterfeiting but who is himself placed under the strictest supervision, this is a completely true and very descriptive comparison.
But viewed from another side I am anything but a rogue. On the contrary what I represent is a human integrity which has refused to avail itself of or take part in Christendom's having extracted from Christianity something pleasing to flesh and blood, something entirely different from what it is in the New Testament.
My proposal is always the same: let us be honest, state plainly where we are, but do not counterfeit Christianity. Understood thus, God assists me in order to prevent me from slipping into any illusion. It is not just in connection with Christianity that I compare myself to a doomed person, no, it is in connection with my personal life and what I personally may have on my conscience. And my honesty about Christianity is linked to my desire to do, if possible, something well-pleasing to God precisely because I personally may have much to blame myself for.
Somewhere in these journals there is something about my never craving a social life, and this is certainly quite true but yet must be understood in a special way.
In one sense there perhaps are few natures as social as I was. Alas, but the miserable plight that has been my lot from my early days made it preferable and a great relief for me to be able to remove myself unsociably from everybody, hiding my pain. In this sense it is true that I have not craved sociality.
In order really to have a relationship to Christianity, most men first seem to have to be plunged into sufferings of which they at present have scarcely any intimation. My life was suffering very early. In contrast to what men normally call the joy of life, my joy in life was to be able to hide it.
To Proclaim True Christianity, the Christianity of the New Testament!
is in one sense beyond a man's powers; divine authority is required for this, or, more correctly, a divine absorption in the unconditioned.
To take myself, for instance. I actually do have an awareness of what Christianity is — nothing is more certain than that. Humanly speaking, I have had to become fundamentally unhappy in order to remain aware — nothing is more certain than that.
But now when I am supposed to turn toward men and proclaim Christianity to them, the matter is altogether different. My human sympathies cut across — for the fact remains that to become a Christian is to become, humanly speaking, unhappy.
Here it comes — do I have the heart to make men, humanly speaking, unhappy? This is the point! That I have had to become unhappy concerns only me. But others — and that I am the one who is supposed to do it! Thus the whole matter is reversed and it is roughly equivalent to my saying, as I proclaim Christianity: Forgive me, O forgive me for making you, humanly speaking, unhappy. I am also saying something similar in another way when I say: "It is your own fault that the price of being a Christian has to be forced up so high," for here it is as if I were not speaking about a good but almost an evil, which against is bound up with the fact that true Christianity must make a man, humanly speaking, unhappy.
It is different with the apostle; he is unconditionally absorbed in the unconditioned, blind to everything else, in a certain sense does not see, humanly speaking, what he is doing — namely, making us men, humanly speaking, unhappy.
Incidentally, here again we see the distinguishing marks of this sphere: the positive is recognisable by the negative; Christ is the Savior of the world (the positive), recognised by the negative, by the fact that he, he is the very one who makes us men, humanly speaking, unhappy. It is easy to see that this belongs in the sphere of the paradox, and is something else, of course, than this nonsense about the Savior of the world in which Christendom excels.
If someone who had learned to write as we learn it, from left to right, and had never heard of any other way, saw another person writing from right to left, how could he make head or tail of it? Alas, compared to the lives of most people, my life is like that, all wrong according to the ordinary view — how then can I expect to be understood?
Eternity's Price (Buying and Selling)
..... "Studenstrup" is perfectly right in saying that the city hall and courthouse is a very impressive building and at the trifling price those good fellows would sell it for is almost the best business deal possible. The only thing "Studenstrup" has overlooked is the question of the legal right of those good fellows to sell it — it may in fact be the case that even ten dollars is also too much.
So also the case with Christianity and eternal salvation. That eternal salvation is an indescribable, invaluable good is, of course, certain — and for the price at which the pastor will dispose of it: well, there is absolutely no doubt that this is still more brilliant business than Studenstrup's would be.
But what makes me suspicious is whether "the pastor" has such a relationship to eternal salvation that he is able to sell it, whether his connection resembles that of the two rogues to the city hall and courthouse — for even then ten dollars is also too much.
Probably it is better, then, not to let oneself be fooled by the pastor's ridiculous price but to apply to him who actually owns and controls eternal salvation — but who certainly does not have a clearance sale.
The reason Bishop Mynster may be said to have been as ill-starred a figure as possible for me was not that he was not what I needed but that he conjured up an appearance of being what I needed. I needed a man of character in the bishopric of Sjælland — the trouble for me was not that Mynster was not that, for that is of little consequence; no, the trouble was that, refining all the rest of his enjoyments, he craftily also passed for a man of character, a governmental leader, although he was only a Sunday orator and, incidentally, a worldly shrewd eudaimonist.
It was impossible for me to attack him while he was living. For my charge simply was: he does not govern, it is an hallucination; he is a journalist, a slave to the public as much as anybody. But to whom should I say this? And on the other hand, I was fighting on the side of the government and therefore could not very well weaken his position. I said that to him privately — but what did he care about the private man; he was afraid only of the public, for he was cowardly.
If it is correct that we are all Christians, that the first person I meet on the street is a Christian, in short, everyone — then the New Testament is the most ridiculous of books and God as impractical as possible. Can anything more ridiculous be imagined than to set in motion motivations such as eternal punishment and heaven's salvation in order to produce this effect? Can anything more ridiculous be imagined than using a jack to pick up a pin — and likewise to use eternal damnation to bring people to the half-demoralised, more or less harmless fuddy-duddyism which is just about what it is to be a human being.
And that this can go on in such a way that no one ever catches on or raise a hue and cry — yes, it just proves again how insignificant men's lives are.
The centurion says: Truly this man was the son of God. He has obviously heard wrong, just as did all the bystanders, and believed that Christ called upon Elijah. And yet Christ is saying something entirely different.
But is this not singular, stirring, that precisely these most suffering words of Christ, to which the bystanders, if they had heard correctly, would have had to reply: Look, he gave himself up — that these words are heard wrongly by the bystanders. The bystanders hear the words in such a way that they see them as proof of his being the son of God.
There is a deep, mysterious coherence in this; for precisely the enduring of suffering to the uttermost, precisely this was, before God, the expression of his being the son of God. But the wonderful thing is that those around him heard wrongly — and still in a far deeper sense heard correctly. It is as if God spoke through them — by means of letting them hear wrongly.
