Søren Kierkegaard was a Christian author who was against applying the ideas of the Scientific Enlightenment to Christianity. He lived in Denmark from 1813 to 1855. His works were written to the single individual who might be interested in reading them.
Soren Kierkegaard recorded his life in his Journals as well as his books. I have set before the reader quotes that all seem to relate to his affair with Regine Olsen. His engagement and then the death of his father affected him deeply.Sources: The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, Repetition (1843) and Stages on Life’s Way (1845)
The religious is my principle of equality, and my soul is not exactly suited to erotic bickering about which of us was somewhat extraordinary. Stages p. 235
January 15 Morning – Stages 1845
A year ago today. Is this how it is to be engaged?
January 20, Morning
I have been able, can still bear, to live without her if only I retain the religious. But I suspect that the religious crisis is to bring it into what I have begun here. Stages 1845 p. 223
There is an indescribable joy that glows all through us just as inexplicably as the apostle’s exclamation breaks forth for no apparent reason: “Rejoice, and again I say, Rejoice.” — Not a joy over this or that, but the soul’s full outcry “with tongue and mouth and from the bottom of the heart”: “I rejoice for my joy, by, in, with about, over, for, and with my joy” — a heavenly refrain which, as it were, suddenly interrupts our other singing, a joy which cools and refreshes like a breath of air, a breeze from the trade winds which blow across the plains of Mamre to the everlasting mansions.
My father died on Wednesday (the 8th) at 2:00 A.M.. I so deeply desired that he might have lived a few years more, and I regard his death as the last sacrifice of his love for me, because in dying he did not depart from me but he died for me, in order that something, if possible, might still come of me. Most precious of all that I have inherited from him is his memory, his transfigured image, transfigured not by his poetic imagination (for it does not need that), but transfigured by many little single episodes I am now learning about, and this memory I will try to keep most secret from the world. Right now I feel there is only one person (E. Boesen) with whom I can really talk about him. He was a “faithful friend.”
You, sovereign queen of my heart, “Regina, hidden in the deepest secrecy of my breast, in the fullness of my life-idea, there where it is just as far to heaven as to hell — unknown divinity! O, can I really believe the poets when they say that the first time one sees the beloved object he thinks he has seen her long before, that love like all knowledge is recollection, that love in the single individual also has its prophecies, its types, its myths, its Old Testament. Everywhere, in the face of every girl, I see features of your beauty, but I think I would have to possess the beauty of all the girls in the world to extract your beauty, that I would have to sail around the world to find the portion of the world I want and toward which the deepest secret of my self polarically points — and in the next moment you are so close to me, so present, so overwhelmingly filling my spirit that I am transfigured to myself and feel that here it is good to be.You blind god of erotic love! You who see in secret, will you disclose it to me? Will I find what I am seeking here in this world, will I experience the conclusion of all my life’s eccentric premises, will I fold you in my arms, or:
Do the Orders say: March on?
Have you gone on ahead, you, my longing, transfigured do you beckon to me from another world? O, I will throw everything away in order to become light enough to follow you.
….. and it was the delight of his eyes and his heart’s desire. And he stretched out his arm and took it, but he could not keep it; it was offered to him, but he could not possess it — alas, and it was the delight of his eyes and his heart’s desire. And his soul verged on despair, but he preferred the greater anguish, losing it and giving it up, to the lesser of having it wrongfully, or, to speak more exactly, as one should do in this holy place, he chose the lesser anguish to avoid the greater one of possessing it with a soul at strife ….. and oddly enough it turned out to be the best for him.
Kierkegaard’s Journals May 1842
Plot. Someone publishes a novel, he uses fictitious names to draw attention away from the historical aspect of it. It so happens that he uses the name of an actual girl, one who has many little traits that fit the fictional girl. The girl in the novel is portrayed unsympathetically; the actual girl is disgraced. The author can extricate himself only by confessing the truth. But he cannot — collision.
Kierkegaard’s Journals – November 20, 1842
I wrote to her and sent back her ring. The note is found verbatim in “The Psychological Experiment.” I deliberately made it purely historical, for I have spoken to no one about it, not one single person. … She took out a piece of paper on which there were some words by me and which she usually carried on her breast; she took it and tore it into small pieces, saying: So you have been playing a dreadful game with me.
The Psychological experiment was published as Repetition on 16 October 1843
But before we start with Repetition I have a quote from Stages on Life’s Way 1845:
Now I want to begin in another way; I want to reflect on the relationship as if I were only an observer who has to file his report. I am fully aware that this objectivity does not help me nor is it supposed to; I simply feel a need to drain off the almost comic aspect of the affair. Having done that, having shaken the foolishness from me, I shall again feel disposed to drag and lift tragically the same affair as a burden.
