L. Harold DeWolf and Soren Kierkegaard

Lotan Harold DeWolf was professor of systematic theology at Boston University and became Martin Luther King Jr.’s dissertation adviser at Boston University’s School of Theology in 1955. DeWolf was a Methodist minister and he lived from 1905-1986.  Albert Cornelius Knudson (1873–1953) was DeWolf’s teacher in theology. Knudson published The Philosophy Of Personalism (1927).

DeWolf’s funeral oration for King can be found here.

DeWolf published The Revolt Against Religious Reason in 1949 and A Theology of the Living Church in 1953 with a revised edition in 1960 and The Case for Theology in Liberal Perspective 1959.

.  Here is a quote from A Theology Of The Living Church.

Sometimes with the more mature discoveries of freedom come experiences of a fearful insecurity attendant upon the blazing of new paths in the unknown wilderness of the future where rewards beckon but where the infinite darkness of death also threatens. As Kierkegaard taught, this dread, so far from keeping the pilgrim from wandering, actually lures him with a strange, wild fascination all its own. Reinhold Niebuhr and others have shown many of the ways in which this dreadful sense of insecurity leads to the seeking of false self-assurance in wealth, social power, military force and other earthly idols. But such search is unending. Only an infinite defense will serve since the perils of the future to a finite creature are limitless. Hence, however great the wealth or power achieved, the insatiable demand continues unabated. So arise the monstrous competitions and conflicts for self-advantage which are continually blighting every community and periodically laying waste ever-greater portions of the world.

L. Harold DeWolf,  A Theology Of The Living Church Revised Edition 1960 p. 196

Personal Idealism:

DeWolf mentioned Kierkegaard very often in his book The Revolt Against Religious Reason.  He says his task in the book is “simply the description, analysis and critical evaluation of the irrationalistic trend in recent theology, especially in Kierkegaard, in whom it is most thoroughly developed, and the drawing of some conclusions from this study.” (19) Karl Barth (1886-1968) is credited for doing the most since World War I to discredit reason and he is linked to Heinrich Emil Brunner (1889–1966) who along with Barth says man can obtain no knowlege of God from reason.

DeWolf says:

The remarkable influence of irrationalism among educated men today is largely due to the critical and literary genius of its greatest modem proponent, Søren Kierkegaard. A study of the modern revolt against reason, and particularly of the religious revolt, must consequently be devoted principally to a study of his ideas. Kierkegaard, in fact, presented a critique of reason at once so bold and so penetrating as to be unmatched in the history of Christendom. In addition he gave to this critique a literary expression of extraordinary vividness and persuasive power. Many a recent reader of Kierkegaard’s strange but brilliant works has found in his defiance of reason an attitude which seemed altogether novel. There is no denying the creative genius of his thought. On the other hand, the partial or complete rejection of reason as arbiter of truth in theology is in principle as old as rational theology itself. Such rejection has appeared usually as a reaction to rationalistic attacks on religion. (32-33)

Wherever the distrust of reason is conspicuous in recent theology the reader is almost sure to find the name of Soren Kierkegaard. Walter Lowrie and David F. Swenson, who have been mentioned as crisis theologians prominent in the revolt, are the principal translators of Kierkegaard’s works into English, and both are devoted disciples. British and American thinkers not directly dependent on Kierkegaard but influenced by the crisis theology are usually readers of Barth and Brunner, both of whom derived their antirational bent largely from him.

Karl Barth s dependence on Kierkegaard is too general and too well known to need extended comment here. When Barth is charged with “imposing a meaning on the text of the Epistle to the Romans rather than extracting its meaning from it,” he declares significantly, My reply is that, if I have system, it is limited to a recognition of what Kierkegaard called the infinite qualitative distinction between time and eternity, and to my regarding this as possessing negative as well as positive significance.

Brunner, as regards his distrust of rational approaches to God, points to Kierkegaard as his only modern predecessor who has expounded his own specific view:  As all natural human action reveals the sinful heart, so all philosophical speculation, when left to itself, bears witness to the obscuration in the inmost recesses of our reason. For this cause it is impossible to build up the Christian proclamation of the Gospel and its theology on the basis of a philosophical doctrine of God. It was Kierkegaard alone among the great men of later times who had a firm and vital hold of this truth.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) cites Kierkegaard’s ideas and writings with conspicuous frequency and usually with approval. Occasionally he lavishes on him such high praise as he rarely bestows on any modern writer. In The Nature and Destiny of Man, Niebuhr refers to Kierkegaard oftener than to any other writer since the Reformation. He calls him “the greatest of Christian psychologists.” And, “Kierkegaard’s explanation of the dialectical relation of freedom and fate in sin is one of the profoundest in Christian thought.” (46-49)

DeWolf read both volumes of Walter Lowrie’s biography of Soren Kierkegaard, Kierkegaard (1938) and A Short Life of Kierkegaard (1942).

Lowrie (1868-1959) wrote in 1942: “Several Freudians have rashly undertaken to psychoanalyze S.K. without observing these very exacting conditions. Hjalmar Helweg, Director of the Hospital for the Insane at Oringe, Denmark, has taken the pains to read every word S.K. wrote and studied them with sympathy. He modestly concludes his preface with these words: “‘However well one may think one has managed to say a thing, he will always discover that S.K. has said it better.” I have no fault to find with the verdict he renders except that it is not very illuminating. He concludes that S.K. suffered from a condition of depression alternating with, or more commonly blended with, maniacal exaltation. It is to be noted that “”maniacal” is a technical word: S.K. was not pronounced insane. In my opinion S.K. “said it better.” (22)   Hjalmar Helweg lived from 1886-1960.

DeWolf compares Georg Friedrich Hegel (1776-1831) and Kiekegaard in his book.

Kierkegaard’s consuming purpose was to bear witness to mans need of God and to God’s all-sufficient grace. This he did by an extraordinary variety of writings which represent three stages in a great dialectic. As in Hegel’s dialectic, one level of thought, or of life, after another is elaborated, shown inadequate and transcended. However, he rejects the lower levels rather than including them, as did Hegel, E.g., he writes, “When my poet comes he will assign me a place among those who have suffered for an idea; he will say about me: The martyrdom which this author suffered was due to the fact that he was a genius living in a market town.” Quoted by David F. and Lillian M. Swenson in the Introduction to their edition of Edifying Discourses, Vol. II, xx. in more comprehensive syntheses. Whereas Hegel resolved his antinomies, Kierkegaard rejected all synthetic solutions and insisted on absolute commitment to God in a faith which scorns the contradictions of all human thought. Thus, while Hegel is the philosopher of both-and, Kierkegaard is the author of Either/Or . (51-52)

Many and serious are the objections made by Kierkegaard and other recent thinkers to the use of reason in determining the proper content of theology. The objectors have not often brought these accusations together in one place. Moreover, even when that has been done, as by Kierkegaard in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript, the method has been called, with peculiar appropriateness, “Unscientific,” which is to say, unsystematic. As a result, it has been difficult to see the objections in distinct outline and in their relations to each other. The defender of rational method is likely to feel that he is being shot at from behind every bush and tree without once having a fair view of the enemy against whom he fights. Likewise, many a revolter against reason as a decisive instrument in theology fails to recognize how many and relatively important are the arguments which have been advanced in support of his own position. (54)

Hegel, of course, was all reason. He once said somewhere that Reason could not be doubted as faith was because reason is the very instrument used to doubt faith.

DeWolf quoted David F Swenson (1876-1940) thus in regard to Kierkegaard’s use of reason:

Kierkegaard has had no more appreciative and authoritative interpreter than David F. Swenson. It is he who writes as follows in a note on a passage in Philosophical Fragments: (1844)

The thoughtful reader will already have noted that “Reason,” as used in this chapter and throughout, is not to be taken in any abstract-intellectual sense, but quite concretely, as the reflectively organized common sense of mankind, including as its essential core a sense of life’s values. Over against the “Paradox” it is therefore the self-assurance and self-assertiveness of man’s nature in its totality. To identify it with any abstract intellectual function, like the function of scientific cognition, or of general ideas, or of the a priori, or of self-consistency in thinking, etc., is wholly to misunderstand the exposition of the Fragments. Specifically, Kant’s distinction between Reason and Understanding, or any other similar distinction, is wholly beside the point . All our activities of thinking and speaking can have only a secondary significance and, as activities of the creature, cannot possibly coincide with the truth of God that is the source of truth in the world . (55-56)

It is precisely one of Kierkegaard’s greatest claims to fame that he was the first of all Christian theologians to make a sustained attack on reason, not merely from the religious standpoint of a dogmatic existentialist, but also from the theoretical standpoint of the rationalists themselves. (58)

I leave you with one more quote from DeWolf and point you to the Sources below if you want to read more.

Consider, then, the case of the philosopher seeking to know whether he is immortal or whether there is a God to whom he owes allegiance. Such a man faces an ultimate question concerning his own eternal destiny. If he is to make legitimate and hence reliable use of his reason, he must be as detached in spirit as if he were an intelligence in some other universe, curiously inquiring whether that little creature, man, might have any important future awaiting him. In all this weighing of evidences, all this subtle balancing of value-judgments and sense perceptions, this facing of experiential data and the demands of systematic clarity, not by one iota must he allow his concern for his own soul to affect his thought. If he does he has lost objectivity and with it the reliability of his reason. But here arise the first charges against reason. (60)


The Philosophy Of Personalism by Albert C. Knudson 1927

A Short Life of Kierkegaard, Walter Lowrie 1942 (he quotes Kierkegaard extensively)

The Revolt Against Religious Reason  L. Harold DeWolf 1949

Herbert Read and Kierkegaard

Herbert Read 1893-1968 was an anarchist who was also an art historian and literary critic.  He discussed artistic movements throughout the ages in A Coat of Many Colors in 1945. One section was devoted to Soren Kierkegaard:  I reproduce it here as well as quotes from other books.

Kierkegaard, like Marx, is a product by reaction of Hegel. Hegel had at least this virtue: he left behind him a progeny, not of slavish disciples, but of active intelligences, and among these Kierkegaard and Marx represent the widest possible extremes of thought.

For whilst Marx turned the Hegelian dialectic outwards, making it an instrument with which he could interpret the facts of history and so arrive at an objective science which insists on the translation of theory into action, Kierkegaard, on the other hand, turned the same instrument inwards, for the examination of his own soul or psychology, arriving at a subjective philosophy which involved him in the deepest pessimism and despair of action.

To what extent either Kierkegaard or Marx rightly interpreted Hegel is only an academic question; but for the extremist — and every philosopher or lover of the truth is an extremist — they represent the only possible alternatives to-day.

The significance of Marx is evident enough, and becomes more evident with the progress of economic affairs; the significance of Kierkegaard is recognized abroad, by Protestant theologians like Barth, and, at first sight more surprisingly, by Catholic theologians.

His chief advocate and best translator in Germany, Theodor Haecker, is a Catholic; and most of the people in this country who take any serious interest in him are Catholics. But Kierkegaard himself was never a Catholic; he was a son of Lutheran parents and intended for the Lutheran ministry, but he spent his intense life, not in hovering between one sect and another, but in a vain struggle to reconcile himself to Christianity itself. It is because in this struggle he revealed the inner meaning and consequences of the Christian faith more clearly and more acutely than any mystic since Pascal that he exercises such an attraction for Christians to-day. It is open to them, of course, to say that Kierkegaard was never vouchsafed the final grace which would have perfected his faith; but the fact remains that only a very few mystics like Meister Eckhart and Pascal have written so illuminatingly on the Christian Mysteries.

It would be a mistake, however, to give the impression that Kierkegaard is only concerned with Christianity; his range is much wider. He was, in fact, an individual in conflict with all the tendencies — philosophical, political and cultural — of his time. He refused, that is to say, to keep his religion in a separate compartment of his mind, but the more he realized the implications of that religion, the more he found it impossible to reconcile himself with the tendencies of his time — which are still the tendencies of our time.

He was, in short, the complete personalist, in the sense in which Berdyaev today uses the term. Truth, he would say, is in the person believing and not in the proposition believed. This principle of the subjectivity of truth he carried into every sphere of knowledge — into ethics and aesthetics, for example. It is in the latter sphere that I personally find him so illuminating, his doctrine of Innerlichkeit being of the essence of any real understanding of poetic creation.

I have called Kierkegaard a mystic, but that is one of the points in dispute. In so far as the word implies a being of a rare and superior kind, Kierkegaard would have rejected it. But there is no doubt that some of his experiences, as recorded in his Journals and other writings, imply a direct or “ inspired ” relationship with God which we should normally describe as mystical. But Kierkegaard was also a dialectician, trained in the logic of Hegel; with the result that he is in no sense naive or simple.

He is, indeed, one of the subtlest thinkers that ever lived, and though many of his readers go to him for a confirmation or elaboration of their Christian faith, he is quite capable of attracting others by the quality rather than the content of his thought.

Kierkegaard was the son of a well-to-do Danish merchant, and during his life was never under the necessity of earning a living. His father was excessively severe and gloomy, a fanatic labouring under a sense of guilt and remorse. Kierkegaard many times deplores his early upbringing, and utters warnings which still have their force — for example: If the child is not allowed, as, he should be, to play innocently with holy things, if his existence is sternly forced into the decisive Christian concepts, such a child will have to suffer much. Such an upbringing will either, by inhibiting immediacy, result in despondency and anguished dread, or else incite the lusts of pleasure and the anguish of lust in a measure which even paganism did not know.

This describes Kierkegaard’s own case. His first reaction was towards the lusts of pleasure, but then, after one of the mystical experiences referred to, he returned to a condition of dread and anguish, out of which he slowly built up his spiritual faith. He elaborated his famous dilemma, his “either — or” — either the aesthetic life or the ethical. He came to the conclusion that the aesthetic life — “living in the moment”, as he called it — always entailed despair.

He insisted that the choice is not to be avoided — that if we do not make it, as an act of freedom, the choice will be made for us, by obscure movements in our unconscious or impersonal self. On the inevitability of that dilemma the whole of Kierkegaard’s philosophy depends. Personally I do not believe that the choice is free.

In Kierkegaard’s own case it was so obviously conditioned by the circumstances of his childhood, by his physical disease and his depressive melancholia. His philosophy, beautiful in its intricacy and depth, sensitive to all the poetic and tragic aspects of life, is but a sublimation of this inherent suffering. But Kierkegaard was driven too far by his masochism. The story of his treatment of Regina Olsen — the young girl to whom he made love and to whom he became engaged, only to break off the engagement from “ethical scruples” — merely reveals to what fantastic heights (admittedly heights) the aberrations of the human spirit can reach. That in the end they lead to “the religious absolute can scarcely justify the wanton sacrifice of another person’s feelings. Kierkegaard’s own comment (one of many!) was: “Either you throw yourself into wild diversions or religiousness absolute, of a different sort from that of the parsons,” The qualification is significant, Kierkegaard’s intense subjectivity, the very sincerity of his religious experiences, led him in the end into a bitter conflict with the organized Church. He had escaped one dilemma only to discover another: either Christ or the Church.

Kierkegaard is a new world of thought, a rare mental atmosphere in which we live dangerously, as many people have already discovered at the cost of their complacency.

No book of his illustrates this truth better than Stages on Lifers Way, a “passion narrative ” in the form of a long diary which is an intimate relation, stage by stage, of Kierkegaard’s own love story. This diary is preceded by “In Vino Veritas”, an account of a banquet in the manner of Plato’s Symposium and not unworthy of comparison with that supreme masterpiece: and by “Various Observations about Marriage , a document in which a certain Judge Williams answers the objections which had been voiced at the Banquet. The Banquet is in effect a plea for keeping the sexual relationship on a superficial or sensuous level: woman is represented as the most seductive power in heaven and on earth, but man must not be caught by the bait.

“The highest thing a woman can do for a man is to come within his range of vision at the right instant — but that, after all, she cannot do, it is the kindness of fate — but then comes the greatest thing she can do for a man,, and that is, to be unfaithful to him, the sooner the better.” That is to say, from this point of view it is only in a negative relationship that woman makes a man idealistically productive.

Judge Williams presents a very different point of view: his “Observations ” constitute, indeed, the most beautiful and profound defence of conjugal felicity ever written — and as Coventry Patmore once pointed out, this theme is of all great themes the most difficult and the most neglected.

Marriage is the confirmation of love by resolution, rather, its transformation. “Love’s gait is light as the feet which dance upon the meadow, but resolution holds the tired one till the dance begins again.” It is only against this profound appreciation of the “validity” of marriage that we can measure the tragic significance of Kierkegaard’s own renunciation. For just as the ethical stage represented by the Judge is far beyond the erotic stage represented by the speakers at the Banquet, so beyond the ethical stage is the religious, towards which Kierkegaard was driven by a kind of demoniacal fury.

He was fond of comparing himself with Periander, of whom it was said that he talked like a wise man and acted like a maniac. But it is perhaps more to the point to compare him with Abelard, whose “case” fascinated him, but about whom he never ventured to write at length. Kierkegaard was an Abelard — that is to say, a man dedicated to God — who resisted the temptation of his Heloise. The accident that he was not a priest only made it more difficult to justify his action in breaking off his engagement, especially as his Regina was a comparatively simple girl without that sense of religious immediacy which alone would explain such inhuman conduct. There can be no doubt of the reality of Kierkegaard’s love for Regina— the “Diary” is the revelation of a tortured and divided mind, and in the subtlety of its introspection and analysis it reminds us of Proust.

Granted the book is too long and too boring, written with that dialectical prolixity for which Hegel must be held responsible: nevertheless, it is of absorbing interest, not only for its diagnosis of the sexual relationship — its main theme — but also for its abundant asides, for the observations on nature and metaphysics, on poetry and music, on human suffering and human joy, which are to be found on almost every page. To begin reading Kierkegaard is to embark on a long journey, a journey which will be difficult and dangerous, but with such a reward at the end that all the incidental pain will be immediately forgotten.

The Unscientific Postscript is but one more voluminous commentary on the main theme of all Kierkegaard’s work, the dilemma which he represented by the phrase “either-or”: either aesthetic immediacy, which includes not only the eudaemonistic search for pleasure, but also despair (the “sickness unto death”) and religious or metaphysical self-explanation; or the ethical along with the religion of immanence and immediacy and (as its culmination) Christianity apprehended as a paradox.

In the Postscript Kierkegaard is chiefly concerned to define the nature of the religious alternative: to make it clear to his readers that it is not a choice between the aesthetic life and any sort of religion, but between true religion and every other possible alternative. And true religion is distinguished by its immediacy, without which it cannot live. Immediacy is opposed to reflection: it is direct apprehension, either by the senses or by intuition, and it is the only means by which we can apprehend “being“ Subjectivity is the truth”, and it is upon this basis that Christianity must be interpreted and believed.

The Unscientific Postscript is an obscure and ungainly book, yet it has had an incalculable influence upon the development of modern theology, and a so-called “existential philosophy’’ in Germany is largely based on it.

When the late Professor Geismar of Copenhagen first read it, his mental excitement was so great that his physician had to forbid him reading anything of Kierkegaard’s for a year.

Dr. Lowrie, in his Introduction to the English edition, claims that no great work on philosophy or theology, if we except the Dialogues of Plato, has been written with so much wit, with so much art. The wit we must grant: the art we must question, and Kierkegaard himself seems to have disclaimed it.

The subjective thinker, he says, has a style of his own; it is existential, which seems to mean that it has no form. “The subjective thinker does not have the poetic leisure to create in the medium of the imagination, nor does he have time for aesthetically disinterested elaboration.” This is rather like making a virtue out of necessity, but it does state a fact which the reader must be prepared for: the nature and form of Kierkegaard’s thought and style are not comparable to ordinary scientific exposition or aesthetic creation. You read Kierkegaard as you would swim with a tide: you immerse yourself totally in what is the most extraordinary flood of subjectivity ever poured from a philosophical mind.

Kierkegaard began his Journals in 1834, when he was twenty-one. Though nothing is truer than his statement that “everyone is essentially what they are to be when they are ten years old”, it is nevertheless surprising to find with what sureness he has already discovered himself, decided on the nature of his personality and the course of his destiny.

What is truth, he asks, but to live for an idea?

In order to lead a complete human life and not merely one of the understanding” he sees the necessity of basing the development of his thought upon “something which grows together with the deepest roots of my life, through which I am, so to speak, grafted upon the divine:

It is with joy, and inwardly strengthened, that I contemplate those great men who have thus found the precious stone, for the sake of which they sell all, even their lives, whether I see them intervene forcefully in life, and without faltering’ go forward on the path marked out for them, or discover them remote from the highway, absorbed in themselves and in working for their noble aim. And I look with reverence even upon the errors which lie so near by. It is this divine side of man, his inward action which means everything, not a mass of information; for that will certainly follow and then all that knowledge will not be a chance assemblage, or a succession of details, without system and without a focusing point. I too have certainly looked for such a centre.

It is only by realizing that Kierkegaard had set out with this determination to find a centre, to know himself before anything else, and thus to see his way through life, that we can understand the two decisive moments in his career — his refusal of marriage and his break with the official Church.

As soon as he had become engaged to Regina Olsen, Kierkegaard realized that he had made a mistake. He thought of many ways out of his predicament, even suicide, but finally decided on self-abasement. He behaved as if he were “subtle, false and treacherous” with the object of killing her love for him. His action caused anger, resentment, bewilderment, and was never properly understood until the publication of his Journals; but even with the help of his confession, it needs a certain effort of sympathy and perhaps a spiritual affinity to appreciate his motives.

‘‘It was a time of terrible suffering; to have to be so cruel and at the same time to love as I did. She fought like a tigress. If I had not believed that God had lodged a veto she would have been victorious.”

God had lodged a veto— such love of God as Kierkegaard had conceived could not co-exist with the love of a human being. It compelled him to an asceticism as rigorous as that of the saints and indeed, from this moment Kierkegaard’s life was in every sense that of a saint. He is perhaps the most real saint of modern times.

This same intensity and integrity of spiritual experience inevitably brought him into conflict with the organized Church, or Christendom. His attack only became open and embittered towards the end of his life, and there is some truth in the suggestion that it had its origins as a psychological release from parental repression — from the oppressive fanaticism of a father overwhelmed by a sense of guilt. But the criticism of Christianity runs throughout the Journals and is not confined to the Church; we find him, for example, as early as 1835, contrasting the luxuriance of the Christian imagination when it deals with eternal suffering and torment with its poverty when it deals with the happiness of the chosen and the faithful.

The Protestant Church of his own country receives the most frequent and the most fatal blows ; but Catholicism is not spared. At the same time, Kierkegaard’s arguments can have little appeal to the sceptic or agnostic. Kierkegaard’s “true inwardness” is a passion that pierces through all collective forms of religion to “the contemplation of God face to face”.

It would be a mistake to give the impression, however, that the Journals are exclusively concerned with Kierkegaard’s religious development. Kierkegaard was essentially a poet — a child of the Romantic Movement — and he analyses every aspect of life with profundity, with irony and often with lyrical feeling.

His Journals have been compared with the Confessions of St. Augustine, the Pensies of Pascal and the Apologia of Newman; they have some- thing of the quality of all these great books, and still some- thing more — something nearer to Nietzsche than to anything these other names convey, though Pascal is very near. But of the three spheres into which Kierkegaard divided existence — the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious — it is only Nietzsche who rivals him in his understanding of the significance of the aesthetic.

In his study of this Danish philosopher, Theodor Haecker emphasizes the fact that Kierkegaard’s work is so complex that it is possible for three classes of reader to occupy themselves with it independently of each other: the theologian, the philosopher and the critic. It is possible, however, that Kierkegaard himself would not have approved of such a separation.

His criticism of Hegel is fundamental, but nothing in Hegel seemed to him so misleading as that evolutionary or historical distinction between the aesthetic, the religious and the rational faculties. For Kierkegaard the whole man included all three faculties in their full force, and the very object of philosophy was to reconcile them, to unite them in one synthesis. Kierkegaard’s work is perhaps best regarded as a protest against the cul-de-sac of objective knowledge.

Professor Swenson, to whom we owe a translation of the Philosophical Fragments, say: In his case the entire energy of a great genius of reflection was expended upon the clarification of the realm of the subjective, which is the realm of spirit. There exists at present a school of thinkers whose fundamental principle it is to make a sharp cleavage between what they call “logical” and “emotive” significance, denying to the latter all verifiability, and hence all real truth or error. . . . The Kierkegaardian literature is not so much an argument against this view, which erects into a philosophical principle the vulgar prejudice which identifies the emotional with the structureless and the arbitrary, as it is a demonstration of its falsity through the actual production of a reflectively critical system of evaluations.

The dialectics of subjectivity might do as a phrase to describe Kierkegaard’s philosophy, but always on the understanding that with such a philosophy he was necessarily, as Haecker brings out so clearly, a realist and not an idealist.

He made a break with European philosophy because he wished to go “from the person over the things to the person, and not from the things over the person to the things. It was his reflection on the being and essence of the person that brought him to that demonstration of the existence of God with which the Fragments are concerned. It is not possible to explain shortly the particular evidence or experience which Kierkegaard called the Moment or the Absolute Paradox, nor the dialectical method which forced on him the recognition and acceptance of God.

It is sufficient to note that Christians of widely different views are united in their praise of the beauty and acceptability of this demonstration. Kierkegaard, more deeply than any other modern philosopher, had pierced to the heart of the Christian mystery. But then? If we are to accept Kierkegaard’s own last works as his final message, it involved an utter condemnation of organized Christianity. ‘‘Officialdom is incommensurable with Christianity” — that was his final message, and it is only possible to pretend otherwise by assuming that Kierkegaard’s last works represent an almost pathological decline in his powers. Professor Haecker, who is a Catholic, makes that assumption; Professor Swenson, who might be a Unitarian from the way he quotes Emerson, vigorously protests against it. But Kierkegaard remains, profound, enigmatic, endlessly significant. He himself wrote his own epitaph:

“The cause he served was Christianity, and his life was from childhood wonderfully adapted to this end. He succeeded in realizing the reflective task of translating Christianity whole and entire into terms of reflection. The purity of his heart was to have had but a single aim.”