I see by the papers that the widow of the late Russian Adjutant General of the Marines was named by the Empress to the Order of the Ladies of the Great Martyr Chatarine, Second Class.
Wait a minute! First of all, Chatarine has never been advanced to the class of great martyr. Great martyr — what does that mean? It is nonsense — but of course deliberately intended to broaden the rubric of martyr in such a way that anybody and everybody can come under it. So a real martyr is advanced and called a great martyr — perhaps there is one class still higher: geheime general ober hof great martyrs.
Second, to establish an order for aristocratic women who, please note, do not become martyrs but — just the opposite — decorate themselves with a certain kind of ribbon etc., thereby enabling them to make a more ostentatious appearance in the most select salons.
Third, "Second Class" — so there are more classes!
This, you see, is an example of playing Christianity (as if all Christendom were anything else).
Men are constantly engaged in broadening the concepts in such a way that they become child's play, an artifice, the very opposite of earnestness, a refinement.
How dreadfully true are Christ's words that they who build the tombs of the martyrs are just as guilty as they who put them to death — to me they seem worse, to me there seems to be more humanness in the temper that flares up and kills than in this oafish post-mortem game which hits upon the idea of decorations on the occasion of a martyr's death, and then, decked out in ribbons, one becomes celebrated and distinguished in society. The martyr's death shriek must sound dreadful to his murderer, but it seems to me it sounds even more dreadful in this wretched childish nonsense which shamefully exploits him.
I have a born genius for two things: to be a secret agent and to be a courtier. Those we call courtiers have no intimation of what it is to represent Majesty in the highest sense, to bow to genuine Majesty; all their festiveness is still only on the regular scale. But to move and express oneself on the scale which is called the reverse scale is something completely different. — And yet what we call the police are limited by the fact that large numbers invalidate or change the concept, that large numbers make them afraid to prosecute a case, yes, where large numbers make wrong into right. But the police force in which I serve regards numbers itself as a crime, and there can be a criminal case in which centuries are guilty.
A metaphor. Imagine a country where the subjects are happy and contented and the one says to the other: We in our country have the great and priceless blessing that if anyone in any way feels he has been wronged or has anything whatsoever on his mind, he may personally approach the King. It is a matter of common knowledge to all of us that unconditionally everyone has free access to His Majesty. That is the kind of life they have. But look, the unvarnished truth is that everyone thinks something like this: But the smartest thing to do, after all, is to avoid a personal approach to His Majesty. After all, it is a very delicate, awkward matter to stand before His Majesty. It opens the door for all sorts of troubles afterward with officials and many others. In short, summa summarum, no one personally approaches His Majesty.
Similarly, Christendom is more or less a society of men who are happily and mutually convinced that unconditionally every single person may personally and individually approach His Heavenly Majesty at any time — but the smartest thing.....
All the extraordinaries who, thinly scattered, have lived through the course of time, have certainly, every one of them, expressed their judgment on "man". One person's report makes out that man is an animal; another's that he is a hypocrite, he is a liar, etc.
I may not be far off if I say: man is a nonsense — and he is that with the aid of language.
With the aid of language every man participates in the highest — but to participate in the highest with the aid of language, in the sense of talking about it, is just as ironical as being a spectator in the gallery observing the royal dinner table.
If I were a pagan I would say that an ironical deity had bestowed the gift of speech upon man in order to amuse himself by watching this self-deception.
By language man distinguishes himself from the animal, the dumb beast — but perhaps the dumb beast still has the advantage, at least it is not — cheated or does not cheat itself out of the highest.
In margin of previous:
According to Christianity it is of course out of love that God has bestowed upon man the gift of speech and thereby made it possible for everyone to grasp the highest — alas, with what sorrow must God see the result!
Let the Little Children Come to Me
Yes, absolutely right — Christ is the Savior of the world, and the infant, too, by its existence belongs to the lost race.
But to interpret this passage in the way it has already been repeated millions and trillions of times: Now let us simply have children, for Christ says, "Let the little children come to me" — this is either stupid animalism or insolence, impudence.
In Christendom they have managed to make Christ over into a good fellow, the one who provides wine at the banquet, almost as if Christ had not come into the world to save a lost people but in order to stand as God-father to the children of the world.
However, the matter is as simple as this — we have heard all too much about saving the race (which means the race is lost); the main question has to do with being saved out of the race, and obviously the first step must be to quarantine the race.
Christ did not come in order to become the founder of a new race, descending from him. Yet this is exactly how Christendom wants to rewrite Christianity, instead of letting it remain as it stands in the New Testament: The race is lost, Christ wants to save; not: Christ wants to become the point of departure for a new race.
So far removed, so distant is Christendom (Protestantism, especially in Denmark) from the Christianity of the New Testament that I continually must emphasise that I do not call myself a Christian and that my task is to articulate the issue, the first condition for any possibility of Christianity again.
It was incendiarism (this is how Christ himself describes his commission), it was incendiarism, setting fire to men by evocatively introducing a passion which made them heterogeneous with what is naturally understood to be man, heterogeneous with the whole of existence, an incendiarism which must necessarily cause discord between father and son, daughter and mother — in short, in the most intimate, the most precious relationships, an incendiarism with the intention of tearing apart "the generation" in order to reach "the individual", which is what God wants and therefore the passion introduced was: to love God, and its negative expression: to hate oneself.
It was incendiarism. But it is not always water that is used to put out a fire — however, to keep the metaphor, I could certainly say that Christendom is the water that has put out the fire. But, as mentioned, one does not always use water; sometimes one uses, for example, featherbeds, blankets, mattresses, and the like to smother a fire. And so I say that if Christendom is the bulk that has smothered that fire once lighted, it now has such an enormous layer of the numerical beneath it that Christianity may serenely and safely be made into just the opposite of what it is in the New Testament.
Whoever you are, if it is your purpose, your idea to do your bit to help smother the fire still more, then get busily involved in this massive popularisation, doing it under the name of spreading Christianity, and you will do as much harm as you can possibly do. But if you want Christianity again, fire again, then do all you can to get rid of the featherbeds, blankets, and mattresses, the grossly bulky stuff — and there will be fire.
