Today it is twelve years since I became engaged.
"She" of course did not fail to be on the spot and meet me, and although in the summer I take my walk earlier than usual (thus the one time this summer that I met her — less frequently, perhaps, because she has been on holiday in the country — we met on the embankment near Nørreport) she met me both today and yesterday morning on the avenue near Østerport. When she approached me yesterday she suddenly averted her eyes, which made me wonder. But the explanation was immediately at hand. A man on horseback shouted to me that my brother-in-law was right behind me and wanted to talk with me. She had seen him. Today she looked at me but did not nod, neither did she speak to me. O, perhaps she expected me to do so. My God, how gladly I would do that and everything for her. But I dare not assume the responsibility; she herself must ask for it.
But I have so wanted it to happen this year; furthermore, it is tormenting to keep a situation on tenterhooks this way year after year.
But no doubt it was good that nothing did happen. For it may have had the effect of tempting me to set something in motion to win out in a worldly way and make a sort of success in the world in order to make a celebrity of her.
This is why it made a strong impact on me that today, too, went off smoothly. It reminded me deeply and vividly that she does not have first priority in my life. No, No — yet humanly speaking it is true, and how gladly I would express it, that she has and will have the first and only priority in my life — but God has the first priority. My engagement to her and breaking the engagement are actually my relationship to God, are, if I dare say so, in all devoutness, my engagement to God.
And so September 10, the anniversary of my engagement, is understood in such a way that I commemorate it in loneliness — and perhaps I needed to be reminded of this once again so that I do not go out and become a Sophist who makes a hit in the world by proclaiming that it is blessed to suffer, a Sophist who even though he himself does not really enjoy life still could relish enjoying a woman's delight over becoming a celebrity.
Perhaps she will meet me tomorrow and ask it herself, perhaps the day after tomorrow, perhaps in a year — I shall be willing enough. But it certainly was a valuable lesson to me that today, of all days, nothing happened. I may have misinterpreted it as a hint from God with regard to wanting to enjoy life, to be temporally successful — and thus I eventually would have grieved the spirit, but perhaps I would not have realized that I had taken a wrong direction until the hour of my death.
The Human — the Divine
When a human sovereign, even if he were the most absolute, needs a person to keep others in line, how does he go about it? Well, he gives this person wine and cakes and sweet words and all earthly glory, etc. — and then says: Now go out and crack down on the others.
It is quite different with God. When he is going to use a person to bring the others in line, how does he go about it? This person is, so to speak, summoned [kaldt op]. Then, if I dare put it this way, God takes this person in his own hands and gives him a sound thrashing. And then he says: Go out and bring the rest in line. In the service of God the rule is that no one gets orders to thrash others more than he himself has been thrashed, or a fraction thereof.
Why the difference? Because God is in truth sovereign; God only figuratively 'needs' a man, for God needs no one. Every human sovereign needs a man, and therefore he can express sovereignty only in the latter relationship.
Paganism — Immortality
One often learns the most from an occasional remark.
In the Ethics, Bok. III, ch. 4, where Aristotle develops the distinction between wishing and moral purpose, he says one cannot make the impossible his moral purpose but one can indeed wish it; "there is such a thing as wishing for the impossible, as for example, for immortality."
Book VI, ch. 12 to the end: From this it arises that in respect to the νoυς (i.e., first principles and particular experiences) we should therefore pay no less attention to the undemonstrated assertions and opinions of old and experienced or prudent persons than to demonstrations, for their experience gives their eyes the power of seeing principles directly.
Book VIII, ch. 15 to the end: If there is a being whose nature is simple (not a composite), the one and the same activity would always be pleasant to him. Such a being is the divine, who therefore everlastingly enjoys one single (simple) and unbroken joy. Not all activity is in motion (change); there is also activity in the unchanging. Yes, enjoyment is found more in rest than in motion. According to the poet nothing is more pleasureable to human beings than change, but this arises from his imperfection. The most changeable man is always also the most evil man, and every nature is less perfect the more change it requires; for such a nature is not simple, is not at one with itself — is simply not what it should be.
Book VIII, ch. 16 in the middle: "It is impossible both to get rich at the expense of the state and also to want to get honor for it." Alas, it is being done all the time.
He who does not hate father and mother for my sake etc. is not worthy of me.
How does this conflict appear in "Christendom", for surely it cannot mean that we should begin right off by hating them?
Very simple. "Christendom," or that all as such are Christians, has only been made possible by making Christianity into something totally different from what it is in the N. T.
But outside of the N. T. there is no official definition of what Christianity is.
Consequently everyone is under obligation to do his utmost to acknowledge, confess, depict what Christianity is according to the N. T. And then the collisions will appear — that is, will be able to appear. Something as deadened as what in Christendom is called Christianity of course cannot produce conflicts of this nature.
Is a possible collision with Bishop Mynster related to this? He dare not deny that what I have depicted is N. T. Christianity. But he says: If we two are to be friends, you must not go so far out; you must suppress this last emphasis and stick with what I have proclaimed — this is true Christianity.
Just think of the emotional conflict. There is a man I love with all my heart — but I know that if I present what Christianity is essentially he will be furious, will become my enemy. And Christianity commits me to it.
The more I think about it, the clearer it is to me that a person who is brought up in Christianity from childhood will never be able to achieve the rigorousness which is necessary to introduce Christianity again, i.e., to introduce Christianity into Christendom. This mildness of childhood will always make this impossible for him — the fact that nevertheless — and in the perception of a child — all is grace.
If Christianity is to be reintroduced into Christendom, it must again be proclaimed unconditionally as imitation, as law, so Christianity does not become the conjunctive (which sanctifies all our cherished relationships and our earthly fortune and striving) but the disjunctive: to let go of everything, to hate one's father and mother and oneself.
It is conceivable that if this is to be realized (which in a certain sense can be realized only by the God-man himself), it could happen in this way that Christianity is proclaimed to Jews, pagans, and among these there could be a person who, not having been spoiled by being a Christian from childhood, becomes the missionary, the missionary to Christendom.
It is not as the mockers and freethinkers boldly maintain, or as the half-experienced despairingly or rebelliously sigh or fume — that such a Spirit does not exist, a Spirit who, when one calls upon him, transforms a man, renews him, gives him strength for renunciation, all possible renunciation.
No, it is not so. Such a Spirit actually does exist. But the point is that for the person who understands this it is so frightful to call upon this Spirit that he does not dare to do it, especially one who has been spoiled from childhood by grace, spoiled by wholesale, unmitigated leniency. To do it requires that he get a completely different conception of God, and he must learn to pray quite differently than he has been accustomed to pray from childhood, a way which has been to him a blessing.
Take an illustration. There is a winged horse, for example, more than winged — of a boundless speed — you have but to mount it and in one second you are more than a world's distance away from this world and its way of thinking and its life and its ideas and the understanding of one's contemporaries. The freethinkers, the mockers, the half-experienced now concentrate their attention on denying that such a horse exists — all under the hypocritical pretense that if such a horse did exist they would surely be ready to mount it. I speak differently, I assume that such a horse does exist (continuing the illustration) but I — I dare not mount it.
Here is the difficulty for all of us in Christendom who still have some Christianity. We are unable to deny that such a Spirit exists, that he only waits for us to surrender ourselves completely, and then he will surely take care of the rest.
