HOME     Library     CONTENTS: Journals & Papers of Søren Kierkegaard
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What I have understood as the task of the authorship has been done.

It is one idea, this continuity from Either/Or to Anti-Climacus, the idea of religiousness in reflection.

The task has occupied me totally, for it has occupied me religiously; I have understood the completion of this authorship as my duty, as a responsibility resting upon me. Whether anyone has wanted to buy or to read has concerned me very little.

At times I have considered laying down my pen and, if anything should be done, to use my voice.

Meanwhile I came by way of further reflection to the realization that it perhaps is more appropriate for me to make at least an attempt once again to use my pen but in a different way, as I would use my voice, consequently in direct address to my contemporaries, winning men, if possible.

The first condition for winning men is that the communication reaches them. Therefore I must naturally want this little book to come to the knowledge of as many as possible.

If anyone out of interest for the cause — I repeat, out of interest for the cause — wants to work for its dissemination, this is fine with me. It would be still better if he would contribute to its well-comprehended dissemination.*

* I hardly need say that by wanting to win men it is not my intention to form a party, to create secular, sensate togetherness; no, my wish is only to win men, if possible all men (each individual), for Christianity.

A request, an urgent request to the reader: I beg you to read aloud, if possible; I will thank everyone who does so; and I will thank again and again everyone who in addition to doing it himself influences others to do it.

Just one thing more. * [above]

June 1, 1851     S.K.



What lay at the root of the catastrophe will then become apparent, that it is the opposite of the Reformation, which appeared to be a religious movment and proved to be political; now everything appears to be politics but will turn out to be a religious movement. And when this becomes apparent, then (whether or not this is considered necessary in time) it will also become apparent that what is needed is "pastors." There is where the battle will be; if there is to be genuine victory, it must come about through pastors. Neither soldiers nor police nor diplomats nor political planners will achieve it. "Pastors" are what will be needed: pastors who, possessing the desirable scientific-scholarly education, yet in contrast to the scientific game of counting, are practiced in what could be called spiritual guerilla skirmishing, in doing battle not so much with scientific-scholarly attacks and problems as with the human passions; pastors who are able to split up "the crowd" and turn it into individuals; pastors who would not set up too great study-requirements and would want nothing less than to dominate; pastors who, if possible, are powerfully eloquent but are no less eloquent in keeping silent and enduring without complaining; pastors who, if possible, know the human heart but are no less learned in refraining from judging and denouncing; pastors who know how to use authority through the art of making sacrifices; pastors who are disciplined and educated and are prepared to obey and to suffer, so they would be able to mitigate, admonish, build up, move, but also to constrain — not with force, anything but, no, constrain by their own obedience, and above all patiently, to suffer all the rudeness of the sick without being disturbed, no more than the physician is disturbed by the patient's abusive language and kicks during the operation. For the generation is sick, spiritually, sick unto death. But just as a patient, when he himself is supposed to point to the area where he suffers, frequently points to an utterly wrong place, so also with the generation. It believes — yes, it is both laughable and lamentable — it believes that a new administration will help. But as a matter of fact it is the eternal that is needed. Some stronger evidence is needed than socialism's belief* that God is the evil, and so it says itself, for the demonic always contains the truth in reverse.

In margin: *that frightful sigh (from hell) uttered by socialism: God is the evil: just get rid of him and we will get relief. Thus it says what it needs itself.

It is eternity that is needed, and the physician must — even if in another sense yet as once was the custom in the past — prescribe: the pastor.

This is my view or conception of the age, the view of an insignificant man who has something of the poet in him but otherwise is a philosopher, but — yes, how often I have repeated what to me is so important and crucial, my first declaration about myself — "without authority."


"Christian" pastors are what will be needed, also with respect to one of the greatest of all dangers, which is far closer than one possibly can believe — namely, that when the catastrophe spreads and turns into a religious movement (and the strength in communism obviously is the same ingredient demonically potential in religiousness, even Christian religiousness), then, like mushrooms after a rain, demonically trained characters will appear who soon will presumptuously make themselves apostles on a par with "the apostles," a few also assuming the task of perfecting Christianity, soon even becoming religious founders themselves, inventors of a new religion which will gratify the times and the world in a completely different way from Christianity's "asceticism". The age for scientific-scholarly attacks on Christianity was already over before 1848, we were already far into the age of attacks of passion, attacks by the offended. But these are not the most dangerous; the most dangerous comes when the demonics themselves become apostles — something like thieves passing themselves off as policemen — even founders of religion, who will get a dreadful foothold in an age which is critical in such a way that from the standpoint of the eternal it is eternally true to say of it: What is needed is religiousness — that is, true religiousness; whereas from the standpoint of the demonic, the same age says about itself: It is religiousness we need — namely demonic religiousness.

This is my view or conception of the age, the view of an insignificant man who has something of the poet in him but otherwise is a kind of philosopher, but — yes, how often I have repeated and emphasized what is so important and crucial, my first declaration about myself — "without authority." S.K.


Climacus and Anticlimacus
A Dialectical Discovery



I, Anticlimacus, who wrote this little book (a poor, simple, mere man just like most everybody else) was born in Copenhagen and am just about, yes, exactly, the same age as Johannes Climachus, with whom I in one sense have very much, have everything in common, but from whom in another sense I am utterly different. He explicitly says of himself that he is not a Christian, this is infuriating. I, too, have been so infuriated about it that I — if anyone could somehow trick me into saying it — say just the opposite, or because I say just the opposite about myself I could become furious about what he says of himself. I say, in fact, that I am an extraordinary Christian such as there has never been, but, please note, I am that in hidden inwardness. I shall see to it that no one, not one, detects anything, even the slightest, but profess I can, and I can profess (but I cannot really profess, for then, after all, I would violate the secret's hiding-place) that in hidden inwardness I am, as I said, an extraordinary Christian such as there has never been.

The reader, who in addition to being my friend is also a friend of understanding, will also readily perceive that, despite my extraordinary Christianity, there is something malevolent in me. For it is sufficiently clear that I have taken this position simply out of spite against Johannes. Had I come first, I would have said of myself what he now says of himself and then he would have been compelled to say of me what I say of him.

For we are related to each other, but we are not twins, we are opposites. Between us there is a deep, a fundamental relationship, but despite the most desperate efforts on both sides we never get any farther, any closer, than to a repelling contact. There is a point and an instant at which we touch, but at the same instant we fly from each other with the speed of infinity. Like two eagles plunging from a mountain top toward one point, or like one eagle plunging down from the top of a cliff and a predatory fish shooting from the ocean's depth to the surface with the same speed, we two both seek the same point; there is a contact, and at the same instant we rush from each other, each to his extremity.

The point we are seeking is this: simply and plainly to be a genuine Christian. There is a contact, but at the same instant we fly from each other: Johannes says that he is not a Christian, and I say that I am an extraordinary Christian such as there has never been, but, please note, in hidden inwardness.

If it should happen sometime that we switched identities at the instant of contact, so that I would say of myself what Johannes says of himself and conversely, it would make no difference. Just one thing is impossible — that we both say the same thing about ourselves; on the other hand it is possible that we both could vanish.

Actually, we do not exist, but he who does come to be simply and plainly a genuine Christian will be able to speak of us two brothers — opposites — just as the sailor speaks of the twins by which he steers. Just as the sailor tells about the fantastic things he has seen, so also the person who has come to be simply and plainly a genuine Christian will be able to tell about the fantastic things he has seen. Perhaps there are lies in what the sailor tells — this will not be true of what the genuine Christian tells of us, for it is true that we two brothers are fantastic figures, but it is also true that he has seen us.

Anti-C. [sic]


[*] Reply to Theophilus Nicolaus, author of a book entitled:


[*] Note. Since there is no literary journal in Denmark, I have requested space for these lines in this paper and must therefore request — so much the worse for me — the pardon of the majority of subscribers, because in a way they get no paper tonight since my article will scarcely be of interest to them.

The reply is your own words on p. 178, as well as other portions.

"If we categorically assume the dogmas of the Church, then we will readily believe that ultimately there is no other alternative left than to establish the principle of absurdity as the principle of faith, for to every thinking and also religious spirit these dogmas certainly must seem to contain very much that is absurd and paradoxical (at variance with the understanding as well as reason)."+

+ Note. The italics in the quotation are the author's own italics, and this will be the case throughout the article wherever italics are used in quotations from the book.

So, basically you are taking it upon yourself to defend my thesis of the paradox and in addition — what more could I ask — throughout the whole book to hit out very stalwartly and violently at speculative dogmatics and speculation, fatal if the blows make contact — one alone would be enough; I would appeal to you if there were not other difficulties involved in doing so.

N.B. [In margin: To typesetter: N.B. one line space between.]

The new and curious turn you give to the matter is this, then. You throw out all of Christianity and thereupon, with an exultant look say something like this: Where now is Christianity? Incidentally, an amazing situation! I, Johannes Climacus, say that I "by no means make out that I am a Christian" (see Concluding Postscript), but I let Christianity stand. You throw out all of Christianity — and then continue to be Christian and, furthermore, in the capacity of a Christian make no petty distinctions between (see title page) "Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans."*

* Note. You presumably are referring to yourself when you mention on p. 205 "someone who, possibly motivated by pure piety, rejects all the distinctive doctrines of Christianity." What is distinctive, then, about you is that you then go on being a Christian. Yet this is your distinctiveness, which I at least must deny to you. But you certainly have no right to hint darkly (pp. 204-5) that the world-famous Royal Councilor Ørsted secretly is in that situation: possibly out of pure piety rejecting all the characteristic doctrines of Christianity.

N.B. [In margin: To typesetter: N.B. one line space between.]

As far as Abraham's faith is concerned, which you maintain in particular, you do not entirely avoid the absurd here, for the absurd is also present in Abraham's faith. Abraham is called the father of faith because he has the formal qualifications of faith, believing against understanding, although it has never occurred to the Christian Church that Abraham's faith had the content of Christian faith which relates essentially to a later historical event. This [I say] with respect to the difficulties you make for yourself in order to point out a contradiction between two different authors, one of whom is concerned "existentially" with the problem "of becoming a Christian," and the other "lyrically dialectically" with Abraham — Johannes de Silentio, who moreover does not claim to be a believer but himself says, "I do not have faith," and the undersigned, who does not claim to be a Christian, and what he himself says he does not do.

N.B. [In margin: To typesetter: N.B. one line space between.]

And now for this oddity! You, a declared rationalist, who want to do away with everything called the absurd, the paradox, etc., you get rid of it in the following manner, among others, and for a rationalist this is a strange way: you assume — and this is quite clear in your book — that direct communications from God, higher intimations, visions, revelations, etc. that all these are entirely natural and in order, something the really religious person — thus very likely you yourself, in any case your brother — knows from experience, just as the rest of us know everyday things. Understand me correctly — what surprises me is that the writer is a rationalist who wants to get rid of the supernatural in this — well, certainly not rationalistic — way.

N.B. [In margin: To typesetter: N.B. one line space between.]

Finally a word about your scholarly essay, which stands approximately au niveau with Magnus Eiriksson's Tro, Overtro, Vantro. According to your interpretation, what we pseudonymous writers, who, please note, say of ourselves that "we do not claim to have faith," call the absurd, the paradox, is according to your explanation by no means the absurd but rather "the higher rationality", although not in the speculative sense. No, speculation, the speculatives (Prof. Martensen etc.) are scoffed down into the deepest abyss, so far down that Johannes de Silentio, according to your declaration, stands infinitely higher, and yet down lower with the speculatives, since you most likely stand infinitely higher than Johannes de Silentio. In truth this may be expected to be something rather high. Consequently "the higher rationality". But pay attention to the definition; if the absurd is not the negative sign and predicate which dialectically makes sure that the scope of "the purely human" is qualitatively terminated, then you actually have no sign of your higher reason; you are taking the chance that your "higher reason" does not lie on that side of "the human," in the heavenly regions of the divine, of revelation, but on this side, and somewhat farther down, in the underground territory of misunderstanding. The absurd is the negative sign. "I," says the believer, "I really cannot be satisfied with having only rhetorical predicates for determining where I have my life, where, from the spiritual point of view, I am, so to speak. But the absurd is a category, and a category that can exercise a restraining influence. When I believe, then assuredly neither faith nor the content of faith is absurd. O, no, no — but I understand very well that for the person who does not believe, faith and the content of faith are absurd, and I also understand that as soon as I myself am not in the faith, am weak, when doubt perhaps begins to stir, then faith and the content of faith gradually begin to become absurd for me. But this may have been the divine will: in order that faith — whether a man will have faith or not — could be the test, the examination, faith was bound up with the absurd, and the absurd formed and composed in such a way that only one force can prevail over it — the passion of faith — its humility sharpened by the pain of sin-consciousness."

N.B. [In margin: To typesetter: N.B. one line space between.]

You conclude with the invitation to Climacus to reconsider — as a consequence of your book — the subject of the paradox. The same invitation is directed to "the gentlemen who seem to agree most with me (Climacus)," and finally to "all thinking persons," but presumably only in these kingdoms and countries. What a frightful clamor! I for my part do not feel called upon by your book to reconsider the paradox. On the contrary, as I see it, if you are going to hold forth on Christianity in the future, whether you let your summons on that subject be sent out to "all thinking persons" or not, it is necessary for you first of all to take up Christianity, which, probably without even noticing it, you lost in your zeal to prove that there is no paradox in Christianity, which, as you stated before, you did superbly well: both the paradox and Christianity, jointly and separately, vanished completely.


Your endeavor is indeed well meant, honest, disinterested, of that I have no doubt; to that extent it may also be called religious in the ordinary sense, may actually have some moral value, especially compared to the orthodox gangrenous tissue in Christendom. It is this conception of you that made me decide to reply. But with respect to Christianity you are in basic error, and as a thinker you are not, as Johannes de Silentio is, in "fear and trembling," but very cavalier in your copious unclarity.


