Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1843
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|Original title||Fire opbyggelige Taler|
|Series||First authorship (Discourses)|
|Genre||Christianity, Psychology, Philosophy|
|Publisher||Bookdealer P. G. Philipsen|
|December 6, 1843|
Published in English
|1944 – first translation|
|Preceded by||Repetition (Kierkegaard)|
|Followed by||Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1844|
Four Upbuilding Discourses (1843) is a book by Søren Kierkegaard.
History [ edit ]
Kierkegaard writes these discourses because he's not sure that the other two have done their job. He revisits the story of Job once more but here he puts the emphasis not on what he said but what he did. He "traced everything back to God; he did not detain his soul and quench his spirit with deliberation or explanations that only feed and foster doubt."
He then has two discourses, each with the same title as one of his first discourses, in which he wrote about God's perfect gifts from above. In that discourse he had said, "if a person is to be able to find peace in these words in his lifetime, he must be able to decide either what it is that comes from God or what may legitimately and truly be termed a good and perfect gift. But how is this possible? Is every human life, then, a continuous chain of miracles? Or is it possible for a human being's understanding to make it through the incalculable series of secondary causes and effects, to penetrate everything in between, and in that way to find God? Or is it possible for a human being's understanding to decide with certainty what is a good and perfect gift from him? Does it not run aground on this again and again?" He explores the kind of knowledge that is necessary for an individual to determine, with certainty, that he has this good and perfect gift.
His last discourse is about the battle between God and the world for the soul of every single individual. According to Kierkegaard the only weapon needed to fight this battle is patience. This battle is not an external battle against external enemies but entirely internal. Heiberg reviewed these discourses and remarked that the first discourse in this series was the only one of his eighteen discourses that seemed like a sermon, the rest seemed too philosophical in nature and Kierkegaard agreed with him.
Structure [ edit ]
- The Lord Gave, and the Lord Took Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord. (Job 1:20-21)
- Every Good Gift and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above (James 1:17-22)
- Every Good Gift and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above
- To Gain One's Soul in Patience
The Lord Gave, and the Lord Took Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord [ edit ]
Kierkegaard explores two simple verses from the Old Testament, "Then Job arose, and tore his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped, saying: Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord took away; blessed be the name of the Lord.", and delivers a message to his "reader" about gratitude.
The Young Man from Repetition found in Job a reason to argue not only with the whole world but also with God, he said, "Job's tormented soul breaks forth in powerful cries. Then I understand; these words I make my own. At the same time, I sense the contradiction and smile at myself as one smiles at a little child who has donned his father's clothes. Indeed, is it not something to smile at if anyone else but Job would say: Alas, if only a man could take God to court as a child of man does his fellow. And yet anxiety comes over me, as if I still did not understand what someday I would come to understand, as if the horror I was reading about was waiting for me, as if by reading about it I brought it upon myself, just as one becomes ill with the sickness one reads about."[note 1]
The Young Man had a woman who loved him and was unable to withstand the peer pressure of his age. Job had everything he had taken away from him and the only thing he said was, "The Lord gave", he didn't get angry with God. The Young Man was concerned about the external world but Kierkegaard is interested in the internal world of the spirit where hope endures.[note 2]
In the external world the flesh wants to have what it had before. An individual gets power over others and uses it wisely or continually craves more power. If this repetition is kept up that individual becomes a tyrant. Kierkiegaard says, "What his soul delighted in, it now thirsted for, and ingratitude punished him by picturing it to him as more delightful than it had ever been." If Johannes the Seducer wants to seduce another woman, Kierkegaard says, "What he once had been able to do, he now wanted to be able to do again, and ingratitude punished him with fantasies that had never had any truth. Then he condemned his soul, living, to be starved out in the insatiable craving of the lack (of money, power, adoration, alcohol, drugs, etc..) How can this craving be stopped? Only by choosing the ethical life-view, according to Kierkegaard.[note 3] He says the unhappiest person is the one who has the "content of his life, the fullness of his consciousness, the essence of his being, in some manner outside of himself" because this becomes a "rigid limitation".
What is the power that binds me? How was the chain made with which the Fenris wolf was bound? It was wrought from the sound of a cat's paws walking over the ground, from women's beards, from the roots of rocks, from the nerves of bears, from the breath of fishes, and the spittle of birds. And thus I, too, am bound in a chain formed of dark imaginings, of unquiet dreams, of restless thoughts, of dread presentiments, of inexplicable anxieties. This chain is "very supple, soft as silk, elastic under the highest tension, and cannot be broken in two.— Either/Or Vol I p. 33
Kierkegaard presents Job as the prototype that follows one generation after another. He knew the Lord had taken everything away and didn't even go out to attack the Sabeans who had cut down his herds and their keepers. He traced everything back to God. Kierkegaard asks, "does he alone see God's hand who sees that he gives, or does not one also see God's hand who sees that he takes away?" Job says, "How powerless the assailant's arm, how worthless the schemer's cleverness; how almost pitiable is all human power when it wants to plunge the weak person into despairing submission by wrenching everything from him and in his faith he says: it is not you, you can do nothing, it is the Lord who takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!"
But Job! The moment the Lord took everything away, he did not say, "The Lord took away," but first of all he said "The Lord gave. … Job's soul was not squeezed into silent subjection to the sorrow, but his heart first expanded in thankfulness, the first thing the loss of everything did was to make him thankful to the Lord that he had given him all the blessings that he now took away from him. … His thankfulness no doubt was not the same as in those days that already seemed so far away, when he received every good and every perfect gift from God's hand with thankfulness. But his thankfulness was nevertheless honest, just as honest as the idea of God's goodness that was now so vivid in his soul. Now he recalled everything the Lord had given, some particular thing with perhaps even more thankfulness than when he had received it; it had not become less beautiful because it had been taken away, nor more beautiful, but was just as beautiful as before, beautiful because the Lord had given it, and what might seem more beautiful to him now was not the gift but the Lord's goodness.— Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 115-116
The moral of the story is directed not to his "reader" but to his "listener".