The orders for busyness of that kind are: Away, away with abstractions: the state church, the folk church, Christian countries — for any effort of that kind is treason against the fire; they are the featherbeds and blankets that help smother the fire still more. But efforts of the kind that aims at dispersing, aims at "the individual," are the solution.
It was incendiarism. For the time being forget that, forget that this is Christ's own view of Christianity. From what you see to be Christianity here, would it ever even remotely occur to you that it was to set fire that the founder of this religion came to earth, would you not get the overall impression that it must have been to put out fire that he came to the world.
It was incendiarism — and nowadays Christianity is reassurance, reassurance about eternity in order that we may all the better be able to rejoice and enjoy this life.
As we all know, a person can get sick from a fetid stench; there are various other disgusting smells which a man cannot bear, from which he gets sick — but one can also get sick from stupid nonsense. And just as during plague or cholera the surgeon walks about and chews on something to prevent inhaling, so also one may well have a spiritual need for something in the mouth when one has to work incessantly against stupid nonsense. But there is the difference that for the surgeon inhaling may actually be dangerous, and for the other practitioner it is not harmful, may even be beneficial. For while man by nature wishes for what can give him pleasure in life, the religious person on active duty needs a proper dose of disgust with life in order to be fit for his task; disgust with life, taken properly (for the way it is used is crucial), is the best safeguard against getting involved in stupid nonsense.
The Christian Coat of Arms
Just as everything Christian is the direct opposite of the directly human, so this, too. The memory of one's exploits is preserved directly as heraldic insignia — Christianly the memory of one's guilt — so in a way the cock became Peter's symbol — zum Andenken.
How far Christianity is from existing is seen best in me. For even with the clarity I have — I still am not a Christian. Yet it seems to me that, despite the abyss of nonsense into which we are thrust, we all will still be just as fully saved.
This is the result of having gotten the very opposite, so-called Christianity, as a child.
But nevertheless my situation is difficult enough. I am not like a pagan to whom an apostle proclaims Christianity briefly and to the point — no, I am the one who, so to speak, has to discover Christianity himself, work it out of the bewitchment into which it has been hexed.
Three Things for Which I Thank God
- that no living person owes me his life
- that he prevented me from carelessly becoming a pastor in the sense in which one is a pastor around here these days, which is a mockery of Christianity
- that I voluntarily exposed myself to being abused by The Corsair
My Task: To Make Room
I am not an apostle who brings something from God, and with authority.
No, I serve God, but without authority. My task is to make room so that God can have access. [In margin: My task is not to make room imperatively but, suffering, to make room.]
From this it is readily apparent why I literally must be a single man and also be kept very weak and frail.
For if that which is supposed to make room came, for example, at the head of a couple of battalions — well, humanly speaking this seems a wonderful way to make room, the surest way. But then the very thing which is supposed to make room could occupy the space itself, could occupy so much space that God could not really have access.
My task is to make room — and I am a police detective, if you please. But in this world the police came with force and arrest the others — the higher ranking police come suffering and ask instead to be arrested.
Mynster and I
are the collision between the old and the new.
As a rule the new comes in its own self-interest and wants to stamp out, overthrow, the old — the sooner the better.
I come deferentially, even wanting to play the new into his hands as his last triumph, hiding myself and all my sufferings and sacrifices for the cause in the most obscure incognito, even the incognito of being a laughing stock, while the whole age, I in the lead, has bowed before Mynster as the man.
Governance decreed: Mynster has never deserved that.
And I, too, have surely seen that, but disguise is my life, my element; to suffer, to make sacrifices, etc., that I am willing enough to do, but disguise is a passion with me.
To bury a man who even by proclaiming Christianity has acquired and enjoyed in a very large measure all the earthly goods and advantages possible, to bury him as a witness to the truth is just as ludicrous as burying a virgin who as a matter of fact left three children and was pregnant with the fourth. Such virgins are regarded as ludicrous, and it does not help a bit, it only increases the laughter if the pastor, perhaps for money (since "fine sand" has been ordered) adds emphatically: the real virgins, the true virgins.
The fact is that people are very well informed about the creaturely definition of what it is to be a virgin and the like. But they know nothing at all about what a witness to the truth is, simply because they have managed to make Christianity and the world coincide, whereas the "witness to the truth" is related to Christianity's heterogeneity with this world and therefore always suffers, renounces, and misses out in this world.
Basically Martensen has made Mynster ludicrous, but his contemporaries lack the Christian presuppositions to see that he has been made ludicrous.
On My Being Contemporary with Bishop Mynster
What it actually means is this: the question is — was it possible for me, who presumably am naturally equipped for the catastrophic, was it possible for me to become the last defense of the established instead of attacking it.
I had to have time to make up my mind on this question. That was why Governance arranged it so that I had as a contemporary the man at the head of the established order, the man for whose sake I wanted so very much to be adaptable in every way.
How I wanted — for many reasons — to be the last defense. But actually it is Mynster who, by what I have endured because of him and by what I have perceived in him and where he is leading us, has changed me or, more correctly, has contributed to making me more clear about myself.
Mynster and I
I have rescued Mynster from what he feared more than the most superstitious of men fear crossing a graveyard at midnight — namely, a religious movement.
And I have helped him to achieve what he wanted more eagerly than the vainest of maidens wants to outshine everybody at the Royal Club — namely, to die undiminished.
was, after all, an egotist — even in the following way: I am fairly convinced that he did not (possibly because of the chance that Martensen would some day succeed him) suggest to him that I actually was a man with a completely different importance and influence than I was believed to have.
Martensen could well have used such counsel. But on the other hand Mynster could not very well give it without giving himself away a little.
Mynster — Martensen
Mynster's prudence consisted in refraining altogether from passing judgment on me, for he surely saw how complicated everything gets here. Then, too, my devotion to him made me try to help him come through all right.
Martensen plunges in headfirst: to say that he is administering the Church is as strange as saying that a man who continually runs headfirst into doors is the boss, although that too takes a little managing.
If Bishop M. were an insignificant person, if — well, then it could readily be shown that what he represents is really not Christianity.