Alas, but we dare not. And then comes the hitch that God wants to have something to do with us just the same. And this is what I mean by saying that in Christendom "grace" is applied in the first place, not only "grace" with respect to the past but grace with respect to the venturing that is required.
But, as stated, it is infinitely hard for a person brought up in Christianity from childhood to come out of this, for he is spoiled by "grace" — and yet "grace" is and remains this — that a person is saved, even the apostle.
To Sit on Twelve Thrones and Judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel
If I may be permitted to express an opinion on this, I would say that I am continually amazed that this is presented in the New Testament as something inspiring, something so glorious and blessed that it ought to inspire the apostles to unprecedented efforts.
I cannot understand this. Suppose that I were not what I nevertheless am, a timorous poet, but that I were able to meet by personal act the greatest requirement and according to the most exacting standard, in short, suppose that sitting on the throne and judging Israel was promised me as a reward for an endeavor I was able to carry out: this thought would not inspire me in the least but would make me utterly dejected. I love being a man, I have an unwavering sympathy for all who suffer — and then qualitatively to be set apart above everybody else for all eternity!
At the same time I do perceive that this thought, which people perhaps will find attractive, from the Christian point of view will reveal my imperfection or what an imperfect Christian I am. For here again it is apparent that we are pampered from childhood by being brought up in Christianity, are spoiled by grace, by everything being grace. This is also the reason that I continually rest in the thought that we will all be saved. Nowadays we have no inkling of the anxiety, the fear and trembling, the Christians must have experienced when the either — or actually applied to them: either to hell or to heaven, their anxiety about their own salvation, while millions perhaps went to hell. These millions and millions of Christians, and then from childhood to be pampered by grace, so that the genuinely earnest expression of respect for God is lost, which was completely different in other periods — for example, during the flood, when God scrapped a whole generation.
As a regular thing she sees me when Bishop Mynster preaches at vespers on Christmas day. It happened again this time.
Frequently I have received by mail letters and the like, effusive things, some of them from women. It has never entered my mind that any such letter could be from her, although I have occasionally wondered if it would ever occur to her to do anything like that.
But this Christmas Eve I received a little gift sent by Flyveposten. It pertains to the preface to Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, but also, if I am not altogether wrong, to the two upbuilding discourses of 1843. I do not know why, but it occurred to me — could it be possible that she could have done this.
Yesterday noon I went to church. I actually had forgotten that Christmas gift. When I proceeded as usual down the passageway to the right, she was standing a little farther up in the same corridor. She stood there, she was not walking, she stood there, obviously waiting for someone, whoever it was. No one else was there. I looked at her. Thereupon she walked over to the side door through which I was about to go. There was something strange about this meeting, a certain forwardness. As she passed me and turned to go through the door, I made a movement which could have been merely stepping aside to make room or could also have been a slight bow. She turned quickly and made a motion. But now there was no opportunity for her to speak, if she had in fact wanted to do so, for I already was inside the church. I found my usual place, but I was not unaware that she was continually looking at me even though she at some distance away.
Maybe she was waiting for someone else out there in the passage, maybe she was waiting for me, maybe that little gift was from her, maybe she wanted to speak with me, maybe, maybe.
God knows how happy I would be to make her happy if this is her last wish, but I dare not. No, I cannot assume the responsibility of approaching her personally; she must ask for it herself and with her husband's approval.
seems strange to me. I read and read and am still just as wise or just as stupid as I was before. It makes enough noise, but I do not learn anything about what really concerns me. What I retain is the impression of an empty noise which nevertheless made a show of wanting to mean something.
I can illustrate exactly what I mean. I now live so close to Frue Kirke that during the night I can hear the watchman call every quarter-hour. Sometimes when I wake up at night — now someone might be very interested sometime in finding out what time it is; it is very easy for me — I just need to wait a few minutes and the watchman calls out the quarter-hour. And so he does. He cries in a loud, shrill voice, as clear as if he stood at my side, so loud that he would have awakened me (which I would not want) if I had been asleep. He cries: Watchman — hallo! And after this heroic burst of power his voice sinks and he softly says what time it is. So it goes from quarter to quarter, from hour to hour. If I lay awake the whole night and listened every quarter hour, all I would get to know would be: Watchman, hallo!
There was a time when I believed — it came so naturally, it was childlike — that God expressed his love by sending earthly gifts, happiness, prosperity. How rash my soul was in its desiring and daring — yes, for I thought something like this: One should not himself make an almighty being stingy and petty. I dared to pray about everything, even the most foolhardy things, with the exception of one thing, release from a deep suffering that I had undergone from my earliest years but which I interpreted to be part of my relationship to God. Otherwise I dared to risk even the most reckless prayers. And when everything else (for this suffering, after all, was an exception) went well, how full of gratitude my soul, how blessed it was to give thanks — for my belief that God expresses his love by sending earthly good gifts was unshaken.
This has now changed. How did it happen? Very simply but gradually. Little by little I became more and more aware that all those whom God actually has loved, the prototypes and others, have all had to suffer in this world. Furthermore, Christianity teaches that to be loved by God and to love is to suffer.
But if this is true, then I would not really have dared to pray for happiness and good fortune, for then indirectly it was as if I prayed at the same time: O God, will you not stop loving me and let me stop loving you. When a desire awakened in me and I wanted to pray, it seemed to be blown away, all my former burning fervor, for it seemed as if God were looking at me and saying: My little friend, consider what you are doing; do you really want me not to love you and do you want to be released from loving me.
To pray outright for suffering, however, seemed to me to be too high, and I also thought that it could easily be presumptuous, so that God might, as it were, become angry about it, as if I perhaps wanted to provoke him.
That is why for some time now my praying has been different, actually a calm leaving of everything to God, because it still is not really clear to me how I should pray.
I have been brought up short by this difficulty. But there is still another difficulty for me here. For even if I did find the bold confidence to maintain that to be loved by God and to love God is to suffer, something I have been inclined toward from my early days, I who have long considered myself chosen for suffering — what about other men! This is the interpretation I have put on my life. After all, I now live in melancholy's chamber set apart — but I dare to rejoice upon seeing the joy of others, and I dare Christianly to sanction it. To be loved by a woman, to live in a happy marriage, enjoying life — this is denied me; but when I emerge from my chamber set apart I dare to rejoice upon seeing the happiness of others, I dare to encourage them in their thought that to rejoice in life and to enjoy life are acceptable to God. To be healthy and strong, a complete man with the expectation of a long life — this was never granted to me. But when I emerge from my solitary pain and move among the happy ones, I believe I dare have the sad joy of encouraging them in their joy in life. O, but it must be told that dying to the world, to be loved by God, means to suffer, and that to love God means to suffer; therefore I must disturb the happiness of all the others, and I cannot have the sad joy of rejoicing in their happiness, the sad joy of being loved by them.
Therefore this difficulty has brought me up short. If anyone can show me in Holy Scripture, the New Testament, that to be loved by God and to love God can be combined with enjoying this life: fine, I will accept this interpretation from the hand of God with unspeakable gratitude, glad for myself but also glad for the others, for I know all too well what men find natural. If anyone could make this clear to me from the New Testament, the game of my cause, if I dare speak this way, is in such excellent condition that with a little worldly wisdom and trust in God it can gain a finite victory. Aber, aber, my soul has misgivings about worldly enjoyment and a temporal victory. That is why I do not dare use worldly wisdom — I am almost afraid to have temporal success, for, Christianly speaking, to be loved by God and to love God means to suffer. In any case, in order to have trust in God (for I cannot combine trust in God and worldly wisdom in such a way that, trusting in God, I could use worldly wisdom), I must have the bold confidence not to use worldly wisdom, so that if I do gain a temporal victory I dare to say confidently: It was God's will, I placed it all in his hands by renouncing the use of finite prudence.