….why did I make myself guilty of applying a standard to a girl’s existence that only disturbs both of us? p. 238-239
As he paced back and forth he repeated again and again a verse from Poul Moller: Then, to my easy chair, Comes a dream from my youth. To thy easy chair. A heartfelt longing comes over me for you, Thou son of women. … I was shaken by the scene. Good God, I thought, never in my practice had I seen such melancholy as this. That he was melancholy, I knew very well-but that falling in love could affect him in this way! And yet, how consistent even an abnormal mental state is if it is normally present.
He was deeply and fervently in love, that was clear, and yet a few days later he was able to recollect his love. He was essentially through with the entire relationship. In the beginning it, he took such a tremendous step that he leaped over life. if the girl dies tomorrow, it will make no essential difference; he will throw himself down again, his eyes will fill with tears again, he will repeat the poet’s words again. What a curious dialectic! He longs for the girl, he has to do violence to himself to keep from hanging around her all day long, and yet in the vey first moment he became an old man in regard to the entire relationship. Underneath it all there must be a misunderstanding. … Recollection has the great advantage that it begins with the loss; the reason it is safe and secure is that it has nothing to lose.
Repetition p. 135-136 by Soren Kierkegaard, Hong 1983
The young girl was not his beloved: she was the occasion that awakened the poetic in him and made him a poet. This is why he could love only her, never forget her, never want to love another, and yet continually only long for her. She was drawn into his own being; the memory of her was forever alive. She had meant much to him; she had made him a poet-and precisely thereby had signed her own death sentence. As time went on, his state became more and more anguished. Repetition p. 138
He still firmly believes that, humanly speaking, his love cannot be realized. He has now come to the border of the marvelous; consequently, if it is to take place at all, it must take place by virtue of the absurd. The thought of any difficulty does not enter his head, or is my own ingenious head perhaps too inventive! Does he actually love the girl, or is she not once again simply the occasion that sets him in motion? Again, what preoccupies him is undoubtedly not possession in the stricter sense and the contents developing in the sphere of possession but rather the return in a purely formal sense. If she died tomorrow, that would not distress him further; he would not actually feel a loss, for his being was at rest. The split in him caused by his contact with her would be reconciled by his actually having returned to her. So once again the girl was not an actuality but a reflexion of motions within him and an incident in them. Repetition p. 185
She would have tried her hand not only with the little multiplication table of erotic love, which would be permissible and she would be within her rights, but also with the big multiplication table of marriage. She would have had God to vouch for her, called on everything that is holy, impounded every precious memory that could reside in his soul. In this sphere, when the occasion arises, many a girl quite unabashedly uses a deceit that not even a seducer allows himself. One who moves in the real of the erotic by the help of God or wants to be loved for God’s sake ceases to be himself and tries to be stronger than heaven and more important than an individual’s eternal salvation. Repetition 218
She is married-to whom I do not know, for when I read it in the newspaper I was so stunned that I dropped the paper and have not had the patience since then to check in detail. I am myself again. Here I have repetition; I understand everything, and life seems more beautiful to me than ever. It did indeed come like a thunderstorm, although I am indebted to her generosity for its coming. Whoever it is she has chosen-I will not even say preferred, because in the capacity of a husband any one is preferred to me-she has certainly shown generosity toward me. Repetition 220 (1843)
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.
the fact of falling in love has become a happening (this is both an impiety against erotic love and a fraud against the ethical, a satire upon oneself) from which it is now a bit of luck to have escaped.
Soren Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, (Judge Wilhelm) 1845 Hong p. 89, 149-150 (Some Reflections on Marriage in Answer to Objections, by A Married Man )
January 3. Morning So it is a year ago today since I saw her for the first time, that is, for the first time with a resolute soul. I was no fantasizer, was not in the habit of becoming intoxicated on fine words and brief dreams; therefore my resolution certainly did not mean that I would die if she did not become mine. Neither did I think that my soul would be scattered and my life become completely empty for me if she did not become mine-I had too many religious presuppositions for that. For me my resolution meant: Marry her or do not marry at all. Stages p. 195
Is this a crisis? Is this the wavering of decision? Is the case perhaps still before the court? Have I really become ten years older, I who was almost an old man-the poor girl, who has to nurse one who is dead; or have I become young as I never was young-what an enviable fate to be able to be so much to a person. Stages p. 210-211
August 24, 1849
But now she no doubt is happily married to Schlegel; he has been successful, and this will hearten her as a sign of Governance’s approval of their union. In a certain sense the world is against me; perhaps she interprets this as something of a punishment imposed on me. But the opposition of the world might well give me new worth in her eyes, and that would be dangerous.
Cruel I was, that is true. Why? Indeed, you do not know that.
Silent I have been, that is certain. Only God knows what I have suffered — may God grant that I do not, even now, speak too soon after all!
Marry I could not. Even if you were still free, I could not.
Kierkegaard’s Journals 1849