But — in the context of piety — the misfortune is that what he substitutes for decisive, essential Christianity is — in the context of the purely human — so spellbinding — O, so spellbinding, so admirable — O, so admirable. — And against it is — in the context of piety — my personal misfortune that I have so much of the esthetic, the poetic, in me that I am far too captivated and impressed with this spellbinding and admirable aspect of him, that I shall not speak of how in filial piety I sincerely am drawn to this significant person.
How relieved and happy I would be if my task had been to depict the remarkable, the grand and glorious, the admirable aspects of this man. But now that it is my sad task to do just the opposite (to show that all this actually is not decisively Christian), I feel victimised, and victimised again because I know that I will distress many people, even if perhaps not one of them could get angry with me for it, since he will more or less clearly understand that Governance is involved here and will more or less clearly realise that Bishop M. also is guilty in this collision, so that even if it ended with total victory for Bishop M. and total defeat for me [changed from: my total destruction], I would have suffered an injustice at the hands of Bishop M. inasmuch as he has some guilt in this collision.
But now to the heart of the matter.
Bishop Mynster does not place Christianity into actuality but at imagination's distance from actuality (the poetic). He substitutes the artistic for decisive Christianity; for Christian dignity he substitutes the most beautiful and spellbinding edition of human distinction; he substitutes the most refined prudential concerns and considerations for Christian venturesomeness, the most tasteful worldly culture for Christian heterogeneity with this world, a rare, uniquely refined enjoyment of this world and this life for renunciation and self-denial.
This must be the nature of the indictment against his whole life.
In a confused, secularised, irreligious age there lives a very shrewd man.
However confused, demoralised, secularised, and irreligious a generation is, there will always be some idea of the earnest, the noble, the elevated, the divine.
That shrewd man understands this — and so he offers the elevated, the noble, the religious at such a bargain price that it becomes the most rewarding thing of all, the most refined refinement, to be the earnest one, the noble one, or to be the earnest one who presents the noble etc. In other words, he exploits the corruption of the age to buy at half-price, yes, at a ridiculously low price, esteem as the earnest one, the noble one — this is the most demoralising, and the person concerned is not the least demoralised.
It is easy to see that a genuinely earnest person in such an age must face a life-and-death collision.
Actuality — Not Attaining Actuality
How is actuality attained? Very simply — by speaking specifically and then speaking to the specific persons with whom you live.
Take an example. In every age there are criminals whom the authorities punish. There also are some whom the authorities do not punish, and as the world becomes more and more corrupt, it seems that these are the very ones who take control. Thus particularly in these times and mainly in the large cities there prevails a vice called slander.
Now take a clergyman. If he is to be of any benefit, he must witness against the vices of the day. But probably the majority of clergymen would avoid doing it — anyone who does that — well, he does not attain actuality.
But there was one person, a zealous man — he does not seem to have anything against being given this distinction. He wants to witness against this vice.
Wait a bit. When slander has more or less gained the upper hand, there must be a few specific people who are the instigators. To attain actuality the thing to do is to aim at these specific people and promptly direct the attack against them, thereby exposing oneself to the inevitability that these specific people, in retaliation for this most specific attack, will direct the whole force of their slander against this specific man: that is how actuality is attained.
But His Holiness does not conduct himself this way. Let me now show how to produce an appearance of actuality which still remains as far removed as possible from attaining actuality.
There was one specific person in the city who was commonly known to be the instigator — this is very seldom the case, a particularity which should have helped His Reverence if he truly had wanted to reach actuality. Is this a sufficiently easy matter? Yes, if one actually wants to attain actuality.
What does His Reverence do now? This specific person flatters His Reverence, pays him public compliments — and His Reverence preaches "about slander". It was a fine speech, and it also was frightfully far removed from "attaining actuality". His Reverence gains esteem as the zealous man who witnesses against the vices of the age, fearlessly, even against the vice which is no doubt the most dangerous to witness against — "slander". At the same time he secures the personal friendship of the slanderer, and thus also makes sure that the latter will not get it in his head to attack His Reverence.
And this is: not attaining actuality! Regard it as one more example of the objective proclamation of Christianity.
Sunday — Monday
There is something historical I want to relate.
In the Middle Ages there lived a famous theologian, Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury. He fell into conflict with the King of England.
Let me first of all briefly give the setting. At that time England had already been Christianized for a long time. There were — yes, I know it is a matter of indifference, so I will make a rough estimate — there were, I suppose, 150 bishops in England. Presumably the bishops did not preach themselves, but every bishop represented — let us take this number — 70 priests. This gives us 10,500 priests. Each of these priests recited every Sunday to his congregation (admonishingly, instructively, movingly, grippingly, fascinatingly, upliftingly, charmingly, wonderfully, in quiet modulation, in open jubilation, etc.) that it is blessed, it is blessed to trust God alone, and that it is every man's duty to do it, and that the Christian does it.
Now back to Anselm. He, to repeat, got into a conflict with the King William. It looks precarious; he is risking something. So he calls his bishops together to discuss with them. They say: "If, as up until now, you continue to cling to God alone ..... then we cannot stay by you."
In margin: See Böhringer, II, pt. 1, p. 295.
I build all my confidence, etc.
This hymn is found in our authorized hymnbook. Perhaps it is found also in the English hymnbook. We all sing it; and 10,500 pastors preach: On God alone I build all my confidence — blessed, blessed, blessed it is, blessed, blessed —
— On Monday (the other, you see, was on Sunday; I forgot to mention it (on Monday the bishops say: If, as up until now, you continue to cling to God alone, then we cannot stay by you. There is certainly an element of truth here, for Anselm himself certainly could not in truth properly hold to God alone if all the bishops were to stay by him.
But how can it be that it was a Christian country and a Christian nation with such a difference between Sunday and Monday?
Make your own application, but — something I always suggest — only so that by your own confession you may come into the relationship to the truth.
A. Have I had any advantage whatsoever from my relationship to Mynster?
B. But has Mynster not had even more advantages from my relationship to him.
- I have protected him in literature (the System — Martensen), made it possible for him to choose Martensen.
- fought against his enemies (Grundtvig, Rudelbach).
- taken upon myself tasks he should have done ( The Corsair ).
- converted the appreciation of my writing into a triumph for him.