If you yourself, my listener, were tried as Job was and stood the ordeal as he did, then it would indeed apply precisely to you if what we have said about Job is otherwise correct. If up until now you have never been tried in life, then indeed it applies to you. Are you perhaps thinking that these words are applicable only to the kind of extraordinary situation in which Job was placed? If something similar were to befall you, do you perhaps expect that the terror itself would give you this strength and develop in you this humble courage? Did Job not have a wife-what do we read about her? Perhaps you are thinking that the horror itself cannot acquire the same power over a person as the daily bondage to much lesser hardships. Then watch out that you do not become a slave to some hardship any more than to some person, and above all learn from Job to become honest with yourself so that you do not deceive yourself with imagined power, with which you experience imagined victory in imagined struggle.— Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 123
Every Good Gift and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above [ edit ]
This discourse is based on the following 6 verses from the Epistle of James, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change or shadow of variation. According to his own counsel, he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a first fruit of creation. Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, because a man's anger does not work what is righteous before God. Therefore put away all filthiness and all remnants of wickedness and receive with meekness the word that is implanted in you and that is powerful in making your souls blessed." James 1:17-22
He begins with a recounting of the Biblical story of the fall of man. He says, "Only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was man not allowed to eat-lest the knowledge should enter the world and bring grief along with it: the pain of want and the dubious happiness of possession, the terror of separation and the difficulty of separation, the disquietude of deliberation and the worry of deliberation, the distress of choice and the decision of choice, the judgment of perdition and the anxiety of perdition, the suffering of death and the expectation of death." Man broke the peace by plucking the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil and the Garden of Eden was closed. How will the single individual find out where the good is and where the perfect is? Kiekegaard says doubt will explain it to him.
Kierkegaard compares the human love of fathers to God the Father's love. Here he speaks of the "terrible upheaval" where God pronounces judgment on the father, possibly Kierkegaard's father, Michael. Kierkegaard reasons this way, ""If God's love does not know how to give good gifts any better than a father's love, then there certainly is small comfort in these words. In this way the words became for him what fatherly love was for him-a beautiful, hallowed, wistful recollection, an uplifting mood that quickened in his soul the conception of the best in the human being but also of the human being's weakness, quickened the soul's most blessed longing but also retracted it again in order to subordinate it to the sadness of concern." Once doubt is planted, Kierkegaard says, "then doubt became stronger. What he himself had discerned, what he himself had experienced, what he with sympathetic concern and to his own grief had become convinced of-that earthly life is vanity, that even people's good gifts are weak-willed and only fill him with disgust-this he now found to be confirmed in Scripture also. Thus it was now plain and clear to him that this is what the words meant, and that far from supporting the most beautiful in life and letting it continue, they on the contrary tacitly condemned it and allowed it to disappear." Was Kierkegaard's father a good and perfect gift or not? Later, in Stages on Life's Way, Kierkegaard explored Solomon's relation to David and asked the same question. Was David a good and perfect gift to Solomon?
Kierkegaard says there is a "condition" that makes a gift good and perfect. He explored various conditions necessary for an individual to enjoy life in Either/Or Part II. He says, "Every human being, no matter how slightly gifted he is, however subordinate his position in life may be, has a natural need to formulate a life-view, a conception of the meaning of life and of its purpose." But the condition necessary for the enjoyment of life (health and beauty, power such as Nero had, the esthetic enjoyments of life, "every life-view that has the condition outside itself is despair." Either/Or was an "attempt to actualize an ethical life-view." This "condition" doesn't come from externalities according to Kierkegaard. He says,
What earthly life does not have, what no man has, God alone has, and it is not a perfection on God's part that he alone has it, but a perfection on the part of the good that a human being, insofar as he participates in the good, does so through God. What, then, is the good? It is that which is from above? What is the perfect? It is that which is from above. What is the good? It is God. … God is the only one who gives in such a way that he gives the condition along with the gift, the only one who in giving already has given. God gives both to will and to bring to completion; he begins and completes a good work in a person.— Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 134
The religious address can deal with everything, but it must continually bring everything into relation to the absolute category of religiousness. It must walk along every path, must know the habitat of every error, where moods have their hiding places, how passions regard themselves in solitude, now where illusions tempt, where the path swings off, in order to bring everything continually into relation with the absolute category of religiousness. … The religious discourse is the path to the good, that is, it copies the path, which is just as long as life; it copies the path that the religious person describes, not in the sense in which the planet describes its course or the mathematician describes a circle. But there is no shortcut to the absolute good, and since it is defined only by the mode of acquisition, the absolute difficulty of this is the only sign that one is relating oneself to the absolute good.— Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Volume 1 p. 427-428
What is the "one thing needful" that knowledge can't bring? Kierkegaard answers thus:
If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? – because to need the Holy Spirit is a perfection in a human being, and this earthly need is so far from illuminating it by analogy that it darkens it instead. The need itself is a good and perfect gift from God, and the prayer about it is a good and a perfect gift through God, and the communication of it is a good and a perfect gift from above, which comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change or shadow of variation.— Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 139
And repeats the same answer in 1846;