Other quotes by Read from other books:

The Cult of Sincerity 1968 

Sincerity! All my life I have been reproved for attempting to use this word, and rightly so because the very notion of sincerity implies a consciousness of one’s self as a circumscribed entity, a ‘single one’ (Kierkegaard) or a ‘unique one’ (Stirner), to be defined and defended, and that state of self-consciousness is itself insincere. P. 13

I cannot bear witness to the presence of God either in Burber’s sense or in Jung’s sense, and yet I am not a materialist. All my life I have found more sustenance in the work of those who bear witness to the reality of a living God than in the work of those who deny God – at least, the witness of deniers, Stirner, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Shaw, Russell has been out-balanced by the witness of those who affirm God’s existence – George Herbert, Pascal, Traherne, Spinoza, Kierkegaard, Hopkins, Simone Weil. In that state of suspense, ‘waiting on God’, I still live and shall probably die. P. 34

For the first time the personality is deliberately cultivated as such; and from that time [the European Renaissance] until today it has not been possible to separate the achievements of a civilization from the achievements of the individuals composing it. I have not the slightest doubt that this form of individuation represents a higher stage in the evolution of mankind. The future unit is the individual, a world in himself, self-contained and self-creative, freely giving and freely receiving, but essentially a free spirit.

The Philosophy of Anarchism by Read, Herbert Edward, Sir, 1893-1968 Publication date  1940

For the first time the personality is deliberately cultivated as such; and from that time [the European Renaissance] until today it has not been possible to separate the achievements of a civilization from the achievements of the individuals composing it. I have not the slightest doubt that this form of individuation represents a higher stage in the evolution of mankind. The future unit is the individual, a world in himself, self-contained and self-creative, freely giving and freely receiving, but essentially a free spirit.  p. 11-12

The materialist can always be driven into a position of nescience, and has to content himself with such logical banalities as cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I exist. These are precisely the kind of rational paradoxes that Tolstoy found so unsatisfying. They do not answer the existential questions: Why do I exist, why does the world exist, what is the meaning of life? p. 129

Forms of things unknown: essays towards an aesthetic philosophy 1960

We are not ignorant of love — we all experience it to the degree that we are human. But there is a mystery about the command of Jesus: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. In what is perhaps his greatest work, Works of Love, Kierkegaard explored the meaning and the consequences of this command, this ‘fulfilling of the law’, as St Paul called it. Kierkegaard began by pointing out that a different meaning can be read into the command according to the emphasis we give to different words —

Thou shalt love thy neighbour

Thou shalt love thy neighbour

Thou shalt love thy neighbour

Kierkegaard explores all the implications of the command, but later writers, such as Martin Buber and Hubert Benoit, have shown that he did not exhaust them.

Kierkegaard was concerned to prove what might be called the activist nature of love, and in this respect he returns to the conception of the early Greek philosophers. He goes so far as to say that the poet who sings of earthly love cannot be a Christian, ‘for love of one’s neighbour is not sung, it is acted’.

And there is no partiality in neighbourly love: ‘Earthly love and friendship are partiality and the passion of partiality; Christian love is self-denying love.’ Love is a matter of conscience, and only when it becomes a matter of conscience is there love from a pure heart and an unfeigned faith.

Love works its miracles in stillness. ‘Lo, the world raises a tumult just to bring about a little change; it sets heaven and earth in motion for nothing, like the mountain which brought forth a mouse: Christianity in all stillness brings about the change of the infinite as if it were nothing. It is so quiet, quiet as nothing worldly can be; as quiet as only the dead and inwardness can be; and what else is Christianity but inwardness!’

Most of us have no hesitation in speaking of force, of power, of might, but the word ‘love’ embarrasses us. It does so because it is an ambiguous word, and it was perhaps with a realization of its ambiguity that the English translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible, in certain significant passages, substituted the word ‘charity’. But that word, too, has become hopelessly ambiguous in modern English usage, and quite ineffective in our present context — the context of force.

We must retain the word ‘love’ and try to use it realistically. Tolstoy devoted many pages to the effort of redefining the meaning of love in a context of force. He pointed out that true love, universal love, has nothing to do with sentimental or emotional love, which even animals experience. Kierkegaard was clear about that, too.

Loving your neighbour, he pointed out, is a matter of equality, but of equality before God.

Your neighbour is not the man for whom you have a passionate partiality; he is not your equal in education or social status. Nor is he the man you admire for his distinction, nor the man you pity for his inferiority — partiality or condescension are feelings of selfishness. The neighbour is every man and ‘he is your neighbour through equality with you before God, but every man unconditionally has this equality, and has it unconditionally’. 214-215

Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, Buber and Jung are all saying the same thing: Love is God — God is love. But I wish to resist the temptation to make abstract statements about the concrete reality.

The love Tolstoy and Kierkegaard, Jung and Buber are discussing is an active love which we must practice in our daily life: ‘To live,’ as Tolstoy said, ‘so as in all things to remember first of all, with every man, thief, drunkard, rough officer, or dependent, not to swerve from love: that is to say, in the business you have with him, to remember his need rather than your own.’  p. 216

A Coat of Many Colours 1945 by  Read Herbert 1893-1968 p. 247-258

Forms of things unknown: essays towards an aesthetic philosophy 1960, 1963 by Herbert Edward Reed   p. 214-215

Herbert Read on Wikipedia





Clement of Alexandria and Soren K.

An ignorant man has sought, and having sought, he finds the teacher wrote Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215 AD) in his Miscellanies.

Clement of Alexandria

Soren Kierkegaard liked that idea expecially as expressed by Socrates.

Kierkegaard wrote of Socrates in his thesis: On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates (1841)

“If the Sophists had answer for everything, then he could pose questions; if the Sophists knew everything, then he knew nothing at all; if the Sophists could talk without stopping, then he could be silent-that is, he could converse.

If the Sophist’s pageant was pompous and pretentious, then Socrates’ appearance was quiet and modest; if the Sophists’ mode of living was sumptuous and self-indulgent, his was simple and abstemious; if the Sophists’ goal was influence in the state, Socrates was reluctant to have anything to do with political affairs; if the Sophists’ instruction was priceless, then Socrates’ was, too, in the opposite sense; if the Sophists’ wished to sit at the head of the table, Socrates was content to sits at the foot; if the Sophists wanted to be regarded as somebodies, Socrates preferred to be a nobody.

All this can be understood as examples of Socrates’ moral strength.”  P. 210 Howard and Edna Hong translation 1989

Kierkegaard sees Socrates as an example of one who used ignorance to find knowledge. Frances Bacon has maintained the same attitude in his 1605 book The Advancement of Learning:

“Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients; the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” (Book 1 p. 45)

I came across Clement of Alexandria’s Miscellanies while looking for something to read for librivox.org and was struck by what Clement wote in his fifth book third chapter regarding faith and hope.  He elevated the mind over the senses. He wrote about the crowd as Kierkegaard and Plato did. And he quotes ancient authors as he explains how their ideas fit well with the New Testament.

The Objects of Faith and Hope Perceived By the Mind Alone.

For he who hopes, as he who believes, sees intellectual objects and future things with the mind. If, then, we affirm that aught is just, and affirm it to be good, and we also say that truth is something, yet we have never seen any of such objects with our eyes, but with our mind alone. Now the Word of God says, “I am the truth.” (John 14.3)  The Word is then to be contemplated by the mind.

“Do you aver,” it was said, By Plato that there are any true philosophers’?” “Yes,” said I, “those who love to contemplate the truth.” In the Phaedrus also, Plato, speaking of the truth, shows it as an idea. Now an idea is a conception of God; and this the barbarians have termed the Word of God. The words are as follow: “For one must then dare to speak the truth, especially in speaking of the truth. For the essence of the soul, being colourless, formless, and intangible, is visible only to God, its guide.” Now the Word issuing forth was the cause of creation; then also he generated himself, ” when the Word had become flesh,” (2 John 1. 14) that He might be seen. The righteous man will seek the discovery that flows from love, to which if he hastes he prospers. For it is said, ” To him that knocketh, it shall be opened: ask, and it shall be given to you.” (Matt. 7. 7) “For the violent that storm the kingdom” (Matt. 11.12) are not so in disputatious speeches; but by continuance in a right life and unceasing prayers, are said ” to take it by force,” wiping away the blots left by their previous sins.

“You may obtain wickedness, even in great abundance. (Hesiod, first line, “Works and Days,” 285) And him who toils God helps;
For the gifts of the Muses, hard to win,
Lie not before you, for any one to bear away.”
(Plato, Alcibiades, book 1)

The knowledge of ignorance is, then, the first lesson in walking according to the Word.

An ignorant man has sought, and having sought, he finds the teacher; and finding has believed, and believing has hoped; and henceforward having loved, is assimilated to what was loved — endeavouring to be what he first loved.

Such is the method Socrates shows Alcibiades, who thus questions: “Do you not think that I shall know about what is right otherwise?” “Yes, if you have found out.” “But you don’t think I have found out?” “Certainly, if you have sought.” “Then you don’t think that I have sought?” “Yes, if you think you do not know.”

So with the lamps of the wise virgins, lighted at night in the great darkness of ignorance, which the Scripture signified by “night.” Wise souls, pure as virgins, understanding themselves to be situated amidst the ignorance of the world, kindle the light, and rouse the mind, and illumine the darkness, and dispel ignorance, and seek truth, and await the appearance of the Teacher.

“The mob, then,” said I, “cannot become a philosopher.” (Plato, Republic, 6. p. 678) “Many rod-bearers there are, but few Bacchi,” according to Plato. “For many are called, but few chosen.”(Matt. 20. 16) “Knowledge is not in all,” (1 Cor. 8. 7) says the apostle. “And pray that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.” (2 Thess. 3. 1, 2) And the Poetics of Cleanthes, the Stoic, writes to the following effect :

“Look not to glory, wishing to be suddenly wise,
And fear not the undiscerniug and rash opinion of the many; For the multitude has not an intelligent, or wise, or right judgment, And it is in few men that you will find this.” (Quoted by Socrates in the Phaedo, p. 52)

And more sententiously the comic poet briefly says: “It is a shame to judge of what is right by much noise.” For they heard, I think, that excellent wisdom, which says to us, “Watch your opportunity in the midst of the foolish, and in the midst of the intelligent continue.” (Ecclesiasticus 27 12,) And again, “The wise will conceal sense.”(Prov. 10. 14) For the many demand demonstration as a pledge of truth, not satisfied with the bare salvation by faith.

“But it is strongly incumbent to disbelieve the dominant wicked, And as is enjoined by the assurance of our muse, Know by dissecting the utterance within your breast.”

“For this is habitual to the wicked,” says Empedocles, ” to wish to overbear what is true by disbelieving it.” And that our tenets are probable and worthy of belief, the Greeks shall know, the point being more thoroughly investigated in what follows.

For we are taught what is like by what is like. For says Solomon, “Answer a fool according to his folly.” (Prov. 26.5) Wherefore also, to those that ask the wisdom that is with us, we are to hold out things suitable, that with the greatest possible ease they may, through their own ideas, be likely to arrive at faith in the truth. For “I became all things to all men, that I might gain all men.” (1 Cor. 9. 22) Since also “the rain” of the divine grace is sent down “on the just and the unjust.” (Matt. 5. 45) “Is He the God of the Jews only, and not also of the Gentiles? Yes, also of the Gentiles: if indeed He is one God,”(Romans 3. 29, 30) exclaims the noble apostle.

Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215 AD)  The Miscellanies – Book V  CHAPTER III.   p. 229-232



Simon Magus by Irenaeus 130-202 AD

Doctrines and practices of Simon Magus and Menander  p. 86-89 Irenaeus Against Heresies

Simon the Samaritan was that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the apostles, says, “But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime used magical arts in that city, and led astray the people of Samaria, declaring that he himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the power of God, which is called great. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had driven them mad by his sorceries.”  Acts 8: 9-11

This Simon, then — who feigned faith, supposing that the apostles themselves performed their cures by the art of magic, and not by the power of God; and with respect to their filling with the Holy Ghost, through the imposition of hands, those that believed in God through Him who was preached by them, namely, Christ Jesus — suspecting that even this was done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic, and offering money to the apostles, thought he, too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit on whomsoever he would, — was addressed in these words by Peter: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God can be purchased with money: thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Acts 8: 20, 21, 28.

He, then, not putting faith in God a whit the more, set himself eagerly to contend against the apostles, in order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, and applied himself with still greater zeal to the study of the whole magic art, that he might the better bewilder and overpower multitudes of men.

Such was his procedure in the reign of Claudius Caesar, by whom also he is said to have been honoured with a statue, on account of his magical power. This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father, while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.

Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials: — Having redeemed from slavery at Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, a certain woman named Helena, he was in the habit of carrying her about with him, declaring that this woman was the first conception of his mind, the mother of all, by whom, in the beginning, he conceived in his mind [the thought] of forming angels and archangels. For this Ennoea leaping forth from him, and comprehending the will of her father, descended to the lower regions [of space], and generated angels and powers, by whom also he declared this world was formed. But after she had produced them, she was detained by them through motives of jealousy, because they were unwilling to be looked upon as the progeny of any other being. As to himself, they had no knowledge of him whatever; but his Ennoea was detained by those powers and angels who had been produced by her. She suffered all kinds of contumely from them, so that she could not return upwards to her father, but was even shut up in a human body, and for ages passed in succession from one female body to another, as from vessel to vessel. She was, for example, in that Helen on whose account the Trojan war was undertaken; for whose sake also Stesichorus was struck blind, because be bad cursed her in his verses, but afterwards, repenting and writing what are called palinodes, in which he sang her praise, he was restored to sight. Thus she, passing from body to body, and suffering insults in every one of them, at last became a common prostitute; and she it was that was meant by the lost sheep.

For this purpose, then, he had come that he might win her first, and free her from slavery, while he conferred salvation upon men, by making himself known to them. For since the angels ruled the world ill because each one of them coveted the principal power for himself, he had come to amend matters, and had descended, transfigured and assimilated to powers and principalities and angels, so that he might appear among men to be a man, while yet he was not a man; and that thus he was thought to have suffered in Judaea, when he had not suffered. Moreover, the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of those angels who formed the world; for which reason those who place their trust in him and Helena no longer regarded them, but, as being free, live as they please ; for men are saved through his grace, and not on account of their own righteous actions. For such deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident, just as those angels who made the world, have thought fit to constitute them, seeking, by means of such precepts, to bring men into bondage. On this account, he pledged himself that the world should be dissolved, and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world.

Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called “Paredri” (familars) and “ Oniropompi” (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service. They also have an image of Simon fashioned after the likeness of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Minerva; and these they worship. In fine, they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious doctrines, being called Simonians; and from them “knowledge, falsely so called,” received its beginning, as one may learn even from their own assertions.

The successor of this man was Menander, also a Samaritan by birth, and he, too, was a perfect adept in the practice of magic. He affirms that the primary Power continues unknown to all, but that he himself is the person who has been sent forth from the presence of the invisible beings as a saviour, for the deliverance of men. The world was made by angels, whom, like Simon, he maintains to have been produced by Enncea. He gives, too, as he affirms, by means of that magic which he teaches, knowledge to this effect, that one may overcome those very angels that made the world; for his disciples obtain the resurrection by being baptised into him, and can die no more, but remain in the possession of immortal youth.

Doctrines and practices of Simon Magus and Menander  p. 86-89

Irenaeus Against Heresies, By Irenaeus 130-202 AD, Translated By Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D, And Rev. W. H. Rambaut, A. B.  1867


The Prophet by Pushkin

The Prophet
By Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837)
(Trans. Avrahm Yarmolinsky)

The Prophet from Librivox   

I DRAGGED my flesh through desert gloom,

Tormented by the spirit’s yearning,

And saw a six-winged Seraph loom

Upon the footpath’s barren turning.

And as a dream in slumber lies

So light his finger on my eyes,—

My wizard eyes grew wide and wary:

An eagle’s, startled from her eyrie.

He touched my ears, and lo! a sea

Of storming voices burst on me.

I heard the whirling heavens’ tremor,

The angels’ flight and soaring sweep,

The sea-snakes coiling in the deep,

The sap the vine’s green tendrils carry.

And to my lips the Seraph clung

And tore from me my sinful tongue,

My cunning tongue and idle-worded;

The subtle serpent’s sting he set

Between my lips—his hand was wet,

His bloody hand my mouth begirded.

And with a sword he cleft my breast

And took the heart with terror turning,

And in my gaping bosom pressed

A coal that throbbed there, black and burning.

Upon the wastes, a lifeless clod,

I lay, and heard the voice of God:

“Arise, oh prophet, watch and hearken,

And with my Will thy soul engird,

Through lands that dim and seas that darken,

Burn thou men’s hearts with this, my Word.”

Pushkin farewell to the sea – Wikicommons

Indirect Communication

Imagine two men sitting beside one another in any kind of solitude of the world. They do not speak with one another, they do not look at one another, not once have they turned to one another. They are not in one another’s confidence, the one knows nothing of the other’s career, early that morning they got to know one another in the course of their travels. In this moment neither is thinking of the other; we do not need to know what their thoughts are. The one is sitting on the common seat obviously after his usual manner, calm, hospitably disposed to everything that may come. His being seems to say it is too little to be ready, one must also be really there. The other, whose attitude does not betray him, is a man who holds himself in reserve, withholds himself. But if we know about him we know that a childhood’s spell is laid on him, that his withholding of himself is something other than an attitude, behind all attitude is entrenched the impenetrable inability to communicate himself.

Martin Buber portrait.jpgAnd now — let us imagine that this is one of the hours which succeed in bursting asunder the seven iron bands about our heart — imperceptibly the spell is lifted. But even now the man does not speak a word, does not stir a finger. Yet he does something. The lifting of the spell has happened to him — no matter from where — without his doing. But this is what he does now: he releases in himself a reserve over which only he himself has power. Unreservedly communication streams from him, and the silence bears it to his neighbour. Indeed it was intended for him, and he receives it unreservedly as he receives all genuine destiny that meets him. He will be able to tell no one, not even himself, what he has experienced. What does he now “know” of the other? No more knowing is needed. For where unreserve has ruled, even wordlessly, between men, the word of dialogue has happened sacramentally. (3-4)

Faith stands in the stream of “happening but once” which is spanned by knowledge. All the emergency structures of analogy and typology are indispensable for the work of the human spirit, but to step on them when the question of the questioner steps up to you, to me, would be running away. Lived life is tested and fulfilled in the stream alone. The true name of concrete reality is the creation which is entrusted to me and to every man. (12-13)

There is a tale that a man inspired by God once went out from the creaturely realms into the vast waste. There he wandered till he came to the gates of the mystery. He knocked. From within came the cry: ‘’What do you want here?” He said, ‘I have proclaimed your praise in the ears of mortals, but they were deaf to me. So I come to you that you yourself may hear me and reply.” “Turn back,” came the cry from within. “Here is no ear for you. I have sunk my hearing in the deafness of mortals.” (15)

Responsibility which does not respond to a word is a metaphor of morality. Factually, responsibility only exists when the court is there to which I am responsible, and “self- responsibility” has reality only when the “self” to which I am responsible becomes transparent into the absolute. But he who practices real responsibility in the life of dialogue does not need to name the speaker of the word to which he is responding— he knows him in the word’s substance which presses on and in, assuming the cadence of an inwardness, and stirs him in his heart of hearts. A man can ward off with all his strength the belief that “God” is there, and he tastes him in the strict sacrament of dialogue. (17)

The category of the Single One, too, means not the subject or “man”, but concrete singularity; yet not the individual who is detecting his existence, but rather the person who is finding himself. But the finding himself, however primally remote from Stirner’s “utilize thyself”, is not akin either to that “know thyself” which apparently troubled Kierkegaard very much. For it means a becoming, and moreover in a weight of seriousness that only became possible, at least for the West, through Christianity. It is therefore a becoming which (though Kierkegaard says that his category was used by Socrates “for the dissolution of heathendom”) is decisively different from that effected by the Socratic “delivery”.

“No-one is excluded from being a Single One except him who excludes himself by wishing to be ‘crowd’.” Here not only is “Single One” opposed to “crowd”, but also becoming is opposed to a particular mode of being which evades becoming. That may still be in tune with Socratic thought. But what does it mean, to become a Single One? (42)

A man in the crowd is a stick stuck in a bundle moving through the water, abandoned to the current or being pushed by a pole from the bank in this or that direction. Even if it seems to the stick at times that it is moving by its own motion it has in fact none of its own; and the bundle, too, in which it drifts has only an illusion of self-propulsion.

I remind you of Kierkegaard’s warning: “That men are in a crowd either excuses a man of repentance and responsibility or at all events weakens the Single One’s responsibility, because the crowd lets the man have only a fragment of responsibility.” But I must put it differently. In practice, in the moment of action, it is only the semblance of a fragment, but afterwards, when in your waking dream after midnight you are dragged before the throne and attacked by the spurned calling to be a Single One, it is complete responsibility.  (64)

Martin Buber,  Between Man And Man, 1947  Translated By Ronald Gregor Smith  Kegan Paul London 1965 p. 3-4, 15, 64


Anxiety and Mediation

“I would not have deprived myself so long of the honour and pleasure of obeying the request of a lady who is the ornament of her sex, in communicating the desired information, if I had not deemed it necessary previously to inform myself thoroughly concerning the subject of your request. . . . Permit me, gracious lady, to justify my proceedings in this matter, inasmuch as it might appear that an erroneous opinion had induced me to credit the various relations concerning it without careful examination. I am not aware that anybody has ever perceived in me an inclination to the marvellous, or a weakness tending to credulity.

So much is certain that, notwithstanding all the narrations of apparitions and visions concerning the spiritual world, of which a great number of the most probable are known to me, I have always considered it to be most in agreement with sound reason to incline to the negative side; not as if I had imagined such a case to be impossible, although we know but very little concerning the nature of a spirit, but because the instances are not in general sufficiently proved. There arise, moreover, from the incomprehensibility and inutility of this sort of phenomena, too many difficulties; and there are, on the other hand, so many proofs of deception, that I have never considered it necessary to suffer fear or dread to come upon me, either in the cemeteries of the dead or in the darkness of the night.

This is the position in which my mind stood for a long time, until the report concerning Swedenborg came to my notice.

Immanuel Kant’s Letter on Swedenborg To Charlotte Von Knobloch, 1756? From Dreams of a Spirit-Seer 1766 p. 155 translated by Emanuel F. Goerwitz 1900

 Kant and Swedenborg
Read about Kant’s investigation into the world of the spirit in his book. Link above.

In one of Grimm’s Fairy Tales there is the story of a youth who went out in search of adventures for the sake of learning what it is to fear or be in dread. We will let that adventurer go his way without troubling ourselves to learn whether in the course of it he encountered the dreadful. On the other hand I would say that learning to know dread is an adventure which every man has to affront if he would not go to perdition either by not having known dread or by sinking under it. He therefore who has learned rightly to be in dread has learned the most important thing.

Kierkegaard, The Concept of Dread Chapter V Lowrie translation

That youth did learn what it is to fear. Yes he did. As soon as he got married. He wanted to find out what fear was in Grimm’s tale but how do I know a spirit or soul exists? How do I know I am a sinner? How do I know I can be forgiven? How do I know I need God? Can I find out I am guilty by myself, through the legal authorities, the police, psychologists, or through the Grace of God?

Kierkegaard concept

Kierkegaard began with his book Either/Or by asking individuals to make a definite Either/Or regarding certain matters. What is this Either/Or and how does it compare with an either/or? When does the individual say “I am …” with passion. Passion isn’t emotional exuberance on display but emotional exuberance hidden in the inner being. Here are a few quotes from Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or 1843.

There are conditions of life in which it would be ludicrous or a kind of derangement to apply an Either/Or, but there are also people whose souls are too dissolute to comprehend the implications of such a dilemma, whose personalities lack the energy to be able to say with pathos: Either/Or.  Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or II p. 157 Hong

What struggle could be more educative than the struggle with the cares about the necessities of life! Life, even in this struggle loses its beauty if one does not will it oneself. How much childlikeness it takes to be able almost to smile  sometimes at the earthly toil and trouble an immortal spirit must have in order to live, how much humility to be content with the little that is gained with difficulty, how much faith to see the governance of a providence also in his life, for it is easy enough to say that God is greatest in the least, but to be able to see him there takes the strongest faith. Either/Or.  Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or II p. 286 Hong

Kierkegaard angst and practic

The word “sin” has been slowly done away with in many countries. It is a concept in Holy Scripture and Kierkegaard thinks it is a mistake to get rid of the concept. He also thinks this concept of sin must be coupled with the concepts of anxiety and forgiveness. Scholars think Kierkegaard spent too much time worrying about sin and not enough time enjoying life. Some life events have been stressed by scholars.

  • Soren’s birth – His father was fifty-seven years old when he was born and he “may” have been conceived while his father was mourning the death of his first wife. His maid, Anna, Soren’s mother, was comforting him.
  • Later Soren found out his father cursed God when he was twelve years old and that he (his father – Michael) feared that God had cursed his family in recompense for his sin.
  • Then, Soren “may” have had sex with a prostitute. (Or maybe Goethe did)
  • Finally, Soren promised to marry Regine Olsen and then changed his mind and broke off the engagement. Regine was comforting Soren because his father had died in 1838.

Soren wasn’t so afraid of sin as he was of the consequences for any individual, like his own father, who at 82 years old couldn’t forget what he had done 70 years earlier, and couldn’t believe he could be forgiven. As far as Regine goes he had good reasons to break off his engagement and explained them in his book Prefaces.

He thinks sin is part of our human nature and to deny that sin exists is to change the natural order of things.