You have misinterpreted Fear and Trembling to such an extent that I do not recognize it at all. Johannes de Silentio's supreme concern (thus "the problems" which are the thought-categories of the book read: "Is there a teleological suspension of the ethical?" "Is there an absolute duty to God?"), all this, that is to say, the heart of the matter, also the subject of Abraham and Isaac, you have completely overlooked or forgotten, but on the other hand, with an almost infatuated prejudice, you have devoted yourself solely (making it the chief substance of your book) to the story of the princess, a minor illustration, an approximation, used by Johannes de Silentio merely to illuminate Abraham, not to explain Abraham directly, for after all he cannot understand Abraham. [Addition with reference markings on the back of the sheet: while you so forget the point, which is to illuminate Abraham, and so forget Abraham, that you create for yourself a new prototype for the knight of faith: Captain Jessen of the navy. See p. 94, note.]

And even the instance of the princess you have made unrecognizable. Johannes de Silentio proceeds on the assumption that, humanly speaking, it is impossible for the lover to get the princess. This is the assumption. And for reasonable people, especially for thinking persons, it is a rule that the assumption must remain fixed. It is the same with Johannes de Silentio; if it were not, it would not be feasible to point out the slightest difference between resignation and faith. Now read your version of the story. To you the "knight of faith" is preoccupied with understanding that it is not impossible to get the princess, yes, that for many reasons it is "possible," which becomes especially clear to "the knight of faith" when he — and this possibility certainly is what we call, humanly speaking, the possible — "contemplates himself, his own personality" (see p.92), "since with respect to his own inner worth the knight of faith does not stand on a lower level than the nobility," and therefore the union is by no means a misalliance. Ye gods, what is this! The story does not resemble in the least that little illustration in Fear and Trembling. With you it actually is a kind of defense for falling in love with a princess, showing that, humanly speaking, it is very well possible (the assumption was that, humanly speaking, this was impossible) to get the princess, which demonstrates that it is by no means absurd when a man, perhaps of lowly extraction, if only he is a knight of faith, falls in love with a princess: humanly speaking, the two may very well get each other. And just as the nobility usually send their portraits to the beloved, so you provide a kind of portrait of the knight of faith (somewhat more plump but otherwise much like the pagans' description of "the wise"), presumably intended for the princess. Consequently, to repeat, with you it is possible, humanly speaking, for the lover to get the princess, something he is very sure of, especially when he "contemplates himself, his own personality," its high inner value which makes him perfectly equal in rank to the nobility, yes, even places him above "kings and princes" (p. 105). With Johannes de Silentio the assumption was that, humanly speaking, it was impossible; and least of all did he think that her being a princess would be taken so seriously. Johannes de Silentio is by no means that aristocratic; he could just as well, absolutely just as well, have used a commoner, a maidservant. The only important thing to him was the assumption that the lover is totally in love and, humanly speaking, cannot possibly get her. On the basis of this assumption, if it is firmly maintained, the difference between resignation and faith can be elucidated, as is done in Fear and Trembling — and is made of no consequence with the help of your princess.

Johannes Climacus       


Reply to Theophilus Nicolaus, author of a book entitled: Er Troen et Paradox og "i Kraft af det Absurde" et Spørgsmaal foranledigt ved "Frygt og Bœven af Johannes de Silentio," besvaret ved Hjœlp af en Troes-Ridders fortrolige Meddelelser, til fœlles Opbyggelse for Jøder, Christne og Muhamedanere, af bemeldte Troes-Ridders Broder Theophilus Nicolaus.


Regarding Theophilus Nicolaus.

If there is to be a reply, it might be a few words by me, and then the remainder a little information by Anti-Climacus, but personally I must give no information. The few words by me are found in this packet, together with the basic material for Anti-Climacus's reply.*


When, for example, I believe this or that because everything is possible for God, where, then, is the absurd? The absurd is the negative determinant which assures, for example, that I have not overlooked one or another possibility which still lies within the human arena. The absurd is the expression of despair: that humanly it is not possible — but despair is the negative sign of faith.

So it is with offense and faith — offense is the negative criterion which confirms the quality between God and men, but the believer is nevertheless not offended — he expresses just the opposite of offense, yet he always has the possibility of offense as a negative category.

But "faith" has perhaps never before been represented by someone who is just as dialectical as he is immediate. He alone is continually aware that this immediacy of which he speaks is the new immediacy, and precisely this is assured by the negative sign. Take another relationship. Blessedness — and suffering. Here the true expression is: blessedness is in suffering. But it is rarely presented this way. Perhaps a person has suffered indescribably before winning faith — now he has faith; now everything is sheer blessedness. This presentation shows that he is no dialectician, for he has no sign as to where his blessedness lies, whether he has not fallen into a delusion. But his presentation pleases men, for with his help they take blessedness in vain and are satisfied with faith at second hand, etc.


This can best be ascribed to Anti-Climacus.

I gladly undertake, by way of brief repetition, to emphasize what other pseudonyms have emphasized. The absurd is not the absurd or absurdities without any distinction (wherefore Johannes de Silentio: "How many of our age understand what the absurd is?"). The absurd is a category, and the most developed thought is required to define the Christian absurd accurately and with conceptual correctness. The absurd is a category, the negative criterion, of the divine or of the relationship to the divine. When the believer has faith, the absurd is not the absurd — faith transforms it, but in every weak moment it is again more or less absurd to him. The passion of faith is the only thing which masters the absurd — if not, then faith is not faith in the strictest sense, but a kind of knowledge. The absurd terminates negatively before the sphere of faith, which is a sphere by itself. To a third person the believer relates himself by virtue of the absurd; so must a third person judge, for a third person does not have the passion of faith. Johannes de Silentio has never claimed to be a believer; just the opposite, he has explained that he is not a believer — in order to illuminate faith negatively.

Thus all is in order. The misrelationship is really that Johannes de Silentio is a whole level more penetrating and dialectical and informed than Theophilus Nicolaus, who wants to correct him. Theophilus Nicolaus does not have the dialectical elasticity to assure his faith's passion a negative expression just as high as his supposed faith. That is, his faith is a much lower definition of faith.

The absurd and faith are inseparables, which is necessary if there is to be friendship and if this friendship is to be maintained between two qualities so unlike as God and man.

Therefore, rightly understood, there is nothing at all frightening in the category of the absurd — no, it is the very category of courage and of enthusiasm. Take an analogy. Love makes one blind. Yes, but it is nevertheless a cursed thing to become blind — well, then, you can just diminish the blindness a little so that one does not become entirely blind. But take care — for when you diminish the blindness, you also diminish the love, because true love makes one entirely blind.

And true faith breathes healthfully and blessedly in the absurd. The weaker faith must peer and speculate, just like the weaker love, which does not have the courage to become entirely blind, and for that very reason remains a weaker love, or, because it is a weaker love, it does not become entirely blind.


That there is a difference between the absurd in Fear and Trembling and the paradox in Concluding Unscientific Postscript is quite correct. The first is the purely personal definition of existential faith — the other is faith in relationship to a doctrine.

The author would like to get rid of the absurd — he assumes that faith is by virtue of a higher hint, a higher communication, etc. Look more closely. Johannes de Silentio does not say that he is a believer, but a "higher hint", etc., can very well be nothing less than the absurd for the believer — but for a third person! In the meantime, this is of no help with regard to Abraham, because for him the collision is precisely between two higher hints — God's promise about Isaac and God's demand that he sacrifice Isaac; nothing is said about a third "higher hint".

Moreover, an observation in Postscript, p. 193, is of importance.

Also there are the more precise qualifications which Joh. Climacus gives to make sure that the absurd as such is not the absurd in the ordinary sense. P. 437.

The absurd is the negative criterion of that which is higher than human understanding and knowledge. The operations of understanding are to note it as such — and then to submit it to everyone for his belief.

Also important in the Postscript is 470, 71, etc.

Finally, it is one thing to believe by virtue of the absurd (the formula only of the passion of faith) and to believe the absurd. The first expression is used by Johannes de Silentio and the second by Johannes Climacus.


The objection that there is conflict between the absurd in Johannes de Silentio and in Johannes Climacus is a misunderstanding. In the same way according to the New Testament Abraham is called the father of faith, and yet it is indeed clear that the content of his faith cannot be Christian — that Jesus Christ has been in existence. But Abraham's faith is the formal definition of faith. So it is also with the absurd.


* Addition to previous:

If there is to be any explanation, perhaps it is right to use a pseudonym: Anti-Climacus.

With reference to Theophilus Nicolaus

If I were to congratulate myself on any one thing, it would be the deliberateness with which I — while the poetic characters, the pseudonyms, were doing their utmost to present the ideal or the idealities — the deliberateness throughout a whole authorship with which I soberly and unreservedly have taken care and have employed safeguards lest confusion arise and I be mistaken for the ideal.

From the book at hand it has become clear — as some other books bearing the author's name already have made clear — that there lives a man among us who is very willing (if only we are willing) to be the ideal himself: "the apostle" who reforms all the established, "God's friend and confidante," whose life is guided and led by "special orders." On that I can have no opinion.

Just one thing. If Theophilus Nicolaus is the person I think the author to be, it strikes me that he writes far better now than before. [In penciled parentheses: But the misunderstanding is so great that neither Johannes de Silentio nor I can get involved with him. If Johannes de Silentio gets involved with him it would have to be in jest, but I do not feel I ought to give my consent to that.] But the misunderstanding is so great that there is scarcely any hope of an understanding.

Incidentally, I would be glad to have another pseudonym, one who does not like Johannes de Silentio say he does not have faith, but plainly, positively says he has faith — Anti-Climacus — repeat what, as a matter of fact, is stated in the pseudonymous writings.



R. Nielsen
Johannes Climacus

Writing exercises in character that are not to be used.


Addition to previous: This book seems to be intended to be an Either/Or;,* perhaps it will be only a neither/nor.

*Note. Even the preface is a bit too reminiscent of Victor Eremita's preface to his Either/Or, that whether the esthete or the ethicist is right is not decided — that it is a process — which again is a bit too reminiscent of Johannes Climacus, who calls his book: a contribution.

It is mainly Johannes Climacus who is used, and he is the only one who is not cited.

The author has simply spoiled the whole thing with all that scholarly apparatus and detail. Inquiries of this kind must be settled in toto, not by dealing with the individual miracle.

Johannes Climacus correctly perceived that the task was one for a poet-philosopher. The hero of faith — the atheist — the speculative thinker — and then Johannes Climacus on the outside because of not even being a Christian himself.

Considered as a whole, the entire book is a slavish imitation.

Moreover, there is an incredible number of minute imitations, poor imitations. For example, the description of faith in the beginning, that the believer stands on his head, which is straight out of Fear and Trembling.

As a thinker the author, compared to Johannes Climacus, has produced nothing new and as a poet he has produced nothing at all. Then what is the purpose of the book. On such a small literary scene as the Danish a book like this is close to a forgery. It would have been more seemly for the author to take his place as a reviewer of Johannes Climacus instead of running up a new structure which essentially is a plagiarism. [In penciled parentheses: The only thing lacking is that the author had been aided in private by Magister Kierkgegaard.]

However, perhaps the book will be a success. After all, it has happened before that an imitator has stood alongside the original — and the imitator made a big success with the mess he made of what in its true and essential form cost the former his life.


In margin of previous:

Used in particular: Johannes Climacus. The doctrine of the paradox. The whole decisive new direction: not to comprehend faith but to comprehend oneself in believing, not to comprehend the paradox, but to comprehend that one cannot comprehend the paradox. The leap.

Becoming open and making manifest.
The hero of faith in Fear and Trembling.


Addition to:   +

The author battles mediocrity — in part with borrowed weapons. What mediocrity! Mediocrity is precisely his position, if one knows the literary scene at all.

With respect to the dialectic of points of view, the contours, structure, design, and imaginative passion are the main thing; the scholarly details (scrutinizing every miracle, for example) are hindrances. To jumble this together is mediocrity. But the author probably had an apparatus lying around which should be used and decided to do it this way. This is mediocrity.

This is mediocrity: to want to be along a little bit in those certain things requiring complete capability.

The whole thing is mediocre, even this: the discourses are addressed to the public; these are lectures that have been "heard by an illustrious audience", dedicated to the Queen, who no doubt has paid for the whole thing, and which are now being published; special care is taken to include a quotation from every one of our famous authors etc.

The only danger this author has had was to risk taking his position from the pseudonyms; he avoided this danger by a private relationship to Magister Kierkegaard. What he says about John the Baptist is touching; he was not the man who knew all about changing his point of view — the systematician R. Nielsen knows how to do that.


Concerning Professor Nielsen's Relation to My Literary Activity

No doubt most people will consider making an explanation such as this extremely overscrupulous. But I owe it to myself to make it.

Through conversations the last two years I have tried to initiate Prof. Nielsen into my cause. With regard to what he has written during that period, I have kept out of it completely, as he can testify, until this one book, by being printed, came to be publici juris. I have read it through, expressed my opinion of it, and, as Professor Nielsen can also testify, have had many objections to the whole production, but no doubt my objections are made from a completely different viewpoint than the ones usually made against this book.

My decision to give a detailed explanation of my cause in private conversation has the following background. It was the summer of 1848. I was essentially through with what up to that time I had considered my task. Partly because of my physical weakness, I had stronger than usual intimations of death, so strong that I considered it my duty to bring another person into the cause, at least attempt to do so through private conversations. I selected Professor Nielsen, who sometime before had himself made approaches.