If the dialogue Hippias is regarded as an introduction to what the beautiful is, it can serve as a kind of analogy to what the beautiful is, it can serve as a kind of analogy to the sort of introduction of which I am speaking. That is, after several attempts to explain what the beautiful is, all of which are demolished, the dialogue ends with Socrates' saying that he has benefited from the conversation, that he has found out that it is difficult. Whether Socrates is right in such a procedure, since the beautiful is an idea and is not related to existence, I shall not decide. But when in Christendom it seems that so much has been done or attempted to make one forget what Christianity is, then in my opinion it is better to regard an introduction appropriate if instead of resembling the usual introductions-and the hired waiters whom hotels send out to meet the travelers immediately at the customhouse and to recommend their lodging and cuisine-it ends with having made becoming a Christian difficult, although the introduction has also tried to show what Christianity is. The hotel needs the travelers; with regard to Christianity, it would be even more appropriate if people grasped that they need Christianity.— Concluding Unscientific Postscript Vol. 1 p. 383-384
And again in 1850;
The Invitation: Come Here To Me, All You Who Labor And Are Burdened, And I Will Give You Rest. How amazing, amazing that the one what has help to bring is the one who says: Come here! What love! It is already loving, when one is able to help, to help the one who asks for help, but to offer the help oneself! And to offer it to all! Yes, and to the very ones who are unable to help in return! To offer it, no, to shout it out, as if the helper himself were the one who needed help, as if he who can and wants to help everyone were nevertheless in one respect himself a needy one, that he feels need, and this needs to help, needs those who suffer in order to help them. .... ordinarily it is the case that the person who is able to help must be searched for, and once he is found it may be hard to gain access to him, and when one has gained access one perhaps must still plead with him for a long time, and when one has pleaded with him for a long time, he perhaps at long last lets himself be prevailed upon-that is, he sets a high price on himself. And at times, especially when he refuses payment or magnanimously renounces it, this is simply an expression of the very high price he sets upon himself. But he who sacrificed himself, sacrifices himself here also, he is himself the one who seeks those who have need of help, he is himself the one who goes around and, calling, almost pleading, says: Come here. He, the only one who is able to help and help with the one thing needful, who is able to rescue from the only, in the truest sense, life-threatening illness, he does not wait for anyone to come to him; he comes on his own initiative, uncalled-for he is indeed the one who calls to them; he offers help-and such help! …. But he who calls himself the Savior and knows himself to be that says in concern: Come here. … Oh human self-sacrifice, even when you are most beautiful and noble, when we admire you the most, there is still one more sacrifice-to sacrifice every qualification of one's own self so that in one's willingness to help there is not the slightest partiality. O love-thus to set no stipulation whatever of price upon oneself, completely to forget oneself, so that one is someone who helps, completely blind to who it is that one is helping, seeing with infinite clarity that, whoever that person may be, he is a sufferer-to be unconditionally willing to help in this way, alas, therein different from everyone!— Practice in Christianity, Hong p. 11-13
Every Good Gift and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above [ edit ]
This discourse continues using another text from The Epistle of James and he adds a verse from the Book of Jude to explain what he wants to talk about here.
The same apostle from whose epistle the above text is taken warns in the very next passage against the worldly endeavors that sought to penetrate also the congregation in order to establish the difference and distinction in the service of vanity, to emancipate it from the bond of perfection that knits its members together in equality before God, and to make it a slave in subjection to the law that rules the world and has presumably always ruled it: "to flatter people for the sake of advantage" (Jude 16) The idea so frequently stressed in Holy Scripture for the purpose of elevating the lowly and humbling the mighty, the idea that God does not respect the status of persons, this idea the apostle want to bring to life in the single individual for application in his life. If a person always keeps his soul sober and alert in this idea, he will never go astray in his outlook on life and people or "combine respect for status of persons with his faith." "Show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ." (James 2.1) Then he will direct his thoughts toward God, and his eye will not make the mistake of looking for differences in the world instead of likeness with God.— Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 141
And even if he sometimes forgets about equality again and loses himself distracted by life's confusing distinctions, nevertheless his mind, every time he goes to the hallowed place, will be preserved in equality before God during that time and will be educated to preserve increasingly this equality in the clamor of the world and with it to penetrate the confusion. In the world, the differences work frantically to embellish and to embitter life, as beckoning goals, as rewards of victory, as oppressive burdens, as attendants of loss; in the world, external life takes arrogant pride in differences-or cravenly and worriedly sighs under them. But in the hallowed place, the voice of the ruler is heard no more than in the grave; there is no difference between man and woman, no more than in the resurrection; the presumptuous demands of wisdom are not heard there, the pomp and glory of the world are not seen there, for it is seen as something that is not seen. There even the teacher is the servant, and the greatest is the lowliest, and the most powerful person in the world is the one who needs intercessory prayer more than anyone else; there every externality is discarded as imperfection, and equality is true for all, redeeming and equally redeeming.— Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 141-142
This point of view would break down the barriers between people. But Kierkegaard suggests that this breaking down of the barriers requires battles and victories. He says, "In the hallowed places, in every upbuilding view of life, the thought arises in a person's soul that help him to fight the good fight with flesh and blood, with principalities and powers, and in the fight to free himself for equality before God, whether this battle is more a war of aggression against the differences that want to encumber him with worldly favoritism or a defensive war against the differences that want to make him anxious in worldly perdition. This fight is a fight to unite the "two great classes" who are being obligated "to give or being obliged to receive." Kierkegaard says, "Every human being, whether he gives or receives, essentially has to thank God." These gifts can be a simple word of encouragement, a truth, money etc., but Kierkegaard warns those who "sit and brood like dragons on their earthly treasures, they hoard, like a miser, the good things of the spirit, jealous of them-of what benefit is it to him that the words wanted to teach him to bestow them in the right way?