- resigned myself to having my proclamation of Christianity, which is far more true than his, labeled as extreme, for his was Christian wisdom; resigned myself to it, yes, even contributed to it, I who was the only one who could oppose Mynster.
Is it I, then, who am ungrateful to him in my enduring all this these many years I lived with him and now at last when he is dead must for the sake of truth say an honest word?
Or is it he who has been ungrateful to me, he who throughout all these years perhaps flattered me in private conversations but officially rejected me, showed favors to Martensen, at least even to Goldschmidt.
The Story of Bishop M.
His character was weak; moreover he had a great sense and fondness for enjoying life, and not the simpler pleasures but the more refined ones, yes, the most refined of all: being honored, esteemed, and respected as a man of earnestness, character, and principles, a man who stands firm when everything shakes, etc.
He was in fact a very gifted man intellectually, an exceptional orator, and definitely was brilliantly [changed from: enormously] shrewd.
This combination is Bishop M., and this combination has managed to confuse a whole generation with respect to Christianity. For his weakness of character is never seen, since it is covered up by his brilliant shrewdness; his desire for pleasure is never seen, it is accepted as — a new refinement! — devout freedom of spirit in contrast to pietistic anxiety.
How dangerous to be as brilliantly shrewd as he was, something that is demonstrated in every one of his sermons. Yes, there perhaps is not one man in each generation who has the sharp Christian detective's eye to see and to show the dubiousness of this. It is so deceptive, pure doctrine, and yet perhaps not one of his points has been devoid of some kind of shrewdness — well-intentioned — namely, to win us men to Christianity, but on the other hand it camouflages, one is concealed better by this proclamation than by a Christianly correct proclamation, with which it is so enormously dangerous to get involved, both because it sheds light on the speaker himself (as if in hate toward him) and because it so readily provokes men against the speaker.
In this way his proclamation in word and speech was Christianly confusing, but the other side of the proclamation, the speaker's life was also aided by his brilliant shrewdness. There was a yawning abyss between his personal life and "the quiet devotional hours" (when he was the speaker, the orator, and here boldly ventured much). He knew how to use all his brilliant shrewdness to deflect objectively any contact, to eliminate if possible everything, any situation, any event, etc., that might prompt disclosure of just how much he actually was the man of earnestness, the elevated man of character such as the quiet devotional hours led one respectfully to regard him. And he was a virtuoso in this respect — I could write a whole book and yet fail to mention and describe all the modes and means he had at his command, and always with unquestionable virtuosity.
Such was Bishop M. I make no secret of my feelings: I have been infatuated with the man — alas, that is the way we men are. On the other hand my opinion has been essentially the same from the beginning as it is now. But it was my fate to become unusually aware of the situation with Bishop Mynster (with whom — for I make no secret of my feelings — I have always been infatuated and basically still am) and to be obliged to make every effort to make it manifest.
The Disagreement between Mynster and Me
Mynster believed (perhaps even believed it was acceptable to God) that everything must be done to hide the true state of things, for otherwise everything would fall apart; my idea is that everything must be done to make manifest the true state of things.
Think of a painting: a curtain is hanging in front of it, but this curtain is about to fall to pieces. There are two men, and one of them says: Everything must be done to patch the holes. The other says: The curtain must be ripped off so that we can see the picture. The painting is not altered, but the one wants to hide it and the other wants to have it seen. Thus, at least for the time being, my task is not to change the state of things but to assess it; Mynster's was to do all he could to hide it.
Just Measure the Distance
Consider what once absorbed the Christian with a passion, with a fear and trembling and quaking which nowadays scarcely any poet is able to imagine: the decisiveness of eternity, the accounting, the judgment. Consider this and remember that what preoccupied them was precisely what it was to be a Christian!
And now — now eternity has become a figment of the imagination; poets sit and play around with it, write apocalyptic comedies
— but we are all Christians. What a distance between being a Christian in that sense and being a Christian nowadays — that is if one can be a Christian in the latter mode, which incidentally is just as strange as someone's being a violinist by virtue of not being able to play the violin.
Augustine always turns the matter thus — precisely because Christianity is truth in the form of authority, it is the divine truth; consequently the form of the authority is decisive.
Now we think that scholarship is true only when all authority has been speculated away.
A Different Kind of Certainty
That Jesus Christ has lived here upon earth, by his suffering and death has saved the believers — that this is certain was once expressed by the fact that a person was sacrificed for it, died for it — it was that certain.
Now they get married for it — so certain is it — but is it really that certain?
The opposition in the realm of the ecclesiastical is not at all in character; it is right, at least partly so, in what it says but it is not in character. Therefore the tactic to use against it would be to introduce the ideals, thus forcing it into character or making it obvious that they are without character.
Fenger of Slotsbjergbye wrote an article in Nordisk Kirketidende about eternal punishment, in which he affirms this and scoffs at Christians who imagine that they are Christians without having heaven and hell. From a Christian point of view he is right. But he is positively not in the character of what he says. To believe that there is a hell, that others go to hell — and then get married, beget children, live in a parsonage, think about getting a bigger parish, etc. — that is frightful egotism. — But the N.T. is not like that. Anyone who believes that there is a hell, that others go to hell, is eo ipso a missionary, that is the least he can do.
Rudelbach (and Grundtvig likewise) cries out that it is the state church which ruins Christianity — and both of them remain in their positions in the state church. Grundtvig takes the most desirable one in the whole country, and R. gets a huge salary.
In our age, which levels everything, soon not only birth, fortune, etc. will be the object of hatred and envy, but presumably being intelligent and talented, being very industrious, etc. might very well provoke persecution. Just let someone dare to express and insist that he will be eternally saved and the others will go to hell — if it is someone who cannot in smug conceit and superiority be pitied and dismissed as half mad — well, then persecution is inevitable. But nowadays no one is a Christian in character, one is a Christian without the distinction between heaven and hell, we will all be saved together, eternity is simply a leveling — so we think.
To be a Christian in Christendom in plain and simple conformity is just as impossible as doing gymnastics in a straight jacket.
From a strictly Christian point of view, what we men call earnestness in contrast to diversion is often nothing but diversion.