But if all this is the case and if my relationship to God has changed from what it was formerly, does that mean I am less convinced that God is love? No, no, God be praised, no! As I see it all now, it has become more clear to me that God speaks, as it were, a different language than I do, but all the same he is still infinite love.
And how wonderful it is! Just as I once, in looking back over the past, realized how immensely God had helped me even in the most trifling matters, so I now realize how the very suffering that was sent at a particular time, how everything that went wrong, even the most trifling matters, was designed to wound me in just the necessary way if God was to use me. Infinite love!
To suffer in this world! There was a time when I possessed the external conditions for really enjoying life. At the time I childishly or in adolescent innocence was also of the view that to be loved by God can be expressed by enjoying life; if the thorn in the flesh had not been there at the time, I would have gone ahead, but nothing else ever entered my head. But now — perhaps that thorn in the flesh will be removed, it pains me less; but then something else has also happened: I no longer possess the external conditions for being able to enjoy life, and I also have gained another conception of God.
Yet, as mentioned I have been brought up short by this difficulty. I still do not dare decide unconditionally that God does not want me to have a temporal victory, that being loved by God means to suffer applies only to the chosen, whereas I and men in general are exempted from it, but then also have a more distant relationship to God; I still am not strong enough to pray myself into suffering.
But I am at a standstill, and in quiet submission to God I await a better understanding. It is so exceedingly high: to be loved by God and to love God means to suffer — and nothing, nothing fills me with such boundless anxiety as the thought of coming too close to God without being called [ukaldet].
Otherwise, with regard to the pain of this — to be loved by God and to love God is to suffer — it must be remembered that through the witness of the Spirit God makes it blessed to suffer, without removing the suffering — that is why it never occurred to those glorious ones that helping others to get out into suffering could disturb their joy.
So it is with the prototypes, the glorious ones, the chosen; but right here is "Christendom's"chief malpractice. On a massive scale it has been made far too easy to dispense with the chosen ones, to smuggle them out of the way, to assume that all that creates tension in the N. T. was spoken specifically to the apostles, etc The question is, does the New Testament recognize any other kind of Christian than the "disciple"? For the humility which does not aspire to be an apostle or a disciple — ah, it can so easily be an enormous knavish trick, that is, we want to get out of the suffering the apostles experienced and, as customary in this human thieves' slang, we slyly call it humility and win two advantages: getting out of suffering and being honored for being humble. Not to aspire to the extraordinary gifts of the apostle — well, that may be, yes, it is humility; but that it is "humility" not to aspire to his sufferings, no, that gets to be outright hypocrisy.
If, instead of bearing the author-signature M.M., the three ethical-religious essays should have a proper pseudonym, I would call the author Emanuel Leisetritt, a pseudonym I perhaps could use, if not here, if I should ever again have need for a pseudonym.
Asceticism can very easily become sophistical. Think of a person who, even though he has not been, as we say, seriously addicted to pleasure, yet considerably — let him give it all up. I wonder if he can stop there. No, soon the same passionate concern will devote itself to the minutest triviality — dare he eat another piece of toast, dare he eat his fill of dry bread, etc.
Thus asceticism can very easily lead a person into either pride or madness.
Incidentally, what in a certain sense supported men in the age when asceticism was really practised was the fact that they genuinely believed that a limit could be achieved in this respect; they did not have a more developed intellectual conception of the implicit limitlessness.
The Displacement of the Whole of Christianity
Christianity was degraded into becoming a state religion. At the same time Christianity thereby became a doctrine — and asceticism arose. Asceticism is situationless* renunciation. When Christianity battled and suffered persecution, asceticism in this sense was not needed.
*In margin: N.B. And again the consequence of this was meritoriousness, super-meritoriousness, also, that there were extraordinary Christians and ordinary Christians.
What I Have Wanted As I Can See It Now
At a very early age I became engrossed in an idea whose origin I cannot account for, an idea which found a model in Socrates, the man with whom I have had an inexplicable rapport from a very early age long before I really began to read Plato — the idea: How is it to be explained that all those who truly have served the truth get into trouble with their contemporaries while they are alive and no sooner are they dead than they are idolized.
The explanation is quite simple: the majority of men can relate to ideas, the good, the true only by way of imagination. But a dead man has the distance of imagination. A living person, however, who provides actuality (being a nobody he exists for everyone, consequently without the support of illusions) — him they cannot bear, they are offended by him, put him to death, trample on him.
This, again, is what all deceivers, who gamble on the world's wanting to be deceived, have more or less clearly realized, and they accommodate to it. In their lifetime they are supported by illusions (live in seclusion, take the earthly benefits, offer limited explanations, etc.) and thus make a hit etc. And this gets worse and worse century after century, especially since the press has become a power in society, for it is a definite assistance to living in seclusion (impersonally like a dead man, in a kind of illusion) and operating objectively.
And yet we must move in the direction of gaining personalities.
This, then, is the law: the person who does not want to operate with illusions will unconditionally get into trouble during his lifetime, will be trampled down, sacrificed. On the other hand, as soon as such a person is dead, the deceivers (orators, poets, professors, etc.) promptly take him over and exploit him — and he is idolized by the next generation. And if there is someone in the next generation who does not want to deceive or operate with illusions, well, if he keeps on, the same thing will happen to him as happened to the dead man when he was living.
In this way the actually contemporary generation does not really become aware, it does not attain contemporaneity, for those who kill or trample upon such a person do not really know what they are doing — and those who idolize him are, after all, the next generation and consequently are related to him at the distance of imagination.
Cannot something be done to awaken contemporaneity?
Yes, and it is worth an attempt, and this is the kind of attempt I have made. Use your best years in a prodigious effort but without employing illusions — then you will be well on the way to being trampled down; then stop, withdraw, live in seclusion, and from that vantage point begin pointing out to your contemporaries the past, what has happened, and to which they themselves are witnesses, and show them what the consequences would have been had you not pulled back and diminished, point out what is really involved in serving the truth in truth.
In my opinion it is a matter of gaining the human honesty to take possession of a past which truly has been in the service of the truth. But when it is one of those glorious ones who keeps on to the very end and consequently is trampled down — then deceivers capitalize on them. And, as mentioned, if there is someone who refuses categorically to exploit them, perhaps he carries on and eventually becomes one of those glorious ones himself and becomes the sacrifice — and we do not get that human integrity I have in mind which interprets serving the truth in truth.
This is my thought. Everything — time, energy, money — everything has been spent on it. I have done everything to explode illusions; I lived on the streets, was recognized by everyone, took part in the comedy, etc., etc.
The thought is characteristic and also has been served in such a way that I would dare present myself to Socrates, and I am convinced that he would consider it, even though I believe that what he practiced by sticking it out to the end is infinitely superior.