From the standpoint of the idea, also ethically, I have, as suggested, many objections to the new direction the cause has taken through Prof. Nielsen's intervention. But this does not seem the time to make this protest in print, for one thing because it would be about such a relativity that few would really understand it, whereas it swiftly and easily could be used to confuse even more people.

Indisputably Prof. Nielsen has done one service: has drawn attention to a cause which certain others hereabouts in the most polite way of the world (by making me into a kind of curious, odd, and singularly merkwürdigt genius, etc.) have tried to smuggle away, far, far away into the distant realm of eccentricities and ausserdienstliche Merkwürdigheder, or to transform into an exaggeration one lets blow over.

Perhaps someone may expect that if this is the case, then I should thank Prof. N. in much stronger terms. This I can well understand; but I also understand that such a person does not have what I have, my conception of the rightness of the cause I have the honor to serve, its ultimate victory, still less, my understanding that the secret of the cause is that it will come again, that the more they try to get it to blow over — something I myself at times have cunningly encouraged in the interest of the idea — all the more earnestly and victoriously it will come back again, if not through me, then through someone else. For my task has been essentially to introduce it, if possible to divert attention from it until it stood there, just as a commander carefully conceals the dispatch of one company after the other — until the army stands there, but my task was not to fight the battle, it was a position that should be taken and made impregnable. But next to me Prof. Nielsen is the one or one of those who in all probability best understands this.


Summer, 1850


A Theological Point of View

What men find so very difficult about Christianity is this matter of becoming a Christian in earnest — actually dying to the world in this life — in this life actually renouncing flesh and blood, a successful career, honor, reputation, etc. What is done, then? The whole scene is transferred to purgatory, to the hereafter — there is the monastery, there is the dying to the world — well, thanks, a dead man will usually be extravagant in salting and smoking himself, in abstaining from marriage and the like. Meanwhile there stands all Christendom with all its millions of Christians on this side of the grave — and the many fine livings and high offices — it surely is tough on them.

That kind of dogmatizing, which is a total satire on Christendom and the best indirect proof that Johannes Climacus is right, is not only heard with deep admiration in ex cathedra lectures by a thinker for thinkers; it also would be heard with great jubilation on a dance floor, delivered by a dancer to his partners in the dance: Enjoy life in the springtime of your life — when you are dead, enter a monastery.

Johannes Climacus has shown that the fundamental confusion in all modern speculation is to have pulled back the essentially Christian one whole sphere, down into the esthetic. Here the projected "in perspective" dislocation of the essentially Christian is, if possible, even more demented. The whole thing becomes apocalyptic; the scene is completely shifted to the next world, there one becomes a Christian, there one dies to the world, etc. And strangely enough, this demented changement is proposed at the very time when the whole matter of the hereafter is not far from being left open to question. Dogmatizing of that sort certainly must satisfy the age in every way, because it does simply want to smuggle Christianity out of the way but still also wants to keep on the one hand a relationship of possibility (as inconveniencing as possible) to it, and on the other hand wants to preserve all those good jobs and official positions.

For example, Martensen, the profound M., who has already found a connoisseur in the no less profound Frederikke Bremer, who profoundly prophesies that Martensen's Dogmatik will regenerate all scientific scholarship in the North, perhaps also in North America, where the forerunner, the traveling Fr. B. has now gone. Not only this, the no less profound — despite its superficial appearance (Erscheinung) — Berlingske Tidende, or wholesaler Nathanson, who according to his own words (on another occasion) "has bestowed," as one sees, is bestowing, and probably will continue to bestow upon "Danish literature his special attention," says of Martensen's Dogmatik that one feels conviction in every line. Alas, I have now learned otherwise, that the only proof of a conviction is one's own life. But are you quite sure, now, Mr. Wholesaler, do you dare say: By God. Think carefully now; you will see for yourself how important taking this oath could be, since this involves nothing less than — as Frederikke B. prophesies — the rebirth of theological scholarship in the North, and to which we add (what modesty no doubt has prevented Frederikke B. from adding) in North America. Do you dare, Mr. Wholesaler, do you dare say: By God. In view of the great importance of taking this oath, you yourself will perceive how important it is to do everything as solemnly as possible before proceeding to take the oath. [Along the margin: For even if I, too, who have learned otherwise, that the only proof that one actually has a conviction in one's life, if I, too, in return for your munificent bestowal, were willing to bestow upon you the taking of the oath, the public, the common good, as Holberg says, will of course scarcely do it.]

A disciple of Johannes


On Prof. Nielsen's Relationship to My Pseudonym Johannes Climacus

What I Cannot Approve

      1. "There must be no direct teaching" — in the pseudonymous writers this has found adequate expression in the abeyance of direct teaching. Greek5-1850 is made in relation to teaching directly; the idea is reduplicated in the form — everything is changed into a poet-communication by a poor individual human being like most people, an experimental humorist — everything is situated in existence.

It is different with Prof. Nielsen. His presentation, his address, are more or less direct teaching, especially if compared with the pseudonym's. The numerous scholarly allusions recalled by the professor are reminiscent of "the professor," and it becomes more or less a kind of doctrine that there must be no direct teaching.

From the standpoint of the idea, the cause has retrogressed, because it has acquired a less consistent form.

      2. In the pseudonymous writings the concept of Christianity has been compressed to its least possible minimum* simply in order to give all the more powerful momentum toward becoming a Christian and to keep the nervous energy all the more intensively concentrated so as to be able to master the confusion and prevent the intrusion of "the parenthetical".

* Note. This has been found strange, naturally, by our industrious Prof. Scharling (who now tries to correct both Prof. N. and me, and also Stilling, without, it seems, having first tried to master the subject, or perhaps after having tried in vain).

It is different with Prof. N. With him the contents expand. He goes into an investigation of each particular miracle etc. etc. — in short, he goes into details. At the same time it is made difficult to provide momentum and to maintain the qualitative tension, because doubt and reflection are essentially related to this dispersive trend, to the details, and they get the upper hand as soon as one gets involved in them.

From the standpoint of the idea there has been a loss, and the tension of the issue has been weakened — and yet no doubt many have now become aware of the cause.

      3. The new direction must be away from science and scholarship, away from theory. The pseudonym does not concentrate upon this thought; the pseudonym himself is continuously this new direction; the entire work is repulsion and the new direction is into existential inwardness.

It is quite different with Prof. N. Here this thought is dwelt upon, details are gone into, the same thought is followed through in relation to the particular theological disciplines — sheer lingering. But in the very second there is one second of lingering, science and scholarship are on the way to becoming the stronger, for science and scholarship are and consist lingering, whereas faith is itself the impetus of the existential away from that from which one is to move. But in the very second of lingering, theory thrusts itself forward and begins to take shape, for theory is and consists in lingering. And with Prof. N. the new direction is not taken; it does not find its expression qualitatively different from all theorizing. A kind of concluding paragraph is formulated so one can always remember that a new direction is to be taken. N. is too much professionally serious to be able to take a new direction as that jesting Joh. Climacus can in all consistency, because "to turn," "to turn away," so one always takes himself back, is impossible without the unity of jest and earnestness.

From the standpoint of the idea, there is a loss — although no doubt more have now become aware of the cause.

      4. The significance of the pseudonym, as of all the pseudonyms, is: the communication of interiority. In the infinite distance of the idea from actuality, yet in another sense so close to it, interiority becomes audible. But there is no finite relation to actuality, no one is attacked, no name is named; no one is under obligation to appropriate this communication, no one is constrained, although it does not follow thereby that no one by himself has a truth-duty toward this communication.

In this context, Prof. N.'s attack on Prof. Martensen is not a forward step, especially the way it was done. Some individual theses were drawn out of the pseudonym and were transferred into subjects of dispute: whether Prof. M. is right or the pseudonym. In this way "that poor individual human being, a human being like most people," the pseudonym (as represented by these few propositions), is changed into a kind of assistant professor who is brought into a learned dispute with the eminent Professor M. The qualitative difference is thereby lost: that it is a communication of interiority which, as the pseudonym has done it, "without authority" must be made audible at the distance of the idea or be appealed to with authority. But it is not the subject of any discussion or dispute. To want to debate about interiority means that one does not really have interiority or has it only to a certain degree, i.e., not inwardly — which one can learn from Joh. Climacus.

The no less speculative Prof. N. cannot be in the right as opposed to Prof. Martensen, but in terms of the idea, there has been a loss for the pseudonym.

      5. If I were to speak of Prof. N.'s relation to my entire work as an author or to the pseudonym on the whole, or if I were to go into the details of the professor's writings, I would have very many objections. But then this matter, which is already prolix enough, would become even more prolix. But there is, I think, one single observation that ought to be made. Even if Prof. N. himself was not immediately aware of his use of the pseudonyms, he gradually became aware of it; but to what extent will an ordinary reader of his works be able to see it, and I am probably the best reader. Essentially it is a matter of indifference. I mention it simply so it may not seem, if someone else raises the point, as if there were a definite solidarity between Prof. N. and me, inasmuch as I, who must have seen it very readily, had said nothing about it.


From the standpoint of the idea something has been lost; the matter is no longer at a point of intensity as with the pseudonym, the issue not in such qualitative tension, but instead Prof. Martensen has been attacked and a dispute about faith has been sought. But so it goes in the world. A view is always truest the first time; the next time it has already become less true, but then it extends itself, gains more and more attention and acceptability [in penciled parentheses: long since it has been completely victorious, is accepted, respected, esteemed by all, and now it has become utter nonsense.]

I had something else in mind that Prof. N. could have done, something simpler and commoner than what he has done — but it is just the simple and common that is great, but for that a very uncommon character is always needed, and that is why one is not justified in requiring it of anyone, and I may very well be under obligation to thank Prof. N. for what he has done. The simple and the common — that would have been something great. Prof. N. might have said in an altogether direct little explanation: These writings have convinced me: what the author's views are, whether he is attacking or defending Christianity, I am unable to determine — just that is their artistry. Here there is and must not be any question of imitating that artistry, for that would still be something halfway; it is impossible for anyone to do this more than half as well as he, the first. No, whether the author gets angry about it or not, I will convert everything into direct communication and myself into a serviceable interpreter. This intensive dialectical tension and coyness yield only to assault, but over against an assault it is defenseless, for its own point is simply: to have no position. Well, so I am the man who knows how to use the assault of "faith" quickly and well. This would have been the qualitative of "the second," whereby he himself again would become a first. If he had done that, had had the resignation and character for that, he would have been greater than the pseudonym. Prof. N. did something else. His performance bears the stamp of wanting "also" to be like the pseudonym, at times even wanting to "go beyond". That was a mistake, for it is a mistake for a second person to want "also" that which to such a degree is designed for singular genius, even if this second had even greater capacities than Prof. N. and even greater perseverance and industry than Prof. N.


       What I must approve — no, this is not a suitable expression, for in no sense am I an authority. But to my mind it is rather unusual that an older person who long since has assured for himself the certain prospects of the well-traveled highway has the energy and the desire to want to begin working so industriously and intensely on something that previously had concerned him only as being utterly different. To my mind it is rather unusual that a contemporary, in relation to another contemporary, although he also exposes himself to unpleasantness from various quarters, will use so much time and energy to be of service, even though I consider the service, regarded from the standpoint of the idea, to have its dubious aspects. Youth, imagination, possibility — rare enough in the young — just these qualities are even more unusual in an older person. One service, and that not so small, Prof. N. has given indisputably: he has called attention to my cause, which others hereabout have in the politest ways of the world (by making me into such an utterly curious, singular, and very merkwürdigt genius and the like) tried to smuggle out of the way, far, far away into the distant realms of the idiosyncratic and of ausserdienstliche Merkwürdigheder, which I have seen very clearly but have not troubled about because of confidence in my cause.

Since this is the case, someone might expect me to express my thanks to Prof. N. in much stronger terms. This I can very well understand, but I also understand that such a person does not have what I have, my conception of the rightness and the victoriousness of the cause that I have the honor to serve, even less my understanding that the secret of the cause is that it will come again — indeed, the greater the attempts to let it pass over, something I myself have cunningly contributed to at times, the more earnestly and victoriously it will come again.


Attempts have been made to explain Prof. Nielsen's intervention against Prof. M. simply on the basis of personal antagonism. It seems to me that another explanation comes just as close. To write a dogmatics in a limited setting like ours, one that even claims to "heed the signs of the times," and then try to ignore completely my work as an author or even try to sweep it away with a few casual words in a preface to a dogmatics which, strangely enough, indirectly bears unmistakable marks that there is considerable awareness of the existence of my work as a writer — yes, this is strange. I do not know of anything better to do than to smile, because I have nothing to say on this occasion. But another person can look at this strange matter from another angle, and it seems to me that it is quite understandable that Nielsen (who, parenthetically noted, is also a professor of the University of Copenhagen and a better student of Hegel than Prof. Martensen) feels called upon to protest against such strange conduct, he who has found these writings so significant that he has used two years to become acquainted with them. The point here is not that an objection can be made against Nielsen's attack upon Martensen from the standpoint of the idea and on behalf of the pseudonym; this was considered in its proper place anyway. Only this: it is a mistake, at times an offense, to want to ignore the corrective. But to want to change the corrective into doctrine is an alteration of the corrective and anything but imitating it, for the corrective should not be used by one who wants to be a corrective also, but by one whose greatness, yes, whose superiority to the corrective would be precisely that elevation by which he would say short and sweet: I have wanted to be corrected.


To me it is of infinite importance that there be complete truth in all my public affairs. For the sake of the idea and of the cause it is of infinite importance to me to have it understood that I have stood alone, that there has been nothing that could resemble a coterie or a clique. And so it is also that I have not become involved privately with anyone concerning my cause.

With only one have I made an exception but conscientiously have kept the relationship such that I know there has been nothing in it that could resemble a coterie or clique.