The person who gives is more insignificant than the gift and the person who receives is more insignificant than the gift, then equality indeed has been effected-that is, equality in insignificance in relation to the gift because the gift is from above and therefore actually belongs to neither or belongs equally to both-that is, it belongs to God.— Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 157
To Gain One's Soul in Patience [ edit ]
Kierkegaard's final discourse is about the philosophical questions concerning the soul. He keeps using the Socratic method. This time he asks, "Is it saying too little to say that a person comes naked into the world and possesses nothing in the world if he does not even possess his soul? (…) What is there to live for if a person has to spend his whole life gaining the presupposition that on the deepest level is life's presupposition-yes, what does that mean? He had already asked himself about the soul in Either/Or in this way:
I shall suggest in a few words the danger that faces a person in the moment of despair, the reef on which he can be stranded and utterly shipwrecked. The Bible says: For what would it profit a person if he gained the whole world but damaged his own soul; what would he have in return? Scripture does not state the antithesis to this, but it is implicit in the sentence. The antitheses would read something like this: What damage would there be to a person if he lost the whole world and yet did not damage his soul; what would he need in return? There are expressions that in themselves seem simple and yet fill the soul with a strange anxiety, because they almost become more obscure the more one thinks about them. In the religious sphere, the phrase "sin against the Holy Spirit" is such an expression. I do not know whether theologians are able to give a definite explanation of it, but then I am only a layman. But the phrase "to damage one's soul" is an esthetic expression, and the person who thinks he has an ethical life-view must also think he is able to explain it. We often hear the words used, and yet anyone who wants to understand them must have experienced the deep movements of his soul-indeed, he must have despaired, for it is actually the movements of despair that are described here: one the one side the whole world, on the other side one's own soul. You will readily perceive, if we pursue this expression, that we arrive at the same abstract definition of "soul" at which we arrived earlier in the definition of the word "self" in the psychological consideration of wishing, without, however, wanting to become someone else. In other words, if I can gain the whole world and yet damage my soul, the phrase "the whole world" must include all the finite things that I possess in my immediacy. Then my soul proves to be indifferent to these things. If I can lose the whole world without damaging my soul, the phrase "the whole world" again includes all the finite qualifications that I possess in my immediacy, and yet if my soul is undamaged it is consequently indifferent toward them. I can lose my wealth, my honor in the eyes of others, my intellectual capacity; and yet not damage my soul: I can gain it all and yet be damaged. What, then, is my soul? What is this innermost being of mine that is undismayed by this loss and suffers damage by this gain?— Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 220-221
Kierkegaard proposes that the world possesses the individual soul, but the world is imperfect. God is perfect. Therefore there is a battle going on and duties to carry out. He describes the battle this way, "In patience, the soul comes to terms with all its possessors, with the life of the world in that it sufferingly gains itself from it, with God in that it sufferingly accepts itself from him, with itself in that it itself retains what it simultaneously gives to both without anyone being able to deprive the soul of it-patience. The soul can obtain nothing through power; it is in the hands of an alien power.[note 4] If the soul were free in some other way, it would not be the self-contradiction in the contradiction between the external and the internal, the temporal and the eternal.(…) This self-contradiction is again expressed in the soul's being stronger than the world through its weakness, in its being weaker than God through its strength, in its inability to gain anything but itself unless it wants to be deceived, and in its being able to gain itself only by losing itself. To know what a human soul is still a long way from beginning to gain one's soul in patience, and it is a knowledge that exhibits its difference from that gaining inasmuch as it does indeed grow in impatience. And even though this knowledge may have its significance, it often deceived a person the very same way the world does, in that he thought that he possessed it, whereas it was his knowledge that possessed him."
The knowledge that is the highest knowledge as far as Kierkegaard is concerned is the knowledge that he had a soul that could relate to God. This was "the one thing needful" He says, "His soul belongs to the world as its illegitimate possession; it belongs to God as his legitimate possession; it belongs to the person himself as his possession, as a possession that is to be gained. Consequently he gains-if he actually does gain-his soul from God, away from the world, through himself." The fight for the soul takes place in the inner being, not in externalities where everything changes from one moment to the next, it is a "work of patience".[note 5] Here was Kierkegaard's Either/Or; either the single individual gains his soul from the world and presents it to God at the end of life or he loses his soul to the world and has nothing to present to God at the end of life. Kierkegaard puts it this way in August 1944:
But if he nevertheless is unwilling to be an instrument of war in the service of inexplicable drives, indeed, in the service of the world, because the world itself, the object of his craving, stimulates the drive; if he nevertheless does not want to be like a stringed instrument in the hands of inexplicable moods or, rather, in the hands of the world, because the movement of the soul is in accord with the way the world plucks its strings; if he does not want to be like a mirror in which he intercepts the world or, rather, the world reflects itself; if he does not want this, if he himself, even before the eye aims at something to make a conquest, wants to capture the eye so that it may belong to him and not he to the eye; if he grasps the hand before it grasps for the external, so that it may belong to him and not he to the hand; if he wants this so earnestly that he is not afraid of tearing out the eye, cutting off the hand, shutting the window of the senses if necessary-well, then everything is changed: the power is taken away from him, and the glory. He struggles not with the world but with himself. Observe him now; his powerful figure is held embraced by another figure, and they hold each other so firmly interlocked and are so equally matched in suppleness and strength that the wrestling cannot even begin, because in that moment that other figure would overwhelm him-but that other figure is he himself. Thus he is capable of nothing; even the weakest person who is not tried in this struggle is capable of far more than he.— Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, To Need God Is A Human Being's Highest Perfection, Hong, p. 308-309
How can a person come to know that a soul resides in them and that another has claim to it? Classical knowledge realized that experience alone doesn't lead one to the truth, but Hegel was interested in making Reason the only path to truth. Kierkegaard disagreed. He said, "A person knows his soul, then, if he truly knows it as something that he may be able t o describe accurately but that is in the possession of another and that he probably desires to possess, but knowledge as such does not help him in this. Even though patience is required for this knowing, as for any other, this nevertheless is not what the words speak about, as is shown in this-that in knowledge patience is not simultaneously the condition and the conditioned. (…) The person who wants to gain his soul in patience knows that his soul does not belong to him, that there is a power from which he must gain it, a power by whom he must gain it, and that he must gain it himself." The soul is in the hands of an alien power, the world, and the single individual must gain the soul from the world in order to present it to God unblemished.