In the meantime I have found satisfaction in this. A doubt, however, has arisen in me: in eternity will I not repent of it, is it not too little, is not the only right thing for everyone to do simply to take care of his own affairs, to take the obedience examination, to be trampled down, sacrificed, and to leave the rest up to God, not worrying about whether he has accomplished enough or not. Accomplish enough! Yes, here it is. That is just what I wanted to do, and I have found satisfaction in this as a penitent, and therefore I have always joked about accomplishing something, because I am disgusted by the hypocritical rubbish we constantly hear about accomplishing things, when it is simply egotism wanting to gain something.
So what I really wanted was to accomplish something — and, if I in profound respect dare have any opinion about those glorious ones, about a Socrates, it seems to me that the very reason they did not accomplish as much as they deserved to was that in unconditioned obedience they were prepared to be trampled down, sacrificed — while, as stated, the deceivers took possession of them when they were dead, but the majority were not made aware.
I regard what I have wanted as something far inferior to what those glorious ones intended, because unconditioned obedience, to be trampled down as if one had accomplished nothing, is and continues to be the highest — and precisely what I from a lower level have wanted to point out.
If ethically it is true that there are relative tasks, that no one can assume what has not been given to him — well, then I am happy and satisfied with my own and turn off. But if ethically this does not hold true, if on the contrary it holds true that everyone must regard his life as taking an examination, an examination in obedience, the examination of unconditioned obedience — yes, then I do not dare turn off, but I must continue to steer in the direction of being trampled down.
A deep depression has been kept down by writing.
Thus the years went by. Then financial worries converged on me. And this enormous creativity began to take on the appearance of virtually a splendid distraction.
Well, so it was stopped. That was quite difficult.
For a few years now I have not been writing; so I held to my intention.
As a result, an enormous creativity has accumulated in my head and in my thinking — yes, I believe that right now an abundant variety of professors and poets could be made out of me.
But my difficulty lies elsewhere. In order to indulge this creativity properly, I first of all must make sure of my future and take steps along this line. And there it is again — it seems to me that it is Christianly more valuable to hold out as long as possible without getting material security, far more valuable than if I first of all get security and then — write. After all, the essentially Christian thing to do is not to write but to exist [existerer]. O, but understood I am not, least of all in our time, when precisely this is what must be emphasized, namely, that Christianity is not a presentation etc. of Christianity while living in other categories oneself.
What I always say in this respect I say again here: My holding back with regard to providing material security may also be a kind of pride. Well, that is why I present myself for the examination, yet always cheerfully trusting in God and resting in the thought that God is love.
Christianity has become complete nonsense. We are all Christians by birth — in "Christendom" a child is not merely born in sin but also in nonsense.
It is told of a Swedish pastor that having moved everybody to tears by his — it must surely have been — masterly, magnificent speaking, he reassuringly added, presumably himself shaken by the sight of the effect he had produced: "Don't cry, my children; it may all be a lie." Why don't pastors add this in our time? Why not?
Answer: it is not necessary. The congregation knows it — but therefore their tears could be just as much in earnest, or aren't the tears which fall in the theater in earnest, where, to be sure, the congregation or Christian public knows that it is all a lie.
Every cause which is not served as an either/or (but as a both-and, also, etc.) is eo ipso not God's cause, yet it does not therefore follow that every cause served as an either/or is therefore God's cause.
Either/Or, that is, that the cause is served as an Either/Or, is an endorsement similar to "in the royal service."
The symbol for the merely human, for mediocrity, the secular mentality, dearth of spirit, is: both-and, also.
And this is the way Mynster actually has proclaimed Christianity, that is, if consideration is given to his own personal life.
Anselm prays in all inwardness that he might succeed in proving God's existence. He thinks he has succeeded, and flings himself down in adoration to thank God. Amazing. He does not notice that this prayer and this expression of thanksgiving are infinitely more proof of God's existence than — the proof.
How divine to say upon the cross that which Christ says to the thief. All, all, all, even God in heaven by whom he "was forsaken", witness against him — but he, completely unchanged, with the same trustworthiness as ever, says from the cross: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise."
No doubt some creativity still slipped into what I jotted down about myself in the journals of 1848 and 1849. It is not so easy to keep such a thing out when one is as poetically creative as I am. It appears the minute I pick up my pen. Strangely enough, in my inner being, I am much clearer and much more concise about myself. But as soon as I want to put it down in writing, it promptly becomes a creative process. Similarly it is also strange that I have no desire to put down the religious impressions, ideas, and expressions which I myself use; they seem to be too important for that. Of these I have a few — but I have produced quantities of them. But only when such a phrase seems to have been consumed, as it were, can I think of jotting it down or letting it slip into what I write.
Now I nevertheless will again put down a little about myself.
There are two thoughts which I have had so long that I actually cannot determine when they arose. The first is: there are men whose destiny is to be sacrificed, in one way or another to be sacrificed for others in order to promulgate the idea — and because of my cross I was such a person. The second is that I would never have to work for a living, for one thing because I believed I would die very young, and for another because I believed that out of consideration for my particular cross God would withhold from me this suffering and task. Where does one get such thoughts — I just do not know — but one thing I do know, I did not read them or get them from anybody.
Now I will briefly go through my life.
When I left "her" I begged God for one thing, that I might succeed in writing and finishing Either/Or (this was also for her sake, because The Seducer's Diary was, in fact, intended to repel, or as it says in Fear and Trembling, "When the baby is to be weaned, the mother blackens her breast.") — and then out to a rural parish — to me that would be a way of expressing renunciation of the world.
I succeeded with Either/Or. But things did not go as I expected and intended, that I would be hated, loathed, etc. — O, no, I scored a big success.
So my wish to finish Either/Or was fulfilled.
Then I should have gone off to a rural parish as a country pastor. I am bound to admit that after writing so much in such a short time, after the sensation created here at home, I more or less forgot about that idea. Furthermore, such a powerful creativity had awakened in me I could not resist it. Something else happened, too: I became an author but turned in the direction of becoming a religious author.
Soon that second idea popped up again (a rural pastor). I intended to finish writing as quickly as possible — and then become a rural pastor.
With every new book I thought: Now you must stop.
I felt this most strongly in connection with Concluding Postscript.
At this point I meant to stop — then I wrote the lines about The Corsair.
From that moment on my idea of what it is to be an author changed. Now I believed that I ought to keep on as long as it was in any way possible; to be an author now, to be here, was such a burden to me that there was more asceticism involved in this than in going out to the country.
Then came 1848. Here I was granted a perspective on my life that almost overwhelmed me. As I perceived it, I felt that a Governance had guided me, that I actually had been granted the extraordinary.
But simultaneously another thought became clear to me, that if I actually should be the extraordinary, I would have to be required to act appropriately in character, be willing to live in poverty, suffer in a way I had not previously imagined.
That was 1848. Strong I have never been. During that time there were a few reminders of the closeness of death — then I began to think that I should find a man I could initiate into my cause if I died. Professor Nielsen, who for some time had sought an intimate friendship with me, was selected. (Both the journals and the loose papers contain information on this.)
Here again I was delayed.
Time passed. I thought somewhat like this: If you cannot undertake the extraordinary in character, well, then abandon all the latest works and try to do something about your transitory needs; in that way you will be able to be successful — for I have long believed that I am related inversely to the age, so that if I am going to have temporal success it will have to be by curtailment.