That human nature must be such that it makes sin possible, is, psychologically speaking, perfectly true; but to want to let this possibility of sin become its reality is shocking to ethics and sounds to dogmatics like blasphemy; for freedom is always possible, as soon as it is it is actual, in the same sense in which it has been said by an earlier philosophy that when God’s existence is possible it is necessary.

As soon as sin is really posited, ethics is on the spot and follows every step it takes. How it came into being does not concern ethics, except in so far as it is certain that sin came into the world as sin. But still less than with the genesis of sin is ethics concerned with the still life of its possibility. The Concept of Anxiety, introduction

Freedom’s possibility is not the ability to choose the good or the evil. The possibility is to be able. Concept of Anxiety, Thompte p. 49

What does the ethicist say about sin? Nothing – the ethicist knows only about crime just as the psychologist does. Ethics change throughout time but sin is always sin because sin is “before God” while crime is done before the State. Psychological ideas change also. One day its wrong to do such and such and the next day its right to do it. Kierkegaard thinks we should rely on the inner testimony in our own spirit more than on courts, justices, psychologists, or news anchors.

Concept of anxiety lowrie

The only thing that is truly able to disarm the sophistry of sin is faith, courage to believe that the state itself is a new sin, courage to renounce anxiety without anxiety. Only faith is able to do this, for only in faith is the synthesis eternal and at every moment possible.
Soren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, Nichol P. 117

Soren Kierkegaard the Christian thinker
Soren Kierkegaard the Christian thinker

We turn now to Soren Kierkegaard. He is regarded on the Continent, according to Brock, as “one of the most remarkable psychologists of all time, in depth, if not in breadth, superior to Nietzsche, and in penetration comparable only to Dostoievski.” The keystone idea in Kierkegaard’s little book on anxiety, published in 1844, is the relation between anxiety and freedom.Kierkegaard held that anxiety is always to be understood as oriented toward freedom.” Freedom is the goal of personality development ; psychologically speaking, “the good is freedom.” Kierkegaard defines freedom as possibility.

Rollo May, The Meaning of Anxiety 1950

Prefaces Light reading for the different Classes at their Time and Leisure June 17, 1844 by Nicolas Notabene (pseudonym)

Regine Olsen: Soren, would you like to go for a walk with me?

Soren: No, I don’t feel like it today.

Regine: Soren, I went for a walk with my friends and guess who I saw?

Soren: Who?

Regine: I saw you walking with Hans Brocher. YOU LIED TO ME!


Soren: Regine, do you want me to read one of my discourses to you?

Regine: No, silly, I want you to pay attention to me and me alone. The pastor says you should love your wife with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.

Soren: I thought I was supposed to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind.


Soren: Regine, I want to be a writer.

Regine: Ok. But you can only write prefaces to books. Whole books take too much time away from your family.


Writing a preface is like sharpening a scythe, like tuning a guitar, like talking with a child, like spitting out of the window. One does not know how it comes about; the desire comes upon one, the desire to throb fancifully in a productive mood, the desire to write a preface, the desire to do these things in a low whisper as night falls.

Writing a preface is like ringing someone’s doorbell to trick him, like walking by a young lady’s window and gazing at the paving stones; it is like swinging one’s cane in the air to hit the wind, like doffing one’s hat although one is greeting nobody.

Writing a preface is like being aware that one is beginning to fall in love-the soul sweetly restless, the riddle abandoned, every event an intimation of the transfiguration. Writing a preface is like bending aside a branch in a bower of jasmine and seeing her who sits there in secret: my beloved. Oh, this is how it is, this is how it is to write a preface; and the one who writes it, what is he like? 

Soren Kierkegaard Prefaces 1844 p.  5-6

“To be an author when one is a married man,” she says, “is downright unfaithfulness, directly contrary to what the pastor said, since the validity of marriage is in this, that a man is to hold fast to his wife and to no other.” She is by no means at a loss for an answer if I reply that one might almost thing that she was so neglected that she needs to go to confirmation instruction again, that she perhaps was not really listening to what the pastor said, that marriage is a special duty, a specific duty, and that all duties can be divided into the general and the specific and are duties to God, to ourselves, and to the neighbor. Then she will get into no difficulty at all.

The whole thing is declared to be teasing, and “moreover, she has not forgotten what is said about marriage in the catechism, that it is the husband’s duty in particular.” I futilely seek to explain to her that she is in linguistic error, that she is construing the words illogically, ungrammatically, against all principles of exegesis, because this passage is only about the husband’s particular duties with regard to marriage, just as the very next paragraph is about the wife’s particular duties. It is futile. She takes her stand on the preceding, “that to be an author when one is a married man is the worst kind of unfaithfulness.”

Soren Kierkegaard Prefaces 1844 p.  10-12

Michael Kierkegaard: Soren I want you to go to school and become a preacher.

Soren: But dad I don’t have the authority to preach.

Michael: The University will give you the authority.

Soren: I need authority from God to be able to speak for God.

Michael: Then you can be a philosopher.

Soren: I don’t want to spend my whole life mediating the past!


Surely philosophers want to be popular, wants to make itself understandable to all. However unimportant I may be, in all the processions through the course of time I find no place bearing a more precise designation-under the rubric “all” I do indeed fit in. the category “all” makes no petty distinction; it includes all. In addition, philosophy is certainly not a finite power, not a selfish tyrant that wants to fight, but a philanthropic genius that wants to bring all people to knowledge of the truth. I do not rise in rebellion, I guard against that, I seek instruction. The more unimportant I am, the greater is the triumph for philosophy. To that end spare no means; use evil on me or the good, all accordingly as it is found serviceable; it will endure anything, suffer anything, do anything if only I may succeed in becoming initiated.

Only never allow me to say yes to something I do not understand; only do not require of me that I must explain to others what I myself do not comprehend. … There is one thing that I do know quite definitely: it is what I do not understand. There is one thing I desire of my contemporaries: it is an explanation. Consequently I do not deny that Hegel has explained everything; I leave that to the powerful minds who will also explain what is missing. I keep my feet on the ground and say: I have not understood Hegel‘s explanation.

Soren Kierkegaard Prefaces 1844 p. 55-56

Whether now in our day there is a probability that philosophy will explain itself in this or in a similar but even better way, I do not know; it does no good to be on the lookout for trouble. If, however, it continues to become more and more a riddle, more and more difficult in its expression, if along this path it continues to want to achieve its lofty goal of being understood by all, then perhaps my lofty expectation can be fulfilled, my pious wish to become a philosopher. So I trustingly address myself to my contemporaries. I have not doubted everything; I address myself to men who have doubted everything. What a lofty hope! Have they attained certainty about everything? If do not know, but surely on some points they must have attained it. Granted that there is some exaggeration in the great amount of talk that is heard concerning the system-that it should amount to nothing at all would be too frightful a contradiction for my weak head to be able to think it. Now, if only it becomes an original Danish system, a completely domestic product, and if only I am included-even if I became nothing but a courier in this Danish system-I shall then be happy and satisfied.

Soren Kierkegaard Prefaces 1844 p. 65

Professor Hans Martensen: Soren have you finished your assignment yet.

Soren: No, still working on it.

Martensen: When can I see it.

Soren: When I see the system you’re building completed.

University of Copenhagen

Peter Christian Kierkegaard: Soren dad sent you to school so you could preach the word of God in the Church of Denmark.

Soren: I want to preach what I think the people need.

Michael: We have a calendar of service to follow.

Soren: I don’t want to preach, teach, or get married.

Michael: You’re being selfish and selfishness is a sin.

Soren: What is a self?

St Methodius on Eunuchs

File:Tyre map.png

Saint Methodius, also called Eubulius, was first of all bishop simultaneously of Olympus and Patara, in Lycia. He was afterwards removed, according by St Jerome, to the episcopal see of Tyre in Phoenicia, and at the end of the latest of the great persecutions of the Church, about the year 312, he suffered martyrdom at Chalcis in Greece. He decided to rewrite Plato’s Symposium. The springs of reason brings one to the truth of the benefits of virginity.

The Banquet of the Ten Virgins

Here is an excerpt praising virginity among men.

Virginity is something supernaturally great, wonderful, and glorious; and, to speak plainly and in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, this best and noblest manner of life alone is the root of immortality, and also its flower and first fruits; and for this reason the Lord promises that those shall enter into the kingdom of heaven who have made themselves eunuchs, in that passage of the Gospels in which He lays down the various reasons for which men have made themselves eunuchs. Chastity with men is a very rare thing, and difficult of attainment, and in proportion to its supreme excellence and magnificence is the greatness of its dangers.

For this reason, it requires strong and generous natures, such as, vaulting over the stream of pleasure, direct the chariot of the soul upwards from the earth, not turning aside from their aim, until having, by swiftness of thought, lightly bounded above the world, and taken their stand truly upon the vault of heaven, they purely contemplate immortality itself as it leaps out from the undefiled bosom of the Almighty.

St. Methodius ArchbishopEarth could not bring forth this draught; heaven alone knew the fountain from whence it flows; for we must think of virginity as walking indeed upon the earth, but as also reaching up to heaven. And hence some, who have longed for it, and considering only the end of it, have come, by reason of coarseness of mind, ineffectually with unwashed feet, and have gone aside out of the way, from having conceived no worthy idea of the [virginal] manner of life. For it is not enough to keep the body only undefiled, just as we should not show that we think more of the temple than of the image of the god; but we should care for the souls of men as being the divinities of their bodies, and adorn them with righteousness. And then do they most care for them and tend them when, striving untiringly to hear divine discourses, they do not desist until, wearing the doors of the wise, they attain to the knowledge of the truth.

For as the putrid humours and matter of flesh, and all those things which corrupt it, are driven out by salt, in the same manner all the irrational appetites of a virgin are banished from the body by divine teaching. For it must needs be that the, soul which is not sprinkled with the words of Christ, as with salt, should stink and breed worms, as King David, openly confessing with tears in the mountains, cried out, “My wounds stink and are corrupt, “because he had not salted himself with the exercises of self-control, and so subdued his carnal appetites, but had self-indulgently yielded to them, and became corrupted in adultery. And hence, in Leviticus, every gift, unless it be seasoned with salt, is forbidden to be offered as an oblation to the Lord God. Now the whole spiritual meditation of the Scriptures is given to us as salt which stings in order to benefit, and which disinfects, without which it is impossible for a soul, by means of reason, to be brought to the Almighty; for “ye are the salt of the earth” said the Lord to the apostles. ….

Back to Religion

Rudolf Eucken was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of Basel 1871; in 1874, he succeeded Kuno Fischer at Jena. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1908 for his search for truth. Eicken was born in the Kingdom of Hanover in 1846 and died in the nation of Germany 1926. The quote below is from his 1912 book Back to Religion.

Modernity has abandoned religion’s mode of conceiving life and the world sub specie aeternitatis, has left eternity colorless and empty, in its uncurbed desire to plunge full into the current of the time, to uplift conditions here, and from this world to derive all its forces. In all this a special importance has attached to the idea of development. Instead of thinking their position to be fixed and unshakable by the appointment of a higher power, be it God or fate, men have come to think of our life as still in flux, and its condition as susceptible of measureless improvement; above all the immaturity and all the losses of the present has arisen the confident hope of a better and ever better future.

Such a conviction has led men to devote endeavor entirely to the living present and carefully to adjust effort to the existing stage of evolution. That contributes great freshness and mobility to life; all rigidity is dispelled, all magnitudes become fluid, infinite increase multiplies the abundant forms.

Without in any wise attacking or disparaging all this, one’s own experience of life yet makes it more and more clear that this trend has its dangers and limitations. To yield to the tendency of the times seemed at first to bring clear gain, for a group of persistent convictions still maintained themselves and supplied to the movement a counterbalancing repose.

More and more, however, the movement drew into itself these survivals; more and more exclusively it mastered all life. It constantly became more swift, more hurried, more agitated; the changes followed faster and faster, one moment crowded on another, and the present was reduced to a passing instant. But in this process it has become apparent that this passionate forward striving leaves no room for true life.

And, further, all courage must needs perish, so soon as we are forced to the conviction that everything which we today revere as true, good, beautiful, is subject to change and may tomorrow become unstable, that what is today acclaimed “modern” may tomorrow be cast aside as obsolete. He who unreflectingly lives merely for the moment may in all seriousness look upon that moment as the acme of the whole; but he who looks a little farther cannot doubt that it will be no better with us than with those who went before us, and that the saying still holds which according to Indian doctrines the spirits of the dead cry to the living: “We were what you are; you shall be what we are.” In fine, if life is all strung on the thin thread of successive moments, each crowding back its predecessor, so that when the moment vanishes all action at once sinks again into the abyss of nothingness, then, in spite of all the exciting activity of the moment, life becomes a mere shadow.

eucken-rudolf-1846-1926.jpgIf only we were quite sure that all our pains and care and haste were bringing about progress for the whole of human life! But that, again, we are not. True, we are constantly advancing in exact science, as we are in the technical mastery of our environment; we are compelling the elements into our service; we are freeing our existence from pain and enriching it with pleasure. But are we by all that winning a closer connection with the depths of reality? Are we growing in spiritual power as in ethical sentiment? Are we becoming greater and nobler men? As life gains in pleasure, do our inner contentment and true happiness increase in due proportion?

In truth, we are growing only in our relations to the world outside, not in the essence of our being; and hence the question is not to be evaded, whether the unspeakable toil of modern civilization is worth while. We work and work, and know not to what end; for in giving up eternity we have also lost every inner bond of the ages and all power of comprehensive view. Without a guiding star we drift on the waves of the time.

Back to Religion by Rudolf  Eucken 1846-1926 Publication date 1912  p. 11-15

Can We Still Be Christians? by Rudolf Eucken 1914

Eucken, R. (1910). The problem of human life as viewed by the great thinkers from Plato to the present time. New York: C. Scribner’s sons.

Ophthalmos apiloys, Single Vision

Ophthalmos apiloys or The Single Eye Entitled The Vision of God wherein is enfolded the mystery of divine presence, so to be in one place finitely in appearance, and whilst he is here he is universally everywhere infinitely himself.

Psalm 139.7 Whither shall I flee from thy Spirit, Whither shall I go from they presence.

The Vision of God by Nicholas of Cusa 1453 tranlated by Giles Randall, London Printed for John Steater 1646

The Vision of God; with an intro by Evelyn Underhill, Translated by Emma Gurney Salter. By Nicholas, of Cusa, Cardinal, 1401-1464. (1453)

At the age of sixteen, Nicholas went on to the University of Heidelberg, thence in October 1417 to that of Padua, where he studied law, taking the degree of Doctor in Canon Law in 1423.

CHAPTER II That Absolute Sight embraceth all Modes of Seeing

Following on these considerations thou maycst perceive sight to differ in those who see by reason of its varied forms of limitation.

For our sight followeth the affections of our eye and mind, and thus a man’s looks are now loving and glad, anon sad and wrathful; first the looks of a child, later, of a man; finally, grave, and as of an aged man. But sight that is freed from all limitation embraceth at one and the same time each and every mode of seeing, as being the most adequate measure of all sights, and their truest pattern.

For without Absolute Sight there can be no limited sight; it embraceth in itself all modes of seeing, all and each alike, and abideth entirely freed from all variation.

All limited modes of seeing exist without limitation in Absolute Sight. For every limitation existeth in the Absolute, because Absolute Sight is the limiting of limitations, limiting not being limitable. Wherefore limiting pure and simple coincideth with the Absolute.

For without limiting naught is limited, and thus Absolute Sight existeth in all sight, because through it all limited sight existeth, and without it is utterly unable to exist.

Chapter VII What is the Fruit of seeing Face to Face and how it is to be had  p. 28-33

So sweet is the food wherewith Thou, Lord, dost now nourish my soul that it helpeth itself as best it may by all experiences of this world as well as by those most acceptable comparisons which Thou inspirest. For Thou art, Lord, that power or principle from which come all things, and Thy face is that power and principle from which all faces are what they are; and, this being so, I turn me to this nut-tree —a big, tall tree—and seek to perceive its principle. I see it with the eye of sense to be big and spreading, coloured, laden with branches, leaves, and nuts.

Then I perceive with the eye of the mind that that tree existed in its seed, not as I now behold it, but potentially. I consider with care the marvelous might of that seed, wherein the entire tree, and all its nuts, and all the generative power of the nuts, and all trees, existed in the generative power of the nuts. And I perceive how that power can never be fully explicated in any time measured by the motion of the heavens, yet how that same power, though beyond explication, is still limited, because it availeth only in this particular species of nuts. Wherefore, albeit in the seed I perceive the tree, ’tis yet in a limited power only. Then, Lord, I consider how the generative power of all the divers species of trees is limited each to its own species, and in those same seeds I perceive the virtual trees.

Nicholas of Cusa2If, therefore, I am fain to behold the Absolute Power of all such generative powers—which is the power, and likewise the principle, giving power to all seeds—I must needs pass beyond all generative power which can be known or imagined and enter into that ignorance wherein no vestige whatsoever remaineth of generative power or energy. Then in the darkness I find a Power most stupendous, not to be approached by any power imaginable, and this is the principle, which giveth being to all generative, and other power. This Power, being absolute, and exalted above all, giveth to every generative power that power wherein it enfoldeth the virtual tree, together with all things necessary to an actual tree and that inhere in the being of a tree; wherefore this principle and cause containeth in itself, as cause, alike enfolded and absolutely, whatsoever it giveth to its effect.

Thus I perceive this Power to be the countenance or pattern of all tree countenances and of every tree; whence I behold in it that nut-tree, not as in its limited generative power, but as in the cause and creating energy of that generative power. Accordingly, I see that tree as a certain explication of generative power, and the seed as a certain explication of almighty Power.

I further perceive that—just as in the seed the tree is not a tree but generative power, and the generative power is that wherefrom the tree is unfolded, so that naught is to be found in the tree which doth not proceed from the generative power—even so the generative power in its cause, which is the Power of powers, is not generative power but Absolute Power.

And even so, my God, the tree is in Thee (Thou art Thyself my God), and in Thee is its own truth and exemplar. In like manner also, in Thee the seed of the tree is the truth and exemplar of its own self and of tree and seed. Thou, God, art Truth and Exemplar. That limited generative power is that of the natural species, which is limited to that species, and existeth therein as a limited principle. But Thou, my God, art Absolute Power and, by reason of this, the Nature of all natures.

O God, whither hast Thou led me that I may perceive Thine Absolute Face to be the natural face of all nature, to be the face which is the Absolute Being of all being, to be art, and the knowledge of all that may be known? He, then, who meriteth to behold Thy Face seeth all things openly, and naught remaineth hidden from him: he who hath Thee, Lord, knoweth all things and hath all things: he hath all things who seeth Thee.

For none seeth Thee except he have Thee. None can attain unto Thee, since Thou art unapproachable: none, therefore, can possess himself of Thee except Thou give Thyself to him.

How can I have Thee, Lord, who am not worthy to appear in Thy sight? How reacheth my prayer unto Thee since Thou art not to be approached by any means? How shall I entreat Thee? For what were more foolish than to entreat that Thou shouldest give Thyself to me when Thou art All in all? And how wilt Thou give Thyself to me if Thou do not with Thyself give me heaven and earth and all that in them are? Nay more, how wilt Thou give me Thyself if Thou hast not given me mine own self also?

When I thus rest in the silence of contemplation, Thou, Lord, makest reply within my heart, saying: Be thou thine and I too will be thine.—O Lord. Thou Sweetness most delectable, Thou hast left me free to be mine own self, if I desire. Hence, if I be not mine own self, Thou art not mine, for Thou dost make freewill needful, since Thou canst not be mine if I be not mine own.

nicholas of cusa 1843Since Thou hast thus left me free, Thou dost not constrain me, but Thou awaitest that I should choose to be mine own. This resteth, then, with me, and not with Thee, Lord, who dost not limit Thy supreme loving kindness, but dost pour it out most abundantly on all able to receive it. Thou, Lord, art Thyself Thy loving kindness. But how shall I be mine own unless Thou, Lord, shalt teach me? Thou teachest me that sense should obey reason and that reason should bear sway.

I am, then, mine own when sense serveth reason: but reason hath not whence it may be guided save by Thee, Lord, who art the Word, and the Reason of reasons. Whence I now perceive that, if I hearken unto Thy Word, which ceaseth not to speak within me, and continually enlighteneth my reason, I shall be mine own, free, and not the slave of sin, and Thou wilt be mine, and wilt grant me to behold Thy face, and then I shall be whole. Blessed, then, be Thou in Thy gifts, O God, who alone art able to strengthen my soul, and to raise it up that it may hope to attain unto Thee and to enjoy Thee as its very own gift, and the infinite treasury of all things desirable.

The Vision of God by Nicholas of Cusa 1453
published by Giles Randall in 1646

Chapter 11

How in God succession of time is focus without succession.

Nicholas of Cusa3Oh my God, I have experience in thy goodness which art so far from despising me a miserable sinner, that thou on the other side dost sweetly feed me with certain desire or longing, for thou hast inspired into me a most welcome similitude, as touching the unity of the mental word or conception and the variety thereof in those things that appear successively. For the simple conception of a most perfect Clock leads me a more feeling and savory sight of thy conception and word, for the simple conception of a clock complicates or wraps up all temporal succession, and puts case that a Clock be a conception, then though we hear the sound of the 6th hour before the 7th, yet the 7th is not heard but when the communication, neither is 6th sooner in conception then the 7th or 8th. But in the simple conception of a Clock there is no hour before or after another, although the Clock never strikes but when the conception bids. And it may be truly said when the Clock strikes six because the conception of the Master will have it to and because a Clock in the conception of God is a conception it may a little appear succession in a Clock is without succession in a word or conception and how that most simple conception are folded up all motions and sounds and whatsoever we find in succession. And that whatsoever happens successively doth not by any means exceed the conception, but is an explication of the conception because the conception gives being to everything. And that therefore is sooner than it comes to pass because it was not sooner conceived than it might be. Suppose than a conception of a Clock to be Eternity, and then the motion in the Clock is to be succession. Therefore eternity doth both infold and unfold succession, for the conception of a Clock, which is Eternity, doth both complicate and explicate all things.

Blessed be thou therefore O Lord my God which feedest and nourishes me milk of similitudes until thou give me stronger meat. Lead me O Lord God by these pains to thee, for except thou lead me I shall faint by the way because of frailty of my corruptible nature and the foolish Vessel I bear about me. I return again in confidence of thy help O Lord to find thee beyond the wall of confidence, complication, and explication, and as I go in and out by this door of thy word and conception I find thee both complicating and explication; I go in and out, I go in from the Creatures to thee thou Creator, from the effect to the cause. I go out from the Creator to the creatures, from the cause to the effect, I go both in and out together when I see how going out is going in, and going in at the same instant going out. As he that numbereth doth at the same time both explicate and complicate, explicate the power of unity and complicate number into unities. For the creatures going out from thee is for thee to enter into the Creature and to explicate is to complicate. And when I see thee God in Paradise, encompassed there within the wall of the coincidence of contraries I see that thou dost neither complicate nor explicate disjunctively nor copulatively. For disjunction and communion are both alike the wall of confidence, beyond which thou art absolute and free from all that can be either said or thought.

Chapter 12

That where the invisible is seene, the uncreated is created

Crown of my joy and happiness thou hast appeared unto me, sometimes as invisible from every creature because thou art a God secret and hidden, and infinite, and infinity is incomprehensible by any manner of comprehension. Then thou appeared to me as visible to all things for every thing is so far forth as thou seest it: and that could not bee in act; except it did see thee for vision gives being, because it is they Essence; So thou my God art visible, and invisible thou art, invisible as thou art, and thou art visible as the creature is, which so far forth is as it sees thee, by every thing that seeds, in every thing that may be seen, and in every act of seeing art thou seen, which art invisible and absolute, and free from all such things, and infinitely super-exalted; Therefore O Lord I must leap over the Wall of invisible vision where thou art found, and the Wall is all things, and nothing both together, and thou which meetest or appearest to us as thou thou were all things, and nothing at all both together, dwellest within that high Wall which no wit can by its own power ever be able to climb.

Sometimes thou appearest unto mee, so that I imagine thou seest all things in thy self, like a living Glass, in which all things shine, and because they seeing is thy knowing, then it comes into my mind that thou dost not see also things in thy self as in a living Glass, for then thy knowledge should arise from the things: Sometimes thou presentest thy self to me, that thou seest all things in thy self, as power or virtue, by looking upon it self, As the power or possibility of the seed of a Tree, if it should look into and behold it self, would in it self see the Tree in power; because the virtue of the seed is potentially the Tree, and then again, me thinks that thou dost not see they self, and all things in thy self, as power or possibility, for to see a Tree in the power of the virtue, differs from that vision by which the Tree is seen in act, and then I find how thy infinite virtue or power is beyond all specular and seminal virtue, and beyond the coincidence, radiation or reflection of the cause, and also the thing caused, and that the absolute virtue is absolute vision, which is perfection it self, above all manner of seeing: for all the manners which explain the perfection of seeing are without any manners, thy Vision which is thy Essence, O my God.

But suffer most merciful Lord that I thy wild Creature may yet speak unto thee; If thy seeing be thy creating, and thou seest nothing but they self, but thy self art the object of thy self, for thou art both the thing seeing and the things seen, and the act of seeing, how then dost thou create other things from thee, for thou seemest to create thy self as thou seest thy self. But thou comfortest me O life of my spirit, for although slide1I meet with the wall of absurdity, which is of the Coincidence of creating and being created, as though it were impossible that creating and being created should coincide. For to admit this seems to be as if one should assume that a thing is before it is, for when it creates it is, and because it is created it is not, yet it hinders not. For thy creating is thy being, neither is it any other things as once to create, and to be created, than to communicate thy being unto all things, that thou mayest be all things in all things, and yet remain absolute from all things, for to call to being thing that are not, is to communicate, being to nothing, so to call is to create, to communicate is to be created. And beyond this Coincidence of creating and being created, art thou God absolute and innate neither creating nor in possibility of being created, although they are all that they are, because thou art.