That one is Prof. Nielsen. I was just about finished or expected soon to finish the writing I may regard as having been my task. The thought that I would not live long obtruded itself with unusual urgency. Then I considered it my duty at least to make an attempt to initiate another person into my cause. I chose Prof. Nielsen, who himself made an approach and with decided readiness accepted the invitation. So in the course of a year and three-quarters or a year and a half I spent much time and had many conversations for the purpose of initiating him into my whole way of thinking. With the most scrupulous conscientiousness I have kept myself out of his writing of the past year until the moment it became publici juris. I had not seen a single line of it previously, and except for the big book (containing in fact the lectures given at the University) I did not speak a single time with him about his writing, and there were not many words exchanged even about the big book. That this is the case Prof. N. will be able to testify; and in his own interests he, too, has seen to it that this did not happen. He will also be able to testify that he has never had a chance to see a single line of any of my manuscripts in advance or to learn the slightest word about them. And today he is just as unacquainted with the manuscripts, many of which were lying all ready at the time, as he was the first day I spoke with him. This arrangement was maintained most conscientiously, because to me it was extremely important not to get him to do something as I wanted it but to see how he, who was also a diligent reader of the writings, would do it independently, although as stated, I have spent much time in numerous conversations to initiate him into my way of thinking. As the various books by him appeared, I studied them and let him know my opinion. Prof. Nielsen will be able to testify that I did not approve of this writing, although I still expected more of "the next one".

This is the situation. As a general observation, it certainly seems that Prof. N's prospects are meager, he who indeed could have lived on in assured esteem if he had not, instead of ignoring, ventured — (and just this is what is commendable) to get involved in this matter, and no lyncean vision is required to see that it must be advanced. One of the pseudonyms in particular has provided the corrective essentially, but this is an element within the whole cause, which essentially is completed and is only to be advanced. This cause is Christianity, traced through all the confusions of reflection back to the simplicity of faith, about which I have learned inexpressibly much, formally, from that noble "simple" wise man of old. Whether or not the conditions seem meager also to Prof. N. will depend upon his conception of the significance of the cause. Allow me to use myself for a moment. Within my given capacities I have persevered as an author for seven years in almost sleepless tension. This is the flower of my life which has cost my best powers. Since I made nothing as an author, to be an author has cost me money year after year, money I otherwise could have used in some other way. Since I have amounted to nothing, it has also cost me labor, with half of which I could have filled amply a more complicated position with pay in another currency. Finally there has been the cost — the idea required this — of becoming a sacrifice to the derision of rabble barbarism, plus (something I myself have not prompted) being persecuted in various ways by the envy of a certain literary elite. Truly the conditions are meager! Yet there is one thing. Others cannot see it but I see it: my conception of the cause I have the honor to serve — and then everything is infinitely changed. Give me my youth again, that twenty-eighth year when I began, and I will bid again — but on the same cause. Make the conditions even poorer, the toil and sufferings more abundant, and I will bid again — but on the same cause. Say to me: There are the seven years, but one minute before twelve on the last evening of the seventh year you will collapse exhausted, but you will not die, no, perhaps you will live a long time but exhausted by the prodigious exertion — I will bid again — but on the same cause.



When an author, in order to delineate more specifically the main point of his entire authorship viewed as a whole in its consecutive steps at various times, in order to point out particular factors and dialectical particularities, uses poetic writers (pseudonyms), "poetized thinkers," who pursue a conclusion unilaterally to its uttermost, when this author himself as emphatically as possible declares this to be the case (see my postscript to Concluding P.), when he urgently requests anyone who wants to make any comment on the matter to distinguish between the pseudonym and himself (see my postscript to Conc. P.), well, then the author has done everything to prevent misunderstanding — but of course by jumbling these together, me and the pseudonyms, there is a perhaps desired chance for every lightweight pate to find occasion to say that I am one-sided — which is not demonstrated — but he believes that the pseudonym is one-sided and thus it is I myself who said it.* In this vein a theological graduate, Hiorth by name, came leaping into Scharling and Engeltoft's Tidsskrift. Of course, a speeder like this has no time for such niggling distinctions.

Generally speaking anyone's judgment of me and my cause only leads to confusion if he is not honest enough toward the cause and himself and me to admit to himself that he has met an author from whom something can really be learned. If the situation is really such that any and every student, graduate, practically any and every professional and journalistic hack can judge the fruit of my consummate study and industry simply by paging a bit in one of my books, then I really am a fool. I who keep on working with unflagging perseverance year after year and yet get no farther than that which everyone else knows better.

* Note. Apart from what objections I may have to Prof. R. Nielsen's use of my pseudonym, Johannes Climacus, he does nevertheless have the merit of having refrained from confusing the pseudonym with me.


Occasioned by a Comment in Magnus Eiriksson's Latest Book Spekulativ Rettroenhed etc.

The comment states that in his book Concluding Postscript Magister Kierkegaard has ridiculed, yes, insulted Martensen's theology (the speculative professor etc.).

In reply it must be pointed out that Concluding Postscript is not by me but by a pseudonym, Johannes Climacus, and at the end of the book there is an adequate clarification of my relationship as editor. In the second place, Professor M. is mentioned nowhere in the book, and not only this, the scene is deliberately sustained in such a way that rather than being in Denmark it is in Germany, where, after all, the speculation that "goes beyond" originates. A comic type is created that is called "the assistant professor" [Privat-Docenten]," a type I consider to be very valuable. Everything is kept as poetic as possible, because as the editor I am no friend of finite squabbles. And Germany is practically designated as the scene, because I, who otherwise am rather well informed on the speculative "scientific" accomplishments of Prof. Martensen and the Danish moderns, do not know whether either he or they have added anything at all new to what any fairly well-read student knows from Germany. I know very well that for a long time now here in Denmark certain ones have made themselves important by what they have learned from the Germans and rendered practically word for word (as if it were their own), that they have compiled various diverse German thinkers, professors, assistant professors, tutors, etc. But insofar as this is not the fraud one wishes to depict in a comic light, insofar as it is modern speculation (especially that of the post-Hegelian gang) one wishes to oppose from the side of "faith", it is poetically appropriate to keep the scene vague, roughly in Germany, recognizable by "the assistant-professor", of which there were myriads in Germany at that time, even though in various models, while in fact there was not one single assistant professor in Denmark the year Concluding Postscript came out. As the editor I was aware of this, yes, I regarded Concluding Postscript to be, among other things, a Danish protest against modern speculation; I understood, as time will surely bear me out, that when the tyrannical opinion by which "The System" maintained itself has vanished, my pseudonym will be acknowledged to have been right in his view that it was genuinely Danish to regard the exaggerations of this speculation as comic, yet without forgetting that it is also Danish to love and honor true scholarship, such as Greek scholarship at present, which actually is what the pseudonym uses, although he is also indebted very much to an earlier German scholarship as well as to Hegel.


[Penciled in margin: Peter]

Dr. Kierkegaard's Half-hour Address
at the Recent Convention

When the proceedings were all over at the recent convention there happened to be half-hour remaining. What is to be done with it; "What shall we do?" very likely was the question asked. I suggest that they should have made it a subject for discussion. In that event one probably would have read in the Kirketidende: The question of how the remaining half-hour should be used was the occasion for a lively and entertaining discussion, in which almost all the Brethren and all the Grundtvigians took part: it lasted two and one half hours.

But the chairman (F. Fenger, Grundtvigian), who always knows a way out and always has the chief spokesman (Dr. K., Grundtvigian) in reserve, knows a way out here as well. He requests Dr. K. to fill out the time with a little lecture.

Dr. K steps forward. Just by chance he had had a half-hour the night before to prepare for such an event. It was in fact a happy coincidence. A half-hour's time, a half-hour's preparation — charming!

Strangely enough, the subject of his lecture is: two striking phenomena in the most recent period of Danish literature: Magister K.'s well-known books and Prof. M's Dogmatik and work done in dogmatics. This is striking enough; for these two striking phenomena, after all, are not from a distant historical past, already judged and rated (something like this is best suited to a half-hour lecture) but are contemporary phenomena which, if there is anything striking about them at all, are best suited for a more earnest and extended treatment.

"By gazing at the history of the Church" Dr. K. has discovered that there are two paths, the path of ecstasy and the path of composure.

We may add: by gazing at world-history ever since creation he would discover the same thing — and by gazing toward the end of the Church and the world he would discover the same thing. There are two paths: ecstasy and composure. Actually there is still a third: garrulousness, far and away the most traveled road, actually the main thoroughfare from beginning to end, through the history of the Church as well as the history of the world. In other words, the remark about the two paths is an extremely trivial remark: the only new thing is the pretentious form, that Dr. K. has discovered this by gazing at Church history. If he had discovered it by opening up a map, it would have been amusing.

From the standpoint of the two paths Dr. K. now considers the two striking phenomena. The lecture is delivered in a congenial, even conversational tone, is benevolently appreciative of both. Dr. K. knows Prof. M.'s work particularly from the time he was a tutor, but as far as Magister K.'s well-known books are concerned, Dr. K. seems to have only an extremely casual acquaintance with them, a deficiency that is scarcely remedied by the benevolent acknowledgment. For such an estimate of S. K. (who promptly is congenially confused with all the pseudonyms) only a bit of cursory reading is needed in just one of the pseudonyms, hardly that, just as the painters who fabricate the Nürnberg pictures portraying Wellington, Alexander, Roat, etc. do not need to have seen these gentlemen — and yet they get a likeness.

But the affair also has its more serious side. There is a party, a society, which speculates, so to speak, in Dr. K. The scheme is to consolidate the opinion that Dr. K. is an extraordinarily competent person; the speculating, then, consists in computing a certain percentage of profit for all the interested gentleman who have a man like that in their party. And Dr. K. seems willing enough to go along with it. Now one may willingly and gladly make unusual concessions to Dr. K; but it nevertheless is dubious (just as it is unfair to the actual authors) that Dr. K. almost always avoids an actual criterion, and it is question whether he has not actually suffered damage from the good fellowship at the convention and other places, along with being spoiled by preoccupation with the easy but rewarding little accomplishments especially loved and appreciated in our day, which has an appetite for bonbons and sweetmeats but is envious of actual competence and hates earnestness and rigorousness.

To deliver a lecture of that sort at a convention — well, there is no objection to that. But why should it be printed? And when it is printed, then the argument is reversed — it becomes more than an ordinary newspaper article. After all, it was delivered at a convention; some country pastors were interested in maintaining this in order, if possible, to become a force by virtue of the lecture, to which, as soon as the criterion is applied, one can only say: O, it was just a trifle, it was only intended to fill up a half-hour at a convention.

Johannes Climacus



In the Dansk Kirketidende, no. --, Pastor Kierkegaard, B.D., a Grundtvigian known for his unusual competence, has contributed a review of sorts of my books, part of a lecture he delivered at the convention. For reasons too complicated to go into here, I must protest this review or discussion. No attention is paid even to what I so repeatedly have emphasized and so urgently have asked to be observed: that I should not be confused with my pseudonyms, something one would not even need to emphasize in a less busy world or urgently ask to be observed but would matter-of-factly assume would be observed.

What has moved me to take this step is the following. In the first place, in the review or written discussion there are many very appreciative expressions. In the second place, the reviewer, regrettably, is my brother — and for most people the illusion was all too natural: the reviewer is the author's brother, he knows him from his earliest childhood — ergo*; furthermore he is the older brother, who was already a university student when the other was still going to school — ergo. Ergo, I must take this step.

* his opinion is reliable.


Recollections from the Lives of the Pseudonyms
A Contribution to the Current Theological Controversy




The defense for the tone of this little essay is very briefly as follows. In his Dogmatiske Oplysninger Prof. Martensen bluntly declares that the pseudonyms are nothing but modes of expression. That does not bother me at all, for such conceit, in part stupid, warrants any tone whatsoever.

The reader perhaps will not wonder at my finding it necessary to say this in advance before he has read what follows. For the tone actually used is most mild and inoffensive; in a way it is idyllic, recollections: "Do you recall that time in the Royal Gardens" etc.


Dogmatiske Oplysninger is published! Now this is what can be called clarification. If there is anything it does not clarify, then it must be because it does not appear in the book, and thus the clarification cannot be required to clarify it, at most one could ask that it be included in the clarification. It clarifies not only for us, but I am convinced that Fredrikke Bremer (who is linked by so many sympathetic bonds to Martensen's Dogmatik), as soon as she sees this light, will suspect, without any previous knowledge of it, that it is Martensen's clarification, unless she (who both read the book in advance in proof sheets, reviewed it in advance, declaring that M. would reform scholarship in the whole North, finally rushed off to N. America, presumably to prepare the way for the Dogmatik), unless she also knew in advance that Martensen had in mind the tactic, if attacks should come, of waiting until they were forgotten — and then to publish clarification.

To the Subject

While Prof. Martensen, as mentioned, brushes aside "this whole prolix literature" (the pseudonyms and presumably me, Magister K., with them) as modes of expression, he declares repeatedly in other places that he really has no acquaintance with this whole literature. That is more or less wanting to have one's cake and eating it, too: wanting to put on airs in two diametrically opposite ways, for one thing to ignore, not to have read — and also to make an Olympian judgment, which instead implies an admission to having read — but presumably mediation is his existence-category, by virtue of which he can be heard once or twice every sixth Sunday on the text: No man can serve two masters. —But enough of that.

So he himself admits to a very slight acquaintance with this whole literature. Possibly there is some truth to this, but when it is said in just this way, the effect it produces can be less true. To the ordinary reader who does not know the situation, the impression may be given that these pseudonymous writings are a literature in a class by itself, having nothing at all to do with Prof. M., and therefore it is quite natural for Prof. M. to have only a very slight acquaintance with it.