A View of the Matter
"In Christendom" we make it appear as if Christianity were a goal that perhaps lies far, far away in the distance, toward which one then strives — and perhaps also these united millions.
We craftily do not want to know the truth that Christianity, after all, lies behind us, has existed, and these mounting millions and their united striving are, from a Christian point of view, a diminution.
In the New Testament, Christianity is a discharging of "the duty to God," and now it has been decided for a long time that there are no duties to God — yet we are all Christians, yes, precisely this is supposed to be Christianity. And yet all the collisions which hit us in the New Testament are impossible if there are no duties to God.
Is it Christianity which in exclusive loftiness does not want to have more than those twelve apostles?
Or is it the human race which craftily has exempted itself from being apostles, because we have the idea that it probably is sheer suffering, which we would rather avoid but do so preferably under the hypocritical pretense of humility and modesty.
Change the Expression
[In margin: A world-transformation!]
In an ancient author I have read an observation something like this: When we see someone holding an axe wrong and chopping in such a way that he hits everything but the block of firewood, we do not say, "What a wrong way for the woodcutter to go about it," but we say, "That man is not a woodcutter."
Now for the application. When we see thousands and thousands and millions of Christians whose lives do not resemble in the remotest way what — and this is decisive — what the New Testament calls a Christian, is it not peculiar, is it not tampering with the meaning to talk as one does in no other situation and say: "What a mediocre way, what a thoroughly inexpressive way these Christians use to express that they are Christians." In any other situation would one not say: "These people are not Christians."
Now be earnest about it and say: These people are not Christians; let it become ordinary language usage — and you will have a world-transformation.
Jamming the Lock
When there is no religion at all in a country, one cannot say that in a religious sense the lock is jammed.
No, but when making a fool of God in a refined way is regarded as worship of God and this worship flourishes in the land, then religion is jammed.
To continue the metaphor: when a door is locked, well, one takes his key and unlocks it. But when the lock in a door is jammed — then the locksmith must be summoned, the lock must be picked.
So it is with "Christendom." In "Christendom" Christianity is jammed.
The Christian State "Denmark" and I in It
This is the first point. The second is: what is Christianity, the Christianity of the New Testament? Well, one can say it in many ways but in this way as well: Christianity is the predominance of the outlook of eternity over everything temporal; Christianity grips a man in such a way that because of the eternal he forgets everything of this earth, considers everything of this earth to be "loss," exposes himself even to suffering all possible persecution for the sake of the eternal.
Let us now look a bit more closely at life here in Denmark, in this Christian state where we are all Christians; and permit me for illustration to use my own life and what has happened to me in this Christian state.
So, then, in a state where all are Christians, there lives a man who undeniably has considerable talents and gifts and is unusually industrious, uncommonly unselfish. And yet this man must have the experience that to a very great majority of people his life represents a kind of insanity. Why? Because everyone knows that with all my strenuous work year in and year out I do not make any money but put money into it, and with all my strenuous work year in and year out nothing is achieved except to become a nobody and get into all sorts of ruckus and trouble.
Ergo such a life is a kind of insanity.
And this is in a society where all are Christians, where there are 1,000 oath-bound pastors, from whom — yes that is right, it is only during a three-quarter hour period on Sunday that the congregation learns from these men that Christianity is renunciation of things earthly, etc.; for the rest of Sunday and the rest of the week they learn from these men, especially by their example (and it is a familiar fact that example has an influence quite different from that of the tongue) that Christianity and the earnestness of life are to strive for things of this earth, that a life such as mine is a kind of insanity.
And this is a Christian state — we are all Christians.
Now to go on with what I have experienced in this Christian state. When, after persevering for years with perhaps unparalleled patience (also out of filial piety toward my late father) in bowing and scraping to the velvet lie (Christianly speaking) which was Bishop Mynster's whole life — and when a successor, who knows personally how untrue it is dares to stand in the pulpit and represent Bishop Mynster as a witness to the truth, one of the sainted procession — then when I finally protest, it is considered Christian to brand my act as a kind of villainy.
And this is a Christian state where all are Christians.
This cannot frustrate me. I do not write it for my own sake but because I think it can be informative for others, for, as I said, it cannot frustrate me. The N. T. is very helpful here, for it explains to me that this world in which I live is a world of tricks and lies. That is precisely it!
That True Christianity
can be proclaimed only with "authority". Otherwise everything gets turned around, as when "the pastor" proclaims Christianity for — the public.
The individual, the single individual, has been replaced by the race. This is the difference between "Christendom's" Christianity and the Christianity of the New Testament.
That is why "Christendom" itself has to be split apart — the individual introduced — why one can be a Christian only by way of contrast.
The one single thing we have to cling to with regard to an eternal life is one single fact contained in the New Testament — everything else is about that thing. Thus we are deluding ourselves — as if the prolixity of these 1800 years has made the matter more certain.
With respect to the cause the same thing
will happen to my contemporaries as
happened to me: they will not escape,
they must go on through.
When a newspaper, both in prose and poetry, has pronounced a man insane, then this man might venture to expect that, in all fairness, the paper will quit talking about him; and it betrays contempt for its readers when, after declaring a man insane, it goes on chatting with them about him as if he were not insane. This kind of conduct is talking on and on, is babbling.
This is the relation of Kjøbenhavnsposten to me. On the occasion of my first article against Martensen the paper pronounced me — in both prose and poetry — insane. "Fine," thought I, "so I am free from Kjøbenhavnsposten, one less pestering triviality."
But later Kjøbenhavnsposten got other ideas. Without retracting that statement, it now wants to talk about me as if I were not insane. Perhaps that first pronouncement was a test to see if it could be done, something like a bid one makes at an auction to see if he might have the good luck of buying what he is bidding on at such a ridiculously low price.
Incidentally, what it is saying about me now is, if not babbling, nevertheless talk which clearly shows (a) that Kjøbenhavnsposten is utterly unqualified to discuss religious matters, (b) that it never reads what it discusses of my writing, something I am not obliged to prove but is merely something that ought to be said, [in margin: (c) that its biased articles against me are intended to be vexatious, for which it perhaps is hired by the clergy.]