O thou heights of riches, how incomprehensible art thou, as long as I conceive a Creator, creating, I am yet on this side of the wall of Paradise. So as long as I conceive a Creator in possibility of being created, I have not yet entered, but am in the wall, but when I see thee as absolute infinite, whereunto neither the name of a Creator creating nor a Creator in possibility of being created can agree, then I begin to see thee revealedly, and to enter into the Garden of delights, because thou art no such things as can be said or conceived but infinitely and absolutely super-exalted above all such things. Thou art not therefore only a Creator, but infinitely more than a Creator, though without thee nothing is done or can be done: To thee be praise and glory for ever and ever, Amen

Chapter 13

That God is seen absolute infinite

Then, Lord God, thou help of them that sleekest thee, I see thee in the Garden of Paradise, and I know not what I see, for I see nothing visible, only this I know, that I know not what I see, nor ever can know it, name thee I cannot, because I know not what thou art. And if any man say thou art named by this or that name, in as much as he nameth thee, I know that it is not thy name, for every term of the manner of significations of name is a Wall beyond which I see thee.

And if any man express any conception by which thou may be conceived I know that conception is not the conception of thee, for every conception is terminated in the Wall of Paradise. And if any man express any similitude and say that according thereunto though art to be conceived I know likewise that similitude is not thine. So if any man disclose any understanding of thee, as though he would give a means to understand thee, this man is yet far from thee.

For from all these art thou separated by a most high Wall. This Wall separates thee from all things that can be said or thought, for thou art absolute from all things from all things that can fall into any man’s conception. Therefore when I am highest of all lifted up, then I see thee infinitely. Therefore art thou inaccessible, incomprehensible, unnamable, unmulltipliable, and invisible, and so he that will ascent to thee must get up above every term and end and things finite.

But how shall he come unto thee, the end whereat he aim, if he must ascent above the end, doth he not enter into that which is indeterminate and confused, and so in regard of the understanding, into ignorance and obscurity, which are intellectual confusion.

The understanding must therefore become ignorant and be placed in the shadow if it would see thee. But O my God, what is this ignorance of the understanding, is it not a learned ignorance? Therefore cannot thou O God be approached unto as being infinite but by him whose understanding is in ignorance and namely such a one as knows himself to be ignorant of thee. How can the understanding conceive thee which art infinite? The understanding knows itself ignorant and that thou cannot be conceived, because thou art infinite. For to understand Infinity is to comprehend that which is incomprehensible.

The understanding knows itself ignorant of thee because it knows thou cannot be known unless that which is unknowable be known, and the invisible seen, or the inaccessible be approached unto. Thou my God art absolute Infinity, which I see to be an infinite end, but I cannot conceive how an end should be an end without an end. Thou O God art the end of thyself, because thou art whatsoever thou hast if thou hast an end thou art an end. Thou art therefore an infinite end because thou art the end of thyself, for thy end is thy essence, the essence of the end is not determined or limited in another end, but in it self, the end therefore which is the end or bound of itself is infinite.

And every end which  is not the end of it self is a finite end, thou O Lord because thou art the bound that bounds all things, therefore art thou the end or bound whereof there is no bound, and so the bound without bound, or, infinite bound which passes all reason, for it holds a Contradiction.

When therefore I affirm a boundless bound or an infinite end I admit darkness to be light, ignorance knowledge, and that which is impossible to be necessary or of necessity. And because we admit that there is a bound of that which is bounded, we must necessarily admit of an infinite or last end or bound without a bound. But we cannot but admit infinite being, therefore we cannot but admit the infinite. Consequently we admit the Coincidence of contraries above which is the infinite. And that Coincidence is the contradiction without a contradiction, as an end without an end.

And thou O Lord say unto me that as alterity in unity is without alterity, because it is unity, so contradiction in Infinity is without contradiction, because Infinity. Infinity is simplicity it self, but contradiction cannot be without alterity, yet alterity in simplicity is without alteration, because it is simplicity, for all things that are said are affirmed of absolute simplicity, coincide or are the same with it, because there to have, is to be, the opposition of opposites, is there opposition without opposition as the end or bound of things infinite is no end or bound without end or bound.

Thou therefor O God art the opposite of opposites, because thou art infinite, thou art infinite it self. In infinity is opposition of opposites without opposition.

O Lord my God, the strength of the weak, I see thee to be infinity it self, therefore to thee, there is nothing other or diverse or contrary, and adverse for he that is infinite does not suffer with himself any alterity, because, being infinity, there is no thing besides or without it, for absolute infinite includes and environs all things. Therefore if there were infinite and something besides it, it were not infinite nor anything else, for infinite cannot be either greater or less, therefore there is nothing besides or beyond it, for if infinity did not include within itself all being it were not infinite, then were there no end or bound nor alterity, nor diversity, where without alterity of bands and terms cannot be Infinite. Therefore being taken away there remains nothing, there is therefore infinity, and it complicates all things, as nothing can be besides it, and hereupon here is nothing other, or diverse unto it. Infinity therefore is so all things that it is none of them all.

To infinity therefore, there can no name agree, for every name may have a contrary, but to unnamable Infinity there can be nothing contrary, neither is Infinity the whole, whereunto is opposed a part, not can it be a part, nor can Infinity be great or little, not any thing which can be named, neither in heaven or in earth, above all these is Infinity. Infinity is to nothing either great or less or equal!

But while I consider Infinity neither to be greater nor less to any thing imaginable, I say it is the measure of all things being neither greater nor less. And so I conceive it the equality of being, such an equality is Infinity, yet is it not so equality, as inequality opposed unto it, but there equality is inequality, for inequality in infinity is without inequality because it is Infinity. Infinite equality is an end without an end; whereupon though it be neither greater nor less, it is it not equality, as contracted equality is understood, but it is infinite equality, which is not capable of more or less. And so it is not more equal to one than to another, but so equal to one that to all, and so to all that to none of all.  For that which is infinity is not contractible, but remains absolute, if it were contractible by Infinity, it were not infinite. It is not therefore contractible to the equality of the finite although it be not equal to anything. For how should inequality agree with the infinite, whereunto agree neither more nor less.

Therefore that which is infinite is neither greater nor less, nor unequal to any thing imaginable, and yet it is not there equal to that which is infinite, because it is above every finite thing, to wit, by it self that which is infinite then is it utterly absolute and uncontactable.

How high art thou O Lord about all things and with all how humble, because in all things. If infinity were contractible to anything nominable, as a line, or a surface, or a species, or kind, it would draw to itself that whereunto it were contracted, and it implies that the infinity should be contractible, for it should not be contracted, but attracted. For if I say that the infinite is contracted to a line, as when I say an infinite line, then is the line attracted or drawn to that which is infinite. For a line ceases to be a line when it has no quantity or end, an infinite line is not a line but a line in infinite is infinite. And as nothing can be added to that which is infinite, to the infinite cannot be contracted unto anything to make it other than infinite, infinite goodness is but infinite, infinite quantity is not quantity but infinity, and so in all thing.

Thou art a great God of whose greatness there is no end, because infinite, thou art the beginning without beginning and the end without end, and so the beginning that the end, and so the end that the beginning, and neither beginning nor end, but above them even absolute, Infinity it self blessed for evermore.


How God enfolded all things without Otherness see, Lord, through Thine infinite mercy, that Thou art infinity encompassing all things. Naught existeth outside Thee, but all things in Thee are not other than Thee. Thou dost teach me, Lord, how otherness, which is not in Thee, is not even in itself, nor can it be. Nor doth otherness, being not in Thee, make one creature to be different from another, albeit one be not another; the sky is not the earth, though ’tis true that sky is sky and earth is earth.

If, then, I seek for otherness, which is neither in Thee nor yet outside Thee, where shall I find it? And if it existeth not, how cometh it that the earth is a different creature from the sky? for without otherness this cannot be conceived. But Thou, Lord, dost speak in me and say that there is no positive principle of otherness, and thus it existeth not: for how could otherness exist without a principle, unless it itself were a principle and infinity?

Now otherness cannot be the principle of being, for otherness taketh its name from not-being, for because one thing is not another it is called other. Otherness, therefore, cannot be the principle of being, because it taketh its name from not-being, nor hath it the principle of being, since it ariseth from not-being. Otherness, then, is not anything, but the reason wherefore the sky is not the earth is because the sky is not infinity’s self, which encompasseth all being. Whence, since infinity is absolute infinity, it resulteth that one thing cannot be another.

For example, the being of Socrates encompasseth all Socratic being, and in Socratic being pure and simple there is no otherness nor diversity. The being of Socrates is the individual unity of all those things that are in Socrates, in such a way that in that one being is enfolded the being of all those things which are in Socrates, to wit, in that individual simplicity wherein naught is found other or diverse. But in that same single being all things which have the Socratic being exist and are unfolded, and outside it they neither exist nor can exist.

Howbeit, in this onefold being, when all is said, the eye is not the ear and the head is not the heart, and sight is not hearing, and sense is not reason. Nor doth this result from any principle of otherness, but, granted the Socratic being pure and simple, it resulteth that the head is not the foot because the head is not that most simple Socratic being itself and hence its being doth not contain the whole Socratic being.

Thus I perceive—Thou, Lord, enlightening me—that, because Socratic being pure and simple is utterly incommunicable, and not to be limited to the being of any one member—the being of any one member is not the being of any other, but that Socratic being pure and simple is the being of all the members of Socrates, wherein all variety and otherness of being that happeneth in the members is unity pure and simple, even as plurality of forms of parts is unity in the form of the whole.

Thus in some manner, O God, is it with Thy Being, which is absolutely infinity, in relation to all things which exist. But I say absolutely: as the absolute form of being of all limited forms. The hand of Socrates, being separated from Socrates, as after amputation, is no longer the hand of Socrates; yet it still retaineth some kind of being as a corpse. And the reason of this is that the form of Socrates which giveth being doth not give being pure and simple, but a limited being, to wit, the Socratic.

From this the being of the hand may be separated, and may yet none the less remain under another form; but if once the hand were separated from the being that is entirely unlimited, to wit, from the infinite and absolute, then it would utterly cease to exist, because it would be cut off from all being. I give Thee thanks, O Lord my God, who dost bountifully reveal Thyself unto me, in so far as I can receive it, showing how Thou art infinity’s self, enfolding the being of all in its most simple power; and this were not infinity were it not infinitely united. For power united is stronger. Accordingly, that power which is united in the highest degree is infinite and almighty. Thou art God Almighty, because Thou art absolute simplicity, which is absolute infinity.

The Vision of God

The Vision of God

vision chap 12








I now ask: How do I become a Christian?


Sowing seeds again
Mercy triumphs over justice – The Epistle of James


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.

paul of tarsus Broad_overview_of_geography_relevant_to_paul_of_tarsus
The missionary Journeys of Paul the Apostle (a witness to the truth)

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

Paracelsus 1493-1541

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

Johannes Isaaksz Pontanus

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

Elias Ashmole

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.

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
Free Text

Goethe’s Autobiography 
Free Audio

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)

This link will take you to his Edifying Discourses

I like working my way through Kierkegaards Discourses. He wrote 80 of them in all.

Kierkegaard liked to “Provoke” thought and action

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.

Kierkegaard's published works.
Kierkegaard’s published works.

This is a picture of Soren Kierkegaard and his family. He lived from 1813-1855 and never married.

When Mikael Kierkegaard (Michael) died on August 9, 1838 Soren had lost both his parents and all his brothers and sisters except for Peter who later became Bishop of Aalborg in the Danish State Lutheran Church.
When Mikael Kierkegaard (Michael) died on August 9, 1838 Soren had lost both his parents and all his brothers and sisters except for Peter who later became Bishop of Aalborg in the Danish State Lutheran Church.

Goethe On the Bible

Sunday, March 11, 1832.

This evening for an hour Goethe talked on various excellent topics. I had purchased an English Bible, but found to my great regret that it did not include the Apocrypha, because these were not considered genuine and divinely inspired. I missed the truly noble Tobias, the wisdom of Solomon and Jesus Sirach, all writings of such deeply spiritual value, that few others equal them. I expressed to Goethe my regret at the narrow exclusiveness thus manifested. He entirely agreed with me.

“Still,” said he, “there are two points of view from which Biblical subjects may be regarded. There is that of primitive religion, of pure nature and reason, which is of divine origin. This will ever remain the same, and will endure as long as divinely endowed beings exist. It is, however, only for the elect, and is far too high and noble to become universal.

“Then there is the point of view of the Church, which is of a more human nature. This is fallible and fickle, but, though perpetually changing, it will last as long as there are weak human beings. The light of cloudless divine revelation is far too pure and radiant for poor, weak man. But the Church interposes as mediator, to soften and moderate, and all are helped. Its influence is immense, through the notion that as successor of Christ it can relieve the burden of human sin. To secure this power, and to consolidate ecclesiasticism is the special aim of the Christian priesthood.

“Therefore it does not so much ask whether this or that book in the Bible effects a great enlightenment of the mind, it much more looks to the Mosaic and prophetic and Gospel records for allusions to the fall of man, and the advent to earth and death of Christ, as the atonement for sin. Thus you see that for such purposes the noble Tobias, the wisdom of Solomon, and the sayings of Sirach have little weight.

“Still, the question as to authenticity in details of the Bible is truly singular. What is genuine but the really excellent, which harmonises with the purest reason and nature, and even now ministers to our highest development? What is spurious but the absurd, hollow, and stupid, which brings no worthy fruit? If the authenticity of a Biblical writing depends on the question whether something true throughout has been handed down to us, we might on some points doubt the genuineness of the Gospels, of which Mark and Luke were not written from immediate presence and experience, but long afterwards from oral tradition. And the last, by the disciple John, was written in his old age.

“Yet I hold all four evangelists as thoroughly genuine, for there is in them the reflection of a greatness which emanated from the person of Jesus, such as only once has appeared on earth. If anyone asks whether it is in my nature to pay Him devout reverence, I say–‘Surely, yes!’ I bow before Him as the divine revelation of the highest principle of morality. If I am asked whether it is in my nature to revere the sun, again I say–‘Surely, yes!’ For the sun is also a manifestation of the highest, and, indeed, the mightiest which we children of earth are allowed to behold. But if I am asked whether I am inclined to bow before a thumb-bone of the apostle Peter or Paul, I say, ‘Spare me, and stand off with your absurdities!’

“Says the apostle, ‘Quench not the spirit.’ The high and richly-endowed clergy fear nothing so much as the enlightenment of the lower orders. They withheld the Bible from them as long as possible. What can a poor member of the Christian church think of the princely pomp of a richly endowed bishop, when against this he sees in the Gospels the poverty of Christ, travelling humbly on foot with His disciples, while the princely bishop drives along in a carriage drawn by six horses!

“We do not at all know,” continued Goethe, “all that we owe to Luther and the Reformation generally. We are emancipated from the fetters of spiritual narrowness. In consequence of our increasing culture, we have become capable of reverting to the fountain-head, and of comprehending Christianity in its purity. We have again the courage to stand with firm feet upon God’s earth, and to realise our divinely endowed human nature. Let spiritual culture ever go on advancing, let the natural sciences go on ever gaining in breadth and depth, and let the human mind expand as it may, it will never go beyond the elevation and moral culture of Christianity as it shines and gleams in the Gospel!

“But the more effectually we Protestants advance in our noble development, so much the more rapidly will the Catholics follow. As soon as they feel themselves caught in the current of enlightenment, they must go on to the point where all is but one.

“The mischievous sectism of Protestantism will also cease, and with it alienation between father and son, brother and sister. For as soon as the pure teaching and love of Christ, as they really are, are comprehended and consistently practised, we shall realise our humanity as great and free, and cease to attach undue importance to mere outward form.

“Furthermore, we shall all gradually advance from a Christianity of word and faith to one of feeling and action.”

The conversation next turned on the question how far God is influencing the great natures of the present world. Said Goethe, “If we notice how people talk, we might almost believe them to be of opinion that God had withdrawn into silence since that old time before Christ, and that man was now placed on his own feet, and must see how he can get on without God. In religious and moral matters a divine influence is still admitted, but in matters of science and art it is insisted that they are merely earthly, and nothing more than a product of pure human powers.

“But now let anyone only attempt with human will and human capabilities to produce something comparable with the creations that bear the names of Mozart, Raphael, or Shakespeare. I know right well that these three noble men are not the only ones, and that in every department of art innumerable excellent minds have laboured, who have produced results as perfectly good as those mentioned. But, if they were as great as those, they transcended ordinary human nature, and were in just the same degree divinely gifted.”

Goethe was silent, but I cherished his great and good words in my heart.

April 14, 1824.

I went, about one, for a walk with Goethe. We conversed on the style of different authors. Said he, “Philosophical speculation is, on the whole, a hindrance to the Germans, for it tends to induce a tendency to obscurantism. The nearer they approach to certain philosophical schools, the worse they write. Those Germans write best who, as business men, and men of real life, confine themselves to the practical. Thus, Schiller’s style is the noblest and most impressive, as soon as he ceases to philosophise, as I see from his highly interesting letters, on which I am now busy. Many of our genial German women in their style excel even many of our famous male writers.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, On the Bible
From Conversations with Eckermann

Conversations With Eckermann

The Crisis

It’s too bad Kierkegaard was discovered in the middle of two world wars and the rise of Germany. The war and its effects on civilization overshadowed any positive aspects of Kierkegaard’s writings. Crisis was the new word for the “spirit of the age” and Christianity was blamed as well as praised by the intellectuals of the time.

His writings were used as biographical material for a psychoanalytical description of him as a tortured soul who was abused by his religious surroundings. This was started at early as 1914 when David Swenson wrote his monograph and continued with Walter Lowrie when he wrote his biography about Kierkegaard in 1938.

The following quotes come from several books that discuss the crisis and how it came into being since the time of Descartes and Hegel. Hegel was influenced by the French Revolution and noted how change could be brought about by disruption of the social order.

“Kierkegaard’s spirit and accent are, in fact, those of the twentieth rather than of the nineteenth century. But while the psychological miseen-scene is so similar the denouement is different. Kierkegaard claims to have ridden the rapids of catastrophe and passed beyond them to a more profound and serene ocean of spiritual integrity.

Where the modern spirit, for the most part, as in the case of T. E. Lawrence, finds itself baffled and bogged in despair, Kierkegaard seems to have broken through; where these reach a dead end, he finds a new beginning, where the contemporary consciousness appears to begin and end in conflict, Kierkegaard seems to begin with conflict but to end with co-ordination.”

The terrible crystal: studies in Kierkegaard and modern Christianity, by M. Chaning-Pearce 1941

When a man jumps off a cliff, he doesn’t defy the law of gravitation; he merely illustrates it. Similarly, when a culture or a civilization jumps off a cliff, it doesn’t defy the ontological conditions which sanction it, or the nature of man, or the nature of God, or the nature of man’s destiny under God. It merely illustrates them. In short, at the point of crisis, our reasonings are thrust against the ultimate nature and meaning of things. The religious and metaphysical understanding of man is thus renewed.

From this it will be seen that a culture, or a civilization, which has gone wrong on first principles is fundamentally in dialectical conflict with itself. It is like a many-headed hydra, growing lustily at first and breeding many heads. At length, however, it goes mad through willful opposition of the heads, which tear and rend each other until it has destroyed itself. This action, when thus fatally determined, is a negative clarification of what was implicit from the beginning—of what was “in the nature of the beast.”

Today we see many vicious opposites tearing and rending each other and threatening to destroy what men have known and cherished as the “West.”

The West confronts its own principles deflected upon it violently from the East. This presents to the Western consciousness a perspective that is entirely new, and for which there is no precise historical precedent. The cataclysmic conflict of forces throughout the world is the external evidence of a deep inner cleft within the spirit of modern man.”

The Crisis of Faith, by Hopper, Stanley Romaine 1944

“The crisis toward which the modern world was slowly but surely moving was early diagnosed as a disease of the human mind by some advanced thinkers who dared to take their stand against the spirit of the age” and some of whom fell as victims in a valiant struggle against forces which were as powerfully alive within their own selves as in their surrounding world.

The German poet Goethe, usually given to optimism, grew doubtful and melancholy when he weighed the progressive trends of the early nineteenth century against the chances of human happiness. “Men,” he wrote, “will become more shrewd and clever, but they will not be better or happier. I see a time approaching when God will no longer be pleased with man, when He will have to smash His creation to pieces in order to rejuvenate it.”

And Friedrich Nietzsche was to write half a century later: “Oh thou proud European of the nineteenth century, art thou not mad? Thy knowledge does not complete Nature, it only kills thine own nature. . . . Thou climbest toward heaven on the sunbeams of thy knowledge — but also down toward chaos. Thy manner of going is fatal to thee; the ground slips from under thy feet into the dark unknown; thy life has no stay but spiders’ webs torn assunder by every new stroke of thy knowledge.”

goethe to schopenhauer

In the interval between these apprehensive warnings of Goethe and Nietzsche, the imposing system of G. F. Hegel’s metaphysical idealism had risen as a final attempt to unify science, philosophy, and religion. But Hegel’s own “dialectical method” was seized upon by the radical “Young’ Hegelians” in Germany and England to destroy their master’s idealistic premises. Taking their cue from Auguste Comte’s positivism, they developed a dialectical “historic materialism” which saw in history no longer any issues involving problems of true and false, right and wrong, good and evil, but merely questions of fact and material force.Even while Hegel was still alive, the inductive method of the natural sciences began to replace the deductive reasoning of the Hegelian system. Comte’s positivism became first a powerful rival of Hegelianism and then its triumphant conqueror.”

“The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset compares contemporary man with a traveler in a motorcar the mechanism of which is a complete mystery to him. Man without God resembles the traveler without an experienced chauffeur: the car races at full speed, but the traveler has lost control. The world moves at full speed toward events over which man is no longer master.”

“Emmanuel Mounier distinguishes between two types of nihilism, one of which is creative and “preliminary,” while the other is destructive and final. Creative nihilism points to the dark abyss of nothingness in order to warn and to rescue; it calls “nothingness” by name in order to reveal and save the splendor of “being” which lies buried in its hidden depths. This is the nihilism of Nietzsche and of Heidegger.

Destructive nihilism, on the other hand, grows out of a frustrated desire to be creative in the attainment of knowledge or in the domination of life and nature. It resembles the primitive reaction of the child taking vengeance on the object or subject which refuses to be subservient to his wishes or whims. The destructive nihilist is possessed by a horrible intoxication, a raving despair which drives him to the demolition of his home, his work, and his self.”

“The Socratic method consists, according to Kierkegaard, in leading the reader to a point where he finds out for himself what the author has been trying to convey to him, without the need of “direct communication.”

To accomplish this, Kierkegaard needed a number of sharply profiled individual characters whose thoughts and actions he could experimentally develop to their extreme possibilities. This is the explanation of the use of the many pseudonyms in Kierkegaard’s works. “With my left hand,” he says, “I gave to the world ‘Either/Or’ (i.e., pseudonymous “indirect communication”), and with my right hand ‘Two Edifying Discourses'” (i.e., “direct communication” over the signature of his own name). In the last analysis, to be a philosopher means for Kierkegaard to understand oneself as a creature of God.” (23)

“Hegel, starting out as a theologian, had in the end denounced all theology. Step by step he had transformed Christian dogmatics into a gnostic theory of knowledge: Redemption was interpreted as the redeeming force of love; the Holy Trinity became “the dialectic of the Absolute Mind”; the God-Man was transformed into a man who had experienced his identity with the Absolute; and the Holy Spirit appeared as the communal spirit of social life.

Was Kierkegaard’s view then unduly gloomy when he saw in Hegel the most ingenious and therefore the most dangerous modern enemy of Christianity?

Kierkegaard himself, on the other hand, had started out as a speculative writer and ended as a theologian who denounced philosophy. He became “a Protestant monk,” a lonely Christian who deeply, in fear and trembling, experienced the agony of Christ on Mount Calvary, almost forgetting its sequel, the gladness of Easter. He took a forceful stand against Hegel’s fatalistic theory of the predetermined evolution of the world spirit. Far from conceiving of Christianity as one phase among others in an evolutionary cosmic process, the Christian dispensation was for him a unique occurrence of absolute and incomparable value and validity. For him, therefore, the individual’s concern was with faith and salvation rather than with the “objectivations of the World Spirit.”

There is ample justification for accepting as essentially correct Kierkegaard’s contention that Hegel’s goal, as revealed in the concluding paragraphs of his Philosophy of History, was the secularization of religion and the divinization of nature and worldly prudence. God must become man, so that the philosopher may become God, or, to use Hegel’s own phraseology, a representation of objective truth, of absolute being, of self-conscious Idea; so that in the end all opposites may be identified and neutralized: God, World, and Man are One Idea.

Against the backdrop of the Kierkegaard-Hegel antithesis, the present condition of Christianity in the world stands out more clearly.

The contemporary philosopher who chooses his stand on the side of atheism and paganism is no longer apologetic about it and therefore perhaps more sincere than Hegel. Kierkegaard had tried desperately to resolve the thought — extension, spirit — nature, soul — body dualisms and antinomies which Descartes had bequeathed from one generation of philosophers to the next.

The Existentialist Revolt by Kurt Reinhardt 1952

“Philosophy concerns itself only with the glory of the Idea mirroring itself in the History of the World. Philosophy escapes from the weary strife of passions that agitate the surface of society into the calm region of contemplation; that which interests it is the recognition of the process of development which the Idea has passed through in realizing itself to the Idea of Freedom, whose reality is the consciousness of Freedom and nothing short of it.