I have always regarded being truthful as essential — well, then, I will direct my endeavor along finite lines.
At the same time thoughts of "her" awakened, for if there is to be curtailment, if I am to have temporal success, then she must come to the fore.
Occupied by these thoughts, time passed. I suffered very much.
The Summa Summarum was that I shrank from the thought of abandoning the idea — and I decided to put out the latest work (Practice in Christianity). I wrote to the printer, who asked to have the manuscript the next day — then Councillor Olsen dies. How amazing! If I had known the day before, I would not have written to the printer but would have waited longer. Now I regarded the decision as final. But nevertheless there was a curtailment; therefore the last work became pseudonymous.
Again I thought of becoming a rural pastor — but for different reasons now, for now it is a matter of financial help, doing something about making a living.
Here I am brought up short, I am stopped by the thought: As a Christian do I dare make my task a finite endeavor.
As far as "she" is concerned, I cannot do anything. For one thing I must continually consider it enormously risky to disturb the relationship (see entries in the journals of 1848 and 1849); for another, I do not dare do it because it will signify to me that I also am deciding something else, to make my life a finite endeavor. This is why I have not been averse to the thought that if in one way or another she were to request, to seek, a formal and definite reconciliation with me, I would consider it a hint from Governance that I curtail and finitize my endeavor.
I am getting more and more overtaxed — to write seems almost foolish, and to starve, on the other hand, is more likely to be Christianity. For what is Christianity? After all, Christianity is not a sum-total of doctrinal propositions but is service in character.
For half a year now I have altered my way of life; everything is directed to seeing what I can bear.
Yet it seems to me that asceticism is sophistical — and so I come to grace again.
The N. T. clearly rests on the assumption that there is an eternal damnation and — perhaps not one in a million is saved. We who are brought up in Christianity live on the assumption that all of us surely will be saved.
There are moments when it seems to me I must lay hold of the former and then in God's name make a clean break.
I contemplate it and then one thing stops me — she. She has no inkling of this kind of Christianity. If I lay hold of it, if I follow through, then there is a religious disparity between us.
"But then how can you doubt that this means you are not to understand Christianity this way," everyone will say, O, but the N. T. is a terrifying book; for it takes into account this kind of a collision with true Christianity.
This is how I am struggling. And then again there are times when everything is so infinitely mild to me, when I seem to understand expressly that my particular task is to bring truth into our lives so that we make it clear and frankly admit that our Christianity is a modification, that not everyone is asked to be a "disciple".
But I must break off. It wearies me to write. There is a lot of creativity within me, an enormous lot. But something else preoccupies me: Do I dare make my task a finite endeavor, do I dare profit temporally by proclaiming — Christianity, which is renunciation of things temporal.
August 24, 1849
August 24, 1849
- [In margin: NB
Scattered here and there in the more recent journals,
those from this year and a year ago, there are a few
comments about her.]
- Infandum me jubes, Regina, renovare dolorem.
[They were all silent, and turned their faces towards him intently.
Then from his high couch our forefather Aeneas began:
�O queen, you command me to renew unspeakable grief,
how the Greeks destroyed the riches of Troy,.
Virgil's Aeneid, BkII:1-56 The Trojan Horse: Laocoön's Warning — KJ]
Regine Olsen. — I saw her for the first time at Rørdams. It was there that I really saw her in the early days before I visited the [Olsen] family. (In a way I have a certain responsibility toward Bollette Rørdam; as it happens I was really impressed with her earlier and perhaps interested her also, even if in all innocence and purely intellectually.)
Even before my father died my mind was made up about her. He died. I studied for the examination. During all that time I let her life become entwined in mine.
She is also responsible for the remark about me: It no doubt will end with your becoming a Jesuit.
In the summer of 1840 I took the final university examination in theology.
Right away I made a visit to the house. I journeyed to Jutland and perhaps even then was trying to draw her to me a little (for example, by lending them books in my absence and by encouraging them to read a certain passage in a particular book.)
I returned in August. Strictly speaking, the time from August 9 to September can be said to be the period in which I drew closer to her.
September 8 I left home determined to resolve the whole thing. We met on the street outside their house. She said that there was no one at home. I was rash enough to take this as just the invitation I needed. I went in with her. There we stood, the two of us, alone in the parlor. She was somewhat restless. I asked her to play the piano for me as she usually did. She does so, but it does not interest me. I suddenly take the music book, shit it not without a certain vehemence, throw it on the piano, and say: O, what do I care about music; it is you I seek, for two years I have been seeking you. She was silent. I did nothing, however, to fascinate her; I even warned her against myself, about my melancholy. And when she spoke of a relationship to Schlegel, I said: Let that relationship be a parenthesis, for after all I do have the first priority. [In margin: N.B. The tenth must have been the earliest she spoke with Schlegel, because on the eighth she did not say a word.] She remained virtually silent. I finally left, for I was uneasy, lest someone come and find the two of us and her so agitated. I went immediately to her father. I know that I was dreadfully afraid that I had made too strong an impression on her and also that my visit might in some way occasion a misunderstanding, even damage her reputation.
Her father said neither yes nor no, but I readily perceived that he was willing. I asked for an interview, which took place September 10 in the afternoon. I did not say one single word to fascinate her — she said yes.
Immediately I assumed a relationship to the whole family. I turned my virtuosity toward her father in particular, whom I always had liked very much anyway.
But to the central issue: the next day I saw that I had made a mistake. Penitent that I was, my vita ante acte, my melancholy — that was sufficient.
I suffered indescribably during that time.
She seemed to notice nothing. On the contrary, she finally became so presumptuous that she once declared that she had accepted me out of pity — in short, I have scarcely known such presumption.
In a way this got to be the danger. If she takes it so lightly, I thought to myself, that, as she herself once said, "if she believed I came out of habit, she would promptly break the engagement," if she takes it that lightly then I am reinforced. I calmed down. In another sense I confess my weakness, that for a moment she did make me angry.
Now I exerted all my powers — she yields in earnest and behaves the very opposite, with extreme devotion and adoration. Up to a point it was my fault or I bear the responsibility for it, because — seeing all too clearly the difficulty of the relationship and perceiving that it would take enormous energy to overcome my melancholy, if that were at all possible — I had said to her: Be submissive, with pride you will make my cause easy. Utterly truthful words, honest with regard to her, and sadly treasonable with regard to me.
Of course my depression returned, for I acquired the greatest possible "responsibility" for her devotion; whereas her pride freed me more or less from "responsibility" — I saw the break coming. My judgment is and my thought was that it was God's punishment upon me.
I cannot quite understand the purely erotic impact she made on me. It is true that she had yielded to me almost adoringly, pleaded with me to love her, and this had so affected me that I would risk anything and everything for her. But however much I loved her, it seems I continually wanted to conceal from myself how much she actually affected me, which really does not seem appropriate to erotic love.
If I had not been a penitent, if I had not had my vita ante acta, if I had not had my depression — marriage to her would have made me happier than I had ever dreamed of becoming. But being the person I unfortunately am, I must say that I could become happier in my unhappiness without her than with her — she had touched me deeply, and I willingly, or even more than willingly, would have done everything.
[In margin: She did, however, sense my predicament somewhat. For frequently she would say: You will never be happy anyway, so it cannot make any difference to you if I am permitted to stay with you. Once she also told me that she would never ask me for anything if she only might be with me.]
