Soren Aaby Kierkegaard lived eighteen hundred years after the Christian Era (CE) had been inaugurated through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Christ chose twelve single individuals to follow him. He demonstrated to them what it means to be like God, his Father.
These twelve became seventy and then the seventy single individuals became more as the Good News of salvation through Christ spread throughout the area. Kierkegaard wondered if the message spread through group learning or from one single individual interacting with another. Christ seemed to use both methods in his ministry. The “assembly” of those single individuals into one group came to become known as the church.
A book called the Bible came together over time and became the authorized text for information about this new idea called Christianity.
“The invisible Church is not a historical phenomenon; as such it cannot be observed objectively at all, because it is only in subjectivity.” Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 54 (1846) Subjectivity is truth.
Where did the Authority come from for one individual to talk to another about becoming a Christian? Kierkegaard asked this question in full in his 1846 book, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments using the pseudonym Johannes Climacus.
In the isolation of the imaginary construction, the whole book is about myself, simply and solely about myself. “I Johannes Climacus, now thirty years old, born in Copenhagen, a plain, ordinary human being like most people have heard it said that there is a highest good in store that is called an eternal happiness, and that Christianity conditions this upon a person’s relation to it.
I now ask: How do I become a Christian? I ask solely for my own sake.
I wanted to say that as soon as just one person could inform me where and to whom one applies for permission to write as a solitary person or to set oneself up as an author in the name of humanity, of the century, of our age, of the public, of the many, of the majority concerning the same matter, to dare, when he himself owns up to belonging to the minority, to write in the name of the many, and then as a solitary person simultaneously to have polemical elasticity by being in the minority and recognition in the eyes of the world by being in the majority-if anyone could inform me about what expenses are connected with the granting of such an application, since even if the costs are not paid in money they could very well still be exorbitant-then, on the presupposition that the costs will not exceed my means, I would very likely be unable to resist the temptation to write as soon as possible an exceedingly important book that speaks in the name of millions and millions and millions and billions.
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, p 617-619, 1846 Hong translation
Who did the Apostle Paul go to to get permission to write his epistles? Who did Matthew go to before he wrote what he wrote? More importantly, who did Christ go to when he spoke the words he spoke? The Roman Empire under Constantine issued an edict stating that Christianity was to be tolerated in his realm and he planted one capital of his empire in Rome and another in Constantinople.
The religion of Christ moved from single individual to single individual until the temporal authorities became anxious to organize and create systems of order based on past examples. The map below shows where the religion of Christ spread throughout a large area between 481 and 814.
Clovis, another ruler, issued a proclamation about making Christianity the religion of his people. Does that mean everyone instantly became a Christian? Charlemagne started what became known as The Holy Roman Empire around 800 AD.
The Eastern Orthodox Church broke away from the Western Roman Catholic Church in 1054 and this act, which was somewhat like the Confederacy breaking away from the Union in the United States, was the cause of an enduring controversy over the Authority in the world of the spirit. The religion of Christ was fast becoming the Christ of religion.
The same external problems happened again in the 1500’s. The Catholic Church argued over external, human, distinctions and divided itself. From The History of Anglicanism on YouTube
“Dear Reader: I wonder if you may not sometimes have felt inclined to doubt a little the correctness of the familiar philosophic maxim that the external is the internal and the internal the external. … For my part I have always been heretically-minded on this point in philosophy, and have therefore early accustomed myself, as far as possible, to institute observations and inquiries concerning it. I have sought guidance from those authors whose views I shared on this matter; in short, I have done everything in my power to remedy the deficiency in the philosophical works. Gradually the sense of hearing came to be my favorite sense; for just as the voice is the revelation of the inwardness incommensurable with the outer, so the ear is the instrument by which this inwardness is apprehended, hearing found a contradiction between what I saw and what I heard, then I found my doubt confirmed, and my enthusiasm for the investigation stimulated.”
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or I Preface 1843
Having first invocated the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, we will enterprize his Work; wherein we shall not only teach how to change any inferior Meter into better, as Iron into Copper, this into Silver, and that into God, etc. but also to help all infirmities, whose cure to the opinioned and presumptuous Physicians, doth seem impossible: But that which is great, to preserve, and keep mortal men to a long, sound, and perfect Age. This ART was by our Lord God the Supreme Creator, engraven as it were in a book in the body of metals, from the beginning of the Creation, that we might diligently learn from them.