But this is as far as possible from being the case. However much or little he knows this literature in the sense of having studied it, there is absolutely no contemporary literature of whose existence he has been so much and so long aware.

But you will not deny it, will you, Prof. M. You do not want the embarrassment of being the only one in the kingdom to deny that from the very beginning these pseudonyms, in a highly disturbing and annoying manner, have had a bearing on the system. And this whole matter of the system, again, was chiefly linked to your name. That this is so not even your zealous apologist, Prof. Scharling, has dared deny but has spoken quite bona fide about it as a matter of general knowledge. If it had been suggested to him to speak differently, he no doubt would have taken this as suggesting that he be shameless — and Prof. S. is much too respectable and upright a man for that.

"The system" in Denmark and the pseudonyms essentially belong together.

Do you recall . . . . . it was "the system". Yes, there was a matchless movement and excitement over the system then, and Prof. M., the profound genius, who praised it, and Prof. Heiberg, who also praised it, and Stilling and Nielsen and Tryde and God knows who else — yes, there was hardly anyone in the whole kingdom, or at least in the whole capital, who in one way or another was not related to the system in suspenseful expectation. It was the system. If anyone desires a true picture of the situation at that time, pictures from life, then read one or two of the pseudonyms, who have preserved this for history. As stated: it was the system.

And then there were the pseudonyms. Yes, it is true, there was one man who, if he somehow were not what he is, "the headman," would nevertheless be headman, for he ranks a head above all the rest. He was no friend of the "system" either, which originally was out to diminish him by saying that he had gotten old etc., could not comprehend the system etc., all of which one can reread in the pseudonyms, for example, in Nicolaus Notabene. He, this headman, put on pressure from above — but otherwise it was the pseudonyms. — Consequently, and then there were the pseudonyms.

And then — well, God knows how it actually happened — then it was all over with the system. It was scarcely mentioned any more; many even began involuntarily to smile when the word "system" was mentioned. The whole thing disappeared quietly, in part perhaps because the pseudonyms always made only an indirect attack.


Here are a few recollections of the pseudonyms.

At midsummer, when the manuscript for Either/Or was just about ready, I wrote a little article in Fædrelandet under my own name: "Public Confession." It began with my disavowing, entirely on my own initiative, the authorship of everything possible that had been written in the papers etc. up until then — and I also used the opportunity to ask the readers never in the future to regard me as the author of anything to which my name was not signed. — This article also contained a hint that it was Bishop M. and Prof. Heiberg, for example, who I thought should be supported. — And primarily, already here it was apparent that I was aiming at the system. "It is the system," etc.

Now some quotations from the preface to Fear and Trembling, from the prefaces, and from Concluding Postscript.


In 1850 Martensen's Dogmatik came out. It does not call itself a system. What has been considered speculation over the last forty years or so — and it is the only concept of speculation which has been maintained — M. has given up.

So there was nothing to say here. The pseudonyms have unselfishly served in the interest of religion, have never asked for recognition; they have never made a move to affirm their claims, if only this business with the system would pass.

But in the preface to his Dogmatik Prof. M. writes about certain others "who are able to think only by fits and starts, in flashes, in aphorisms." He had the pseudonyms in mind, whom he himself says he has read only by glimpses. This was a falsehood; so at any rate Prof. M. has a right to talk about the pseudonyms.

Meanwhile both the pseudonyms and I kept silent.

But what happens? A pair of the most zealous systematizers in the past underwent a change, Prof. Martensen's literary friends for a number of years, whose speculative eye I daresay he recognized since he chose them and stood with them so many years — while now he seems to have discovered quite en passant that the two are nonentities, which is either in one way or the other all the worse for Prof M., either that he has been Busenfreund of two nonentities for so many years or that they actually are important people, in which case their judgment of M. is important.

So these two systematizers (Prof. Nielsen and Magister Stilling) had changed, but in such a way that they gave greater emphasis to what they owed the pseudonyms, with whom they now agreed.

They criticized among other things the impropriety of that preface. Both the pseudonyms and I kept silent.

Then came Dogmatiske Oplysninger, and the whole pseudonymous literature was declared to be nothing more than modes of expression — and now I speak up.


Prof. Martensen certainly enjoys a good deal of prestige here at home. I could continue what I have been doing up until now: mind my own business, make sacrifices, keep quiet, otherwise secretly smile a little at all this prestige, gained by means of so much — and this I will repeat on judgment day — so much downright shabbiness and characterlessness. It [what I have been doing] comes naturally to me and that is why I have deported myself this way for a number of years. But I have discovered that what is partly my intellectual-spiritual endowment, partly Christian self-renunciation, is used in a shabby way.

Humble before God, submissive to the cause I have the honor of serving, I have honestly tried in my serving the truth to remove illusions. I did hope possibly to move one or another of those who are disinclined to serve the truth on those conditions. But it did not happen. And the fact that I did not directly attack the others, that I remained silent, was so willing to let my life be the butt of jest, with only one reservation: in my interior self, in my work, in my conduct, there to know about earnestness according to a somewhat different criterion than the so-called earnest people use — this has even been used to make me out an eccentric and confirm themselves in the idea that to serve the truth with illusions is true earnestness.

Thus I have understood it to be my duty to speak somewhat differently.


... As is well-known, my authorship has two parts: one pseudonymous and the other signed. The pseudonymous writers are poetic creations, poetically maintained so that everything they say is in character with their poetized individualized personalities; sometimes I have carefully explained in a signed preface my own interpretation of what the pseudonym said. Anyone with just a fragment of common sense will perceive that it would be ludicrously confusing to attribute to me everything the poetized characters say. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, I have expressed urged that anyone who quotes something from the pseudonyms will not attribute the quotation to me (see my postscript to Concluding Postscript). It is easy to see that anyone wanting to have a literary lark merely needs to take some verbatim quotations from "The Seducer," then from Johannes Climacus, then from me, etc., print them together as if they were all my words, show how they contradict each other, and create a very chaotic impression, as if the author were a kind of lunatic. Hurrah! That can be done. In my opinion anyone who exploits the poetic in me by quoting the writings in a confusing way is more or less a charlatan or a literary toper.

The little book On My Work as an Author declares: "It must end with direct communication," that is, I began with pseudonyms representing the indirect communication I have not used under my signature. And somewhat earlier (in my preface to Practice in Christianity, whose author, the last pseudonymous writer, Anti-Climacus, again discourses indirect communication) there is the statement: I understand the whole (whole book) as addressed to me so that I may learn to resort to "grace." Consequently, it ends with direct communication.


The dedication to Mynster perhaps could be used. (1) I have always wanted to do it. (2) The moment is propitious, since Martensen is polemically isolated in another quarter. (3) Mynster can use it at this moment.

But no, I cannot very well do it (1) for the sake of the one who comes next; (2) and I will weaken the impact of the whole authorship if he is the only living person who gets a dedication, he with whom I am so at variance. (3) It might be hard on R. Nielsen, even if I could give the affair a turn that would benefit him, so that he has only Martensen. (4) There is a person living who has a much greater claim and who has nothing to do with literature, where as a consequence the stress can fall where it should, on the purely personal, and my life's God-relationship.


If possible it could be used but altered in one place,
thus: an old man in discretion very early in his life, now
— O, beautiful earnestness! — an old man in years and
discretion — etc.

What most younger people presumably have received handed down from their elders but I very particularly from my deceased father, what I in honesty and filial piety have preserved to the best of my ability, I have wished to express in a more public way in this dedication, which in all its significance perhaps still has one importance, that in a certain sense it is just as old and — alas, but only through a successor! — just as young as its subject, the venerable old man who still young outlives the generations — O earnestness of life! — an old man in wisdom, now — O, beautiful earnestness! — an old man in years and wisdom, but as mentally vigorous as a young man. What does it really mean to preserve oneself? It is in the days of one's youth, when the blood is warm and the heart beats strongly, to be able to cool oneself down with almost an old man's discretion; and when the day is waning and dusk is falling, it is to be able to be aflame with almost the fire of youth. But in preserving himself this way he has also preserved the established; he has never shaken the pillars of the established, but on the contrary he stood and stands unshaken as its firmest pillar. He has never had anything new to bring, it was always the old; when he edits the new edition of his first published sermons he will find "essentially nothing to change." No, it was the old confession which in him found such a rich, strong, powerful, eloquent, and penetrating expression that through a long lifetime he moves many with this old confession, and when he is dead many will long for this old confession and this old man, just as in the summer heat one longs for the coolness of a spring.

May it please Your Grace to accept this dedication, for which I have sought a place from the very beginning and decided that it was most appropriate here at the conclusion to be able to get expressed as forcefully as possible what I have wished to express: that at the conclusion I have not moved away from my position but stand at the beginning.

Just one word more, an appeal to you, Your Grace, that you will not take exception to what I now add. I have never concealed it, but precisely because I as an author always have singled you out for my admiration, perhaps you also will be sure to appreciate that I publicly say it here and now, if I for one moment dare think of myself as a religious author together with you: We are extremely different, just about opposites within the essentially Christian. Just this — it cannot possibly weaken the impression of my devotedness and veneration; to me it seems that it must rather heighten it.


Addition to previous:

To His Excellency

             The Right Reverend Bishop Dr. Mynster
             Grand Cross of Dannebrog and Member of Dannebrog a.o.
                   is dedicated
                         this little book
                                     profound veneration.


In margin of later draft of [X6 B 163]:
If this is used, a notation should be made on the cover of "Three Minor Ethical-Religious Essays by F.F." (lying in the tin box), in which it was originally.


From later draft of [X6 B 163]:
... This has been for me a need, because I have felt indebted to you, indebted to one now dead, indebted to myself, indebted to my contemporaries, in short, indebted in every way. Of course one does not get out of such indebtedness all at once, that I well know — but on the other hand I also desire, and with the same fervency, to be bound in debt always.

In profound veneration
S. Kierkegaard


A Statement by Bishop Mynster

[In margin in penciled parentheses: and prompted by that, something about our literary situation.]


(This to be set in the smallest possible brevier.)

This matter may at first seem insignificant, it is possible, but on the other hand it is also possible that it is of extremely serious importance for both our literary and moral situation.


The statement is on p. 44. "Among the gratifying phonomena — we borrow this word from one of our most talented authors — to appear during these discussions is the resonance accorded a voice recently raised against 'the belief, etc.' " (see Fædrelandet, no. 26).

The speaker is His Excellency, the Right Reverend Bishop of Sjælland. The talented author, "one of our most talented," who is the inventor of the word phonomenon, which the Bishop is now adopting out of linguistic interest, is The Corsair's Goldschmidt, at present ethicist, aristocrat, the elegant, gallant, piquant editor of Nord og Syd, although until now he has not seen fit to retract, not even with one word, his six-year public past (which pertains in no way to "elegance" but certainly pertains to teachers of Christianity, the highest ecclesiastic, the appointed guardians of morals. The "gifted" — for Bishop Mynster seems to care simply and solely about talent! — the "gifted" author in Fædrelandet, whose words are quoted, is I, S. Kierkegaard.

  1. With my "profound veneration" for Bishop M. — which surely is commonly recognized as the unaltered, continuing expression of my relationship to this man from the beginning — can I be anything but disturbed in this company?
  2. Has not Bishop M. weakened his own position here? M. and G. are opposites. For G. it is most dangerous of all to be placed in proximity to Bishop M. this way. In any other company his public past would not be so glaringly conspicuous as it is here, unless he repentantly revokes it. M. and G. can only diminish each other by proximity; that is, M. is actually the one who will be diminished, for G. is secure in another way. Every recommendation by M. is for G. a minus, is a loss for M.; every recommendation by G. for M. is a minus for M. An example of the former comes right away in Bishop M.'s most recent book, p. 5, where Bishop M. thanks G. for acquainting him with a French author who says, "There is nothing more estimable than" " 'a nation that defends its morals.' " It is G. who told him about this, the Goldschmidt of The Corsair, who for six years, hidden behind scoundrels, presumably "defended" "morals" — by subverting them, and by introducing the new morals of foreign demoralization — with tragically mounting success! And it is Bishop M. who thanks — G. — for this information! And this is not chilling irony, no, this is a distinguished man's affable, patronizing compliment to a supposedly deserving inferior!!! But it does not help; it is irony just the same, irony upon both of them, or, more correctly, it is irony — chilling or burning as you will, upon Bishop M., for G. is safeguarded in another way.
  3. In the no. 26 issue of Fædrelandet referred to, I have very sharply taken issue with what Bishop M. in his recent book mildly took issue with — the dubiousness of a possible coalition between the so-called Old Orthodox and radical politicians, the possible purely political alliance between the qualitatively heterogeneous — the combination of M. and G. is actually an even more contentious union of the heterogeneous, is it not?
  4. In the enterprising busyness of busy secular life only talent is clamored for, there is concern only about talent and talent. The Christian has another view, which is almost unconcerned about talents, or at least not first of all or not solely, but essentially about what use is made of the talent. Every Christian is under obligation most sacredly and solemnly to maintain this view in his life, especially every clergyman, the highest ecclesiastic most of all — is this not true?
  5. To maintain this view, I have worked — if not in human wretchedness — yet to the best of my ability and with many sacrifices. Bishop M. knows this. To make this view known, I also exposed myself to ridicule and abuse from Goldschmidt of The Corsair, who expressed the opposite view, even disdainfully; strangely enough, it happened, among other reasons, once again simply because I (in Concluding Postscript) thanked Kts in "profound veneration." So it actually is for me a strange abracadabra: this equality before the Christian authority, the Right Reverend Bishop, that — equally, in one breath, without even the least mention or hint of the author-character, so that either there is homogeneity there, and consequently it is not a matter of indifference or homogeneity, which is an unchristian view of life — there are, according to Bishop M., two talented or gifted authors, Goldschmidt of The Corsair and S.K. — it almost seems as if we two, under our own or the Right Reverend's auspices, should form an alliance, something I shall guard against; but is not all this true?
  6. Christianity is a unity of gentleness and rigorousness, in one sense infinitely rigorous, and the Christian shudders at this confounded confusion of magnanimous Christian leniency and cowardly, secularly-shrewd weakness. First of all an eternity of memory, until the ethical demand is honored (through suffering the penalty, through restituo in integrum where this is possible, through retraction or the like — and in casu the issue is not in the remotest way a man's private life but a six-year public past), and then an almost miraculous forgetfulness: this is Christianity. This is Christianity according to Mynster's most remarkable and to me unforgettable preaching, which I have read, do read, and will read again and again to my upbuilding. But then is it not also Christianity to act accordingly? I do not think that it is Christianity to have a new sermon about the obligation to act according tot he sermon, and then a new one about the danger in merely preaching about the obligation to act according tot he sermon about, and then to the nth power a sermon about. In my opinion this constitutes a moving away from Christianity. And that simple middle-class man, "the former clothier here in the city," my deceased father, who brought me up in Christianity on Mynster's sermons, was also of this opinion — is this not so?
  7. If the word phonomenon must be introduced, it would be easy to find room and occasion on practically every page. But the line chosen to introduce it is the very one where the inventor's qualitative literary opposite is also (thus very plainly) given prominence as a gifted author — almost as if this juxtaposition were calculated to stand, and very conspicuously, as a kind of Greek text, as a transmission to the next generation from the previous one, here represented, and on behalf of Christianity, represented by the rigorous old man of earnestness: that there were two absolutely identical bees, two talents (something that when M. is long dead G. can spread around for a long time, even if it is wrong, and use against me if I remain quiet now) — that is the line chosen, precisely that one — does this seem intentional or to betray an intention — am I right or am I wrong?
  8. Linguistically, Bishop M. is practically the absolute authority here in the north, something G. perhaps has not managed to achieve either in the north or in the south. So now this word phonomenon has been taken up into the language; Bishop M. has "taken it up." Dictionaries will come to refer to M., or their name will be joined, forever joined — also a Greek text. In strict accuracy perhaps their relation to this word can be designated correctly this way (just as a woman is called, for example, Madame Hansen, née Jensen): Mynster, née G. — is this going too far, or is it Bishop M. who has gone too far?
  9. This passage may be an appreciative acknowledgment falling to my lot from the Right Reverend old gentleman; it may also be an affront to me; it may be a mistake of ignorance, a distraction; it could also be an intrigue — it can be any one of many things.