That the History of the World, with all the changing scenes which its annals present, is this process of development and the realization of Spirit, this is the true Theodicies, the justification of God in History. Only this insight can reconcile Spirit with the History of the World viz., that what has happened, and is happening every day, is not only not “without God,” but is essentially His Work. ”

Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of History (p. 476)

The private thinker Job is contrasted with the world-renowned Hegel, and even with the Greek Symposium—i.e., with Plato himself. Does such a contrast have any meaning and has Kierkegaard himself the power to realize it? That is, to accept as the truth, not what was revealed to him by the philosophical thought of the enlightened Hellene, but what was related by a man half-mad from horror and an ignorant man at that—the hero of a narrative from an ancient book? Why is Job’s truth “more convincing” than the truth of Hegel or of Plato? Is it really more convincing?

It was not so easy for Kierkegaard to break with the world-famous philosopher. Kierkegaard exchanged Hegel and the Greek Symposium for the fiery speeches of Job. Can contemporary man reject Socrates and expect to find the truth in Abraham and Job?

Lev Shestov (1866-1938), Kierkegaard & the Existential Philosophy

authors inspired by kierkegaard

Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Kafka are the three prophets, each in his own way, of nihilistic absurdity.

By taking “the leap” into faith, Kierkegaard escapes the consequences of dread and despair that the vision of the infinite absurd induces, but the religious solution he advocates precludes the birth of tragedy.

Hailing the death of God, Nietzsche spells out all the metaphysical implications to be drawn from a God-abandoned world. He is our key figure of Promethean defiance, the instigator of the modem revolt. It is he who, at the start of our inquiry, best illustrates the difficulties that attend the modern writer’s effort to derive the tragic vision from nihilistic premises.

In the case of Kafka, the impossibility of either affirming or rejecting life reaches a climax of ambiguity. The absurd is enthroned. Camus, like Sartre, transcends the myth of Sisyphus by showing how man can live in a universe that is without ultimate meaning.

The tragic vision in twentieth-century literature. Glicksberg, Charles Irving 1963  See also Literature and Religion 1960

Kierkegaard wrote about Goethe and Hegel in his Concluding Postscript as well as his Journals. He thought an all-encompassing system of religion or philosophy would bring civilization to a standstill. Final causes were ignored by Descartes and modern philosophers followed his strategy. Kierkegaard was for teaching the doctrine of God as the final cause because for him it gave civilization a hope that was worth living for.

The three dreams of Rene Descartes — Splatter

When the young soldier, Rene Descartes, wakes up, he is very troubled by these three dreams, and thinks that they have been sent to him from Heaven. He starts to try to find out what they mean.

via The three dreams of Rene Descartes — Splatter

Franz von Baader

Baader was opposed to the Enlightenment’s mechanistic and atomistic idea of nature. Because of this, Baader is often referred to as a philosopher of Romanticism, which emphasized the unmediated knowledge of intuition, and the importance of our experience.

via Franz von Baader

Alexander Vinet and Soren Kierkegaard

Hans Lassen Martensen’s family moved to Copenhagen in 1817 and studied Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Schleiermacher in 1833 at the University there. He on a scholarship to attend the University of Berlin in 1834. Martensen successively defended his thesis in 1837: The Autonomy of Human Self-Consciousness in Modern Day Dogmatic Theology. Later he lectured on Hegel’s moral philosophy and earned his doctorate from the University of Kiel. He was appointed court preacher in 1845 and Bishop of Zeeland in 1854. He died in 1884.

He walked with Soren Kierkegaard on Thursdays and came into conflict with him in 1854 when he called Jacob Mynster a witness for the truth. Kierkegaard’s main concern was the truth of Christianity.

Martensen’s publications include:

Meister Eckhart: A Contribution to Shed Light on the Mysticism of the Middle Ages 1840
Outline to a System of Moral Philosophy 1841
Christian Dogmatics 1849
Christian Ethics 1870

Jacob Boehme: his life and teaching. Or Studies in theosophy 1885

The first link in Bohme’s theosophic train of thought is the unit which he designates as the Abyss where all as yet is in indifference. Here as yet there is no ground, cause, or basis, no centre, no principle, nothing defining or defined, because ground, cause or basis, can only appear when the different, the definite appears. Here there is neither light nor darkness, light nor fire, neither good nor evil; here there is neither height nor depth, great nor small, thick nor thin. Here is everything and nothing.

Whilst emancipation (both in a good and bad sense) progresses, and redemption diffuses itself, and thus personality comes into fuller development, an increasing contrast appears  between the individual and the community, since the individual demands to be acknowledged according to its absolute worth,  and the community on it’s side requires the same. This contrast between the community and the individual, between socialism and individualism, — this contrast, which is conditional to Christianity itself, is by Christianity brought back again to its unity.  By socialism we understand that view and tendency which places society in the position of the highest and ultimate aim of ethical development; by individualism the same thing, but ascribed to the individual.

The one-sided socialism is found everywhere, in which society in that sense is made the ultimate aim, so that the individual becomes only the means and instrument for society, without  at the same time being an object in itself.

Socialism and Individualism by Martensen

The following is an excerpt from Hans Martensen’s 1870 English edition of Christian Ethics, Socialism and Individualism –

Individualism may, like socialism, appear in different circles of life, and we may thus speak of a political, an ecclesiastical, and a religious individualism. This religious individualism has in our century unquestionably found its most important and its noblest expression in Alexander Vinet. In opposition to the social Pantheism which would annul everything individual and concrete, would dethrone personality and make the universal one and all, he with great eloquence exalts the individual as the actually existing, sets this forth as the object of the work of creation. Individuality is the stamp which God has impressed on every human being, his own possession entrusted to him by his Maker, and which he should maintain and protect against the dangers which threaten him on the side of society. For though society (la societe) in one respect is the condition for the development of the individual, and no one can escape from society, yet society has a natural tendency to efface and obliterate individuality.

We are all originals at birth; for in every individual that comes into the world, even in the least gifted and most insignificant, we can perceive an intention of Providence to form a being which is different from all others, and which thus has never existed before. But although we are all born originals, yet most of us die as imitations; for society (la societe) has a tendency to rub off peculiarities and produce similarity amongst individuals. The weaker members of the community are brought, by the force of example, by prejudice and convenience, by the entire legion of social influences, gradually to lose their individuality. They make themselves mere instruments for the whole, and offer, so to speak, their individuality as a contribution to the great general fund of society, where it disappears as in an abyss.

And yet the individual, as Vinet again and again urges, is higher than society, because it is destined to relation with God, to a living and direct union with God, to which society is not destined, as it is only indirectly related to God. It is the privilege of the individual, even the lowliest and most insignificant, to exist for God, to have the capacity of eternal happiness or eternal perdition. Not society, but the individual anticipates a future life, an immortality beyond the grave. And it is only the individual that believes, hopes, obeys, suffers, and loves. It is only the individual who in his conscience is bound and responsible, the individual that is the real object of God’s attention and of His judgment, the individual who ought to be presented, and is daily presented, before the judgment-seat of the Eternal. It is not to humanity in abstracto, not to society, but to the individual, that the gospel addresses itself with its requirements and its promises. It is to the individual that God says in His word, “Come now, and let us reason together “(Isa. 1. 13). Society (la societe) is not a being (un etre), but only an “arrangement” between personal beings.

Or, seen from another point of view, society is an ocean on which the individual soul is cast forth in a little bark to seek the way through the rough billows to the shores of a new world, where it may land. Both the ocean and the bark are worthy of admiration. The bark, which each one of us is called to steer, and in which we are to reach the land in yon new world, is our own individuality. Another, not myself, guides the waves, and appoints their way over the great abyss; but the bark is my own, and the ocean is on account of the bark, not the bark on account of the ocean. For the principal concern, purpose, object, is that the bark should land; that the human individual, which alone stands in immediate relation to God, and is the special object of the work of creation, should fulfill its destiny. All depends, therefore, on the right steering of the bark; for as the sea, the fluid element, which is less fluid than air and less solid than earth, has the twofold capacity to bear up the bark or to engulf it, so also with regard to the fluid social element on which individuality is launched. One may founder in the ocean of society as well as on that of the material world, and it would be of little avail to examine on which of the two oceans the most frequent shipwrecks occur.

This exaltation of individuality expresses certainly a sacred and precious truth, but not the whole truth. No one wall thus be able to deny the deep practical truth in the last figure employed, of the individual cast forth on the ocean in his little bark, which is to reach the shore at length. But if we are to speak in figures, we are acquainted with another emblem of the voyage of man’s life. We are reminded of the gospel picture of Christ with His disciples on the Lake of Gennesareth, where the Lord stilled the tempest and the boisterous waves, and guided the disciples unharmed to the shore. In this we have an emblem of the Church, as a ship which sails across the stormy sea of society. In this picture the voyage is made in company with others, who are all united under the same Master. And we are reminded that we, if we hope to land at last, must be in the right ship, and with the right companions, and have the Master on board.

This emblem is certainly not less just than the first, and expresses a side of the matter which in Vinet’s theory of individuality does not appear. Certainly it too may be taken in a one-sided manner. For if any one should suppose that, because he was outwardly within the vessel of the Church, because he outwardly belonged to the community of the true Church, that therefore he must infallibly land on the shores of bliss, he has fallen into dreadful error. And as a fitting corrective the first emblem may be employed, that each one must embark in the vessel of his own individuality, and pay good heed that he be not swamped by the waves, or, as S. Kierkegaard has expressed the idea, that every man must navigate the sea of this world in his own little kayak.


Without figure, with Vinet society does not receive justice; and for this very reason, neither does the individual attain its full measure of what is due to it. However strongly Vinet urges the claims to supremacy of individualism and of personality, still he lacks the idea of a kingdom of personality, the idea of a total organization of personalities. Society (Samfund) the ethical organism, is to him synonymous with the community (Selskabet). The French word la societe has this double meaning, so that it can be employed in either sense, whilst a closer consideration must discover here diversity of conceptions. The community (Selskabet) designates only the external, accidental unity of human individuals; society (Samfund), when it is contrasted with the community (Selskabet) the inner organic unity. In the community (Selskabet) individuals appear as independent, without at the same time being members of a greater moral whole; in society (Samfund) they are only independent in so far as they are at the same time organic members, The community (Selskabet) is a product of the individuals, to be moulded and brought forth by their mutual relation to each other; society (Samfund) is not merely the product, but the postulate of individuals.


The maxim which recurs again and again in Vinet, that the individual is higher than society, is misleading, if it is to be understood as unconditional. For from this it would follow that society is only to be the means for the individual. It is undeniable that the individual, considered in its eternal destination, does not cease or lose its character of individuality in any of the earthly forms of society; but that it does not cease in the forms of earthly society proceeds exactly from the fact that it is a member in a society of a higher order, that it is called to citizenship in a higher realm. It does not cease in the family, because it is appointed to be a member of the State. It does not cease in the State, because it is appointed to be a member of the kingdom of humanity, which shall be transformed into the kingdom of God. It does not cease in the visible Church, because it is destined for the society of the saints.

The truth is, that at every step of the development of the moral world, it is decreed that there shall be a relation of reciprocity between society and the individual, so that they both shall be means and end for one another. That the individual is higher than society, Vinet grounds on the assumption that only the individual, not society, is the ethical subject.


What has been here charged against Vinet is true in a greater degree in regard to S. Kierkegaard, who, with great talent and powerful one-sidedness, has been with us the advocate of individualism. As his support of individualism forms a remarkable episode in Danish literature, we shall dwell at somewhat greater length on the matter, although the principal consideration has been already discussed in reference to Vinet, so that what follows on it may be regarded as an episode in the present work. As with Vinet, the contrast between individualism and socialism also with Kierkegaard goes back to a higher, — namely, the contrast between individualism and universalism. It thus becomes necessary for the clearer under- standing of the point to return to the consideration of this last.

vinet, kierkegaard, and martensen

By universalism, then, we understand that tendency of mind which places the universal highest. As now the most universal of all things are pure ideas and categories, so philosophic idealism, as panlogism, must be the purest universalism. This theory found, as is notorious, its representation in our day in the philosophy of Hegel. For this philosophy, in which it is carried out in its purity, must change the whole of existence into an ideal realm, a world of ideas. Every form of reality, nature and history, is contemplated only as a form or phase of thought, and religion itself is only valid as a lower form of knowledge, a possession of the absolute in the form of representation, whilst philosophy had the truth in the form of conception.

Human personality, human individualities, were only temporary representatives of ideas, or mutes in the drama, which the ideal from eternity performs for itself. For history is in reality not the history of man, but the history of ideas. In combination with this philosophic element there prevailed at that time a poetic, artistic idealism, which, indifferent to the individual value or content of art, puts forward the universal, the beautiful form as the essential, and therefore dwells with equal interest on every work of art, collecting its material now from antiquity, now from modern times, from heaven or from earth, from the great or the small, if only the universal or form of beauty be present. The speculative and the esthetic were for this tendency of mind the highest. Where this is consistently carried out, — which, however, is not the case with Hegel himself, for in his idealistic representations there is to be found a not inconsiderable woof of reality, by which means an ambiguity appears, and after a time mystification is inevitable, —consistently carried out, I say, this must also become the highest aim for the individual in the repose of contemplation, to linger in the aerial hall of universalism, with its broad prospects, its logical columns and pillars, its aesthetic pictures from all times and all regions of the earth, — those pictures which, as the ideal transfiguration of reality, are far superior to the immediate reality itself.

In those days there was also much discussion about the logical, the speculative, and the aesthetic bath, which was sometimes represented as a water-bath in the Heraclitic streams of infinity, sometimes as an air-bath in the eternal and changeless ether of pure idea, just as it was also regarded as the true art of life through the finite to inhale the breath of infinity. In this speculative and aesthetic intoxication about ideas, it had only been forgotten that there was one idea, which had entirely disappeared, namely the religious-ethical idea, which does not rest satisfied with a mere ideal being, a being in thought, but demands existence.

Against this universalism must therefore come forth a reaction both from the side of philosophy and theology, a protest in the name of ethics and religion, of personality and individuality, the individual both in men and things; for even the mere knowledge of experience, especially the natural sciences, must make protest against a merely idealistic treatment. Both in the worlds of nature and of mind, the microscopic contemplation is now placed in contrast to the telescopic as applied to infinity, and the sense is developed for the small matters lying close to man, yet often not perceived by him. All depends, however, on the more intimate condition of this reaction, whether the child is to be cast out with the bath, whether universalism in every sense is to be rejected, or whether a higher union of universalism and individualism, of ideal and reality, is to be attempted. We find ourselves here again in the midst of the problem of the middle ages concerning realism and nominalism, but in modern form. The terms in use are certainly quite different; for what the middle ages called realism we call idealism, and what was then designated nominalism we style empiricism. But the matter itself is entirely the same, which may also be seen by the predicates which were employed in the middle ages with regard to the realists, who were called formalizantes metaphysicantes which answers exactly to the idealists of our day.

In the nominalistic reaction here referred to, proceeding from the essential interest, in so far as this moves in the spheres of ethics and religion, Kierkegaard takes up a peculiar position. He considers it as the misfortune of the age to know too much, and with all this knowledge to have forgotten what it is to exist, and the significance of the term subjectiveness; that in view of the aesthetic, the speculative, the history of the world, it has forgotten that the main point is to be an individual man; that the age, by becoming objective, has forgotten that it is the business of every human being to remain subjective. He has therefore made it the aim of his life to promote and carry through the category, “the individual”. Should he ask for an inscription on his grave, he desires no other than this; “The individual man.” If this category of S. Kierkegaard is not understood by the present generation, he is yet persuaded that it will be understood in time coming.


Hans Lassen Martensen, Christian Ethics, General Part, translated by C. Spence p. 206-208, 1870   Socialism and Individualism



Themes are Caves, Light, Evil Genius, Doubt, Reason, Science, Philosophy, Estrangement, thing-in-itself, Words, Signs, Books, Self, State, Religion.

Inspiration is indeed an object of faith, is qualitatively dialectical, not attainable by means of quantification. Existing is something quite different from knowing.

Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 29, 298

“When culture and the like have managed to make it so very easy to be a Christian, it is certainly in order that a single individual, according to his poor abilities, seeks to make it difficult, provided, however, that he does not make it more difficult than it is.-But the more culture and knowledge, the more difficult to become a Christian.”

Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846, Hong p. 383

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Luke 6:8
the sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of the light
Ephesians 5:8
for ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light

Holy Bible

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.  So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.

Exodus 3: 1-17 The Holy Bible


And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Elijah in a cave talking to GodThen a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.”

1 Kings 19 The Holy Bible

The two, each with five hundred followers, going up the stream to seek their brother. Seeing him now dressed as a hermit, and all his followers with him, having got knowledge of the miraculous law—strange thoughts engaged their minds—”our brother having submitted thus, we too should also follow him.” Thus the three brothers, with all their band of followers, were brought to hear the lord’s discourse on the comparison of a fire sacrifice: and in the discourse he taught, “How the dark smoke of ignorance arises, whilst confused thoughts, like wood drilled into wood, create the fire. Lust, anger, delusion, these are as fire produced, and these inflame and burn all living things.

Buddha_the_ConquerorThus the fire of grief and sorrow, once enkindled, ceases not to burn, ever giving rise to birth and death; but whilst this fire of sorrow ceases not, yet are there two kinds of fire, one that burns but has no fuel left. So when the heart of man has once conceived distaste for sin, this distaste removing covetous desire, covetous desire extinguished, there is rescue; if once this rescue has been found, then with it is born sight and knowledge, by which distinguishing the streams of birth and death, and practising pure conduct, all is done that should be done, and hereafter shall be no more life.”

Thus the thousand Bhikshus hearing the world-honored preach, all defects forever done away, their minds found perfect and complete deliverance. Then Buddha for the Kâsyapas’ sakes, and for the benefit of the thousand Bhikshus, having preached, and done all that should be done, himself with purity and wisdom and all the concourse of high qualities excellently adorned, he gave them, as in charity, rules for cleansing sense. The great Rishi, listening to reason, lost all regard for bodily austerities, and, as a man without a guide, was emptied of himself, and learned discipleship.

Bimbisâra Râga Becomes a Disciple, from Life of Buddha

Socrates – GLAUCON
And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: –Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners  there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

Plato’s cave d 428-348 BC

For many days I had been debating within myself many and diverse things, seeking constantly, and with anxiety, to find out my real self, my best good, and the evil to be avoided, when suddenly one—I know not, but eagerly strive to know, whether it were my-self or another, within me or without— said to me:
Will you, then, be satisfied to know God after the fashion in which you know in what sign the moon will rise to-morrow?
No, that is not enough, for it is by my senses that this is known. Also I know not whether God, or some occult natural cause, might not suddenly change the ordinary course of the moon, and if this should happen, all that I had taken for granted would become false.
R. And do you believe this could happen?
A. I do not. But I seek what I may know, not what I may believe.

Plato's_allegory_of_the_caveR. They need first to be exercised by a salutary encouragement of desire, and an equally wise postponement of its satisfaction. They should, first, be shown some things which are not in themselves luminous, but can be seen only by reflected light, such as a garment or a wall, or anything of that sort. After that, something else, which, though not itself luminous, yet glows with more beauty by reflection than does the former, as gold or silver or something similar; but not so brightly as to hurt the eye. Next, they should look upon some moderate terrestrial fire, then upon the stars, then the moon, then the glow of dawn, and the growing splendor of sunrise. And whoever accustoms himself to these things, whether in unbroken order, or with some omissions, will come to look upon the sun itself without shrinking and with great delight. The most excellent teachers use some such method as this with those eagerly desirous of Wisdom, who already see, but whose sight is not acute.

R. It is then established that the nature of things cannot exist apart from a living soul?

The soliloquies of St. Augustine 354-430

A sacrament is the sign of a sacred thing (res).” However, a sacred mystery is also called a sacrament, as the sacrament of divinity, so that a sacrament may be the sign of something sacred, and the sacred thing signified; but now we are considering a sacrament as a sign. — So, “A sacrament is the visible form of an invisible grace.”

But a sign, is the thing (res) behind the form which it wears to the senses, which brings by means of itself something else to our minds.

Furthermore, some signs are natural, as smoke which signifies fire; others conventional; and of those which are conventional, some are sacraments, some not.: For every sacrament is a sign, but the converse is not true. A sacrament bears a resemblance to the thing, of which it is a sign.

Sentences by Peter Lombard 1096-1160

shoulders of giantsBernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature. I readily agree with the foregoing.

The Metalogicon of John of Salisbury 1159  P. 167-168  Translated by Daniel D. McGarry 1955

This Colloquy concerning Things and Words, exposes the preposterous Judgments of some People, who are more ambitious of Names, than they are of the Things themselves ; to be esteemed, than to deserve Esteem. In aiming at Things, it is better to be and to have ; in avoiding Things, it is better to be thought to have them and be without them. It is the worst of Frauds to cheat a Friend.

If Man is a rational Animal, how contrary is it to Reason, that in the Conveniencies, rather than the real Goods of the Body, and in external Things, which Fortune gives and takes away at her Pleasure ; we had rather have the Thing itself than the Name ; and in the real Goods of the Mind, we put more Value upon the Name, than the Thing itself.

Of Words and Things Desiderius Erasmus 1466-1536

Charon detests Christians fighting one with another. An evil Genius brings News to Charon, that all the Earth was up in Arms for War: Ossa, the Goddess Fame in Homer, the Monks and Jesuits, are the Incendiaries.

What can’t a well-dissembled Religion do? when to this there is added Youth, Unexperiencedness, Ambition, a natural Animosity, and a Mind propense to any Thing that offers itself. It is an easy Matter to impose upon such ; it is an easy Matter to overthrow a Waggon, that was inclining to fall before.

Charon by Desiderius Erasmus

The same day that Socrates should drink the poison, one Apollodorus (for to comfort him by such means as he could) came and brought to him a rich robe, of a great valor, that he might have it on his back, at his dying hour. But he refusing the gift, What (saith he) this robe of mine own here, which hath been honest enough for me in my lifetime, will it not be even like hones for me, after I be departed out of this world?

Socrates by Desiderius Erasmus

Ecclesiastes: Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity

To The Reader
Studious reader
Wilt thou not look upon this Labour of mine to be a most bold and almost Herculean attempt, to wage War against the Giant-like Opposition of all the Arts and Sciences? And thus to challenge the stoutest Hunters of Nature? Doubters will knit their enraged brows upon me: the Authority of Masters, the endeavours of the Batchelors of Art, the heat of the Schoolmen, the sedition of the Mechanicks, will be all up in arms against me. All which if I stab at one blow, will it not be a greater work, than Hercules in the accomplishment of all his Labours was ever guilty of?

Shall I not have performed a nobler Task, if with no less danger and labour, I overcome these Monsters of Schools, Universities and Pulpits? For I am not ignorant how bloody a Battle I must fight, or how hazardous and difficult the War will be, being to meet with such an Army of potent Enemies.

The Vanity of Arts and Sciences by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, 1486-1535, Knight, Doctor of both Laws, Judge of the Prerogative Court and Counsellor to Charles the Fifth, Emperour of Germany Published in London 1676

Pantagruel, very well remembering his father’s letter and admonitions, would one day make trial of his knoGargantua03wledge. Thereupon, in all the carrefours, that is, throughout all the four quarters, streets, and corners of the city, he set up conclusions to the number of nine thousand seven hundred sixty and four, in all manner of learning, touching in them the hardest doubts that are in any science. And first of all, in the Fodder Street he held dispute against all the regents or fellows of colleges, artists or masters of arts, and orators, and did so gallantly that he overthrew them and set them all upon their tails. He went afterwards to the Sorbonne, where he maintained argument against all the theologians or divines, for the space of six weeks, from four o’clock in the morning until six in the evening, except an interval of two hours to refresh themselves and take their repast.

Pantagruel, having wholly subdued the land of Dipsody, transported thereunto a colony of Utopians.

as the wise man Solomon saith, Wisdom entereth not into a malicious mind, and that knowledge without conscience is but the ruin of the soul.

Gargantua and Pantagruel François Rabelais 1494-1553

Philosophy cannot and must not give faith, but it must understand itself and know what if offers and take nothing away, least of all trick men out of something by pretending that it is nothing.

Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling 1843 p. 33 Hong

thruth and justice by thomas fuller

We will shew you further the ground of the genetrix [or matrix], for we see it clearly in begets, this world, in the dominion of the elements : that there is a genetrix, which doth afford so much; and if there be a genetrix, then there must be a centre or circle of life wherein the genetrix hath its dominion: for the nothing doth not move nor stir ; but if there be a stirring, that moveth every life, that must not be a strange [or heterogeneous] thing, because it is in every thing that thing’s own spirit and life, as well in the vegetative and insensitive as in the sensitive living [things].

Threefold Life of Man by  Jakob Bohme 1575-1624.

Now we see that the mark standeth in the centre: for God is also an angry zealous or jealous God, and a consuming fire; and in that source [or quality] standeth the abyss of hell. Now the essences are the being which causeth the will: for here you must understand that there are two wills in one being, and they cause two Principles: One is the love and the other is the anger or the source [or property] of wrath.

The Aurora, by Jacob Boehme

As for the disgraces which learning receiveth from politics, they be of this nature: that learning doth soften men’s minds, and makes them more unapt for the honour and exercise of arms; that it doth mar and pervert men’s dispositions for matter of government and policy, in making them too curious and irresolute by variety of reading, or too peremptory or positive by strictness of rules and axioms, or too immoderate and overweening by reason of the greatness of examples, or too incompatible and differing from the times by reason of the dissimilitude of examples; or at least, that it doth divert men’s travails from action and business, and bringeth them to a love of leisure and privateness; and that it doth bring into states a relaxation of discipline, whilst every man is more ready to argue than to obey and execute.

Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients: the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in contemplation: if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.

Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning 1561-1626

Francis Bacon 1561-1626

From the two kinds of axioms above specified, arise the two divisions of philosophy and the sciences, and we will use the commonly adopted terms which approach the nearest to our meaning, in our own sense. Let the investigation of forms, which (in reasoning at least, and after their own laws), are eternal and immutable, constitute metaphysics and let the investigation of the efficient cause of matter, latent process, and latent conformation (which all relate merely to the ordinary course of nature, and not to her fundamental and eternal laws), constitute physics. Parallel to these, let there be two practical divisions; to physics that of mechanics, and to metaphysics that of magic, in the purest sense of the term, as applied to its ample means, and its command over nature.