But there was a divine protest, so it seemed to me. Marriage, i would have to keep too much from her, base the whole marriage on a lie.
I wrote to her and sent back her ring. The note is found verbatim in "The Psychological Experiment." I deliberately made it purely historical, for I have spoken to no one about it, not one single person. I who am more silent than the grave. If she should happen to see the book, I simply wanted her to be reminded of it.
[In margin: Some of the lines are also factual. For example, the one about its not being quite as stated, that one gets fat when he marries, that I knew a person (here I mentioned my father to alter the story) who was married twice and did not get fat. The lines: that one can break an engagement in two ways, with the help of love as well as the help of respect. Her remark: I really believe that you are mad.]
What does she do? In feminine despair she goes too far. She obviously knew that I was melancholy and meant to make me extremely uneasy. The opposite happened. To be sure she made me extremely uneasy, but now my nature reared up like a giant to shake her off. There was only one thing to do: to repulse her with all my power.
It was a frightfully painful time — to have to be so cruel and to love as I did. She fought like a lioness; if I had not believed there was divine opposition, she would have won.
[In margin: During these two months of deception I intermittently took the precaution to say directly to her: Give up, let me go; you cannot endure it. To which she answered passionately that she would rather endure everything than let me go.
To spare her all the humiliation, I offered to give the affair the turn that it was she who was breaking up with me. She would not have it; she answered that if she could endure the other she could endure this, too, and not unsocratically remarked that very likely no one would let her detect anything in her presence and what they said about her in her absence would make no difference.
Then the break came, just about two months later. She was heartbroken. For the first time in my life I scolded. It was the only thing to do.
From her I went straight to the theater because I was to meet Emil Boesen (this is the foundation for the story told around town that I am supposed to have said to the family as I took out my watch that if they had anything more to say they had better hurry, for I was going to the theater). The act was over. As I was leaving the second section, the Councillor came from the first and said: May I speak with you. I accompanied him home. She is in despair. He said: It will be the death of her; she is utterly desperate. I said: I will try to calm her, but the matter is settled. He said: I am a proud man; this is hard, but I plead with you not to break up with her. Truly he was great; he jolted me. But I stuck to my resolve. I ate supper with the family, spoke with her when I left. The next morning I received a letter from her saying that she had not slept that night, that I must come and see her. I went and made her see reason. She asked me: Will you never marry. I answered: Yes, in ten years, when I have had my fling; I will have to have a lusty young girl to rejuvenate me. A necessary cruelty. Then she said to me: Forgive me for what I have done to you. I answered: It was I, after all, who should ask that. She said: Promise to think of me. I did so. She said: Kiss me. I did — but without passion. Merciful God!
[In margin: She took out a piece of paper on which there were some words by me and which she usually carried on her breast; she took it and tore it into small pieces, saying: So you have been playing a dreadful game with me.]
[In margin: She said: Do you not like me at all. I answered: Well, if you keep on this way I will not like you.]
[In margin: She said: If only it will not be too late when you regret it — she was referring to death. I had to make a cruel joke and asked if she meant that I would turn out as Wilhelm in Lenore.]
Lenore is a poem by Gottfried Burgher, about Lenore whose fianc� Wilhelm, a soldier, has abandoned her before the wedding. But! "he" appears on the night of the wedding, and takes her by horse-back to the wedding (alluding in a ghastly way to the rhythms of copulation), passing a funeral procession on the way. At the marriage venue it is revealed that he is a corpse. — KJ
[In margin: To extricate myself from the relationship as a scoundrel, if possible an arch-scoundrel, was the only thing to do to buoy her up and give her momentum for a marriage, but it was also studied gallantry. Deft as I was, it really would have been easy to pull out of it on cheaper terms. — The young man with Constantin Constantius has interpreted this conduct as gallantry, and I agree with him.]
So we parted. [In margin: It is true. That day when I picked up and left her, I wrote a letter to the Councillor which was returned unopened.] I spent the nights crying in my bed. But in the daytime I was my usual self, more flippant and witty than even necessary. My brother told me he would go to the family and prove to them that I was not a scoundrel. I said: If you do, I'll blow your brains out. The best proof of how deeply concerned I was.
I went to Berlin. I suffered exceedingly. I was reminded of her every day. Up to this day I have unconditionally kept my resolve to pray for her at least once every day, often twice, besides thinking about her as usual.
When the bond was broken, I thought to myself: Either you will plunge into wild diversion — or absolute religiousness of a kind quite different from the preacher-blend.
"The Seducer's Diary" was written for her sake, to repulse. The preface to the two upbuilding discourses is intended for her, as are many other things: the date of the book, the dedication to father. And in the book itself there is a slight hint about giving up, that one loses the beloved only if one gets him to act against his conviction. She has read it — that I know from Sibbern.
- [In margin: "The Seducer's Diary" was definitely intended to repulse — and I know very well the agonies I went through when it was published, because my thought and object was to arouse everybody's indignation against me, something that surely did misfire, especially as far as the public was concerned, which jubilantly accepted me, something that has contributed to my scorn of the public — but insofar as anyone was prompted or happened to think about "her", it was also the most studied gallantry imaginable. To be selected by a seducer is for a woman what it is for a fruit to be pecked by a bird — for the bird is the connoisseur. A "lover", after all, is blind, his judgment is not objective, he perhaps sees charms and differences which simply are not there. But a seducer is a connoisseur. And now "the seducer", the absolute connoisseur — and then the one single girl: truly, it was the greatest gallantry imaginable, but too profound to become popular; it would not have been a greater gallantry even to have that one and only girl reform "the seducer", for in that very moment he will become the "lover," blind, and his judgment unreliable. What are all those songs of the poets who have directly sung the praises of and idolized the beloved — and have themselves been "the lover" — what trustworthiness is there in their eulogies? No, "the seducer" — and then one single girl.]
I was in Berlin for just half a year. I had planned to travel for a year and a half. She must have observed that I came back so quickly. It is quite true that she did look for me after Mynster's sermon on Easter. I avoided her in order to alienate her lest she become convinced that I thought about her while I was abroad. Besides, Sibbern had told me that she herself had said that she could not bear to see me. Now I saw that this was not true, but I had to believe that she could not bear to talk with me.
No doubt the decisive turn in her life was made under my auspices. Shortly before her engagement to Schlegel her eyes met mine in church. I did not avoid her gaze. She nodded twice. I shook my head, signifying: You must give me up. Then she nodded again, and I nodded as friendly as possible, meaning: I still love you.
After her engagement to Schlegel, she met me on the street, greeted me as friendly and charmingly as possible. I did not understand her, for at the time I did not know of her engagement. I looked questioningly at her and shook my head. No doubt she thought that I knew about it and sought my approval.
On the day which was bright for her I sat in Frelsers Kirke.
[In margin: See some place in journal NB12 (i.e. X1 A 648) toward the middle.]
Now the Councillor is dead. Possibly she may still hope to get to see me again, establish a relationship again, an innocent, affectionate relationship. O, the dear girl, God knows that I want to see her more than ever, to talk to her, and to make her happy, and if she needs it, inspire her. What would I not do if I dared, dared adorn her in her lifetime with the adornment of historical fame which is sure to be hers.[*] She shall take rank among women, and it is important that I formulate the matter. For otherwise the marriage becomes dubious and I a satire — I remain unmarried, whereas she was going to die of love.