    If it were definitely an appreciative acknowledgment it would be unspeakably precious to me to thank him in the old-fashioned way, "in profound" veneration. With respect to this man it was my wish, and a very precious wish to me, that at the end of my literary activity I would not have changed with age or my more independent standing [?change - KJ] my esteem for him in such a way that I could not end as I began, with this almost childlike, yet therefore more valuable, perhaps: in profound veneration.

    It was an outright affront: I shall remain silent; at least until now I have not been the habit of paying attention to insults.

    But there is an ambiguous something here; and even though it makes me sad I must call attention to this ambiguous something — unless perhaps Bishop M. is utterly ignorant of certain things or, certainly from a Christian point of view, has a scarcely tenable opinion about it.

    But it is true that it also could have been an intrigue — it was possible, and a more suspicious person could get that idea — an intrigue based on the idea that if I did not remain silent, whereby perhaps the purpose would be achieved in another sense, certain things would be raked up again and I would get into a ruckus (which would bore people and thus harm me) at least with G., and I (usually both taciturn and forbearing) would be depicted as terribly irritable and pathologically vain, also suffering delusions of self-righteousness, almost (risum teneatis!) a pietistic prude and dullard, especially alongside the humane, cultured, gentle Christian love in relation to an ill-spent past public life (the intellectual liberty of the genius), which was Mynster's grateful role. Was this possible — of course from a Christian point of view I cannot sanction it, and intellectually I cannot understand it. When one is the stronger antagonist, why intrigue? — the weapon of the weaker! When one is Bishop M., per deos obsecro — why per G.! When one is Bishop M., if one wishes to stamp me out, religiously understood, demolish my life, the significance of which is specifically in the religious sphere, and not along the lines of being a talent &aegrave; la The Corsair — if that is the purpose, why then begin by diminishing oneself by summoning G. in this way, who in order to be used by Bishop M. must first éclatant make a retraction or he must be used in secret. When one is His Right Reverend Excellency and wants, for example, to go to Nyhavn, why and for what purpose go through Peder Madsens Gang, where something could so easily happen, while along the main streets all would take off their hats in deepest reverence and make way for His Right Reverend Excellency.

For me it has meant a great deal, this "in profound veneration"; to those who have regard for me, the religious author, I know this phrase "in profound veneration" has significance: therefore I ought to be a bit careful. If Bishop M. wants to fritter away his reputation, then I at least ought to see to it that I do not fritter away my "profound reverence." I ought to be careful, but I do not mean of myself, and I do not believe that they who have regard for me, for whom this "in deep veneration" has had significance, will find that I have been too careful; on the contrary some of them no doubt would readily consider it a worldly-shrewd weakness on my part if I remained silent. Alas, and if I remained silent, others would talk!


In a certain sense curiously unnoticed (hardly once have I been able to get reviewed properly) but also almost fatefully I have gone my thankless way through literature.

Since I began I have really asked nothing of the world; why not and by what criterion I cannot further explain, because it is all connected with the most intimate and sensitive story of my life and its anguish. But while I asked nothing for myself, I was very devoted to the more distinguished names in literature. It was my wish that when I had traversed my path, which I never thought would take many years, it would be a kind of passageway and that all the elder literary figures would be standing in the very same place as when I began. My devotion and respect for the elder literary men was provisionally expressed in an article in Fædrelandet in 1842: "Public Confession," which was a kind of signaling, and in which I very specifically singled out as objects of my veneration: Professor Heiberg [in margin, underlined with pencil, a question mark: Professor, now Minister, Madvig], and Bishop Mynster, which I also did later in Fædrelandet after my literary activity had begun and was going full speed, and which eventually was indicated in a very formal way in the postscript to Concluding Postscript.

Then in the spring of 1843 cam Either/Or. I had steadfastly expressed nothing but respectful devotion to Prof. Heiberg, had also received proofs of his favor; there is surely not one single syllable in the whole book Either/Or which can affront him, but there certainly are good words expressed for him, and yet Prof. H. could not resist a compulsion to make himself (falsely) important (in Intelligentsbladet), trying to make it ridiculous, saying it was such a big book, etc.; the whole thing was only a tap, but one for which he perhaps has paid and will continue to pay dearly.

Then it became more and more clear that I actually am a religious author. There is another man here, Prof. Martensen, not one of the old names but a younger man, and not regarding myself as an authority in literature, I fully affirm Bishop M.'s judgment of him: this is a man of talent — of course not in the same sense as Goldschmidt, which must be mentioned since that is Bishop M.'s judgment. Home from abroad at the opportune moment with Hegel's philosophy, he made a big sensation, had extraordinary success, won over the whole student generation to "the system," which even threatened, alas, to render him, my venerated Bishop Mynster, superfluous. Then he entered upon an official career, took a high position, used his powerful (compared to our conditions) connections to make his life secure in every possible way, and later as a distinguished ecclesiastic enjoyed new rapport with the whole cultured world. I was a nobody and remained a nobody, but I devoted myself to what for me was the costly — financially as well — pleasure of being an author in Denmark. Then I became even less than a nobody, was ridiculed and insulted, which again the envious elite used against me, for they refused to understand that I was religiously motivated, but admittedly they could not know that, but they also refused to see that on my part it was indeed an estimable act with regard to our demoralized literary situation. Since he represented the "system," I disagreed with Prof. Martensen and he with me, I suppose, since the general tenor of the opinion he and his "circles" controlled was that what I was doing was something antiquated. For my part I let the pseudonyms express the disagreement, but so softened and blurred that the scene could just as well be in Germany where at that time the Privat-Docent was a stock character, whereas we did not have a single one. Martensen was never named: the whole context was poetically maintained, which both poetically satisfied me and gave me joy, for I knew what a great friend of peace he is, the Old One among us, Sjælland's venerable Bishop. But M. could not resist. In the preface to his Dogmatik there came a tap. Why just a tap: strike in earnest or keep completely quiet! [In penciled parentheses: Incidentally, he perhaps will pay dearly for that tap.]

And now Bishop M. comes along — O, my God! — he also with perhaps a tap! If it really is that, then would to God it had been a devastating blow! For I perhaps will not succumb to a devastating blow, not even from Bishop M., nor to a tap. But if it is a tap, then there is another one who may easily fall. For when a little bit of a man is beside himself and wants to strike a devastating blow, he easily goes down. But when a big man administers a tap, in that moment he is beside himself, and to be beside oneself is like stumbling, and to stumble when one is a big man is close to falling (for a very little man can stumble seventeen times without falling. Maybe Bishop M. is able to slay me with a devastating blow; it is possible* but it is not certain. However it is certain that he can slay himself by tapping. This has grieved me; I bow, but not my head, which I proudly have held high above all the insults and injustice shown me, but am not therefore brusque with the good will and sympathy shown to me, but my heart is bowed down when it is Bishop M.!

* Note. And afterward Bishop Mysnter perhaps will regret it. For when the sea is as rough as it is now — if my proposed tactic of using ideals cannot steer the established through, then it is impossible. M's tactic of administering is based on fair weather. But on the other hand M. is completely indispensable as the representative.

— When I began as an author I asked nothing; I asked nothing later.+

+ Note. For the fact that it had been my desire, my idea, to end as a rural pastor, that I later thought of an appointment to a theological seminary, is not related to my work as an author but to my being a theological candidate who in using the past years as an author nevertheless has used them just as well as another candidate may use them for teaching.

I had only one wish, a childlike wish that when I did lay down my pen Mynster's reputation might shine, if possible, even more brightly than it did in the beginning. When I was fighting down in the lower regions against the "system," spurned by the elite for my antiquated notions, on my own initiative and at my own cost ridiculed by the crowd, then it was Mynster's cause which was fought through — then it was M. who won. As a reward he complimented Martensen. But not a word, not a look from me; just as pleased, unspeakably pleased, I bowed "in profound veneration" because Mynster's reputation sone more gloriously — and I do not matter — yet Martensen is a man of really great ability. Now he draws Goldschmidt to the fore.*

* Note. And Goldschmidt has done us incalculable harm in both the moral and literary spheres. It was indeed necessary at the time for that Christian Bishop, that chief literary figure, M., personally to enter in and sternly call for order. But no one would; so I, a subaltern, had to take the job, which also for that reason was undertaken with suffering. So while G., with the largest circulation in Denmark and with privileged, free-reined unconstraint raged against me with all his talent (and he is, indeed, "one of our most talented authors"; see Mynster, by whom he is now accredited in exactly the same sense as, for example, our talented Martensen, Paludan-Müller, myself, and such others among us), I was too pleased for words to bow "in profound veneration" to the old gentleman, for whatever dubiousness there was in M.'s silence, or ignorance, could be concealed — and I do not matter — if I only manage to maintain M.'s reputation shining the same as before.

I could say that it was ungrateful, unfair. No, no! But in vain have I pondered, almost without sleep, how this could be explained to M.'s advantage. But it cannot possibly be done — his reputation does not shine as before; and in one sense I am tired of life. For myself I fear nothing. But just as I stood there and was ready to thrust the sword into its sheath, something happened to prevent it. It seemed to me that my dead father put this demand to me: You must present Christianity in its utmost rigorousness, but you must keep it poetic, you may attack no one, and on no account may you make yourself out to be better than the most insignificant person, for you know very well that you are not better. In that light M., just as everyone else, will appear to have weak sides; yet you must not make any compromise in presenting Christianity. But you must use all your ability in such a way that M.'s reputation shines more gloriously when you are finished than at the beginning. This is not the case. The Christian Bishop, His very distinguished, illustrious Excellency, has wounded himself on G. If it were possible that it was done to wound me — truly, when so much is at stake, it makes no difference to me! But something has happened that cannot be concealed, something that cannot be made good again, something that every second lieutenant in literature who knows what Christianity is can see, and in the face of which I am powerless to explain — and this is what I have pondered to the point of sleeplessness — to the Bishop's advantage as higher statesmanship, or as level-headedness and wisdom, or as intellectual freedom, or as Christian love and forbearance, etc. — in short, powerless to explain it as something great by the great man in any of the ways which could let the Bishop's reputation shine the same as before. And, alas, with an inevitability almost inconceivable to myself, there is — also what a source of anguish even though the well-spring of great joy — always an either/or in my being.