Criticism [ edit ]
Both Two Upbuilding Discourses and Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1843 were reviewed by Jacob Peter Mynster, Bishop of Zeeland. He considered the discourse about Job a sermon. The sales of the discourses were meager. It's generally accepted among scholars that Kierkegaard became a religious writer in 1847, with the publication of Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits An article written in 1855 didn't acknowledge any of these discourses of 1843 or 1844.
The works of Dr. Kierkegaard had many readers among literary men; but acquired greater influence, some years afterwards, by the publication, in his own name, of several sermons and edifying discourses, written with perfect purity of language and great eloquence. He expressly enforced in them the subjective appropriation of religion; faith in the inexhaustible and unsearchable love of God; and in this sense he explains the axiom, Credo quia absurdum. These sermons stirred up many minds; but towards the latter years of his life he entered on a new course, a glimpse of which he especially gives in one of his publications, which appeared under this title: Life in Christianity, by Anti-Climacus.— Evangelical Christendom: Christian Work and the News of the Churches Published 1855 by J.S. Phillips etc. p. 127-128
Kierkegaard's idea of the battle for the soul reminds one of John Bunyan's book, The Holy War Made by King Shaddai Upon Diabolus, to Regain the Metropolis of the World, Or, The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Mansoul and the longing for the knowledge that knowledge can not bring reminds one of The Pilgrim's Regress by C.S. Lewis His book is very similar to Bunyan's earlier book The Pilgrim's Progress John is looking for the Landlord (God) and reason is his guide. "Reason – 'The Spirit of the Age (Zeitgeist) wishes to allow argument and not to allow argument. … If anyone argues with them they say that he is rationalizing his own desires, and therefore need not be answered. But if anyone listens to them they will then argue themselves to show that their own doctrines are true. … You must ask them whether any reasoning is valid or not. If they say no, then their own doctrines, being reached by reasoning, fall to the ground. If they say yes, then they will have to examine your arguments and refute them on their merits: for if some reasoning is valid, for all they know, your bit of reasoning may be one of the valid bits." Kierkegaard had just gone through an argument with the spirit of the age in Repetition. In 1848 Kierkegaard wrote in his diary:
When one realizes that one's life is a regress instead of a progress, and that this is the very property, just the thing one is working for, for God with all his wisdom, then one can talk to no one.— Journals of Kierkegaard 48 IX A 23
Kierkegaard described his longing for God, for that "one thing he needed" for his happiness, in Fear and Trembling. He said,
I am convinced that God is love, for me this thought has a primal lyrical validity. When it is present to me, I am unspeakable happy; when it is absent, I long for it more vehemently than the lover for the object of its love. But I do not have faith; this courage I lack. To me God's love, in both the direct and the inverse sense, is incommensurable with the whole of actuality. Knowing that I am so cowardly that I whimper and complain, but neither am I so perfidious as to deny that faith is something far higher.— Fear and Trembling p. 34
And he wrote the following in the discourse he published on the same date as Fear and Trembling. People lose themselves in externalities.
Externally everything was beautiful and friendly. Yet his soul was in distress, and since this was not due to the external world, he could not see people's comfort either. Outwardly everything was going well, and yet his soul was in anxiety, devoid of trust and bold confidence. He did not seek peace and tranquility in externals, and yet his heart continued to be troubled. Then the inner being within him drooped; it seemed to him as if his outward success were only for the purpose of preserving his inner sufferings so that he would not find relief even in the tribulations of the world; it seemed to him as if it were God himself who laid his powerful hand on him, as if her were a child of wrath, and yet he could not come any closer to understanding or explaining how this could be. Then his inner being rebelled within him, then he did what is related in an old devotional book: "he boasted that he was lost," and that it was God himself who had plunged him down into damnation. Then the inner being with him froze.— Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1843 p. 98
This kind of longing was repeated by Leo Tolstoy in his Confessions. He said,
"The conception of God is not God," said I to myself. "The conception is what takes place within me. The conception of God is something I can evoke or can refrain from evoking in myself. That is not what I seek. I seek that without which there can be no life. And again all around me and within me began to die, and again I wished to kill myself. But then I turned my gaze upon myself, on what went on within me, and I remembered all those cessations of life and reanimations that recurred within me hundreds of times. I remembered that I only lived at those times when I believed in God. As it was before, so it was now; I need only be aware of God to live; I need only forget Him, or disbelieve Him, and I died."
…on entering life young people meet with various collective opinions, more or less narrowly minded. The more the individual has it in him to become a real personality, the more he will resist following the herd. But even if an inner voice says to him: "Become thyself! Be thyself!" he hears its appeal with despondency. Has he a self? He does not know; he is not yet aware of it. He therefore looks about for a teacher, an educator, one who will teach him, not something foreign, but to become his own individual self.
We had in Denmark a great man who with impressive force exhorted his contemporaries to become individuals. But Soren Kierkegaard's appeal was not intended to be taken so unconditionally as it sounded. For the goal was fixed. They were to become individuals, not in order to develop into free personalities, no in order to become true Christians. Their freedom was only apparent; above them was suspended a "Thou shalt believe!" and a "Thou shalt obey!" even as individuals they had a halter round their necks, and on the farther side of the narrow passage of individualism, through which the herd was driven, the herd awaited them again-one flock, one shepherd.