Francis Bacon, Novum Organum

Sphinx, or Science

They relate that Sphinx was a monster, variously formed, having the face and voice of a virgin, the wings of a bird, and the talons of a griffin. She resided on the top of a mountain, near the city Thebes, and also beset the highways. Her manner was to lie in ambush and seize the travellers, and having them in her power, to propose to them certain dark and perplexed riddles, which it was thought she received from the Muses, and if her wretched captives could not solve and interpret these riddles, she, with great cruelty, fell upon them, in their hesitation and confusion, and tore them to pieces.

This is an elegant, instructive fable, and seems invented to represent science, especially as joined with practice. For science may, without absurdity, be called a monster, being strangely gazed at and admired by the ignorant and unskilful. Her figure and form is various, by reason of the vast variety of subjects that science considers; her voice and countenance are represented female, by reason of her gay appearance and volubility of speech; wings are added, because the sciences and their inventions run and fly about in a moment, for knowledge like light communicated from one torch to another, is presently caught and copiously diffused; sharp and hooked talons are elegantly attributed to her, because the axioms and arguments of science enter the mind, lay hold of it, fix it down, and keep it from moving or slipping away.

Francis Bacon, Wisdom of the Ancients

Orpheus or Philosophy

Even the works of knowledge, though the most excellent among human things, have their periods; for after kingdoms and commonwealths have flourished for a time, disturbances, seditions, and wars, often arise, in the din whereof, first the laws are silent, and not heard; and then men return to their own depraved natures—whence cultivated lands and cities soon become desolate and waste.

And if this disorder continues, learning and philosophy is infallibly torn to pieces; so that only some scattered fragments thereof can afterwards be found up and down, in a few places, like planks after a shipwreck. And barbarous times succeeding, the River Helicon dips under-ground; that is, letters are buried, till things having undergone their due course of changes, learning rises again, and shows its head, though seldom in the same place, but in some other nation.

Frances Bacon, The Wisdom of the Ancients

bacon on thorns

As soon as my years freed me from the subjection of  my Tutors, I wholly gave over the study of Letters, and resolving to seek no other knowledge but what I could finde in my self, or in the great book of the World. I had always an extreme desire to learn to distinguish Truth from Falshood, that I might see cleerly into my actions, and passe this life with assurance.

So I thought the sciences in Books, at least those whose reasons are but probable, and which have no demonstrations, having been compos’d of, and by little and little enlarg’d with, the opinions of divers persons, come not so near the Truth, as those simple reasonings which an understanding Man can naturally make, touching those things which occurr.

The first was, never to receive any thing for true, but what I evidently knew to be so; that’s to say, Carefully to avoid Precipitation and Prevention, and to admit nothing more into my judgment, but what should so clearly and distinctly present it self to my minde, that I could have no reason to doubt of it.

The second, to divide every One of these difficulties, which I was to examine into as many parcels as could be, and, as was requisite the better to resolve them.

The third, to lead my thoughts in order, beginning by the most simple objects, and the easiest to be known; to rise by little and little, as by steps, even to the knowledg of the most mixt; and even supposing an Order among those which naturally doe not precede one the other.

A Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes 1596-1650

To doubt is then a misfortune, but to seek when in doubt is an indispensable duty. So he who doubts and seeks not is at once unfortunate and unfair. If at the same time he is gay and presumptuous, I have no terms in which to describe a creature so extravagant.

The arithmetical machine produces effects which approach nearer to thought than all the actions of animals. But it does nothing which would enable us to attribute will to it, as to the animals.

This internal war of reason against the passions has made a division of those who would have peace into two sects. The first would renounce their passions, and become gods; the others would renounce reason, and become brute beasts. But neither can do so, and reason still remains, to condemn the vileness and injustice of the passions, and to trouble the repose of those who abandon themselves to them; and the passions keep always alive in those who would renounce them.

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.

All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavour, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.

All the principles of sceptics, stoics, atheists, etc., are true. But their conclusions are false, because the opposite principles are also true.

Two things instruct man about his whole nature; instinct and experience.

Pensees (Thoughts) Blaise Pascal 1623-1662

The knowledge of good and evil is nothing else but the emotions of pleasure or pain, in so far as we are conscious thereof.

An emotion towards a thing, which we know not to exist at the present time, and which we conceive as possible, is more intense, other conditions being equal, than an emotion towards a thing contingent.

Emotion towards a thing contingent, which we know not to exist in the present, is, other conditions being equal, fainter than an emotion towards a thing past.

A true knowledge of good and evil cannot check any emotion by virtue of being true, but only in so far as it is considered as an emotion.

Ethics by Baruch Spinoza 1632-1677

File:READ(1879) p1.083 HON. ROBERT BOYLE.jpgThose who would exclude final causes from the consideration of the naturalist, seem to do it, either because, with Epicurus,, they think the world was produced by atoms and chance,  without the intervention of a Deity; and, consequently, that ’tis in vain to seek for such causes: or because, with Descartes, they imagine, that God being omniscient, ’tis rash and presumptuous for men to think they know, or can discover what ends he proposed to himself, in his creatures. The supposition on which the Epicureans have rejected final causes, has been disallowed by the philosophers of almost all other sects; and some have written sufficient confutations of it.

An Inquiry Into the Final Cause of Natural Things, by Robert Boyle 1627-1691

He that at first put together the idea of danger perceived, absence of disorder from fear, sedate consideration of what was justly to be done, and executing that without disturbance, or being deterred by the danger of it, had certainly in his mind that complex idea made up of that combination; and intending it to be nothing else, but what is, nor to have in it any other simple ideas, but what it hath, it could not also but be an adequate idea: and laying this up in his memory, with the name courage annexed to it, to signify to others, and denominate from thence any action he should observe to agree with it, had thereby a standard to measure and denominate actions by, as they agreed to it. This idea thus made, and laid up for a pattern, must necessarily be adequate, being referred to nothing else but itself, nor made by any other original, but the good-liking and will of him that first made this combination. —

First, it is usual for men to make the names of substances stand for things, as supposed to have certain real essences, whereby they are of this or that species; and names standing for nothing but the ideas that are in men’s minds, they must constantly refer their ideas to such real essences, as to their archetypes.

Who is there almost, who would not take it amiss, if it should be doubted, whether he called himself a man, with any other meaning, than as having the real essence of a man And yet if you demand what those real essences are, it is plain men are ignorant, and know them not.

When I am told, that something besides the figure, size, and posture of the solid parts of that body, is its essence, something called substantial form; of that, I confess, I have no idea at all, but only of the sound form, which is far enough from an idea of its real essence, or constitution.

Effigies_Iohannis_Locke_-_Ex_Archetypo,_quod_in_Musæo_Alexandri_Geekie_Chirurgi_adservatur_expressa_-_1714_-_British_LibraryThe paper I write on, having the power, in the light (I speak according to the common notion of light) to produce in men the sensation which I call white, it cannot but be the effect of such a power, in something without the mind; since the mind has not the power to produce any such idea in itself, and being meant for nothing else but the effect of such a power, that simple idea is real and adequate; the sensation of white, in my mind, being the effect of that power, which is in the paper to produce it, is perfectly adequate to that power; or else, that power would produce a different idea.

Since the powers or qualities that are observable by us, are not the real essence of that substance, but depend on it, and flow from it, any collection whatsoever of these qualities cannot be the real essence of that thing.

Complex ideas of modes and relations are originals, and archetypes; are not copies, nor made after the pattern of any real existence, to which the mind intends them to be conformable, and exactly quate to answer.

The mind often exercises an active power in making these several combinations: for it being once furnished with simple ideas, it can put them together in several compositions, and so make variety of complex ideas, without examining whether they exist so together in nature. And hence I think it is that these ideas are called notions, as if they had their original and constant existence more in the thoughts of men, than in the reality of things; and to form such “ideas”, it sufficed, that the mind puts the parts of them together, and that they were consistent in the understanding, without considering whether they had any real being: though I do not deny, but several of them might be taken from observation, and the existence of several simple ideas so combined, as they are put together in the understanding.

John Locke 1632-1704, And Essay Concerning Humane Understanding Book 2 1689

Words being voluntary signs, they cannot be voluntary signs imposed by him on things he knows not. That would be to make them signs of nothing, sounds without signification. A man cannot make his words the signs either of qualities in things, or of conceptions in the mind of another, whereof he has none in his own. Till he has some ideas of his own, he cannot suppose them to correspond with the conceptions of another man; nor can he use any signs for them: for thus they would be the signs of he knows not what, which is in truth to be the signs of nothing. But when he represents to himself other men’s ideas by some of his own, if he consent to give them the same names that other men do, it is still to his own ideas; to ideas that he has, and not to ideas that he has not.

An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding Book III  by John Locke

With the help of dice Descartes made heaven and earth; but he could not set his dice in motion, nor start the action of his centrifugal force without the help of rotation. Newton discovered the law of gravitation; but gravitation alone would soon reduce the universe to a motionless mass; he was compelled to add a projectile force to account for the elliptical course of the celestial bodies; let Newton show us the hand that launched the planets in the tangent of their orbits.

Life is the totality of the objective rational being; and speculation is the totality of the subjective rational being. One is not possible without the other. Life, as an active surrendering to a mechanism, is not possible without the activity and freedom (otherwise speculation) which surrenders itself; though the latter may not arise to the clear consciousness of every individual; and speculation is not possible without the life from which it abstracts. Both life and speculation are determinable only through each other. Life is most properly not-philosophising; and philosophising is most properly not-life.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile 1762

Rousseau God Emile

First, if you can, celestial Guide! disclose
From what fair fountain mortal life arose,
Whence the fine nerve to move and feel assign’d,
Contractile fibre, and ethereal mind:

“How Love and Sympathy the bosom warm,
Allure with pleasure, and with pain alarm,
With soft affections weave the social plan,
And charm the listening Savage into Man.”

God the First cause!—in this terrene abode
Young Nature lisps, she is the child of God.
From embryon births her changeful forms improve,
Grow, as they live, and strengthen as they move.

“Ere Time began, from flaming Chaos hurl’d
Rose the bright spheres, which form the circling world;
Earths from each sun with quick explosions burst,
And second planets issued from the first.
Then, whilst the sea at their coeval birth,
Surge over surge, involv’d the shoreless earth;
Nurs’d by warm sun-beams in primeval caves
Organic Life began beneath the waves.

First Heat from chemic dissolution springs,
And gives to matter its eccentric wings;
With strong Repulsion parts the exploding mass,
Melts into lymph, or kindles into gas.
Attraction next, as earth or air subsides,
The ponderous atoms from the light divides,
Approaching parts with quick embrace combines,
Swells into spheres, and lengthens into lines.

Last, as fine goads the gluten-threads excite,
Cords grapple cords, and webs with webs unite;
And quick Contraction with ethereal flame
Lights into life the fibre-woven frame.—
Hence without parent by spontaneous birth
Rise the first specks of animated earth;
From Nature’s womb the plant or insect swims,
And buds or breathes, with microscopic limbs.  …

The Temple of Nature by Erasmus Darwin 1731-1802

Philosophy is pedagogical in the widest significance of this word, for the immediate practical life. Because this science has to teach us to comprehend the whole man, it shows from the highest grounds how men should be cultured, in order to make permanent in them moral and religious sentiments, and gradually to universalize these sentiments.

The Religious Significance of the Science of Knowledge, Johann Fichte 1798

We (Goethe and Herder) had not lived together long in this manner when he confided to me that he meant to be competitor for the prize which was offered at Berlin, for the best treatise on the origin of language. His work was already nearly completed, and, as he wrote a very neat hand, he could soon communicate to me, in parts, a legible manuscript. I had never reflected on such subjects, for I was yet too deeply involved in the midst of things to have thought about their beginning and end. The question, too, seemed to me in some measure and idle one; for if God had created man as man, language was just as innate in him as walking erect; he must have just as well perceived that he could sing with his throat, and modify the tones in various ways with tongue, palate, and lips, as he must have remarked that he could walk and take hold of things. If man was of divine origin, so was also language itself: and if man, considered in the circle of nature was a natural being, language was likewise natural. These two things, like soul and body, I could never separate.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832)Silberschlag, with a realism crude yet somewhat fantastically devised, had declared himself for the divine origin, that is, that God had played the schoolmaster to the first men. Herder’s treatise went to show that man as man could and must have attained to language by his own powers. I read the treatise with much pleasure, and it was of special aid in strengthening my mind; only I did not stand high enough either in knowledge or thought to form a solid judgment upon it. But one was received just like the other; there was scolding and blaming, whether one agreed with him conditionally or unconditionally. The fat surgeon (Lobstein) had less patience than I; he humorously declined the communication of this prize-essay, and affirmed that he was not prepared to meditate on such abstract topics. He urged us in preference to a game of ombre, which we commonly played together in the evening.

The Autobiography of Goethe Volume 2  P. 349-350 1811

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Romans 7 The Holy Bible

Reason is spirit, when its certainty of being all reality has been raised to the level of truth, and reason is consciously aware of itself as its own world, and of the world itself.

Spirit constructs not merely one world, but a twofold world, divided and self-opposed. The equilibrium of the whole  is not the unity which abides by itself, nor its inwardly secured tranquility, but rests on the alienation of its opposite. The whole is like each articular moment, a self-estranged reality. The sphere of spirit at that stage breaks up into two regions. The one is the real world, its self-estrangement, the other is constructed and set up in the eigher of pure consciousness, and is exalted above the first. The spirit of this world is spiritual essence permeated by self-consciousness which knows itself to be directly present as a self-existent particular, and has that essence as its objective reality over against itself.

german philosophyThe noble type of consciousness finds itself in the judgment related to state-power, in the sence that this power is indeed not a self as yet but at first is universal substance, in which this form of mind feels its own essential nature to exist, is conscious of its own purpose and absolute content. By taking up a positive relation to this substance, it assumes a negative attitude towards its own speach purposes, its particular content and individual existence, and lets them disappear. This type of mind is the heroism of Service.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770-1831 The Phenomenolgy of Spirit Vol 2 1807

The divine Spirit must immanently permeate the secular; thus is wisdom concretely in the secular, and its title to itself determined. That concrete indwelling is, however, constituted by the forms of morality referred to—the morality of marriage as opposed to- the sanctity of the unmarried state, the morality of the activity of property and gain as opposed to the holiness of poverty and indolence, the morality of obedience to the law of the State as opposed to the sanctity of obedience devoid of right and duty, the bondage of conscience. With the need of law and morality, and the insight into the free nature of spirit, appears’ the struggle between these and the religion of unfreedom.

It is of no avail that the laws and the ordinances of the state have been brought up to the standard of rational organization, if the principle of unfreedom in religion is not given up. The two are incompatible with each other; it is a foolish notion to wish to assign separate provinces to the State and religion, with the opinion that their difference will exercise a peaceful influence on them and prevent contradiction and strife.

Principles of lawful freedom can only be abstract and superficial, and the state institutions derived from them must of themselves be untenable if the wisdom which gave birth to those principles understands religion so poorly as not to know that the principles of the reason of reality have their final and highest guarantee in the religious conscience in the assumption under consciousness of the absolute truth.

If, no matter how it happens—a priori, so to speak—a legislation which had the principles of reason for its foundation came into contradiction with the popular religion based on principles of spiritual servitude, the test and actualization of the legislation lies with the individuals of the government as such, and the entire administration branching out through all classes, and it were only an abstract empty notion that it were possible that the individuals would act only according to the sense or the letter of the laws, and not according to the spirit of their religion, in which their innermost conscience and highest obligation lie.

Friedrich Hegel, Hegel on the State (From the Philosophy of the Spirit)

That a child who has a strict father must stay at home is something one must submit to, because the father is indeed the stronger. But the first self is certainly no child, and that deeper self, after all, is himself, and yet it seems stricter than the strictest father, tolerating no wheedling, speaking candidly or not speaking at all. Then there is danger afoot-both of them, both the first self and the deeper self, notice it, and the latter sits there as concerned as the experienced pilot, while a secret council is held on whether it is best to throw the pilot overboard since he is creating a contrary wind.

That, however, does not happen, but what is the outcome? The first self cannot move from the spot, and yet, yet it is clear that the moment of joy is in a hurry, that fortune is already in flight. Therefore people do indeed say that if one does not make use of the moment at once, it is soon too late. And who is to blame? Who else but the deeper self? But even this scream does not help. What kind of unnatural condition is this? What does it all mean? When such a thing occurs in a person’s soul, does it not mean that he is beginning to lose his mind?

Artwork by Max Klinger 1857-1920

No, it means something altogether different; it means that the child must be weaned. One can be thirty years old and more, forty years old, and still be a child, yet one can die as an aged child. One snuggles at the cradle of finitude, and probability sits by the cradle and sings to the child. If the wish is not fulfilled and the child becomes restless, then probability calms him and says: Just lie still and sleep, and I shall go out and buy something for you, and next time it will be your turn. So the child goes to sleep again and the pain is forgotten, and the child glows again in the dream of new wishes, although he thought it would be impossible to forget the pain. Of course, if he had not been a child, he surely would not have forgotten the pain so easily, and it would have become apparent that it was not probability that had sat beside the cradle, but it was the deeper self that had sat beside him at the deathbed in self-denial’s hour of death, when it itself rose from the dead to an eternity. When the first self submits to the deeper self, they are reconciled and walk on together.

Soren Kierkegaard, 1813-1855 Four Upbuilding Discourses 1844 from Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses 1843-1844 Hong p. 315-316

Sin, however, is not subject for psychological concern, and only by submitting to the service of a misplaced brilliance could it be dealt with psychologically. When sin is brought into esthetics, the mood becomes either light-minded or melancholy, for the category in which sin lies is that of contradiction, and this is either comic or tragic…. If sin is dealt with in psychology, the mood becomes that of persistent observation, like the fearlessness of a secret agent, but not that of the victorious flight of earnestness out of sin. The mood of psychology is that of a discovering anxiety, and in its anxiety psychology portrays sin, while again and again it is in anxiety over the portrayal that it itself brings forth. Whenever sin is spoken of as a disease, an abnormality, a poison, or a disharmony, the concept is false.

Soren Aaby Kierkegaard 1813-1855 Copenhagen, Denmark

The demonic has been viewed medically-therapeutically. And it goes without saying with power and with pills and then with enemas! Now the pharmacist and the physician would get together. The patient would be isolated to prevent others from becoming afraid. In a courageous age, we dare not tell a patient that he is about to die, we dare not call the pastor lest he die from shock, and we dare not tell the patient that a few days ago a man died from the same disease. The patient would be isolated. Sympathy would inquire about his condition. The physician would promise to issue a report as soon as possible, along with a tabulated statistical survey in order to determine the average. And when one has arrived at the average, everything is explained. The medical-therapeutic view regards the phenomenon as purely physical and somatic, and as physicians often do, takes a pinch of snuff and says: It is a serious case.

Soren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety 1844 P. 14-15, 121-122 Nichol

The mere accumulation of unconnected observations of details, devoid of generalization of ideas, may doubtlessly have tended to create and foster the deeply-rooted prejudice, that the study of the exact sciences must necessarily chill the feelings, and diminish the nobler enjoyments attendant upon a contemplation of nature. Those who still cherish such erroneous views in the present age, and amid the progress of public opinion, and the advancement of all branches of knowledge, fail in duly appreciating the value of every enlargement of the sphere of intellect, and the importance of the detail of isolated facts in leading us on to general results.

The fear of sacrificing the free enjoyment of nature, under the influence of scientific reasoning, is often associated with an apprehension that every mind may not be capable of grasping the truths of the philosophy of nature. It is certainly true that in the midst of the universal fluctuation of phenomena and vital forces — in that inextricable net-work of organisms by turns developed and destroyed — each step that we make in the more intimate knowledge of nature leads us to the entrance of new labyrinths; but the excitement produced by a presentiment of discovery, the vague intuition of the mysteries to be unfolded, and the multiplicity of the paths before us, all tend to stimulate the exercise of thought in every stage of knowledge.

The discovery of each separate law of nature leads to the establishment of some other more general law, or at least indicates to the intelligent observer its existence. Nature, as a celebrated physiologist has defined it, and as the word was interpreted by the Greeks and Romans, is “that which is ever growing and ever unfolding itself in new forms.”

Cosmos: A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe, Vol. 1 by Alexander Humboldt 1851

Now, what I want is, Facts.  Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts.  Facts alone are wanted in life.  Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.  You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.  This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children.  Stick to Facts, sir!’ ‘In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!’

Hard Times by Charles Dickens 19812-1870 (1854)

One of the first acts of the French Revolution was to attack the Church; and amongst all the passions born of the Revolution the first to be excited and the last to be allayed were the passions hostile to religion. Even when the enthusiasm for liberty had vanished, and tranquillity had been purchased at the price of servitude, the nation still revolted against religious authority. Napoleon, who had succeeded in subduing the liberal spirit of the French Revolution, made vain efforts to restrain its antichristian spirit; and even in our own time we have seen men who thought to atone for their servility towards the meanest agents of political power by insolence towards God, and who whilst they abandoned all that was most free, most noble, and most lofty in the doctrines of the Revolution, flattered themselves that they still remained true to its spirit by remaining irreligious.

The State of Society in France Before the Revolution of 1789 by Alexis de Tocqueville 1859

It is quite incredible that a man should through mere accident abnormally resemble certain apes in no less than seven of his muscles, if there had been no genetic connection between them. On the other hand, if man is descended from some ape-like creature, no valid reason can be assigned why certain muscles should not suddenly reappear after an interval of many thousand generations, in the same manner as with horses, asses, and mules, dark-coloured stripes suddenly reappear on the legs, and shoulders, after an interval of hundreds, or more probably of thousands of generations.

As Horne Tooke, one of the founders of the noble science of philology, observes, language is an art, like brewing or baking; but writing would have been a better simile. It certainly is not a true instinct, for every language has to be learnt. It differs, however, widely from all ordinary arts, for man has an instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of our young children; whilst no child has an instinctive tendency to brew, bake, or write. Moreover, no philologist now supposes that any language has been deliberately invented; it has been slowly and unconsciously developed by many steps.

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man 1871

My dear reader, if you do not have the time and opportunity to take a dozen years of your life to travel around the world to see everything a world traveler is acquainted with, if you do not have the capability and qualifications from years of practice in a foreign language to penetrate to the differences in national characteristics as these become apparent to the research scholar, if you are not bent upon discovering a new astronomical system that will displace both the Copernican and the Ptolemaic-then marry; and if you have time for the first, the capability for the second, the idea for the last, then marry also. Even if you did not manage to see the whole globe or to speak in many tongues or to know all about the heavens, you will not regret it, for marriage is and remains the most important voyage of discovery a human being undertakes; compared with a married man’s knowledge of life, any other knowledge of it is superficial, for he and he alone has properly immersed himself in life.

   — Søren Kierkegaard, Judge Vilhelm, Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 89  

In order to be sure of our reckoning, and to exhibit to the understanding just what we understand the Grand Man to comprehend, let us try to properly define. We hold the term to mean the aggregate humanity; mankind as a unit, in nature, power, and destiny. The first seal to such a unit is a common origin—natural consanguinity—one-ness of blood. The second seal is a one-ness of spiritual energy, that prompts every individual of the race to press onward in the endeavor for fuller personal realizations in life. The third seal is a unity of destiny, that assures true social alliance, fullest opportunity and clear competence for all.

The first is like a motionless sea, sure to become putrid if left thus to stagnate. The second makes a common motor or stimulus of action, which, although engendering painful turbulence of particles and seeming destruction, tends to work the whole body pure and good in constant use. The third is the inexhaustible fount or ocean, competent to satisfy all thirst, allay all the fevers of life, and amply to refresh forevermore.

The Grand Man by Theron Gray 1874

Anarchy, as basic root or seed-form of all government, must have a productive root in itself; else no higher form could be derived from it. … Divine Providence raises up some master mind and prompts it to seize upon the elements, and shape and direct human forces to human ends. Thus, out of anarchy arises government—human conditions needing, and human power . effecting it. And the form is by necessity that of monarchy, because of the general inexperience and helplessness. ….

But as progress, of whatever nature, involves a fall from primitive excellence into the devious methods or antitheses of self-assertion or subjective formation under the guise of transgression, monarchy is sure to lapse from its first estate of rightly disposed patriarchalism—service to human needs everywhere—into a system of self-serving and human oppression.

Thus under the rule of absolute authority perverted to self-service rather than devoted to public service, man is pressed forward into the conscious possession of personal powers and rights which will make himself an intelligent factor in government, and lead him to establish institutions that will in some measure respond to, and represent, the forces of a common personality or manhood. And so this conception and experience of the rights and interests of man, as man, begotten of monarchy as that was begotten of anarchy, projects new institutional forms better suited to advancing human conditions. Constitutional government comes thus into play…

Thus we see that inevitable strife between man and institutions—the conflict between freedom and authority—born of the practical duplicity everywhere bred and active under duarchal order, presses man to the assertion of his full magisterial rights, and so opens directly into triarchy, as the institutional degree befitting highest manhood and promising the fruition of man’s hopes by actually making him master of the situation.

The law of universal freedom and power as basic to “a people’s government,” carries with it a demand for a composing or associating law by which these numerous factors shall be harmoniously related. But neither the one nor the other could by possibility become actual experience at first.

Full scientific consistency in institutions must give consistency and permanence of order; hence the reign of science in government cannot be consummated till growth or development shall have passed through all its forms and come to adequate fruition.

Science in Government by Theron Gray 1876

Science has resolved all matter to force, and force to potentiality; and, as we know that potentiality is only a relation of principles in the order of nature, we know that force is only a relation ; its annihilation being the creation of the potential relation. … Self, or personality, consists, either of ever-existing principles, or of only unstable phenomena subject to creation and annihilation—there is no middle ground. .

