Upbuilding Discourses 1843-1845

Soren Kierkegaard published pseudonymous books along with the discourses he published under his own name. He paired Either/or with his Two Upbuilding Discourses of 1843 and Fear and Trembling and Repetition with his Three Upbuilding Discourses of 1843.

His discourses were translated by David F Swenson in 1943 and then again as Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses by Howard and Edna Hong in 1990. I will list each discourse and then insert a few quotes from the Hong translation. I like the questions he asked.

Two Upbuilding Discourses 1843
a. The Expectancy of Faith. New Year’s Day.
We travel the wide world over for other goods; they lie concealed in a remote place accessible to human beings only at great risk. Or if this was not the case, their apportionment is like the water in the pool of Bethesda, about which we read in Holy Scripture: Once in a while an angel descends and stirs the water, and the one who comes first-ah, yes, the one who comes first-is the fortunate one. With faith, however, with the highest good, should it not be otherwise, that gaining it involves no difficulty? P. 11-112 Hong tr 1990

b. Every Good and Every Perfect Gift is From Above. (James 1:17-22)
When you had doubts about what came from God or about what was a good and perfect gift, did you risk the venture? And when the light sparkle of joy beckoned you, did you thank God for it? And when you were so strong that you felt you needed no help, did you then thank God? And when your allotted portion was little, did you thank God? And when your allotted portion was sufferings, did you thank God? And when your wish was denied, did you thank God? And when you yourself had to deny your wish, did you thank God? And when people wronged you and insulted you, did you thank God? P. 43 Hong tr 1990

Three Upbuilding Discourses 1843, (1 Peter 4:7-12)
a. Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins.
Just as there is a power in sin that has the perseverance to consume every better feeling a person has, so there is a heavenly power that starves the multiplicity of sin out of a person-this power is the love that hides a multitude of sins. Or is it not so? Should we prefer to praise a sagacity that knows how to describe the multitude of sins even more shockingly? Or should we rather ask this sagacity where it obtained such knowledge? Indeed, if it could convince love that this is the way it is, then love presumably would never begin and would achieve nothing. But this is why love begins by hiding a multitude of sins, and this is why it ends where it began-by hiding a multitude of sins. P. 64 Hong tr 1990

b. Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins.
But then is it possible that the same power that discovers a multitude of sins, the same power that almost multiplies the multitude as it infuses the human heart with love’s concern, is it possible that the same power can hide it in the same person? P. 73 Hong tr 1990

c. Strengthening in the inner being. (Ephesians 3:13 to the end)
Not until the moment when there awakens in his soul a concern about what meaning the world has for him and he for the world, about what meaning everything within him by which he himself belongs to the world has for him and he therein for the world-only then does the inner being announce its presence in this concern. This concern is not calmed by a more detailed or a more comprehensive knowledge; it craves another kind of knowledge, a knowledge that does not remain as knowledge for a single moment but is transformed into an action the moment it is possessed, since otherwise it is not possessed. This concern also craves an explanation, a witness, but of another kind. If in his knowledge a person could know everything but knew nothing of the relation of this knowledge to himself, then, in his effort to assure himself of the relation of the relation of his knowledge to the object, he probably would have demanded a witness, but he would not have comprehended that a completely different witness is required and then the concern would still not have awakened in his soul. As soon as this awakens, his knowledge will prove to be comfortless, because all knowledge in which a person vanishes from himself, just as any explanation provided by knowledge of this kind is equivocal, explains now this and now that, and can mean the opposite, just as any witness of this kind, precisely when it witnesses, is full of deceit and riddles and only engenders anxiety. In this concern, the inner being announces itself and craves an explanation, a witness that explains the meaning of everything for it, and its own meaning by explaining it in the God who holds everything together in his eternal wisdom and who assigned to man to be lord of creation by his becoming God’s servant, and explained himself to him by making him his co-worker, and through every explanation that he gives a person, he strengthens and confirms him in his inner being. In this concern the inner  being announces itself-the inner being that is concerned not about the whole world but only about God and about itself, about the explanation that makes the relation understandable to it, and about the witness that confirms it in the relation. P. 86-87 Hong tr 1990

Four Upbuilding Discourses 1843 (Job 1:20-21, James 1:17-22, Luke 21.19)
a. The Lord Gave, and the Lord Took Away; Blessed be the Name of the Lord
Job traced everything back to God; he did not detain his soul and quench his spirit with deliberation or explanations that only feed and foster doubt, even though the person suspended in them does not even notice that. The very moment everything was taken away from him, he knew it was the Lord who had taken it away, and therefore in his loss he remained on good terms with the Lord, he saw the Lord, and therefore he did not see despair. Or does he alone see God’s hand who sees that he gives, or does not one also see God hand who sees that he takes away? Or does he alone see God who sees God turn his face toward him, or does not also he see God who sees him turn his back, just as Moses continually saw nothing but the Lord’s back. But the one who sees God has overcome the world, in those devout words was greater and stronger and more powerful than the whole world. P. 121

b. Every Good and Every Perfect Gift is From Above.
The Garden of Eden was closed; everything was changed, the man became afraid of himself, afraid of the world around him. Troubled he asked: What is the good, where is the perfect to be found? If it exists, where is its source? But the doubt that had come along with the knowledge coiled itself alarmingly around his heart, and the serpent that had seduced him with the delectable now squeezed him in its coils. Would he find out what the good and perfect is without learning where it came from, would he be able to recognize the eternal source without knowing what the good and perfect is? Doubt would explain to him first one thing, then another, and in the explanation itself would lie in wait for him in order to disquiet him still more. What happened at the beginning of days is repeated in every generation and in the individual; the consequences of the fruit of the knowledge could not be halted. With the knowledge, doubt became more inward, and the knowledge, which should have guided man, fettered him in distress and contradiction. P. 127