It is not with this idea of immediately resigning his personality again that the young man in our day desires to become himself and seeks an educator. He will not have a dogma set up before him, at which he is expected to arrive. But he has an uneasy feeling that he is packed with dogmas. How is he to find himself in himself, how is he to dig himself out of himself? This is where the educator should help him. An educator can only be a liberator. It was a liberating educator of this kind that Nietzsche as a young man looked for and found in Schopenhauer. Such a one will be found by every seeker in personality that has the most liberating effect on him during his period of development. Nietzsche says that as soon as he had read a single page of Schopenhauer, he knew he would read every page of him and pay heed to every word, even to the errors he might find. Every intellectual aspirant will be able to name men whom he has read in this way.— Friedrich Nietzsche, by George Brandes; translated from the Danish by A.G. Chater, Published 1914 by W. Heinemann in London p. 9-10
Brandes also compared Kierkegaard to Henrik Ibsen. He said "As friendship under certain circumstances may be a hindrance to the independence of the individual, so too may marriage. Therefore it is that Nora refuses to consider her duties toward her husband and children as her most sacred duties; for a far more sacred duty she believes she owes herself. Therefore it is that to Helmer's "You are before all else a wife and mother"; she replies : — " I am before all else a human being, — or, at all events, I shall endeavor to become one." Ibsen shares with Kierkegaard the conviction that in every single human being there slumbers the soul of a warrior, an invincible power; but he cherishes it in another form than Kierkegaard, for whom the worth of the individual is something supernatural, while with Ibsen, we rest on human grounds. He believes that the individuality of the human being is to be preserved for its own sake, not for the sake of higher powers; and since beyond all else the individual should remain free and whole, all concessions made to the world represent to Ibsen the foul fiend, the evil principle. Eminent authors of the 19th century. Literary portraits, Henrik Ibsen, By George Brandes 1886 p. 433
David F. Swenson translated all eighteen discourses in the early 1940s. He wrote the following in his introduction to this discourse.
An objective reflection inquires into the truth of the God-idea and raises the question of God's existence; a subjective reflection examines the mode of existence of the individual to find out whether he is related to something in such a way that the relationship is a true God-relationship. By virtue of the infinite passion of his inwardness, the individual realizes his infinite need of God, and the passionate understanding of this constitutes the true knowledge of God, the true God relationship is inwardness. Kierkegaard's greatness as a religious thinker lies, among other things, in his decisive and unwavering choice, his intensive concentration upon subjective reflection as the road to the highest truth.— Edifying Discourses, by Soren Kierkegaard, Vol. II, Translated from the Danish by David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1944 Introduction p. xiv
Theodor Haecker wrote in 1938, "Kierkegaard fought the fight victoriously. His was a good spirit and in him was love. Because of this victory one can forget his great error and defect; nor were they of an absolute order, but the result of his whole character and origin. He had the merits of his defects, and his errors were those of his truths, for he had not the teaching authority of the Church, but only his conscience, to which he was always faithful. On his death-bed he spoke of his fight in his own particular way, with humour and pathos; he said that all his work and all his toil had had as aim and end to sit astride a cloud and sing Alleluja, Alleluja, Alleluja to the glory of God. According to Hoffding, Kierkegaard taught us never to lose courage, whatever the difficulties. That only turns Kierkegaard's thought into a wretched banality; it is an appalling platitude and completely misses the point. It is tantamount to Carlyle's 'work and don't despair!' a saying that would have made Kierkegaard despair at once. His motto was the Benedictine motto Ora et labora (pray and work), so that he could say 'my genius is my prayer'. Nor was it merely a matter of holding out until one day all would be over, but of enduring and bearing it because it never ceases: because there is eternity: eternal blessedness or eternal despair. And as a result of his great struggles he received that precious acquisition, the belief that God is love. Even if he had never said so, although in fact he does, it is clear which was his favorite text, for it was the subject of nearly all his discourses and he was for ever paraphrasing it. Little wonder then, that it was this verse from the Epistle of S. James: 'Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
Robert L. Perkins and George Pattison have each written books about these discourses. Pattison says, "Every Good and Perfect Gift, it is the transformation that occurs when we realize that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift in such a way that whether our life flows smoothly and uninterruptedly forward, or whether we are wronged, tried and tested in adversities and temptations, all that we have and all that we are is a gift from God and therefore to be received with thankfulness and repentance; such an understanding if further exemplified in Job, presented in the discourses as a 'correction' to the defiant portrait of Job founded in Repetition, who, in the face of utter loss does not lose his mind in troubling himself over the various secondary causes that brought about this loss." Both books are below in Secondary sources.