The Unification of Science by Alfred Arnold 1881

The possibility of offense is present at every moment confirming at every moment the chasmic abyss between the single individual and the God-man over which faith and faith alone reaches. The possibility of offense is the stumbling block for all, whether they choose to believe or they are offended. Therefore the communication begins with a repulsion.

Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1850 Hong p.139

New Struggles.—After Buddha was dead people showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a cave,—an immense frightful shadow. God is dead: but as the human race is constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show his shadow,—And we—we have still to overcome his shadow!

The Madman.—Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why! is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea-voyage? Has he emigrated?—the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances.

“Where is God gone?” he called out. “I mean to tell you! We have killed him,—you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction?—for even Gods putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him!

How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife,—who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it? There never was a greater event,—and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!”—

Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. “I come too early,” he then said, “I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is travelling,—it has not yet reached men’s ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star,—and yet they have done it!“—It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: “What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?”

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom (The Gay Science) 1882

“And what doeth the saint in the forest?” asked Zarathustra.

The saint answered: “I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God.

With singing, weeping, laughing, and mumbling do I praise the God who is my God. But what dost thou bring us as a gift?”

When Zarathustra had heard these words, he bowed to the saint and said: “What should I have to give thee! Let me rather hurry hence lest I take aught away from thee!”—And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing like schoolboys.

When Zarathustra was alone, however, he said to his heart: “Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that GOD IS DEAD!”

Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spake Zarathustra – 1883-1885

The scientific conception of the universe is too often appealed to even by men of some metaphysical insight as if it were an infallible canon.

From the limited data of sense-experience Science is perpetually soaring only to impale herself on the horns of dilemmas.

Does science in any way point to process as the ground of process?

A Universal Telos The Presupposition of All Inquiry, by William Boulting 1884

But the pantheism with which modern science is charged with being in alliance is materialistic. The only God that it owns is impersonal Law, pervading the universe, ecessitating all beings, events, and phenomena, inevitable and inexorable. This Law exists only in the multiform universe which it produces, sustains, and governs, and with which it is identical in such a sense that God and the Universe, the Whole, are mutually convertible terms. In the totality there is no self-consciousness. Consequently prayer and communion with God cannot be. The only self-consciousness in the universe .is that of individual beings sufficiently developed to possess it. God himself is an agnostic. He knows not himself nor anything else. You and I know just as much of him as we know of the universe.

Is Pantheism The Legitimate Outcome of Modern Science? by Andrew Peabody 1885

Kierkegaard noticed the multiplicity in the new sciences of philosophy, sociology, psychology and this unified field created by the thinkers past and present. He wondered about the existing individual in relation to the many.

The task is to practice one’s relation to one’s absolute end or goal so that one continually has it within while continuing in the relative objective of existence.

The existing person who has his absolute orientation toward the absolute end or goal and comprehends the task of practicing the relation may be a councilor of justice, may be one of the other councilors, and yet he is not like the other councilors, but when one sees him he is exactly like the others.

Perhaps he gains the whole world, but he is not like one who craves that. Perhaps he becomes king, but every time he places the crown on his head and every time he extends his scepter, resignation first inspects to see if he, existing, is expressing the absolute respect for the absolute end or goal-and the crown dwindles into insignificance, even if he wears it regally.

When resignation is convinced that the individual has the absolute orientation toward the absolute end or goal, everything is changed, and the roots are cut. He lives in the finite, but he does not have his life in it. His life, like the life of another, has the diverse predicates of a human existence, but he is within them like the person who walks in a stranger’s borrowed clothes. He is a stranger in the world of finitude, but he does not define his difference from worldliness by foreign dress; he is incognito, but his incognito consists in looking just like everyone else.

Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 408-410

True inwardness does not demand any sign at all in externals.

In the practice of the absolute distinction, the passion of the infinite is present, but it wants to be inwardness without jealousy, without envy, without mistrust. It does not want continually to standout marked as something striking in existence, whereby it simply loses, just as when God’s invisible image is made visible.

It does not want to disturb the finite, but neither does it want to mediate. In the midst of the finite and finitude’s multiple occasions for the existing person to forget the absolute distinction, it only wants to be the absolute inwardness for him, and as for the rest, he can be counselor or justice.

But the maximum of the task is to be able simultaneously to relate oneself absolutely to the absolute end or goal and relatively to the relative ends, or at all times to have the absolute end or goal with oneself.

Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 414-415

Here is a quote from his 1851 book, For Self-Examination.

If in observing the present state of the world and life in general, from a Christian point of view one had to say (and from a Christian point of view with complete justification): It is a disease. And if I were a physician and someone asked me “What do you think should be done?” I would answer, “The first thing, the unconditional condition for anything to be done, consequently the very first thing that must be done is: create silence, bring about silence; God’s Word cannot be heard, and if in order to be heard in the hullabaloo it must be shouted deafeningly with noisy instruments, then it is not God’s Word; create silence!

Ah, everything is noisy; and just as strong drink is said to stir the blood, so everything in our day, even the most insignificant project, even the most empty communication, is designed merely to jolt the senses and to stir up the masses, the crowd, the public, noise!

And man, this clever fellow, seems to have become sleepless in order to invent ever new instruments to increase noise, to spread noise and insignificance with the greatest possible haste and on the greatest possible scale. Yes, everything is soon turned upside-down: communication is indeed soon brought to its lowest point in regard to meaning, and simultaneously the means of communication are indeed brought to their highest with regard to speedy and overall circulation; for what is publicized with such hot haste and, on the other hand, what has greater circulation than—rubbish! Oh, create silence!”

Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination 1851 p. 47-48 Hong 1990

sk make christianity your own

I want to give thanks to Governance, who in such multitudinous ways has encouraged my endeavor, has encouraged it over four and one-quarter years without perhaps a single day’s interruption of effort, has granted me much more than I had ever expected, even though I can truly testify that I staked my life to the utmost of my capacity, more than I at least had expected, even if to others the accomplishment seems to be a complicated triviality. So, with fervent thanks to Governance, I do not find it unsettling that I cannot quite be said to have achieved anything or, what is of less importance, attained anything in the outer world. I find it ironically in order that the honorarium, at least, in virtue of the production and of my equivocal authorship, has been rather Socratic.

Concluding Postscript 1846 p. 628 Hong

Now, is it true that modern science, assiduously testing such phenomenal existence, following it up in all its intricate relations with rigorous precision, that genuine objective science, has actually arrived at the same ancient pantheistic conclusion? Does it, in all verity, likewise teach us that the things and events of this world are but transient  manifestations of one and the same transcendent and eternal Force, Energy, Power, or whatever name may be given to the inferred cause and substratum of all apparent existence?

Is Pantheism The Legitimate Outcome of Modern Science? by Edmund Montgomery 1885 (two more articles follow in the text)

Imitation may be the sincerest flattery, but it is, of all, the most irritating: and a cynic, as you are good enough to call me, feels this especially. For a cynic is the one preacher, remember, that never wants to make converts. His aim is to outrage, not to convince: to create enemies, not to conquer them. The peculiar charm that his creed has for him, is his own peculiarity in holding it. He is an acid that can only fizz with an alkali, and he therefore hates in others what he most admires in himself.

The new republic: or, Culture, faith, and philosophy in an English country house, by William Hurrell Mallock 1849-1923 (1908)

“Philosophy (Hegel) seeks speculatively to confuse the ethical for the single individual with the world-historical task for the human race. The ethical is the highest task assigned to every human being.”

Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unsientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 151

Kierkegaard and blake

There is a direct road from “Knowledge is power”–and Bacon’s other statement that the purpose of knowledge is to furnish man with new inventions and gadgets–to Descartes’ more explicity polemical statement in the Discourse that he intended to replace the old “theoretical” philosophy by a practical kind, so that men might make ourselves the “masters and owners of nature”. That road leads on to Marx’s well-known declaration: hitherto philosophy has been concerned with interpreting the world, but matters is to change it.

This assault upon philosophy’s theoretical character is the historical road of philosophy’s suicide. And that assault arises from the world’s being seem ore and more as mere raw material for human activity. Once the world is no longer regarded as Creation, there cannot be “theoria” in the full meaning of the word. The loss of theoria mans eo ipso to the loss of freedom of philosophy: philosophy then becomes function withing society, solely practical, and it must of course justify its existencew and role among the functions of society: and finally, in spite of its name, it appears as form of work or even of “labor”.

Leisure The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper 1952, 1963 p. 91

Descartes - Conquer yourself

Because of the jumbling together of the idea of the state, of sociality, of community, and of society, God can no longer catch hold of the single individual. Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 543-545

SK Word and Pictures

Worldly worry

When Father died, Sibbern said to me, “Now you will never get your theological degree,” and then I did get it. If Father had lived, I would never have gotten it. —

01 Family 3
When Mikael Kierkegaard (Michael) died on August 9, 1838 Soren had lost both his parents and all his brothers and sisters except for Peter who later became Bishop of Aalborg in the Danish State Lutheran Church.

When I broke the engagement, Peter said to me, “Now you are lost.” And yet it is clear that if I have indeed amounted to something, I did it through that step. Journals VIA8

Regine soren and Johan

The power which is given to a man (in possibility) is altogether dialectical, and the only true expression for a true understanding of himself in possibility is precisely that he has the power to destroy himself, because even though he be stronger than the entire world, he nevertheless is not stronger than himself. Journals VA16

woman wearing black tank top taking work out
Photo by Timothy on Pexels.com

When the first self submits to the deeper self, they are reconciled and walk on together. But even if the first self and the deeper self have been reconciled in this way and the shared mind has been diverted away from the external, this is still only the condition of coming to know himself. But if he is actually to know himself, there are new struggles and new dangers. Four Upbuilding Discourses 1844, Hong’s Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 316-317

SK bird sailor

strindberg sk and swenson

The Idea is often before the Existence.
John Locke An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, Volume 2

sk first things

Kierkegaard and blake

sk on similarity 2

Hope by SK 1847

heine prison


The transition from possibility to actuality is a change. Journals IV47

Descartes - Conquer yourself

The same thing has happened in the world of the sciences as in the world of commerce. First one traded in kind, then money was invented; today in the sciences all transactions are in paper money, which nobody cares about except the professors. Journals IV A6

sk kant, fichte, goethe, hegel

Goethe’s comment on Hamlet gives a striking picture of the genius: He is an acorn planted in a flower pot. So too the genius: a superabundance without the strength to bear it. journals IVA460 1842

in newspapers

If Christianity could become naturalised in the world, then every child need not be baptised, since the child who is born of Christian parents would already be a Christian by birth. The consciousness of sin is and continues to be the conditio sine qua non for all Christianity, and if one could somehow be released from this, he could not be a Christian. Journals VA10 1844


It does not read in the Gospel, as sagacious talk would say, “you or we are to know the tree by its fruits,” but it reads “the tree is to be known by its fruits.” This interpretation is that you who read these words of the Gospel, you are the tree. The Gospel does not need to add what the prophet Nathan added to his parable, “You are the man,” since it already contained in the form of the statement and in its being a word of the Gospel. Works of Love 1850 Hong p. 14

bacon on thorns

Discourses 01

Let us for a moment look at nature. With what infinite love nature or God in nature encompasses all the diverse things that have life and existence! Just recollect what you yourself have so often delighted in looking at, recollect the beauty of the meadow! There is no difference in the love, no, none-yet what a difference in the flowers! Works of Love, 1847 Hong p. 269-270


worrld of the spirit

The ethical and the ethical-religious have nothing to do with the comparative. … All comparison delays, and that is why mediocrity likes it so much and, if possible, traps everyone in it by its despicable friendship among mediocrities. A person who blames others, that they have corrupted him, is talking nonsense and only informs against himself. But the person who is silent blames no one but himself and affronts no one by his effort, because it is his triumphant conviction that here is and can and shall be in every human being this co-knowledge with the ideal, which requires everything and comforts only in annihilation before God. Concluding Uscientific Postscript, 1846, Hong p. 549-550


SK physician

SK Imagined

kierkegaard herd


“My own interest in Kierkegaard dates from the early years of my life as a graduate student in philosophy here at the University of Minnesota. In the spring of 1901 I stumbled upon Unscientific Postscript in Danish. I made up my mind that this was the philosopher for me. I read the critical and fundamentally unsympathetic accounts of his thought by Brandes and by Hoffding. In spite of their adverse judgment I came to the conclusion that here was a thinker of the very first rank.

Thomas Huxley, having accepted the task of presenting a lecture on a scientific topic to a group of cultured people, asked an older friend, one more experienced in such matters, how  much he might reasonably suppose the audience to know, “Absolutely nothing.” was the sage reply, and this maxim became the principle of Huxley’s successful career as a popular lecturer. How much more then when a lecturer is addressing an American audience on Soren Kierkegaard, a man who wrote in what is a provincial dialect, for want of enough Danes to speak it, and wrote intellectual greatness is such as not readily to lend itself to a quick and superficial assimilation.”

David F Swenson’s Introduction to Eduard Geismar’s Lectures on the Religious Thought of Soren Kierkegaard,  1937

Either, “the first” contains promise for the future, is the forward thrust, the endless impulse. Or, “the first” does not impel the individual; the power which is in the first does not become the impelling power but the repelling power, it becomes that which thrusts away. Thus – for the sake of making a little philosophical flourish, not with the pen but with thought-God only once became flesh, and it would be vain to expect this to be repeated.

Soren Kierkegaard, Either – Or II 1843, p. 40-41 Lowrie Translation 1944, 1959, 1972


Mynster to Kierkegaard

When I began as an author of Either/Or, I no doubt had a far more profound impression of the terror of Christianity than any clergyman in the country. I had a fear and trembling such as perhaps no one else had. Not that I therefore wanted to relinquish Christianity. No, I had another interpretation of it. For one thing I had in fact learned very early that there are men who seem to be selected for suffering, and, for another thing, I was conscious of having sinned much and therefore supposed that Christianity had to appear to me in the form of this terror. But how cruel and false of you, I thought, if you use it to terrify others, perhaps upset every so many happy, loving lives that may very well be truly Christian.

It was as alien as it could possibly be to my nature to want to terrify others, and therefore I both sadly and perhaps also a bit proudly found my joy in comforting others and in being gentleness itself to them-hiding the terror in my own interior being.

So my idea was to give my contemporaries (whether or not they themselves would want to understand) a hint in humorous form (in order to achieve a lighter tone) that a much greater pressure was needed-but then no more; I aimed to keep my heavy burden to myself, as my cross. I have often taken exception to anyone who was a sinner in the strictest sense and then promptly got busy terrifying others. Here is where Concluding Postscript comes in.

Soren Kierkegaard, Journal and Papers, VI 6444 (Pap. X1 A541) (1849) (Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 451-452)


Kierkegaard does not deny the fruitfulness or validity of abstract thinking (science, logic, and so on), but he does deny any superstition which pretends that abstract theorizing is a sufficient concluding argument for human existence. He holds it to be unforgivable pride or stupidity to think that the impersonal abstraction can answer the vital problems of human, everyday life.

Logical theorems, mathematical symbols, physical-statistical laws can never become patters of human existence. To be human means to be concrete, to be this person here and now in this particular and decisive moment, face to face with this particular challenge.

C Svere Norborg, David F. Swenson, scholar, teacher, friend.  P. 20-21 Minneapolis, The University of Minnesota, 1940

either effect and cause or cause and effect
is history prophecy in reverse?

Connecticut College gets $225K for Kierkegaard project

Soren Kierkegaard has only recently achieved recognition on a world-wide scale. He is more properly our contemporary, one born before his time.
Christian thought, from Erasmus to Berdyaev 1962

English speaking people are becoming increasingly interested in the writings of Soren Kierkegaard because of three scholarly efforts particularly. Lee M. Hollander, David F. Swenson (Philosophical Fragments) and Walter Lowrie. References have been made to the Danish philosopher’s work elsewhere by Georg Brandes, Unamuno, the Spanish Catholic, Mother Mary Maud writing in the The Living Church, October of this year points out that while Soren Kierkegaard disclaims the title of mystic, his personal experiences, psychologically and intellectually, closely paralleled the classic stages of mystical theology.
San Antonio Express Sunday Morning, December 10, 1938

We don’t need revised men, revamped men, re-conditioned men: we need new men. The Bible tells us the truth, that man’s nature has been affected by sin that nothing short of a radical operation will effect a cure. Madame Perkins tells the story of F. D. Roosevelt, that once over a weekend he took home with him some book by Soren Kierkegaard, a crabbed but honest Christian Philosopher. F.D.R. turned up Monday morning with what to him was a brand new idea which he had learned from Kierkegaard. “Now I know whats the matter with people,” he said, “They’re bad!” The odd thing about that was that F.D.R. was an Episcopalian and at his own church he must often have joined in the General Confession: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and the is no health in us.” No wonder Jesus said: “Ye must be born again!”
The Stilwell Democrat, Thursday October 8, 1953 Page 2 Column 5 Wanted New Men! By Dr. Foreman

Nineteenth-century theology worked on the general assumption that relatedness to the world is its primary task and on the specific assumption that there is a possibility for general acceptance of the Christian faith. The result was that the theologians, when they came to work on their proper task in and for the Church, were more interested in the Christian faith than in the Christian message. In terms of content they were more interested in man’s relationship to God than in God’s dealings with man, or, to quote the well-known term of Melanchthon, more in the beneficia Christi than in Christ Himself.

This emphasis informed their interpretation of the Bible, their positive or critical attitude toward the early dogmas, and the confessions of the Reformation. It informed their research in, and their exposition of, church history and finally their own formulation of the Christian faith. The interest of these theologians focused on the believing man in his past and in his present, in his confrontation and association with Jesus Christ.

Theological discussion with the contemporary world centered around the existence of the believing man, and in philosophy of religion particularly around the possibility of this existence. The prevailing interest in this direction would not necessarily have been erroneous had it been a matter of shift in tone and emphasis for serious and pertinent reasons. The Bible speaks emphatically of the commerce of the believing Israelite and the believing Christian with God and therefore of the believing man as such. How else could it testify on behalf of Him who was very God and very man?

The theologians should not have hesitated so long to appeal to Luther, especially the early Luther, and to the early Melanchthon! And how much assistance and guidance could they have received had they paid any attention to Kierkegaard! There is no reason why the attempt of Christian anthropocentrism should not be made, indeed ought not to be made. There is certainly a place for legitimate Christian thinking starting from below and moving up, from man who is taken hold of by God to God who takes hold of man. Let us interpret this attempt by the 19th-century theologians in its best light!

The Humanity of God, 1956 – Karl Barth 1886-1868


If it really were axiomatic that God could never contravene our conscience and our reason – if we could be sure that he must share our moral judgments – would not God become superfluous as far as ethics is concerned? A mere redundancy? If God is really to make a moral difference in our lives, Kierkegaard insists, we must admit that he might go against our reason and our conscience, and that he should still be obeyed.
Walter Kaufmann 1962, Introduction to The Present Age by Soren Kierkegaard 1846

If one aims to elevate a whole period, one must really know it. That is why the proclaimers of Christianity who begin right off with orthodoxy actually do not have much influence and only on a few. For Christianity goes way back. One has to begin with paganism. For example, I begin with Either/Or. In that way I have managed to get the age to go along with me without ever dreaming where it is going or where we now are. But men have become aware of the issues. They cannot get rid of me just because they went along with Either/Or so happily. Now they may want to abandon me, they could put me to death, but it is of no use, they have me for good. If one begins immediately with Christianity, they say: this is nothing for us — and put themselves immediately on guard.

But as it says in my last discourse, my whole huge literary work has just one idea, and that is: to wound from behind.

Praise be to God in heaven — I say no more; anything else a man adds is rubbish.
The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, VIII 1 A 548

The Kierkegaard family.

01 Family 3
When Mikael Kierkegaard (Michael) died on August 9, 1838 Soren had lost both his parents and all his brothers and sisters except for Peter who later became Bishop of Aalborg in the Danish State Lutheran Church.

Kierkegaard was interested in choice and decision, especially in relation to the Christian religion.

First comes life, then later, or sooner (but afterwards), comes theory; not conversely: theory first, then life. First art, the work of art, then theory, and similarly in all circumstances. That is, life first, then theory. Then usually there comes a third too: an attempt toward creating life with the aid of theory, or the fantasy of having with the help of theory the same life that went before, indeed even of having it in intensified form. This comes last, it is the parody (as everything ends in parody), and so the process ends-and then there must be new life again. Now take Christianity. It came in as life, sheer heroism which risked everything for the faith.
Soren Kierkegaard’s Journals Hannay p. 537-53

sk make christianity your own2

Some early reviews of Soren Kierkegaard. He liked to walk around the city of Copenhagen during the day and then retire to his home where he would read and write. He spoke to anyone and everyone he saw, making no distinction between them.

(1852) There is a man whom it is impossible to omit in any account of Denmark, but whose place it might be more difficult to fix; I mean Soren Kierkegaard. But as his works have, at all events for the most part, a religious tendency, he may find a place among the theologians. He is a philosophical Christian writer, evermore dwelling, one might almost say harping about the human heart. There is no Danish writer more earnest than he, yet there is no one in whose way stand more things to prevent him from becoming popular. He writes at times with an unearthly beauty, but too often with an exaggerated display of logic that disgusts the public. ….

Kierkegaard’s habits of life are singular enough to lend a (perhaps false) interest to his proceedings. He goes into no company, and sees nobody in his own house, which answers all the ends of an invisible dwelling; I could never learn that any one had been inside of it. Yet his one great study is human nature; no one knows more people than he. The fact is he walks about town all day, and generally in some person’s company; only in the evening does he write and read. When walking he is very communicative, and at the same time manages to draw everything out of his companion that is likely to be profitable to himself.

Sixteen months in the Danish isles By Andrew Hamilton 1852 p. 268-270

Kierkegaard noticed that there was a sameness in all people. This is how he put it in Either/Or. Yet not all people are the same because of their differing points of view.

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. The person who lives aesthetically also does that, and the popular expression heard in all ages and from various stages is this: One must enjoy life. There are, of course, many variations of this, depending on differences in the conceptions of enjoyment, but all are agreed that we are to enjoy life. But the person who says that he wants to enjoy life always posits a condition that either lies outside the individual or is within the individual in such a way that it is not there by virtue of the individual himself. I beg you to keep rather fixed the phrases of this last sentence, for they have been carefully chosen.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or II 1843, Hong p. 179-180

George Brandes introduced Soren Kierkegaard to Europe with his 1879 book about him. He used Kierkegaard often in his writings.

As Soren Kierkegaard represents an individual fragment of the history of Danish culture, so does Ferdinand Lassalle personify a period of modern and political economy. Ferdinand Lassalle by Georg Brandes 1881 Preface

Dr George Brandes, the great intellectual colossus of Scandinavia cannot believe in a personal God because such a conception is illogical. To this Prof. J. P. Kristensen-Randers, of the Ollerup people’s high school, makes the remark that some men have believed in a living personal God though they were supposed to be fairly well equipped intellectually, and of such men he mentions V. Rydberg, S. Kierkegaard, Kant, Newton, and Socrates.
Warren sheaf newspaper (Warren, Marshall County, Minn.), August 07, 1902, Image 6

Letter from Georg Brandes to Nietzsche Copenhagen Jan. 11, 1888

There is one Scandinavian writer whose works would interest you, if only they were translated: Soren Kierkegaard; he lived from 1813-1855, and is in my opinion one of the profoundest psychologists that have ever existed. A little book I wrote about him (translated, Leipzig, 1879) gives no adequate idea of his genius, as it is a sort of polemical pamphlet written to counteract his influence.

Friedrich Nietzsche, by George Brandes; From An Essay on Aristocratic Radicalism 1889, [translated from the Danish by A.G. Chater].by Brandes, Georg Morris Cohen, 1842-1927. Published 1914  P. 69

george brandes soren k in german first page

Artwork by Max Klinger 1857-1920

(1898) There are two types of the artistic soul. There is the one which needs many varying experiences and constantly changing models, and which instantly gives a poetic form to every fresh incident. There is the other which requires amazingly few outside elements to fertilise it, and for which a single life circumstance, inscribed with sufficient force, can furnish a whole wealth of ever-changing thought and modes of expression. Soren Kierkegaard among writers, and Max Klinger among painters, are both great examples of the latter type. To which did Shakespeare belong?
William Shakespeare; a critical study, by George Brandes. 1898 p. 195

A statue of Soren Kierkegaard in the Royal Library Garden

Notwithstanding the fact that during the last quarter of a century, we have devoted considerable attention to the literatures of the North, the thinker and man of letters whose name stands at the head of the present article is but little known to the English speaking world. The Norwegians, Ibsen and Bjornson, have exerted a very real power on our intellectual life, and for Bjornson we have cherished even a kind of affection. But Kierkegaard, the writer who holds the indispensable key to the intellectual life of Scandinavia, to whom Denmark in particular looks up as her most original man of genius in the nineteenth century, we have wholly overlooked. There is little excuse for ignoring him on the part of those who are versed in the northern tongues; for he at present looms very large on the literary and philosophical horizon in Scandinavia; and there are sever excellent books on his life and work, both in Danish and Swedish.

Within recent years, moreover, the Danes have produced a monumental edition of Kierkegaard’s complete works, which is at present being followed up by the publication of manuscript materials supplemental to the Efterladte Papiere, edited by H.P. Barfod and H. Gottsched in eight volumes between 1869 and 1881.

But to become acquainted with Kierkegaard one no longer needs to read Danish; his works are now virtually all to be had in German and in an edition which is a delight to the eye; and the literature on Kierkegaard both in German and French is growing rapidly. But all this literature, with the exception of Dr Brandes’ brilliant monograph, deals mainly with Kierkegaard as a philosopher and a theologian; in this present paper I propose to restrict myself to his claims as a man of letters.