[* In margin: And it would no doubt make her happy to be famous — she who once in her late youth wished to be an actress, to shine in the world; the resurrection of honor, she who was proud.]
O, how happy it would make me to talk with her, and how it would alleviate my God-relationship. In possibility she is difficult for me; in actuality, easy.
But I dare not. She once showed me how far she can go beyond bounds. A marriage will not truly bind her if her passion is kindled again. And the very fact that my position is so good is dangerous, dangerous. Yes, if I actually had been a scoundrel, the situation would be easier.
Her relationship to Schlegel is no security. Suppose that somehow she shrewdly surmised that this was the only way she could possibly establish a relationship to me again, for if she were unmarried, the question of a marriage would never come up again. Suppose that she thought that I wanted her to marry Schlegel and that was why I talked so much about him those two last months, even if teasingly and jokingly, and that she should take him. And it was indeed my intention and wish. But in that case I mean more to her than her relationship to Schlegel.
If God permits her to get the idea of herself asking me to talk with her, then I will risk it. Make me happy — yes, that it surely will. But only in that case do I dare do it. The relationship would then be perfect. A brotherly relationship to her would be a great, great joy to me!*
[* In margin: What joy for me to be able to make her happy, she who has suffered so much for my sake! And how hard it is to have to go on being cruel this way. How almost treacherous to do everything to draw her into a marriage and then let her sit there. Suppose she has perceived her marriage as a possibility of a sisterly relationship to me, in whom she presumably has seen a purely intellectual magnitude! But I cannot justify taking the step. She once showed me that she dares to go too far, and on the other hand, by marrying she has indeed actually emancipated herself.]
When I lived in the second floor apartment at Nørregade I had a tall palisander cupboard made. It is my own design, prompted by something my beloved said in her agony. She said that she would thank me her whole life if she might live in a little cupboard and stay with me. Because of that, it is made without shelves. — In it everything is carefully kept, everything reminiscent of her and that will remind her of me. There is also a copy of the pseudonymous works for her. Regularly only two copies of these were on vellum — one for her and one for me.
Among my papers there will also be found a letter about her that is intended to be opened after my death. The books will be dedicated to her and to my dead father together: my teachers, an old man's noble wisdom, and a woman's lovable injudiciousness.
Truly the cause of religion and especially of Christianity needs a single person, but what a prolix story my upbringing makes, how amazingly dialectical!
But if she does not think of it, I must give up the idea. Incidentally, it is strange she has not learned to know me well enough to know that for me everything depends on responsibility. That is why I also wanted so much that she had been the one who broke the engagement.
But now she no doubt is happily married to Schlegel; he has been successful, and this will hearten her as a sign of Governance's approval of their union. In a certain sense the world is against me; perhaps she interprets this as something of a punishment imposed on me. But the opposition of the world might well give me new worth in her eyes, and that would be dangerous.
Insofar as what Miss Dencker told me is true (and I have sometimes used Miss Dencker to convey what I wanted to say, all with the aim of consolidating her marriage), that she has said "that what she was angry about with me was not that I broke the engagement but the way I did it," then this demonstrates that she has a fairly large share of that feminine forgetfulness which is part of immediacy. She forgets that two months prior to the decisive break she received a disengagement letter worded as humbly as possible for me — there certainly was nothing to criticize about the way in which it was done. But then it was she who, failing to make the break, lashed out so despairingly that I had to pull out the whole alphabet. She forgets that she herself said that if I could convince her that I was a scoundrel, she would be reconciled to the whole affair. And now she complains about the manner, probably "the scoundrel manner." Moreover, if that manner had not been used, we very likely would still be in the process of breaking up. To that extent it is all right to complain about "the way", for I would have succeeded in no other way.
In a certain sense a woman is a terrifying being. There is a form of devotion that dismays me because it is so contrary to my nature: it is femininely-ruthless womanly devotion, terrifying because the womanliness in one sense is so powerfully bound by regard for custom. But if it is disrupted — and the other party is a dialectician with a morbid imagination and a heavy religious burden: truly it is terrifying.
As far as I myself am concerned, I have learned this, that there has been not a little of the self-torment in me. Presumably this will be changed now.
[In margin: And it is also clear that if a relationship is reestablished, I definitely would begin by scolding her. For in order to help her I resigned myself to looking like a scoundrel in the eyes of others, and I did everything to promote this. But she does bear a great responsibility. It was no merit on her part that I was not driven to downright desperation. And however endearing her despair and however willing and eager I am to forgive and forget as if it never happened, it nevertheless will be said to her if the relationship should be reestablished and if there is to be any truth in it.]
As far as Cornelia is concerned, at the time her engagement in a sense distressed me. She possessed a rare and genuine womanliness. Just this one trait of genuine feminine simplicity. When all the clever ones readily perceived that I was a scoundrel and every clever head flattered himself on being completely able to understand it, she said: I cannot understand Magister Kierkegaard, but nevertheless I believe that he is a good man. Truly a powerful statement, and I was indeed impressed. Ideally Cornelia belongs in the class with Regine. That is where she should have been, and she would have been immortalized poetically. Now she in a way is lost.
Regine should and ought to be married. This is the only thing that is poetically true. And if she herself were to tell me that she did it out of bitterness toward me etc., I would say: Fiddlesticks! What does a little miss like that know about what she does. You have done a very extraordinary thing, you have done me a kindness, have helped me precisely by this step you have taken. And thus I know that you did it out of love for me, even if you would insist that you had never thought of it. But tell me, was it becoming of you to act in a pettily, frivolously feminine style, or do you believe that I am capable of petty thoughts. The pettiness is the only thing I cannot understand. From the historical point of view as a dullard, she has a point against her: her marriage. My interpretation, which unconditionally is the only true one, makes it what it is: a plus. In the first relationship she ranks high because of her faith: to have sufficient womanliness to believe a man who treated her and confounds everything for her this way. In the second relationship she ranks high by having correctly grasped the point that she had to get married. It is this which can be misconstrued so easily. Looked at in this way, it pains me that I now have the advantage, I, the unmarried one, and that I cannot establish her in her rightful place with my interpretation that this was exactly what she should do.
Addition to 148,149:
- She may have thought something like this. He really loves me; he is engaged to me. I love him only too much; what in all the world, then, is the sense of this collision. It must be madness, a mental depression bordering on madness. Ergo. I will concentrate everything on driving it away. Excellent, from a feminine point of view, completely true — but being religiously undeveloped, she was bound to be oblivious to its being a religious collision, and least of all to suspect this kind of a religious collision. Everything is fine and she is splendid in the feminine intrepidity with which she charges ahead. Moreover I myself in a way prompted her to this. I knew that if she were to become dangerous to me, but in a way to her advantage, as she deserved, the lovable creature, the affair would have to be as costly as possible for me, and then she would be careful to use a devotion in her struggle. This she did, the lovely child, and superbly as a woman.
As for me, the law for my whole life, the law that applies at all the decisive points in my life, is this: just as that general who personally gave the order when he was to be shot, so I personally have always given the order when I was to be wounded. But the skirmish itself, which she had to wage, was in the grand style and admirable. In a way I put the bow in her hand, set the arrow, showed her how to aim — my idea was — and it was love — either I become yours or you will be allowed to wound me so deeply, wound me in my melancholy and in my God-relationship so deeply that I, although parted from you, yet remain yours.