May I suggest to Kjøbenhavnsposten that it get itself a more reliable coworker; if not, that include in its paper a special column for religious matters and caption it "Babbling" and that the editorial staff members write in it themselves. Or if it so happens that as far as politics is concerned the paper also babbles (of this I have no idea since I do not understand politics), the whole paper should take the title "Babbling." The old name of Kjøbenhavnsposten need not be dropped; unfortunately, there is enough babbling in Copenhagen, so the paper could well be called Snik-Snak eller Kjøbenhavnsposten.
My motivation for getting mixed up in this right now is religious — because it has so pleased the Almighty, who best knows how loathe I am to do so. They may rage at me as aggressively as they please, but by speaking occasionally I will make sure that I do not avoid whatsoever hubbub it is my duty to expose myself to [in margin: but I shall not shirk by keeping silent], and that anyone who pays attention to me will know my opinion on what happens in connection with this affair and me.
Only a Man of Will Can Become a Christian
A man of understanding can never become a Christian; the most he can achieve, through the power of imagination, is to play with the Christian problems. And it is this type, if you please, of Christians that produce every possible confusion in Christianity. They become scholars, scientists, make everything copious and complicated, and drown therein the essential point of Christianity. But of course Governance in his compassion can do much to change a man of understanding into a man of will so that he can become a Christian. For the possibility of becoming a man of will lies in every man. The most irresponsible person, the most cowardly, the most phlegmatic, a raisoneur without beginning and end: place them in a situation of mortal danger and they will become men of will after all. It is true that necessity cannot produce freedom, but it can place the freedom within man as close as possible to becoming will.
Consequently Christianity or becoming a Christian is not at all related to transforming the intellect — but to transforming the will. But this transformation is the most painful of all operations, comparable to a vivisection, the right to which is ethically dubious. And because it is so appalling, to become a Christian was changed long ago in Christendom into a remodeling of the intellect (insofar as it is not made into something utterly meaningless, something one is automatically). The asceticism of the Middle Ages of course perceived more correctly (compared to all this scholarly nonsense, all this gibberish about proofs) that the issue is a transformation of the will and approached the matter from that perspective. The mistake made in the asceticism of the Middle Ages was to strike out the specifically Christian suffering: to suffer at the hands of men. The ascetic allowed men to admire him as the extraordinary. In that way the human aggregate got mixed into it; the human aggregate became ordinary Christians. If the ascetic had spoken the truth and said: "There are no extraordinary Christians; what I express is but an approximation of all that is required of all; what I express is but an approximation of what it simply means to be a Christian" — he would have been persecuted. One can escape suffering at the hands of men in two ways: by diminishing the Christian requirement and making use of this oneself or by more scrupulously abiding by the Christian requirement oneself but egotistically calling this the extraordinary. Then the human aggregate still comes along and one avoids persecution; in both cases the human aggregate is transformed into the very opposite of what it must become in true Christianity, something one profits from, just plain financial profit etc., or something from which one has the profit of an admiring chorus.
Certainly Bishop Mynster Was a Great Man!
But Christianly he was not great. No, but esthetically he was great: as a forger.
Understood in this way he had esthetically my unqualified admiration; personally he had my whole devotion, "also out of reverence for my deceased father"; Christianly, in me Governance put the man most dangerous to him on his side.
Most men have no time at all to have religion, just as a child does not have time to gather his thoughts, simply because he is continuously preoccupied with the abundant variety of sense impressions. In that sense most men have no religion at all. To have religion, to be a "Christian" in "Christendom", to them simply means to have a pass enabling them to enter into the actuality of this life. They are preoccupied with the abundant variety of life, with sense-impressions, the pressure of business, curiosity, etc., etc. Just as the child cannot stand quietly but hops up and down to get permission as quickly as possible to go out to the hill, over to the playground, so these men are utterly impatient to get into the sensate hustle and bustle of this life. Since the "Christian" state has now (sagaciously!) arranged it so no one can play the game without a certificate from the pastor stating that he is a Christian, all these men are then indeed, yes, indeed, Christians. The pastor's certificate stating that they are Christians has just about the same importance to them as a ticket to Tivoli or for a boat or a bus: it means that they are going along.
Persons who do have some spare time to have religion nevertheless wish to have this matter of religion decided as early and as quickly as possible — so they can get busy enjoying this life. So every once in a while they may have a spare moment also for religion, but on the condition that it be a kind of enjoyment and that it be decided once and for all that they have religion and thus eternal salvation is settled for them.
If there is a clergyman, and if esthetically very gifted, so much the better, and if he is willing to take it upon himself to represent this kind of religion under the name of Christianity — yes, indeed, there is lionising and swarming; he is loved, revered, adored, etc. For like all other men these men privately have a vague idea that one cannot have religion in this way, neither in such a way that one has no time to all to have religion nor in such a way that every once in a while one has a spare moment for religion, and that it is not at all immoderate of "eternity" to demand all of a man's time. This demand is the one men fear most, for they all love time, which is their element, and fear eternity. That is why they lionise such a teacher.
Such a teacher was Bishop Mynster. He was the bank for a whole generation. How all these men did enjoy life; yet in eternity all of them inevitably will hear to their horror that this is not Christianity, will, if I dare say so, will present a banknote with the signature: Mynster. For Mynster was a bank. In the deepest and most solitary silence in which I speak only with myself, and with my detective information, I used to call Mynster: The National Bank. I was alluding to something specific which the Copenhagen police will understand, for they of course are well aware that a few years ago in north Sjælland there lived (whether he is still living I do not know, but the police do, no doubt) a person well known to the police by the name: The National Bank. His business was making counterfeit notes, and he did a good job.
That was the point of similarity — they both made counterfeit notes. Otherwise there of course was no comparison, especially with respect to the size of the business. On the whole, when it comes to scope and size, there is absolutely nothing analagous to the crimes practised in the realm of the religious. Even the most experienced and most undaunted secret police agent anywhere in the world will shudder at taking on this case, which involves using false bank notes on eternity to defraud a whole generation throughout its whole life and to defraud them for eternity.
Nor does the rest of the criminal world have anything analagous, anything that could even resemble an analogy to the way these crimes pay off or are paid with gold, goods, everything worldly, and with — idolisation.