The Modern Language Review, Volume IX 1914 Cambridge Soren Kierkegaard, by J. G. Robertson p. 500-501

kierkegaard bardot and schrempf

(1887) Otto Pfleiderer (1839-1908) was a German Protestant theologian who wrote The Philosophy of Religion on the Basis of its History in 2 volumes in 1887. His sources include Practice in Christianity (Soren Kierkegaard, 1850) which had been translated into German by that time as well as the writings of Hans Brochner (1820-1875), who wrote “On Soren Kierkegaard’s Activity as Religious Author” December 1, 1855. Brochner’s writings are preserved in Thomas H. Croxall’s book, Glimpses and impressions of Kierkegaard published 1959. This reading is taken from Chapter II — The Half-Kantian and Neo-Kantian Philosophy of Religion p. 161ff

(1889) This article came from “The Concise Dictionary of Religious Knowledge and Gazetteer” By Talbot Wilson Chambers, and Frank Hugh Foster 1889 p. 473-474. This was a book of over one thousand pages of reference material about Christianity. The article is by C.H.A. Bjerregaard who wrote a short biography about Soren Kierkegaard. Rev. Talbot Wilson Chambers (1819 – 1896) was a Presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania. Samuel Macauley Jackson (1851-1912) Frank Hugh Foster (1851-1935) was a minister of a Congregational church in Massachusetts.

(1894) The same number contains a short sketch of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish moralist and author. This remarkable man was born at Copenhagen in 1818. He and his brother (late Bishop of Aalborg) were the sons of a peasant who had made his fortune in the wool trade, and then retired to Copenhagen, where he led a quiet, austere life, bringing up his two sons according to his own theories, and entertaining the few friends he still saw with his views on morality and religion. During the whole of Kierkegaard’s life he remained strongly influenced by his father’s ways of thought, and many of his writings, treating of religion and morality, might easily be delivered as sermons, and this, although he was extremely severe on the faults, not to say vices, of the Danish clergy, whose conduct and life he stingingly contrasts with that of their master, Jesus Christ. Not only the clergy but the whole of the Danish society of his day feared the writer of these powerful diatribes, and for a time at least he enjoyed no credit in his own country. Soren Kierkegaard lost his father at the age of twenty-seven.

He had not at that time written anything, but he was known and respected as a severe Doctor of Divinity, and great was the surprise of his friends to hear of his engagement to a charming though somewhat commonplace young girl. The whole history of their strange betrothal is told in the most remarkable of his works, ‘Guilty or Not Guilty,’ an extraordinary psychical study, and which contains all the author’s theories on marriage, theories which he repeated in many of his other works. His own romance ended sadly, and he lived and died a bachelor, spending his last days in a hospital, and this although he had once declared that marriage was and would always remain the most perfect state.

Review of Reviews and World’s Work Volume IX Jan-Jun 1894 p. 36 by Shaw, Albert, 1857-1947

Bjornson on Kierkegaard
Poems and Songs

Kierkegaard contrasts the “official” Christianity with the real teaching of Christ. He insisted upon individuality as the basis of all true religious faith, the intimate relation that should exist between the individual and God, a relation that requires complete renunciation of the world, with suffering as a necessary accompaniment.
Universal Cyclopaedia and Atlas, Volume 6, Charles Kendall Adams, Rossiter Johnson D. Appleton, 1902

One early writer asked in 1903 if someone could translate a shorter work of Kierkegaard’s and put it in the public domain.

(1909) “We live forward, we understand backward, said a Danish writer; and to understand life by concepts is to arrest its movement, cutting it up into bits as if with scissors, and, immobilizing these in our logical herbarium where, comparing them as dried specimens, we can ascertain which of them statically includes or excludes which other. This treatment supposes life to have already accomplished itself, for the concepts, being so many views taken after the fact, are retrospective and post mortem. Nevertheless we can draw conclusions from them and project them into the future. We cannot learn from them how life made itself go, or how it will make itself go; but, on the supposition that its ways of making itself go are unchanging, we can calculate what positions of imagined arrest it will exhibit hereafter under given conditions.” William James, A Pluralistic Universe, 1909, p. 244

William James

(1912) We take up the study of four eminent thinkers-William James, Fechner, Wundt, and Kierkegaard. Knox explains that while James was led on from psychology to philosophy, it was precisely his psychological insight that enabled him to discern personal sources of the big philosophical antithesis. He was not deterred by a priori distinctions between logic and psychology, by the assumption that our aim is purely impersonal and objective, but held that personal vision and practical makeshifts determine metaphysical theory. He challenged the intellectualist axiom that the parallel lines of knowing and doing must never meet. This makes his Principles of Psychology as valuable a handbook of ethics as it is of logic. Thus was early laid in psychology the foundations for the coming pragmatism. And so, conversely, James invites us to treat our moral and religious aspirations as methodologically on a par with scientific categories.

As with James so with Fechner. Angell points out in the case of the German a curious tendency towards practical mysticism. From the physicist comes forth the philosopher, and the laboratory has given place to the oracle. Believing that the reality of the world must accord with what is reasonable, Fechner saw clearly that this reality could not be deduced by dialectics, but that it must be worked out as one works out final questions in physics, namely by generalization and by analogy. In other words the purpose of Fechner was an inductive metaphysics or “Metaphysik von Unten.” Now James, who twenty-five years ago gave his official opinion that the proper psychological outcome of Fechner’s work was “just nothing,” has made the amende honorable in a generously sympathetic essay in the Pluralistic Universe.

Meumann’s account of the life work of Wilhelm Wundt is noteworthy for two features, its arraignment of German officialdom for its neglect of a great thinker and its praise of American psychologists for spreading the fame of the master. The former fact is explained as due to Wundt’s south German independence of bureaucracy, the latter as due to his endeavors to make his work both scientific and practical. To Americans brought up on the old introspective “mental philosophy” the new experimental psychology was a welcome relief. In place of the old static view of the mind came the doctrine of development; in place of the study of the normal adult was offered animal, and child, and race psychology. So what Fechner had started at Leipsic, Wundt enlarged and America spread.

James’s pragmatism and Fechner’s mysticism had a similar two-fold aspect. Both were scientific and both sought truth under the analogy of the self. So was it with the system of Kierkegaard as his compatriot Hoeffding shows. The Danish thinker’s philosophy had a double quality, being both personal and scientific. While subjectivity is the avenue of truth, the world in which we live is a world of scientific approximation. And James’s pluralism is matched by the statement that the personal world represents not a world, but a plurality of worlds resulting from different points of view of personalities.

Here arise four chief types: there is the aesthete who draws a tangent to the circle of life along the line of passing pleasures; there is again the ironist who, knowing how to distinguish the interior from the exterior, strives to shelter his inner life against the changes of the moment; these is next the moralist who enters into positive relations with other men and endeavors to fulfill his duty; there is finally the humorist who, being sadly affected by the contrast of finite and infinite, is forced to look upon life as more or less of a joke. All this reminds one of James’s “types of thinking” from the man who “carves out” order to him who considers the universe a vast “grab-bag.”

Between the American and the Dane there is, then, final agreement in respect to the doctrine of discontinuity, the old idealistic continuity being supplanted by the view that both the psychic and the cosmic life proceed by leaps, Natura per sultum.
Historical Contributions by Woodbridge Riley, Vassar College
Psychological Bulletin. v. 12:no. 1-12 (1915) p. 10-12

File:Inkblot 9.tif

(1912) A very remarkable personality was Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) He was born in Copenhagen, and after the customary education, he stood, in 1840, the required examination for entrance into the ministry, but he never was a recognized pastor nor filled any church office. But he was very active with his pen, and has a secure place among the religious writers of his time and country. In preaching he was a free lance; wherever he was offered or could make an opportunity, he preached earnestly to all who would hear him. His writings and personal influence were profoundly felt in the religious life of the North and extended beyond his own country.
A History of Preaching, v. 2 Edwin Charles Dargan, 1852-1930 Published 1912 P. 428

The Germans translated Kierkegaard early. Here is a review of their translation of The Concept of Anxiety and Practice in Christianity in 1913 (Kierkegaard’s centenary).

(1915) Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855) An eminent Danish philosopher and theological writer was never ordained, he remained in Copenhagen until his death. He was one of the most original of Danish writers and thinkers and eventually exerted a strong influence on the literature and religious trend of his country, not only by the power of his reasoning, but through the force and brilliancy of his style. He taught that Christianity is the rule and conduct of life and based his philosophy on faith and knowledge.
New International Encyclopedia, Volume 13 Dodd, Mead, 1915 p. 222-223

e-o to ft kierkegaard

2013 was the 200th year after the birth of Soren Kierkegaard. Here are several different reviews of his life which began March 5, 1813 and ended November 11, 1855.

David F. Swenson was born in Sweden October 29, 1876 and moved to America in 1882. He taught at the University of Minnesota and became a full professor of philosophy in 1917. His goal was to make the writings of Soren Kierkegaard known to the English reading public. He and his wife, Lillian Marvin Swenson, translated many of Kierkegaard’s works into English before David died in 1940. Lillian continued David’s work with another Kierkegaard scholar, Walter Lowrie. You can find a list of the Swenson’s translations by following this link and of Walter Lowrie here.

Swenson quote 1937

Swenson wrote an early work about Soren Kierkegaard in 1915. This is a short introduction to it. You can read the whole article, The Anti-Intellectualism of Soren Kierkegaard, here.

kierkeaard and swenson

Later, Swenson published a short biography about Kierkegaard in 1921. You can read the whole biography, Soren Kierkegaard, here. And listen to the beginning below.


“We must remember,” says Kierkegaard (Begrebet Ironi, p. 322 – The Concept of Irony), “that Tieck and the entire Romantic School entered, or believed they entered, into relations with a period in which men were, so to speak, petrified, in final, unalterable social conditions. Everything was perfected and completed, in a sort of divine Chinese perfection, which left no reasonable longing unsatisfied, no reasonable wish unfulfilled. The glorious principles and maxims of ‘use and wont’ were the objects of a pious worship; everything, including the absolute itself, was absolute; men refrained from polygamy; they wore peaked hats; nothing was without its significance.

Each man felt, with the precise degree of dignity that corresponded to his position, what he effected, the exact importance to himself and to the whole, of his unwearied endeavour. There was no frivolous indifference to punctuality in those days; all ungodliness of that kind tried to insinuate itself in vain. Everything pursued its tranquil, ordered course; even the suitor went soberly about his business; he knew that he was going on a lawful errand, was taking a most serious step. Everything went by clockwork.

Men waxed enthusiastic over the beauties of nature on Midsummer Day; were overwhelmed by the thought of their sins on the great fast-days; fell in love when they were twenty, went to bed at ten o’clock. They married and devoted themselves to domestic and civic duties; they brought up families; in the prime of their manhood notice was taken in high places of their honourable and successful efforts; they lived on terms of intimacy with the pastor, under whose eye they did the many generous deeds which they knew he would recount in a voice trembling with emotion when the day came for him to preach their funeral sermon. They were friends in the genuine sense of the word, ein wirklicher Freund, wie man wirklicher Kanzleirat war.”

Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature – 2 by Georg Brandes

Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature, by Georg Brandes, a series of lectures originally given in Danish at the University of Copenhagen (published 1871–1890 under the title ‘Hovedströmninger i det 19 de aarhundredes litteratur’; translated into German, 1894–1896 under the title ‘Hauptströmungen der Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’; and into English, 1901–1905).

Kierkegaard is listened to today because the world is confronted with demons of the irrational forces which they hoped to cope with rationally. He taught that “Christianity is the perfection of the really human.” He offered new hope to those who have despaired of past efforts to attain perfection through traditional channels. His influence has shown no signs of receding as the Cold War continues.
Greater Dead than Alive, by Curtis Daniel MacDougall 1963 p. 76-77

If I tried to imagine the public as a particular person (for although some better individuals momentarily belong to the public they nevertheless have something concrete about them, which holds them in its grip even if they have not attained the supreme religious attitude), I should perhaps think of one of the Roman emperors, a large well-fed figure, suffering from boredom, looking only for the sensual intoxication of laughter, since the divine gift of wit is not earthly enough. And so for a change he wanders about, indolent rather than bad, but with a negative desire to dominate.

Every one who has read the classical authors knows how many things a Caesar could try out in order to kill time. In the same way the public keeps a dog to amuse it. That dog is the sum of the literary world. If there is some one superior to the rest, perhaps even a great man, the dog is set on him and the fun begins. The dog goes for him, snapping and tearing at his coat-tails, allowing itself every possible ill-mannered familiarity – until the public tires, and says it may stop. That is an example of how the public levels. Their betters and superiors in strength are mishandled – and the dog remains a dog which even the public despises. The leveling is therefore done by a third party; a non-existent public leveling with the help of a third party which in its significance is less than nothing, being already more than leveled.

The Present Age 1846 by Soren Kierkegaard, translated by Alexander Dru 1962, p. 65-66

shoulders of giants

More and more people renounce the quiet and modest tasks of life, that are so important and pleasing to God, in order to achieve something greater; in order to think over the relationships of life in a higher relationship till in the end the whole generation has become a representation, who represent…it is difficult to say who; and who think about these relationships…for whose sake it is not easy to discover.

The real moment in time and the real situation being simultaneous with real people, each of whom is something; that is what helps to sustain the individual. But the existence of a public produces neither a situation nor simultaneity. The individual reader of the Press is not the public, and even though little by little a number of individuals or even all of them should read it, the simultaneity is lacking. Years might be spent gathering the public together, and still it would not be there. This abstraction, which the individuals so illogically form, quite rightly repulses the individual instead of coming to his help. The man who has no opinion of an event at the actual moment accepts the opinion of the majority, or, if he is quarrelsome, of the minority. But it must be remembered that both majority and minority are real people, and that is why the individual is assisted by adhering to them. A public, on the contrary, is an abstraction.

Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age, (1846) Dru translation 1962 p. 44, 61

Copies_van_gogh_echantillon - Copy

Either a race or an individual.

For Kierkegaard, man is essentially an individual, not a member of a species or race; and ethical and religious truth is known through individual existence and decision-through subjectivity, not objectivity. Systems of thought and a dialectic such as Hegel’s are matters merely of thought, which cannot comprise individual existence and decision. Such systems leave out, said Kierkegaard, the unique and essential “spermatic point, the individual, ethically and religiously conceived, and existentially accentuated.” Similarly in the works of the American author Henry David Thoureau, writing at the same time as Kierkegaard, there is an emphasis on the solitary individual as the bearer of ethical responsibility, who, when he is right, carries the preponderant ethical weight against the state, government, and a united public opinion, when they are wrong. The solitary individual with right on his side is always “a majority of one.”

Ethics, the study of moral values, by Mortimer J. Adler and Seymour Cain. Pref. by William Ernest Hocking. 1962 252

Parmenides on Being and Non-Being

Kierkegaard, Communication, and Virtue: Authorship as Edification Mark A. Tietjen, Indiana University Press, Jun 12, 2013 p. 46-47

Kierkegaard as Essential Author

Kierkegaard begins the introduction to The Book on Adler by describing the “present age” as one of movement where “many people’s lives go in in such a way that they have premises for living, but do not arrive at any conclusion”. If a person of this age becomes an author, and even if this person “possess extraordinary talents, exceptional knowledge ,” Kierkegaard concludes, “he is not an author, even though he produces”. Premise authors are deficient in several related ways: their world-view is impoverished,  if not absent altogether, their lives lack ethical definition (or an ethical position), their authorial production is riddled with uncertainty and doubt, and, consequently, they are a burden on the reader.

“A world-view, a life-view, is the only true conclusion to every production.” A worldview is a coherent construal of one’s place in the world that situates one’s identity and sense of purpose. It includes convictions about one’s ethical position-the ideals and values from which and toward which one orients one’s existence-one’s cares and interests, activities, and in the case of authors, their production. A worldview is ‘conclusive” not by virtue of some extraordinary awareness of how life will play out or by a complete understanding of one’s relation to the ideals of that worldview. It is conclusive by being decisive for the individual. It involves the possession of an existential relation to the ethical (and possibly religious) truths that Johannes would call “inwardness.” And in these things a worldview includes critical-interpretive resources for interacting with the ideas and prejudices of an age. Thus the essential author “has a definite life and world-view that he follows, and in it he is ahead of the particular production, just as the whole is always ahead of the parts.” The essential author does  not weigh down one’s contemporaries because of a lack of self-knowledge: “The essential author … definitely knows who he is, what he wants; from first to last he takes care to understand himself in his life-view. As such, the essential author’s production derives not out of need but instead as “a consciously undertaken ethical task.”

By contrast, an incomplete, impoverished worldview can lead to the endless collection of more “premises,” the giving of oneself to the trendy ideas and commitments of the day: “The premise authors are at your service in every way with ever new tasks, proposals, hints, suggestions, indications, projects-in short, with everything that by merely being a beginning stimulates impatience because it does not seem to contain any demand for perseverance, which is always necessary if there is to  be any question of arriving at a conclusion. Like one of Kierkegaard’s aesthetes from Either/Or I, the premise author never commits finally to a conception of the world that will anchor life and consequently an authorial production.  …

If we begin to consider Kierkegaard in light of these categories, he seems to fit the profile of the essential author.

Quotes from Book of Adler by Soren Kierkegaard edited and translated by Howard V and Edna H Hong 1998 pages 7-14

Also by Mark A. Tietjen Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians InterVarsity Press, Mar 24, 2016

Soren Kierkegaard saint

Johann Georg Hamann, (1730-1788), is of course known to students of German literature as the enigmatic figure in the background of the Sturm and Drang, that movement of the spirit and of letters which preceded, and precipitated, the Romantic movement in German life and literature. He is also known to students of philosophy as a marginal figure in the life of Immanuel Kant, whose contemporary and fellow-citizen and fiend he was in Konigsberg. In more recent theological writing he has become the object of a certain amount of interest as one of the few writers who had a marked influence on Kierkegaard. In fact it would, I believe, be possible to detect in the writings of Hamann, in embryonic or sibylline form at least, almost all the major concerns of Kierkegaard. The connections between the two will be apparent to any student of Kierkegaard.

J G Hamann 1730 1788 A Study In Christian Existence  by Ronald Gregor Smith

Just as nature was given us to open our eyes, so history was given to us to open our ears. To dissect a body and an event into its primary elements means attempting to detect God’s invisible being, His eternal power and Godhead. Whoever does not believe Moses and the prophets always becomes, like Buffon writing on the history of creation and Montesquieu on the history of the Roman Empire, a poet against his knowledge and intention.

If a young sparrow shall not fall to the earth without our God, no monument from ancient times has been lost to us which we should lament. Should not His providence extend to writings since He himself became a writer, and since the Spirit of God was at such pains to record the value of the first forbidden books, which a pious zeal on behalf of our religion sacrificed to the fire? We admire Pompey’s destroying the writings of his enemy Sertorius, as a wise and noble action; why not admire Our Lord’s allowing the writings of Celcus to perish?

Hamann, Socratic Memorabilla, translated by James O’Flaherty 1967


Johann Goethe’s ideas about Christianity

Sunday, March 11, 1832.  P. 421-

This evening for an hour with Goethe, talking of various interesting subjects. I had bought an English Bible, in which I found, to my great regret, that the apocryphal books were not contained. They had been rejected, because they were not considered genuine and of divine origin. I greatly missed the noble Tobias, that model of a pious life the Wisdom of Solomon, and Jesus Sirach, — all writings of such high mental and moral elevation, that few others equal them. I spoke to Goethe of my regret at the very narrow view by which some of the writings of the Old Testament are looked upon as immediately proceeding from God ; while others, equally excellent, are not so. As if there could be anything noble and great which did not proceed from God, and which was not a fruit of his influence.

“I am thoroughly of your opinion,” returned Goethe. “Still, there are two points of view from which biblical subjects may be contemplated. There is the point of view of a sort of primitive religion, of pure nature and reason, which is of divine origin. This will always be the same, and will last and prevail as long as divinely endowed beings exist. It is, however, only for the elect, and is far too high and noble to become universal. Then there is the point of view of the Church, which is of a more human nature. This is defective and subject to change but it will last, in a state of perpetual change, as long as there are weak human beings. The light of unclouded divine revelation is far too pure and brilliant to be suitable and supportable to poor weak man. But the Church steps in as a useful mediator, to soften and to moderate, by which all are helped, and many are benefited. Through the belief that the Christian Church, as the successor of Christ, can remove the burden of human sin, it is a very great power. To maintain themselves in this power and in this importance, and thus to secure the ecclesiastical edifice, is the chief aim of the Christian priesthood.

“This priesthood, therefore, does not so much ask whether this or that book in the Bible greatly enlightens the mind, and contains doctrines of high morality and noble human nature. It rather looks upon the books of Moses, with reference to the fell of man and the origin of a necessity for a Redeemer; it searches the prophets for repeated allusions to Him, the Expected One, and regards, in the Gospels, His actual earthly appearance, and His death upon the cross, as the atonement for our human sins. You see, therefore, that for such purposes, and weighed in such a balance, neither the noble Tobias, nor the Wisdom of Solomon, nor the sayings of Sirach, can have much weight. Still, with reference to things in the Bible, the question whether they are genuine or spurious is odd enough. What is genuine but that which is truly excellent, which stands in harmony with the purest nature and reason, and which even now ministers to our highest development! What is spurious but the absurd and the hollow, which brings no fruit — at least, no good fruit! If the authenticity of a biblical book is to be decided by the question, — whether something true throughout has been handed down to us, we might on some points doubt the authenticity of the Gospels, since those of Mark and Luke were not written from immediate presence and experience, but, according to oral tradition, long afterwards; and the last, by the disciple John, was not written till he was of a very advanced age. Nevertheless, I look upon all the four Gospels as thoroughly genuine; for there is in them the reflection of a greatness which emanated from the person of Jesus, and which was of as divine a kind as ever was seen upon earth. If I am asked whether it is in my nature to pay Him devout reverence, I say — certainly! I bow before Him as the divine manifestation of the highest principle of morality. If I am asked whether it is in my nature to revere the Sun, I again say — certainly! For he is likewise a manifestation of the highest Being, and indeed the most powerful which we children of earth are allowed to behold. I adore in him the light and the productive power of God by which we all live, move, and have our being — we, and all the plants and animals with us. But if I am asked — whether I am inclined to bow before a thumb-bone of the apostle Peter or Paul, I say — Spare me, and stand off with your absurdities!” “Quench not the spirit” says the Apostle. There are many absurdities in the propositions of the Church; nevertheless, rule it will, and so it must have a narrow-minded multitude, which bows its head and likes to be ruled. The high and richly-endowed clergy dread nothing more than the enlightenment of the lower orders. They withheld the Bible from them as long as it was possible. Besides, what can a poor member of the Christian Church think of the princely magnificence of a richly-endowed bishop, when he sees in the Gospels the poverty and indigence of Christ, who, with his disciples, travelled humbly on foot, whilst the princely bishop rattles along in his carriage drawn by six horses!

“We scarcely know,” continued Goethe, what we owe to Luther, and the Reformation in general. We are freed from the fetters of spiritual narrowmindedness; we have, in consequence of our increasing culture, become capable of turning back to the fountain head, and of comprehending Christianity in its purity. We have, again, the courage to stand with firm feet upon God’s earth, and to feel ourselves in our divinely-endowed human nature. Let mental culture go on advancing, let the natural sciences go on gaining in depth and breadth, and the human mind expand as it may, it will never go beyond the elevation and moral culture of Christianity as it glistens and shines forth in the Gospel!

“But the better we Protestants advance in our noble development, so much the more rapidly will the Catholics follow us. As soon as they feel themselves caught up by the ever-extending enlightenment of the time, they must go on, do what they will, till at last the point is reached where all is but one.

“The mischievous sectarianism of the Protestants will also cease, and with it the hatred and hostile feeling between father and son, sister and brother; for as soon as the pure doctrine and love of Christ are comprehended in their true nature, and have become a vital principle, we shall feel ourselves as human beings, great and free, and not attach especial importance to a degree more or less in the outward forms of religion. Besides, we shall all gradually advance from a Christianity of words and faith, to a Christianity of feeling and action.”

The conversation turned upon the great men who had lived before Christ, among the Chinese, the Indians, the Persians, and the Greeks; and it was remarked, that the divine power had been as operative in them as in some of the great Jews of the Old Testament. We then came to the question how far God influenced the great natures of the present world in which we live?

“To hear people speak,” said Goethe, ”one would almost believe that they were of opinion that God had withdrawn into silence since those old times, and that man was now placed quite upon his own feet, and had to see how he could get on without God, and his daily invisible breath. In religious and moral matters, a divine influence is indeed still allowed, but in matters of science and art it is believed that they are merely earthy, and nothing but the product of human powers.

“Let anyone only try, with human will and human power, to produce something which may be compared with the creations that bear the names of Mozart, Raphael, or Shakespeare. I know very well that these three noble beings are not the only ones, and that in every province of art innumerable excellent geniuses have operated, who have produced things as perfectly good as those just mentioned. But if they were as great as those, they rose above ordinary human nature, and in the same proportion were as divinely endowed as they.

“And after all what does it all come to? God did not retire to rest after the well-known six days of creation, but, on the contrary, is constantly active as on the first. It would have been for Him a poor occupation to compose this heavy world out of simple elements, and to keep it rolling in the sunbeams from year to year, if he had not had the plan of founding a nursery for a world of spirits upon this material basis. So he is now constantly active in higher natures to attract the lower ones.”

Goethe was silent. But I cherished his great and good words in my heart.

Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret by Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749-1832; Eckermann, Johann Peter, 1792-1854; Soret, Frédéric Jacob, 1795-1865; Oxenford, John, 1812-1877, tr Published 1850  London, Smith, Elder

Another site about Kierkegaard

present age sk whim2

In Defense of Women 1918 by Henry Louise Mencken 1880-1956
His view of the transformation of values.



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