A word about Goldschmidt. That I never have wished him harm he knows very well himself; that I have wished him well and do still I know. When he got me into The Corsair it was a kind of triumph which — and this I am positively sure of — he never even remotely desired; his admiration for my work as an author surely was genuine. But perhaps the same thing happened to him as to a fisherman fishing for a big fish. But I never in the remotest way wished him any harm. No, I wished to get him away from The Corsair. At the time he would not do it; a little later he left. Personally he does not concern me, except insofar as I wish his talents might find a good use. What concerned me was something else. The Corsair, especially with its altogether abnormal circulation (for now the situation with circulation is quite different; life in Denmark has also taken a tremendous upward swing in pathos) was a symptom of disintegration in Denmark. [Penciled in brackets: This is to be a note. And to emphasize a curious thing, yet we were all Christians and we had a well-manned clergy, who of course ex officio had watched and watched over the morals, which is why they were salaried by the state, a clergy with Bishop M. at the head, who, strict about morals, strictly insists (in his recent book) that civil marriage is responsible for a stain in the public mind that "we should not in the least seek to obliterate" (p. 20).] And in historical retrospect, this will be noted, whether through me or not. But I am not so childish as to think it was G., almost as when one says to children: It was just the cat — to quote a book of the time, my review of Two Ages. No, if G. is successful, I will be pleased. When he started Nord og Syd, I also believed that he himself (if not exactly in the capacity of an ethicist, for his attempts in that direction were not felicitous), as an intelligent man with presence of mind and a quick eye and sometimes with a readily decisive passion, should have made a retraction of his public past, because his attempt to make the six-year financial venture, The Corsair, into an ironic transitional element in his life development only made matters worse, inasmuch as his public life relates inversely to "history" — that is, it must, if possible, be forgotten — otherwise it is a bad history. This he did not do; I have not made a move to demand it, not even with a word. Now Bishop M. wants to help him: so Bishop M. must demand it, as we others again must demand it of Bishop M. on behalf of the situation in the moral and literary spheres. He cannot reproach me for that; it actually pains me that the matter has taken this turn for G., who incidentally is one of those who best see the dubiousness of the Bishop's allusion to me and how dangerous it can be for the Bishop.

S. Kierkegaard


... Perhaps I may take the opportunity here to say something else.

From the beginning it has been my wish and my idea (as I also have said to Bishop M.) to end as a rural pastor. I have now essentially finished as a writer, as one can also see in the new direction I take in the preface to the last pseudonymous work. A little piece "On My Work as an Author" has been ready for about two years and perhaps will be published.

But for the last four or five years I have also had another idea. Recognizing the special nature of my capacities, but also because I believe it could be advantageous to the established order and Bishop M., and also for my own sake, I have wanted an appointment to a pastoral seminary. Over the years, I have urgently expressed this to the bishop. But no! Perhaps I went about achieving this goal in the wrong way; perhaps I have other means at my disposal to achieve it sooner. But I did want it only on the condition of a filial understanding with Bishop M. And, if not from the venerable old gentleman's hand — for he does not give away appointments, after all — yet in such a way that I could say that I owed it to Bishop M., thanked him for it. This wish has been given up.


Just one word in closing. I dare not say that I had the honor of knowing Bishop M. from my father's house; that would have been an almost unnatural relationship since there was, in fact, the greatest possible and most distancing difference in the circumstances of life; the honorable conspicuousness of loftiness and the inconspicuous, yet honorable in its own way, of lowliness.

But from my father's house I do know Bishop M.'s sermons; I inherited many good things from him, among them Bishop M,'s sermons, which for my own upbuilding I have read and do read and will go on reading again and again. I have consulted them — also when I took the step of opposing that literary contemptibleness — and intend to consult them every time I am to act. I have but one thing to say about this man's sermons to everyone who pays any attention to my voice: Listen to him, read him, and again I say: Listen to him, read him. As for myself I wish that I may feel even more strongly, every time I pick up Bishop M.'s sermons for my upbuilding, the presence of the one who is dead, that departed one who brought me up on Bishop M.'s sermons. Thus I am well provided for religiously, because Bishop M. tells me exceptionally well what to do and the departed one says: Will you do it immediately now.

But with respect to doing it and doing it immediately, I no doubt am way behind, probably will never do it perfectly. That I have known how to present ideals and accentuate ideality poetically — yet for God in heaven's sake and with honest fear and trembling guarding against being confused with what I have presented — is something quite different, but then I have never pretended to be essentially more than a singular kind of poet. Therefore it is not true, as Dr. Rudelbach says in concluding his reply to me in Fædrelandet, no. ——— : "that I have made the one great sacrifice the world does not recognize, my time, my diligence, my life." This is a misunderstanding, although uncommonly sympathetic, especially after my article in the same newspaper. But it is a misunderstanding; essentially I am only a poet. I have not "sacrificed," not "my time," not "my diligence" — the most that can be said is that I have dedicated or devoted my time and my diligence in a part of my life to the service of an idea; and least of all have I sacrificed — "my life." No! Essentially I am only a poet who loves what wounds: ideals, what infinitely details: ideals, what makes a man, humanly speaking, unhappy: ideals, what "teaches to take refuge in grace":* ideals, what in a higher sense makes a man indescribably happy: ideals — if he could learn to hate himself properly in the self-concern of infinity.

* Note. See my thrice-repeated preface to the pseudonymous Practice in Christianity, the latest book I published.

Indescribably happy, although humbled, deeply, profoundly humbled, before the ideals, he has had to confess and must confess to himself and to others that there is the infinitely higher that he has not reached, yet unspeakably happy to have seen it, although it is precisely this [having seen] and that [ideals] which cast him to the earth, him, consequently the unhappy one. [Crossed out: — Well, perhaps for time, but not for eternity: what unspeakable happiness, what bliss! Underneath here: S. Kierkegaard.] No, no, the eternally happy one. For eternity! For one can grow weary of all temporal and earthly things, and so it would be tormenting if they were to continue eternally. But the person who gets a vision of ideals instantaneously has but one prayer to God: an eternity! And this prayer is instantaneously heard, for ideals and eternity are eternally inseparable. Thus he, the happy one, has an eternity for contemplation. And should he finish, then he has — what good fortune! — an eternity in which to begin from the beginning. And there is no hurry, there is time enough, plenty of time, still an eternity left . . . . . what ineffable happiness, what bliss!

And in calm weather, when life seems to be tranquilized in illusions, one may think he can do without all this fantasy about ideals, think that all they do is disturb everything, and quite right — they will disturb all the illusions. But when everything is tottering, when everything is splitting up into parties, small societies, sects, etc., when, just because everyone wants to rule, ruling is practically impossible: then there is still one force left which can control men: the ideals, properly applied. For in the first place, the ideals, properly applied, do not come too close to anyone, do not give offense to the ambitions of all, to the ambitions of anyone, which can so easily happen to someone who wants to rule; and in the next place ideals split up every crowd, seize the individual and keep control of him. I point to my own life. Through my considerable association with the ideals I dare say I have become a good subject — which perhaps is quite a rarity these days when everybody wants to rule.

S. Kierkegaard


... The word phonomenon [Fremtoning], it seems to me is not a felicitous word. There is somewhat too much of precocity, pretentiousness, and pomposity about it, which to the ordinary person will always sound as if he is supposed to use two senses in order to "see" the appearance of a "tone". In short, it seems to me that there is something contrived in the word. And, to be honest, I think there is something contrived in the entire passage of your book in which the word is used. To be honest, the association is contrived, and even though chosen (which I do not doubt but rather fear) it is still not a choice association; the word is contrived, and the place in which it is used is contrived, and the joining, whereby I am brought in, is also contrived. There is something strangely contrived in the whole thing.

Are you really serious about adopting this word? Is it "purely" out of unalloyed linguistic interest that you have adopted it this way?...


And how contrived the quotations are. A line by a French author, one which Goldschmidt had translated! And then such an unfelicitous word as phonomenon. It is quite obvious that the Bishop's intention is to draw him to the fore. He almost has to use violence to find an occasion.


Note. Recently a new pseudonym appeared: Anti-Climacus. But this simply implies a halt: this is how one goes about dialectically effecting a halt: one points to something higher that examines a person critically and forces him back within his boundaries.

October, 1849

The note which accompanies the final draft in the mahogany chest reads something like this.


A Deceiver's "Hidden Inwardness"
How the Case Was Cracked

A kind of religious [In penciled parentheses: short story]
                                             [In margin: detective story]


There was once a teacher of Christianity, a clergyman, possessing unusual gifts and great worldly wisdom; he enjoyed considerable honor and esteem, and enjoyed this once again in self-complacent consciousness of his sagacity.

He was also conscious of something else: he was secretly aware that he was a deceiver who had made himself out to be more than he was by talking about a hidden inwardness. But in his closet with the door shut and certain that no one was around to hear he said to himself: "By means of the idea that Christianity is an objective teaching which is so firmly established that no one dares contradict it, and by means of all this about the hidden inwardness, I am so secure in my deception that even if our Lord sent ten witnesses to the truth, no one of them would succeed in exposing me." And this was not untrue, for "the witness to the truth," at least previously, was a direct and immediate category, and since the deceiver was above him because of reflection, the witness to the truth could not trap him.

I assume now that this secret conversation he had with himself in his closet, after making sure that no one could hear him, was heard in heaven — truly existence is wonderfully constructed acoustically: the most secret conversation with oneself is heard — in heaven — what a blessed comfort for all who suffer.

So the conversation is heard in heaven. Then I imagine that God (as it says in Holy Scripture, where in fact there is no mention of a conversation) replied and said: Yes, yes, my good man, if you are smart enough to change the method — I can too. You are going to be exposed, but it will happen slowly, for divine punishment is slow, yet inevitable, and it will happen in a way you will least expect, for God's thoughts are not man's thoughts, but you will be trapped in your foolishness by your own shrewdness — as I am in the habit of doing it — I, the Lord God, who catches up the wise in their foolishness. For this purpose I will use a man whom I shall send to plague you. Do not be afraid, be calm, I will not choose someone who is ten times as clever as you; no, clever folk are the last ones to whom I entrust anything, and moreover I seldom become involved with a man in such a way that I use him directly, entrust to him directly the what and the why and the wherefore. No, I use men in such a way that they do not notice it; they follow their ideas, and then I bring something entirely different out of it. Do not get excited about it. The one I will use — just imagine it! — is a young man, yes, what is more, a young man who will be admiringly attached to you with the most ardent enthusiasm. And since the young man's unselfish and honest devotion will conceal from him that he, precisely he, is the one who — yes, if he suspected it, I would never get him to do it except by force! — will expose you. And just so it will be completely hidden from you in the beginning how dangerous this young man is going to be for you, you will — and justifiably so — see in him your most fervent admirer.

This young man will be well instructed in Christianity. He will admire your great gifts and he will believe everything you say about a hidden inwardness — and thus you will have in him an admirer. But meanwhile he will readily see that by means of this hidden inwardness your proclamation of Christianity leaves out one whole side of Christianity, the embattled Christianity, but nothing will be farther from his mind than to harbor any suspicion whatsoever about you, that you might not be fully justified in understanding yourself as having this side in hidden inwardness.

This young man will consider it his task to furnish the complement to your proclamation of Christianity. And he will be happy to take on this work, happy in the foregone conclusion of a harmonious relationship with you, he who manifests only devotion to you. He is somewhat melancholy, and therefore it will not even occur to him to take exception to your having appropriated the rewarding side of proclaiming Christianity and he the thankless side — no, in fact that will move him.

Then he begins his work, but from the ground up; therefore it is not immediately apparent where he is going.

No wonder you become aware of him, for he is all attentiveness to you. Now you take a look at him. Perhaps there is a very faint intimation of anxiety, as if there were something inexplicable about the man, but it will vanish promptly. And after having used all your sagacity, the impression you get will be the correct one: This young man is the most unselfishly devoted to me of all.

Then you talk with him once more and express your personal good will to him. You say — and this is after using all your sagacity and therefore what you say is completely true — We complement each other, we complete each other.

Those were true words — and fateful words. For here is the snare in which you will trap yourself; the young man suspects nothing. He is satisfied devoutly to pursue his task, to actualize the complementarity more and more intensely. And before me he understands this to be his task — consequently nothing is able to hold him back.

Time passes, and the young man has gone ahead with carrying out his task: you, the wise one, perhaps begin to suspect something. But it will not help you, for the young man suspects nothing — otherwise I would not get him to continue without using force.

You, the wise one, now see the snare — but it will not help you to look around for ways to escape it, for you are in it — and the young man suspects nothing. If in "hidden inwardness" you do not have the other side of Christianity but simply want to get rid of it, then you are a deceiver. But whether or not you have it in hidden inwardness cannot be found out directly, for a hidden inwardness is a good hiding place. This is why the complement is introduced outside of you by that enthusiastic admirer of yours, the young man. Now, if you were not a deceiver, the young man would be able to go on providing the complement as long and as intensely as he wished to; you would continue in the best understanding, for you possessed the complement in hidden inwardness. But if you are a deceiver, there will come a moment when the complement becomes offensive to you — but the young man, he suspects nothing! you will be unable to refrain from doing what you as the wisest one shrewdly did not do for a long time — that is, pass judgment on the complement, no, you will condemn the complement as an error. Instantly it will become manifest that your hidden inwardness is not the concealed complement, and it will become apparent to men (for I the All-knowing can see it more readily) that your proclamation of Christianity is a deception.

It did in fact happen this way, then. For the first time the young man discovered to his horror that he had prompted what he wanted least of all. He became so sad over it that he completely withdrew from the world — for him this was simply a decision "of love".


My Christian Position

1853                                                                                                                         S.K.

First a friendly word to the readers. It is not customary, least of all in journals, to speak in the manner in which I intend to speak and must speak here. Forgive me, then, bear with me, and put the best construction upon it. I cannot speak in any other way, and I must speak, and at this moment it must be in a journal. I do not need to make this excuse to my reader and, indeed, to anyone who is more religiously mature; he will understand that this may and must be said just this way.

Although I fully realize that as an author I have not had finite, secular, temporal goals, which explains why I have come to stand curiously alien, not to speak of appearing ridiculous, in our clever age in which practically everyone knows all too well what finite, secular, and temporal goals he is striving for, I do, however, as an author have something on my conscience in the strictest sense of the word. Let me accurately describe how I feel about it. There is something very specific in what I have to say, and it weighs so on my conscience that I dare not die without saying it. For the minute I die and leave this world, I will then (as I see it) instantly (so frightfully fast does it happen!) I will then instantly be infinitely far from here, at another place, where even that very second (what frightful speed!) the question will be put to me: Have you carried out your errand, have you very specifically said the specific something you were to say? And if I have not done it, what then? [In margin: But in one sense it has not been this way from the beginning. On the contrary there was a period in the beginning when I hoped to be released from very specifically saying this specific thing by death, even if I eventually would say it inasmuch as I would leave it said very specifically in writing. Then came a period when it looked like this to me: You will see, you will not die young; instead you will become an old man, and in any case you will live so long that finally you will have to say this specific something in your lifetime; you will have to say it very specifically. Then cam the last period, which has already lasted for some time now, during which with every month that passes it more and more insistently confronts me thus: I dare not die without having said the specific something very specifically.]