Kierkegaard presented religion, especially Christianity, very primitively in this discourse. He dedicated all of his discourses to his father and began each one with a dedication to the "single individual". Here is his dedication from this discourse:
Although this little book (which is called "discourses," not sermons, because its author does not have authority to preach, "upbuilding discourses," not discourses for upbuilding, because the speaker by no means claims to be a teacher) is not aware of the two that preceded it, it nevertheless is not confident that they have prepared the way so that with certainty it dares to count on being included with them or with certainty dares to promise this to the one who sends it out- and who at the same time stands far off by himself. It differs from the earlier ones only in that it goes out somewhat later. What is not found in the second and third hours may be found in the fourth, or what I with joy and gratitude I call my reader, that favorably disposed person who in receiving it gives it a good home, that favorably disposed person who in receiving it does for it by himself and by his acceptance what the temple box by itself did for the widow's mite: sanctifies the gift, gives it meaning, and transforms it into much.— Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Preface p. 107
Notes [ edit ]
- Another author had the same idea. "The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial my even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God is in the Dock." God in the Dock, Essays on Theology and Ethics,by C. S. Lewis, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994 p. 244
Kierkegaard wrote the following about the world of the spirit:
"From the external and visible world comes the old adage: "Only one who works gets bread." Oddly enough, the adage does not fit the world in which it is most at home, for imperfection is the fundamental law of the external world, and here it happens again and again that he who does not work does get bread, and he who sleeps gets more abundantly than he who works. In the external world, everything belongs to the possessor. It is subject to the law of indifference, and the spirit of the ring obeys the one who has the ring, whether he is an Aladdin or a Noureddin, and he who has the wealth of the world has it regardless of how he got it. It is different in the world of the spirit. Here an external divine order prevails. Here it does not rain on both the just and the unjust; here the sun does not shine of both good and evil. Here it holds true that only the one who works gets bread, that only the one who was in anxiety finds rest, that only the one who descends into the lower world rescues the beloved, that only the one who draws the knife gets Isaac. He who will not work does not get bread but is deceived just as the gods deceived Orpheus with an ethereal phantom instead of the beloved, deceived him because he was soft, not boldly brave, deceived him because he was a zither player and not a man. Here it does not help to have Abraham as father or to have seventeen ancestors. The one who will not work fits what is written about the virgins of Israel: he gives birth to wind-but the one who will work gives birth to his own father. There is a knowledge that presumptuously wants to introduce into the world of the spirit the same law of indifference under which the external world sighs. It believes that it is enough to know what is great-no other work is needed. But for this reason it does not get bread; it perishes of hunger while everything changes to gold. And what in fact does it know?"— Fear and Trembling p. 27-28
- "The person who lives ethically does not exterminate the mood. He looks at it for a moment, but this moment saves him from living in the instant; this moment gives him supremacy over the desire, for the art of mastering desire is not so much as in exterminating it or utterly renouncing it as in determining the moment. … Desire awakes in all its passion; it is as if his life would be at stake if his desire is not satisfied. If he is able to say to himself; At this moment I will not do it; I will not do it for an hour-then he is cured. This hour is the continuity that saves him. … Not until a person in his choice has taken himself upon himself, has put on himself, has totally interpenetrated himself so that every movement he makes is accompanied by a consciousness of responsibility for himself-not until then has a person chosen himself ethically, not until then has he repented himself, not until then is he concrete, not until then is he in his total isolation in absolute continuity with the actuality to which he belongs." EO II P. 230, 248
- This alien power is the world and its only through the guidance of Christ that one can escape this power. "Luke 14:27 Whoever does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (The Bible) Guidance enough is indeed offered on life's way, and no wonder, since every error passes itself off as guidance. But even though errors are numerous, truths are still only one, and there is only one who is "the Way and the Life," only one guidance that indeed leads a person through life to life. Thousands upon thousands carry a name by which it is indicated that they have chosen this guidance, that they belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, after whom they call themselves Christians, that they are his bond-servants, whether they be masters or servants, slaves or freeborn, men or women. Christians they call themselves and they also call themselves by other names, and all of them designate the relation to this one guidance. They call themselves believers and thereby signify that they are pilgrims, strangers and aliens in the world. Indeed, a staff in the hand does not identify a pilgrim as definitely as calling oneself a believer publicly testifies that one is on a journey, because faith simply means: What I am seeking is not here, and for that very reason I believe it. Faith expressly signifies the deep, strong, blessed restlessness that drives the believer so that he cannot settle down at rest in this world, and therefore the person who has settled down completely at rest has also ceased to be a believer, because a believer cannot sit still as one sits with a pilgrim's staff in one's hand – a believer travels forward." Soren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong 1993 p. 217-218
- Kierkegaard puts it this way in Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1844: "To preserve one's soul in patience-that is, through patience to ascertain what it is that one has to preserve. If a person does not use the help of patience, he may, with all his efforts and diligence, come to preserve something else and thereby to have lost his soul. Not only did he lose his soul who was infatuated with temporality and worldly desires, but also the one who, indeed moved in spiritual concern, nevertheless energetically created only an illusion. Not only did he lose his soul who gave it up to love the world and to serve it alone, but also the one who looked at himself in a mirror but did not see properly and continued in the illusion. not only did he lose his soul who callously seized the certainty of the moment, but also the one who ran aimlessly because he began with the uncertainty and shadowboxed in the air, since he himself was a fleeting wind. Not only did he lose his soul who danced the dance of pleasure until the end, but also the one who slaved in worry's deliberations and in despair wrung his hands night and day." Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 187 The more we become consumed by externalities the more chance we have to forget that we have a soul that should be preserved. (editor)
References [ edit ]
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 107
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 109
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 121
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 41
- Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 273 note
- (Job 1:20-21) Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 109
- This link will take you to the story Kierkegaard is talking about http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=2033202
Kierkegaard repeats this in 1847:
What does doubt about God's love want? It wants to reverse the relation, wants to sit quiet and safe, judging, and to deliberate upon whether God is indeed love; it wants to make God the defendant, to make him the one from whom something is required. But along this road God's love will never be found; doubt's striving toward God will be banished from God because it begins with presumptuousness. Faith's eternal happiness, on the other hand, is that God is love. This does not mean that faith understands how God's rule over a person is love. Right here is faith's struggle: to believe without being able to understand.— Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 273
- Repetition p. 206
- Repetition p. 200-201 compare to Kierkegaard's Journal entry Journals IIIA 172
- "In Aladin, Oehlenschläger's famous dramatic poem, Aladdin, "the cheerful son of nature," is contrasted with Noureddin, representing the gloom of doubt and night." note 7 from Fear and Trembling http://www.ccel.org/k/kierkegaard/selections/trembling.htm
- Read the story of Johannes the Seducer in Either/Or Part I, The Diary of the Seducer p. 297-440
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 117, See Soren Kierkegaard, Four Upbuilding Discourses 1844, To Need God Is A Human Being's Highest Perfection (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses) p. 308-309 for how self-control helps escape this self-torment
- See Either/Or Part II p. 250-256
- Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 220
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 110-112
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 117-121
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 121
- All of his 18 discourses were addressed to "that single individual ... called my reader".