Therefore when any man desireth thoroughly and perfectly to learn this Are from its true foundation, it will be necessary that he learn the same from the Master thereof, to wit, from God, who hath created all things, and only knoweth what Nature and propriety he himself hath placed in every Creature. Wherefore he is able to teach every one certainly and perfectly, as he hath spoken, saying, of me ye shall learn all things: for there is nothing found in Heaven nor in Earth so secret, whose properties he perceiveth not, and most exactly knoweth and seeth, who hath created all things.
We will therefore take him to be our Master, Operator, and Leader into this most true Art. We will therefore imitate him alone, and through him learn and attain to the knowledge of that Nature, which he himself with his own finger hath engraven and inscribed in the bodies of these Metals. Hereby it will come to pass, that the most high Lord God shall bless all the Creatures unto us, and shall sanctify all our Ways; so that in this Work we may be able to bring our Beginning to its desired End, and the Consequence thereof to produce exceeding great Joy and Love in our Hearts.
But if any one shall follow his only Opinion, he will not only greatly deceive himself, but also all others who cleave and adhere thereunto; and shall bring them unto loss. For mankind is certainly born in ignorance, so that he can neither know nor understand any thing of himself; but only that which he receiveth from God, and understandeth from Nature.
He which learneth nothing from these, is like the Heathen Masters and Philosophers, who follow the Subtleties and Crafts of their own Inventions and Opinions, such as are Aristotle, Hippocretes, Avicenna, Gallen etc. who grounded all their Arts upon their own Opinions only. And if at any time they learned anything from Nature, they destroyed it again with their own Phantasies, Dreams, or Inventions, before they came to the end thereof; so that by them and their Followers there is nothing perfect at all to be found.
This therefore hath moved and induced us hereunto, to write a peculiar book of Alchemy, founded not upon men, but upon Nature itself, and upon those Vertues and Powers, which GOD with his own Finger hath impressed in Metals. Of this impression Mercurius Trismegistus was an Imitator, who is not underservedly called the Father of all Wise-men, and of all those that followed his ART with love, and with earnest desire, and that man demon strateth and teaches that God alone is the only author, cause and Original of all creatures in this ART.
But he doth not attribute the power and virtue of God, to the creatures or visible things, as the said heathen, and such-like did. Now feeling all ART ought to be learned from the Trinity; that is, from God the Father, from God the Sone of God, our Savior Jesus Christ, and from God the holy Ghost, three distinct persons, but one God: We will therefore divide this our Alchymistical worke into three parts, or Treatises: in
the first whereof, we will lay down what the ART containeth in itself; And what is the propriety and nature of every Metal:
Secondly, by what means a man may worke and bring the like power and strength of Metals to effect.
And Thirdly, what Tinctures are to be produced from the Sun and Moone.
Paracelsys of the supreme mysteries of nature: Of the spirits of the planets. of occult philosophy. The magical, sympathetical, and antipathetical cure of wounds and diseases. The mysteries of the twelve signs of the zodiack.
Dry water from the Philosophers Clouds! Look for it, and be sure to have it, for it is the key to inaccessibles, and those locks that otherwise would keep thee out.
Chorus Omnium: It is a middle nature between fixt, and not fixt, and partakes of a Sulphur Azurine. It is a Raw, Cooling, Feminine fire, and expects its Impregnation from a Masculine, Solar Sulphur.
Our Stone in the beginning is called water; when the body is dissolved Air, or Wind; when it tends to consolidation, then it is named Earth, and when it is perfected and fixed it is called Fire.
Zoroaster’s Cave, Or, The Philosopher’s Intellectual Echo to One another from their Cells, by George Thor and Pontanus Isacius 1571-1639, published 1667
If in all orderly Speeches and matters of Learning it first of all behoveth to agree upon the Thing in hand, what it is, and what is the Reason and Bounds [or definition] of the same: It seemeth very needful in this Discourse of the Way to Bliss, to show first what is Bliss, because it is a thing much in doubt, and in question among the Learned.