But perhaps it may be said that Bishop Mynster was never paid adequately, that his age was not sufficiently grateful. Toward the end of his life a trust fund was collected that was to bear his name. Mynster, always sagacious, found an opportunity to express thanks for this considerable sum — about 7,000 rix-dollars. By rights, in line with Mynster's proclamation of Christianity, it seems to me that just one of our millionaires ought to have given, and gladly, 30,000 rix-dollars. For the New Testament holds that so exceedingly difficult is it for millionaires to enter the Kingdom that it is just about impossible. But Bishop M. gave them no trouble, and yet, if one is a millionaire, it would be well worth it to give 30,000 rix-dollars. Of course, it is a quite different matter if all Mynster's proclamation of Christianity was an optical illusion and his bank notes on eternity false, for then four shillings is actually too large a contribution to the fund, and three shillings too much for the commemorative monument, if he is being thanked in the capacity of a teacher of Christianity. But [if he is being thanked] as orator, rhetorician or (to recall the Berlingske Tidende's naive but true announcement of his death which made one completely forget that the reference was to a teacher, a Christian bishop, a spiritual counselor who, after practicing under an eternal responsibility for more years than are normally given a man to live, has now gone to the accounting of eternity) as master stylist, distinguished by "a hitherto unattained use of language" and as an actor distinguished by "his beautifully modeled countenance," then it can be entirely appropriate.
A Metaphor for the Suffering of a Christian
All people of animal vigor consider fine weather to be glorious weather — and then there is the unlucky person whom the stronger ones tease and torment and distress because they are unable to understand what he is talking about, how anyone can call such fine weather bad weather.
But this lasts only a few days, and sometimes the man with the frail nervous system has the fringe benefit of others having to acknowledge later that he was right.
But now suppose that this weather lasts and that such an unlucky person has to endure living a whole lifetime in this situation, surrounded by people of animal vigor.
So it is with Christian suffering. In appearance this world seems to be a glorious world, a world that is advancing; indeed, all are Christians and there are 1,000 pastors — and now the poor wretched Christian who is so sensitively structured that he perceives that this whole wonderful world is a pack of lies, that its progress is a retrogression, if that is still possible, that this matter of everybody's being a Christian and the 1,000 pastors is an optical illusion, the poor Christian who in fear and trembling orients himself to the accounting of eternity — think what he must suffer by living among men with an entirely different nervous system. If he does not hide the contents of his soul as carefully as possible, these men, to feel their superiority, will avail themselves of the opportunity to taunt him, and if he does not put up with it patiently — which in another sense goads them on — he will be pronounced insane, and if they cannot get the better of him that way, they will kill him.
The Human Race's ChitChat
But they achieve absolutely nothing. While they are living, their words are drowned in the babbling of the age, and after their death their words are drowned in the babbling of the assistant professors. Their significance actually consists only in giving the human race something to talk about.
Just as a family, a social gathering, a town feel the need to have something to talk about, the human race also feels the same need. The only difference is that town-gossip is carried on by barbers, shopkeepers, etc., the human race's chitchat by professors and pastors, and that a big thing is made of this chitchat, that it is printed, and that sciences develop to maintain an overview of this chitchat.
That the chitchat of the human race has such great status compared to town-gossip is no doubt largely due to the fact that pastors and professors make a living on it. What a man with a family lives on is an earnest matter. If the barbers made a living by carrying on town-gossip instead of sustaining themselves in another way and just making a sideline of town-gossip, their status would also rise. This is seen by the status it actually got when the journalists got hold of it, simply because the journalists make a living on it. People will have respect only for that on which one makes a living.
The Christian Understanding of the Destiny of This Life
The destiny of this life is that it be brought to the extremity of life-weariness.
The person who when brought to that point can maintain or the person whom God helps so he is able to maintain that it is God who has brought him to that point — such a person, from the Christian point of view, passes the examination of life and is matured for eternity.
I came into existence [er blevet til] through a crime, I came into existence against God's will. The guilt, which in one sense is not mine even though it makes me an offender in God's eyes, is to give life. The punishment corresponds to the guilt: to be deprived of all zest for life, to be led into the most extreme life-weariness. Man wants to dabble in the creator's activity, if not by creating man, at least by giving life. "You certainly must pay for this, because life-weariness is the destiny of this life, yet by my grace, for only to you who are saved do I show the grace of leading you to the extremity of life-weariness. Most men these days are characterised by such absence of spirit and of grace that the punishment cannot even be used for them. Completely wrapped up in this life, they clutch at this life of nothingness and become nothing; their lives are wasted.
The persons in whom there still is some spirit and whom grace still does not disregard are led on to that point where life reaches the extremity of life-weariness. But they cannot reconcile themselves to it; they mutiny against God, and so on.
Only those persons who, brought to this point of life-weariness, are able by the help of grace to maintain that God does it out of love and do not conceal in their souls, in the remotest corner, any doubt about God as love — only those persons are matured for eternity.
God accepts them into eternity. But what, specifically, does God want? He wants souls able to praise, adore, worship, and thank him — the business of angels. Therefore God is surrounded by angels. The sort of beings found in legions in "Christendom," who for a few dollars are able to shout and trumpet to God's honor and praise, this sort does not please him. No, the angels please him, and what pleases him even more than the praise of angels is a human being who in the last lap of this life, when God seemingly changes into sheer cruelty and with the most cruelly devised cruelty does everything to deprive him of all zest for life, nevertheless continues to believe that God is love, that God does it out of love. Such a human being becomes an angel. In heaven it is easy to praise God, but the period of learning, the time of schooling, is always the most strenuous. Like a man travelling around the whole world with the fixed idea of hearing a singer with a perfect tone, God sits in heaven and listens. And every time he hears praise from a person whom he has brought to the extremity of life-weariness, God says to himself: This is it. He says it as if he were making a discovery, but of course he was prepared, for he himself was present with the person and helped him insofar as God can give help for what only freedom can do. Only freedom can do it, but the surprising thing is to be able to express oneself by thanking God for it, as if it were God who did it. And in his joy over being able to do this, he is so happy that he will hear absolutely nothing about his having done it, but he gratefully attributes all to God and prays God that it may stay that way, that it is God who does it, for he has no faith in himself, but he does have faith in God.