Imagine a servant. He is sent somewhere on a specific errand; there is something specific he has to say and to a specific man. But he is extremely reluctant to say what he has to say, for it is not a happy message, and he is especially reluctant to say it to this particular man. So he makes the journey and arrives at the place; he is at the place — ah, but he lets time go by. He puts it off and puts it off, like a child playing truant from school, so he plays truant from the task — but all the time with anxiety, for he has no idea at all how much time he is going to be given, but he does know and is positively certain that if his recall cam, for example, today and he would have to return home and had not taken care of his errand, then, as we say, he is in for trouble.

So it is with me. There is something very specific I have to say. But to be truthful, I am not keen on saying it; on the contrary, I would very much like to see another say it, which would not help me, however, since, after all, as I see it, it was and is my task to say it. But I am not keen on saying it; just the opposite, I have craved and wished and at times almost hoped that I perhaps might get out of saying it. For it is no happy message, this specific something, and there are various persons dear to me who I am positive will be sorry to have it said. Above all, there is one consideration that has constantly held me back, restrained my tongue or my pen, a consideration for this highest clergyman of this Church, a man to whom I — also in remembrance of a dead father — I feel drawn in an inexplicable, almost morbid, love — and I must believe that he in particular would be very sorry to have it said.

How have I conducted myself then? Let me relate the past briefly but in the historical present, consequently as the situation now.

This is how I conduct myself. I make clear to myself the specific something I have to say. Thereupon — well, whether it be keen discernment, whether it be more or less keen discernment, let others be the judge of that — but what I personally dare say and as truthfully as possible is this: With an extremely troubled discernment I seek to find the mildest, gentlest form in which it can be said — and then I send it out into the world. Simultaneously I move over to the other side. I myself do everything to draw attention away from it, and internally I shout and cry (yes, or sigh): Grant, O God, that it all may go off quietly. It is done in such a way, I know, that very few are able to grasp the true situation. Now, if these few are only smart enough to keep absolutely calm and not throw themselves at me to pressure me (for that is what I unavoidably find most abhorrent) the successful outcome would be that I have saved my conscience, that I have said the specific something that had to be said, and that I have saved my love for the old gentleman. I have avoided a collision with the Bishop M., yes, in the eyes of most people I even seem to have strengthened his regime, something in one sense I quite literally am doing.

And so it goes, everything goes off very quietly. Then I am happy; I say to my soul: Be happy, for now you dare to be happy and you have reason to be happy.

But conscience, as the poet says, this blushing, bashful spirit which makes a person utterly restless, conscience is a wonderful thing and marvelously designed for the individual. For while there certainly are various people of whom it might be said that they have a far more sagacious conscience than I have, because in fact they are far more sagacious than I, and while, on the other hand, there also are various ones of whom it might be said that they have a far more limited conscience than I, because they are far more limited than I — the single individual's conscience (what an ingenious divine invention the conscience is, so incomparably designed for the individual) is precisely, just exactly, as sagacious as he is; therefore his conscience will always be just sagacious enough to be able to see through this clever, most clever, invention of his.

I have experienced the truth of this. After some time had passed there came a day when conscience called to me and said: But, my good friend, how about this specific something that you have to say, do you dare say that you have said it? After all, I know just as well as you do how cunningly you are behaving —

Now this is another story. Now it is no longer: Rejoice, my soul, and be glad. No, I start over again. I make altogether clear to myself that specific something — and I must say that it becomes more and more clear each time. Then I am ready. I sit down and do nothing else from morning until evening than with keen discernment — well, whether it be keen discernment, let others be the judge of that — I dare truthfully say that it is with an extremely troubled discernment that I seek to find the mildest form in which it can be said. Then I send it out into the world. Simultaneously I move to the other side: I do everything to draw attention away from it, internally I shout and cry or sigh etc. etc.

But conscience, this, as the poet says, this blushing, bashful spirit that causes a man nothing but unrest, conscience is something wonderful etc. etc.

Step by step I could point this out through my whole authorship. I believe that I was successful in saying the specific something I have to say, but yet in such a way that it can go off quietly by — I myself help it along. It does go off very quietly — "now I, too, will be happy" — but conscience is wonderfully designed for the individual etc.

But I do not intend to go through the whole authorship in this manner. I will take only the last part.

In 1850 a book came out entitled: Practice in Christianity. There the specific something I have to say is actually said.

But, but. In the first place, it got to be a big book, and I know very well that few people read books, especially the bigger ones. In the second place, a pseudonym was used, which almost poetically distances what was said from actuality. In the third place, in a thrice-repeated preface I let the book recoil upon itself and thereby deflect the attack so that it does not really drive home to actuality. In the fourth place, when the book came out I did manage to lead attention away from it — and those few I mention were, as I secretly wished, quite properly sagacious enough to keep completely calm — it turned out all right, everything went off very quietly.

"Now I will be happy, rejoice in life as I have reason to, for what I thought to be very, very difficult and required rare good luck from the other side turned out all right; I have saved my conscience, I have spoken, have said it — and I have avoided a collision with Bishop M., nothing has actually happened."

But conscience . . . . . yet, no, it did not operate this time just as before. After a short time something else happened. In a little book (————) Bishop M. found opportunity in a quick turn to place me as an author on the same level with Goldschmidt of The Corsair. What is this, I said to myself; is this the old gentleman, the, to say no more, distinguished, brilliant His Excellency, Bishop M.? In the meantime I surveyed the situation, and I finally concluded that it could be regarded as if nothing had happened — what is a line when one is as attached to a man as I am to Bishop M. Time passed, then conscience spoke up. It said something like this: Do you dare deny that you understand very well what that line signifies, that you can read this hieroglyph only all too well, that it means Bishop M. has ascended the scale of wrath very high since he descends so low as to use such a means, that while his worldly sagacity perhaps told him there really is nothing to do or it is not prudent to do anything against Magister K., that he nevertheless has been so provoked that he — no doubt a rare instance — still has been unable to control his anger and it has to come out in one way or another — have you not understood this, and do you dare let this pass without settling the matter, since it is now clear how at odds he must be with you. — I pondered this. — Time passed, again conscience began wanting to engage me in conversation and about the same matter, also gave the matter a new turn. Suppose, it said to me, that the old gentleman were dead, then do you think it easier to set out and in words get said very specifically, briefly and bluntly, the specific something you have to say. You assume that it is devotedness to the old gentleman — and this I will not completely deny — that holds you back. But watch out, could not this also be a little selfishness, that you want to protect yourself, that you think the matter cannot be either as serious or as painfully exhausting for you as soon as he is gone. O, but think of the accounting! Suppose you dared answer "Yes" to the question "Have you taken care of the errand?" But suppose the question is: Why did you let the moment go unused when you knew that the matter would have become most earnest the moment when that old gentleman representing the opposite stood at the peak of his power, supported by the tradition of his whole life, possessing all the advantages of being an old man, yet still young and energetic? Or did you not realize that you were supposed to see to it that the matter would become as earnest as it is? But this you dodged! [In margin: Consequently you cannot truthfully answer "Yes" to the question "Have you taken care of the errand?" but must be silent — and as a reward for not using the time to speak, you can have an eternity in which to be silent, yes, or to sit in despair, brooding over your not speaking.]

Well, so it must be said, bluntly and briefly. And all this business with the big books must have an end. *It must be said briefly, specifically — and my hesitation is not due to inability, for I can do it all right, O, but I will do it so very reluctantly and I would so very much like to be free.

[In margin: *What I chiefly have to say will be brief and specific. If Prof. M. has found me to be too verbose — may I only not be too brief for him now; if Bishop M. — otherwise kindly — has taunted me about using too many devices — may I only not charge him too directly now.]


My Christian position is: Christianity does not exist at all. — I speak of Denmark and, of course, within the limits of what is humanly possible to know.

Christianity does not exist; but through having the objective doctrine, we are more or less captivated in the fancy, trapped in the illusion, that we are Christians.

O, Luther! And yet in one sense a fortunate situation — at that time there were ninety-five theses and controversy over doctrine — now there is but one thesis: that Christianity does not exist at all.

It is not doctrinal heresy, not a schism, no, it is the most dangerous of all, the most cunning invention of natural human subtlety. It may be the Fall from Christianity. It is a mirage, since behind this objectivity which is boasted about and undauntedly appealed to, that we have the objective doctrine and objectively, pastors and churches, attention is diverted from what is crucial, the subjective, that we are not Christians....


An Urgent Request
S. K.

Once and for all I have solemnly asked that this be observed if someone wants to cite or quote any of my writings: if it is a pseudonymous work, cite or quote the pseudonym. As a concerned author I carry a great responsibility, and this is why I willingly do everything I can to insure that the communication is true. On the other hand, it is so easy to comply that I feel one should have no objection to indulging me in this. It is the fruit of long reflection, the why and how of my use of pseudonyms; I easily could write whole books about it. But if this distinction is not observed in citing and quoting, confusion and sometimes meaninglessness results.

To be sure, I have momentarily thought I could take on the responsibility of raising an objection every time it still happens, partly because Danish literature is so meager, and also because in a way I have stood (or been placed) outside of the literature. But for one thing it cannot help that I raise an objection afterward, for when it is done it is done, and for another I perceive that one cannot take such a responsibility on himself.

So I limit myself to a repeated urgent request. I feel very strongly about it, and I urgently ask that the request be heeded.


[In penciled brackets:
            Ein, Zwei, Drei
      Three Aphorisms.]

[In pencil: Reflections.]
respectfully dedicated to a most esteemed public by the
author, who requests a lenient judgment of this his first
attempt, the imperfection of which no one — except, of
course, a highly-esteemed public, which knows every-
thing — knows better than the author.


Geniuses are like a thunderstorm: they go against the wind, terrify people, clear the air.

The "established" has invented various lightning rods to counteract or divert geniuses: they are successful — so much the worse for the established, for if they are successful once, twice, thrice — "the next thunder storm" will be all the more dreadful.

There are two kinds of geniuses. The first is characterized by a lot of thunder, whereas the lightning is slight and rarely strikes. The other kind has a quality of reflection by which they constrain themselves or hold back the thunder. But the lightning is all the more intense; with the speed and sureness of lightning certain selected points are hit — and lethally.


"Did the apostle Paul have an official position?" No, Paul did not have any official position. "Did he earn a lot of money some other way?" No, he did not earn money in any way. "Was he not at least married?" No, he was not married. "But then Paul certainly was not an earnest man!" No, Paul was not an earnest man.


When a man has a toothache, the world says: Poor man! When a man is financially embarrassed, the world says: Poor man! When a man's wife is unfaithful to him, the world says: Poor man! — When God lets himself be born, becomes man and suffers, the world says: Poor man! When an apostle with a divine commission has the honor to suffer for the truth, the world says: Poor man! — — Poor world!!!


In the splendid cathedral a handsome Royal Chaplain, the cultured public's chosen one, appears before a select constituency of the select, and preaches movingly — I say "movingly," I do not say "dryly" — no, he preaches movingly on the apostle's world: God has chosen the poor and despised of the world — and no one laughs!


It is one thing to profit (profiteri) an art, a science, a faith — it is another thing to profit from it.


When someone asks a man "Do you know this and that" and he promptly answers "Yes" or "No," then this answer is a popular answer and shows that he is a simpleton, a seminarist, etc. But if it takes ten years before the answer comes, if it comes in the form of a detailed dissertation which scrupulously, as Holophernes says, maintains the strict tempo of "Ein, Zwei, Drei," and at the end of the detailed dissertation it is not exactly clear whether he knows it or not — this is an authentic speculative answer and proves that the one who was asked is a professor in speculation, or at least so artful that he ought to be.


The reflection found under no. 1 of the reflections on a loose sheet in the high desk is about a poet who wants to be mistaken for a witness to the truth.


Victorin Victorius Victor

[In brackets:
Johannes de Silentio]
n.d., 1849-51


Ein, Zwei, Drei
Three and a Half Aphorisms

  1. The one about geniuses and thunderstorms
    perhaps under the title: A Meteorological Observation.
  2. The one which ends: ergo, Paul was not an earnest man
    perhaps under the title: A Flower Respectfully Planted
    on the Grave of "Established Christendom."
  3. The one ending with: Poor world.
    perhaps under the title: For the Jaw—harp.
  4. The most dreadful punishment, according to their own view, with which the prophets threatened the Jewish people is this: Children shall rule over you ——— this is only half an aphorism; the clause with consequences is lacking.
n.d., 1849-51


Night and Day or Nicodemus and Stephen
Established Christendom and the Militant Church

   For Self-Examination       Recommended to the Present Age

The draft on Nicodemus is on quarto sheets and, together with the draft of the sermon, is in an envelope in the corner of one of the shelves in the tall cupboard. Nicodemus perhaps is not written on the envelope but rather Trinity Sunday ("The long Trinity," as it is called, begins quite characteristically with "Nicodemus").

The draft on Stephen is found right at the beginning of this year's journal [i.e. X4 A 434-436 [??]]. It no doubt is NB.


On the cover:
Draft of two sermons: Trinity Sunday and the second Sunday after Trinity.

Draft or suggestions for a discourse: The Kingdom of Heaven is like — —





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