What a model of unhappy love. It is not like Goethe's Frederikke, for example, who rejects every marriage because to have loved Goethe must needs be enough for a girl. My life, which accentuates her, is just the opposite. It is I who do everything, everything to get her married.
A collision such as this is unimaginable if it is not a religious collision. For if it was my pride etc. my self-indulgence, etc., then it would be impossible for my life ever to express that I accentuate her as the one and only.
She marries — and now the relationship is altogether normal.
Of her there is nothing to say, not one word, not a single word, except to her honor and praise — especially since the moment her presumption became transfigured as devotedness. She was a lovely child with a lovable nature, just as if designed so that a melancholy such as mine could have its only joy in enchanting her.
- How lovely she was that first time I saw her, truly lovable, lovable in her devotedness, touching, magnificently impressive in her sorrow, not without loftiness in the final moment of parting, childlike first and last, and in spite of her clever little head,* I always found one thing about her which alone would be sufficient for perpetual praise: silence and inwardness, and she had one power: a beseeching look when she pleaded which could melt a stone; and it was a joy to enchant her life, it was happiness to see her indescribable happiness.
* Note. I am indebted to her for the story about a girl and a fellow who were talking about another girl who had broken up with her sweetheart, and she added: How amazing, for he had such nice clothes. — She also told the story about Mrs. M¨nter who ran away with Pollon and went to her husband herself and said: Well, it is just as well for me to tell you myself: I am married to Pollon.
It was an outrageous wrong to her to tear her out of her relationship to me in a terrible scene that seemed calculated to destroy the impression she had made. God forgive me! I had to offend her and leave her in order to help her if at all possible — I had to be cruel the last two months. That was perhaps the most difficult part of it for me. I had to keep on being cruel, truly with the most honest intention. She no doubt suffered indescribably during that time; she wanted to forgive me!
She was the beloved. My life will unconditionally accent her life, my literary work is to be regarded as a monument to her honor and praise. I take her along into history. And I who sadly had only one single desire — to enchant her — there it will not be denied to me. There I will be walking by her side; like a master of ceremonies I will lead her in triumph and say: Please make way for her, for "our own dear little Regine."
I once prayed to God for her as for a gift, the most cherished gift; at the time I glimpsed the possibility of carrying out a marriage. I also thanked God for her as for a gift; later I had to regard her as God's punishment on me — but always I have committed her to God and have honestly persisted in doing this, even when, all too desperate, she did everything to make me feel my superiority.
And indeed God does punish frightfully! What an appalling punishment for a troubled conscience! To hold this lovely child in one's hand, to be able to enchant her life, to see her indescribable happiness, for the melancholy man the highest happiness — and then to become aware of this inner voice of judgment: "You must let her go," it is your punishment, and it will be intensified by seeing all her anguish, intensified by her prayers and tears, she who does not suspect that it is your punishment but believes that it is your hardness of heart* which has to be touched.
[In margin: *Note. This in fact was what she really believed, for she told me many times that my pride was to blame for my wanting to leave her. She also told me that I actually was not a good man, but she nevertheless could not stop loving me and pleaded that she might stay with me.]
For me the content of that year of being engaged was essentially the agonizing deliberations of a troubled conscience: do you dare to be engaged, do you dare to marry — alas, in the meantime the lovely child was at my side and was — my betrothed! I was as old as an old man, she as young as a child, but I had capacities — alas, almost so much the worse — for enchanting her, and when I had some faint hope I could not deny myself the joy of enchanting her, who was a lovable child, continues to be a child, and despite all her sufferings was still a child when we parted. Yet the relationship had to be broken, and I had to be cruel in order to help her — this is "fear and trembling." So frightful did the relationship become that finally the erotic aspect seemed to be absent because the nightmare shifted the relationship into other categories. I was so much an old man that she became like a beloved child whose sex was more or less of no importance. This is "fear and trembling". And I dare maintain that I wanted the marriage more fervently than she; in the purely human sense it signified for me (like those demoniacs in the fairy tale) my salvation. But I could not enter that harbor; I was to be used in another way. Thus what she said in her anguish was puzzling; she did not understand it herself, but I all the more. After all, you cannot know if it might not be good for you to let me stay with you. This, you see, is fear and trembling.
The fashion designer (in Stages) gets the idea of starting a fashionable boutique, one section devoted entirely to dressing corpses; thus for the corpse to be dressed in vogue is equivalent to being buried in Christian ground, that is, the latest interpretation.
If I wanted to tell about it, a whole book could be written on how ingeniously I have fooled people about my pattern of life.
During the time I was reading proof on Either/Or and writing upbuilding discourses I had almost no time to walk the streets. I then used another method. Every evening when I left home exhausted and ate at Mini's, I stopped at the theater for ten minutes — not one minute more. Familiar as I was, I counted on there being several gossips at the theater who would say: Every single night he goes to the theater; he does not do another thing. O, you darling gossips, thank you — without you I could never have achieved what I wanted.
I did it also for the sake of my former betrothed. It was my melancholy wish to be scorned if possible, merely to serve her, merely to help her offer me proper resistance. Thus there was within me unanimous agreement from all sides with respect to impairing my public image this way.
Either God himself, an apostle — or an authentic sinner.
An authentic sinner, someone who essentially understands that he is a sinner — not a preacher-platitude about universal human imperfection — his only passion is repentance. Humanly he is in despair, but Christianly he is saved, for he is a believer; humanly repentance is his only passion, but the Atonement is his consolation. As the hungry man greedily devours bread, so the hunger of repentance within him devours the Atonement; just as it is a matter of life or death to the hungry man if he does not get food, so it is life and death to him if he does not hear the Atonement.
The life of such a sinner is rigorous. For example, he cannot marry. Or should he perhaps fall in love and unite with a girl in order to repent together, this should be the significance of the marriage. And if one's only passion is repentance — then to give a child life, a child who should innocently rejoice in life and have the right to do so. No, he will say, if Christianity commanded marriage it would be madness. I know well enough that those who have such a lively interest in falling in love, and this is human, have gotten Christianity to be interested in it also, but it is easy to see that Christianity does not command marriage.
Consequently he is the one who can proclaim Christianity! But now suppose — how shall I say it, shall I say it is one of his fine traits or that it is, from a Christian point of view, an imperfection — suppose he really has an eye for the beauty in ordinary human life as this is lived amiably in a kind of innocence. He sees very well that they actually are not living in Christian categories, but he does not have the heart to disturb them. Here, you see, is the monastery, not as select exclusiveness, but as a kind of penitentiary. He would desire to enter something like this and be silent — and yet, Christianly understood, he is precisely the one who can proclaim Christianity. It is as if Christianity did not fit into the world.
If the period of writing esthetic literature were not long past, or if a recreation of that nature ever were to be allowed, I would like to write a book which would be entitled:
Conversations with My Wife.
In the preface the author will say that his wife was nineteen years old the day of their marriage, that the conversations, as we will see, stem from the first half of their marriage.
They should be dialogues. I would portray the humorous side of this relationship, the husband is intellectually superior and yet genuinely in love, and the feminine figure charmingly naive — the humor which emerges when they talk together about their relationship. I would boldly risk a certain directness and yet would be so honorable and decent that our Lord himself could, if you please, listen to it.