The Way to Bliss: in Three Books, Elias Ashmole 1617-1692, John Everard 1575-1650
René Descartes 1596-1650 How can I find bliss?
Principles of Philosophy 1647
Jean Jacques Rousseau came up with a method by which he could come to an understanding with himself about G0d in his book Emile published in 1762
John Churton Collins was a literary critic who lived from 1848-1908. In 1904 he became professor of English literature at Birmingham University (United Kingdom). His posthumous essays were published in 1912. I liked the three below that I read into Librivox and converted to video.
Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592 had definite ideas about Christianity as did Robert Browning 1812-1889.
Robert Browning and Bishop Butler on Christianity 1752. Churton compares the writings of Bishop Joseph Butler 1692-1752 with those of Robert Browning 1812-1889 regarding the Christian religion.
Gotthold Ephriam Lessing was born in 1729 at Kamenz in the Electorate of Saxony. The son of an orthodox Lutheran pastor and studied theology at Leipzig University. In 1769 he became librarian at Wolfenbuttel. Lessing decided to publish a book written by Hermann Samuel Reimarus 1694-1768 questioning the death and resurrection of Christ. Churton described the circumstances in the essay below.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) wanted to find out “how” God taught the nations to become Christendom. Kierkegaard wanted to find out “how” he, as a single individual, can become an individual and stand before God in accountability.
Hegel wrote the following in his Phenomenology of the Spirit (Mind)
Self-consciousness has before it another self-consciousness; it has come outside itself. This has a double significance. First it has lost its own self, since it finds itself as an other being; secondly, it has thereby sublated that other, for it does not regard the other as essentially real, but sees its own self in the other. It must cancel this its other. The Phenomenology of Mind (Spirit) by Hegel
Kierkegaard used a pseudonym to ask this question. Johannes Climacus was the hero of the first part of his authorship (1843-1846). Climacus was someone like Johann Goethe or Friedrich Hegel who wanted to create a system that would make the question: “How do I become a Christian?” obsolete.
Goethe searched for God in his own artistic way. He discussed his venture into this thing called Christianity in his book, The Autobiography of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).
Hegel wanted to explain Christianity Scientifically and create a universal ethic. If a method could be acceptable to all single individuals wars would come to an end and society would progress toward the Christian ideal of making everyone mature in Christ.
Goethe thought people learn best through poetry and the arts but Hegel thought people learn best by trying to follow an ethical standard. Kierkegaard studied the books written by both these authors and wrote his own critique of them in his writings. He came out against systematic Christianity because the single individual doesn’t need an authoritative system but what the single individual does need is a relationship with God using the way, life, and truth of Christ as the example He started out with the idea of God in his first writings because God came first and then Christ came in “the fullness of time”.
This is a video of the seventh book of Goethe’s Autobiography. He explains the spirit of the age in the 1750’s and 1760’s.
Here is Goethe’s Autobiography. It’s a long read but it can also be listened to. We are all readers and listeners and hearers and seekers. Goethe was a seeker.
The Autobiograpy of Johann Goethe
Goethe was asking: “How do I, Johann Goethe, become a Christian? Should every single individual follow his method? Should we all follow how Descartes tried to do it? Should we follow Paul’s method? Or Job’s method? No. Christ said,
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. John 17:1-9
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Christ’s disciples were with Christ in person and found it difficult to follow him at that time. Each single individual has the same problem they had. Here’s a video about Kierkegaard’s point of view.
These are links to some of the books he wrote. Just as one would read the Bible to find out about Christianity one should also read Kierkegaard’s books to find out about him.
This link will take you to several books published by Kierkegaard
David F. Swenson translated many of Kierkegaard’s books in the 1930’s and 1940’s and advised readers to begin with Philosophical Fragments.
Howard V and Edna H Hong translated many of Kierkegaard’s books in the 1980’s and 1990’s and advised readers to begin with Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits (Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing is the first section of that book)
These are the books Kierkegaard published with his own money and his own advertising. He basically left the results of his work up to God. He left wondering if anyone would read what he had written.
This is a picture of Soren Kierkegaard and his family. He lived from 1813-1855 and never married.