- Here is the book in its entirety in the Revised Standard Version http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=5475493
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 125
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 125-127
- His text comes from the Gospel of Luke 11:11-13  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;  or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" The Bible RSV
- see Journals and Papers of Soren Kierkegaard IIIC 12, 1841 http://www.naturalthinker.net/trl/texts/Kierkegaard,Soren/JournPapers/III_C.html
- He had already written about this in Either/Or Part 1, Swenson p. 150-159 in relation to Oedipus and Antigone - Was he really referring to himself?
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 129-132 Storm explains this and what it means here http://sorenkierkegaard.org/kierkegaard-biography.html He explains Michael's sin and anxiety, and Soren's development in the knowledge of that "earthquake" Scholars claim that this event is what created doubt in Soren's own soul. Compare to Journal entries IIA 805, 1836 and IIIA 1840 73 http://www.naturalthinker.net/trl/texts/Kierkegaard,Soren/JournPapers/II_A.html http://www.naturalthinker.net/trl/texts/Kierkegaard,Soren/JournPapers/III_A.html
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 132
- Stages on Life's Way, Hong 250-252 Solomon's Dream
- Either/Or Part II 181-182
- Either/Or Part II 184-188
- Either/Or Part II 195-207
- Either/Or Part II 212
- Either/Or Part II 251-262
- Either/Or II p. 193-194
- Philosophical Fragments by Sören Kierkegaard, read: 2 The problem of the disciple at second hand http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2512&C=2384 "From the God himself everyone receives the condition who by virtue of the condition becomes the disciple. If this is the case (and this has been expounded in the foregoing, where it was shown that the immediate contemporaneity is merely an occasion, but not in the sense that the condition was presupposed as already present), what becomes of the problem of the disciple at second hand? For whoever has what he has from the God himself clearly has it at first hand; and he who does not have it from the God himself is not a disciple."
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 143
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 144
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 158
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 145
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 161
- Kierkegaard developed a whole doctrine of duty in Either/Or Part II p. 266-323
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 172-173
- If one prefers to have little with blessing, to have truth with concern, to suffer instead of exulting over imagined victories, then one presumably will not be disposed to praise the knowledge, as if what it bestows were at all proportionate to the trouble it causes, although one would not therefore deny that through its pain it educates a person, if he is honest enough to want to be educated rather than to be deceived, out of the multiplicity to seek the one, out of abundance to seek the one thing needful, as this is plainly and simply offered precisely according to the need for it. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 128-129, See also Kierkegaard's attack upon "Christendom," 1854-1855 P. 140-141, Translated, with an Introduction, by Walter Lowrie, Princeton university press, 1944, Kierkegaard asks how this need can become apparent
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 167
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 169-170
- See Either/Or Part II p. 15-17
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 174
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p. 173-175
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, Historical Introduction p. xxi-xxii
- The introduction to Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing describes this: http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2523&C=2385
- See p. 202-204
- The Pilgrim's Regress p. 63
- Quote taken from the following work. http://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/articles/tolstoy-a.pdf
- Georg Brandes, 1879, Sören Kierkegaard: Ein literarisches Charakterbild (German translation available)|url=https://archive.org/details/srenkierkegaard01brangoog%7Caccessdate=2010-09-24
- Soren Kierkegaard, by Theodor Haecker, translated, and with a biographical note by Alexander Dru, Oxford University Press, 1937 p. 49-50
- "Kierkegaard's upbuilding discourses: philosophy, theology, literature, By George Pattison. Psychology Press, 2002 p. 52
Sources [ edit ]
Primary sources [ edit ]
- The Lord Gave and The Lord Hath Taken Away, Blessed Be the Name of the Lord Swenson translation
- Either/Or Volume I Edited by Victor Eremita, February 20, 1843, translated by David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson Princeton University Press 1971
- Either/Or. Part II Translated by Howard and Edna Hong. Princeton, 1988, ISBN 978-0-691-02041-9
- Edifying Discourses, by Soren Kierkegaard, Vol. II, Translated from the Danish by David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1944
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, by Soren Kierkegaard, Princeton University Press. Hong, 1990
- Fear and Trembling; Copyright 1843 Soren Kierkegaard – Kierkegaard's Writings; 6 – copyright 1983 – Howard V. Hong
- Repetition, A Venture in Experimental Psychology, by Constantin Constantius, October 16, 1843, by Soren Kierkegaard, Edited and Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, 1983, Princeton University Press
- Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments Volume I, by Johannes Climacus, edited by Soren Kierkegaard, Copyright 1846 – Edited and Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong 1992 Princeton University Press
- The Point of View of My Work as An Author: A Report to History, by Soren Kierkegaard, written in 1848, published in 1859 by his brother Peter Kierkegaard Translated with introduction and notes by Walter Lowrie, 1962 Harper Torchbooks
- Evangelical Christendom: Christian Work and the News of the Churches, Published by J.S. Phillips etc. 1855 p. 127-128
Secondary sources [ edit ]
- Eminent authors of the 19th century. Literary portraits, By George Brandes, Published 1886 by T. Y. Crowell & Co. in New York - He has numerous references to Kierkegaard throughout this book
- Friedrich Nietzsche, by George Brandes; translated from the Danish by A.G. Chater, Published 1914 by W. Heinemann in London, This early work of Brandes is also full of references to Kierkegaard
- Kierkegaard's Upbuilding Discourses: philosophy, theology, literature, By George Pattison. Psychology Press, 2002
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Søren Kierkegaard, by, Robert L. Perkins, Mercer University Press, 2003
[ edit ]
- Quotations related to Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1843 at Wikiquote