c. Every Good and Every Perfect Gift is From Above.
When the rich man thanks God for the gift and for being granted the opportunity of bestowing it in a good way, he does indeed thank for the gift and for the poor man; when the poor man thanks the giver for the gift and God for the giver, he does indeed also thank God for the gift. Consequently equality prevails in the giving of thanks to God. P. 157

d. To Gain One’s Soul in Patience. (Luke 21.19)
Is it saying too little to say that a person comes naked into the world and possesses nothing in the world if he does not even possess his soul? P. 161 His soul belongs to the world as its illegitimate possession; it belongs to God as his legitimate possession; it belongs to the person himself as his possession, as a possession that is to be gained. Consequently he gains-if he actually does gain-his soul from God, away from the world, through himself. P. 167

Two Upbuilding Discourses 1844 (Luke 21.19)
a. To Preserve One’s Soul in Patience.
We have spoken about the power of patience to preserve the soul. We have spoken as if patience were outside a person; we are well aware that this is not so. And nevertheless I ask you, you who know better how to praise it than I, know better how to accomplish the good, how to commend it to people, since you have known it better, more inwardly and for a longer time-was it nevertheless not so at times, when concern and your laboring thoughts piled up deliberations that were of no benefit except to give birth to new deliberations, that then the plain, simple, but nevertheless forgotten words of patience prodded you from another direction, was it not as if patience stool on the outside? We have made it appear as if patience were outside, and we have let it speak, as it were, for itself. P. 202

b. Patient in Expectancy (Luke 2:33-40)
Whatever God gives, he “gives not the spirit of cowardliness but the spirit of power and self-control. (2 Timothy 1.7) Just as it is required of the expectant person, if his expectancy is noble and worthy of a human being, that he seeks this spirit of power and self-control, and that, just as his expectancy is laudable, he must also be one who is properly expectant, so in turn will the object of expectancy, the more glorious and precious it is, form the expectant person in its own likeness, because a person resembles what he loves with his whole soul. P. 219 Only the true expectancy, which requires patience, also teaches patience. But true expectancy is such that it pertains to a person essentially and does not leave it up to his own power to bring about the fulfillment. Therefore every truly expectant person is in a relationship with God. P. 220-221

Three Upbuilding Discourses 1844
a. Think About Your Creator in the Days of Your Youth. (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
Youth understands immediately that there is a God, because for the young person God’s house is right next to his father’s residence, and it is entirely natural for him to be there. But when one grows older, the way to the church is often very long; when the weather is bad in the winter, it is very cold in the church; when the singing of birds fills the woods in summer, the church is not on the path. For the youth, God lives close by. In the midst of his joy and his sorrow, he hears God’s voice calling; if he does not hear it, he misses it immediately, has not learned subterfuges, does not know how to conceal himself-until he hears it again. When one grows older, it is a long way to heaven, and the noise on earth makes it difficult to hear the voice; and if one does not hear it, the noise on earth makes it easy not to miss it. P. 242-243 When a person grows older he often scrutinizes his thoughts and retards himself. P. 245

b. The Expectancy of an Eternal Salvation. (2 Corinthians 4.17-18)
It may be a merit of our present age that in many ways it has known how to work the wish weary and in that way to wean the soul from wishing; it may be to its advantage if it thereby has developed an honest earnestness that for the good renounces the fraudulence of wishes. We do not reproach the age for having made the idea of the power of the wish into playing with words if it thereby motivates someone to work with his own hands instead of with the borrowed energy of the wish. But the wish for heaven’s salvation-is this, too, a play on words, as wishing for heavenly help has become for the frivolous, who thinks that we ought to depend on God the way we depend on people –that is, if you help yourself then God does the rest. And if the wish for heaven’s salvation has become playing with words, has the aim in it been to incite people to work all the harder to gain it? This seems not at all to be the case. Instead, eternal salvation seems to have become what the thought of it has become, a loose and idle phrase, at times virtually forgotten, or arbitrarily left out of the language, or indifferently set aside as an old-fashioned turn of speech no longer used but retained only because it is so quaint. And whereas in the old days one received heaven’s salvation by the grace of God, nowadays heaven’s salvation often seems to have become like and old, decrepit person who in the house of the mighty sustains his life on the miserable bread of charity. P. 254

c. He must increase but I must decrease. (John 3.29-30)
In humble self-denial John said these words and said them to his disciples. … The expected one had come; the Baptizer could have let him have the stage, himself stepped aside, hidden himself in an out-of-the-way place with his disciples, and in their eyes continued to be the master, even though he himself had not uttered that thought, even less let it be known in the world, where it would only be a hindrance to the one whose way he was supposed to prepare. How beneficial it is to contemplate what is worthy of veneration! P. 283-284 An old saying states that everyone would rather see the rising sun than the setting sun. Why everyone? Do you suppose this includes someone whose sun it is that is setting? Yes, for he, too, ardently desires to rejoice just as the bridegroom’s friend does when he stands and hears the bridegroom’s voice. P. 289

Four Upbuilding Discourses 1844
a. To Need God is a Human Being’s Highest Perfection.
how much, then, is the little that a person needs? Let life answer, and let the discourse do what the distress and hardship of life sometimes do-strip a person in order to see how little he needs. P. 297-298 If, namely, a person can be assured of the grace of God without needing temporal evidence as a middleman or as the dispensation advantageous to him as interpreter, then it is indeed obvious to him that the grace of God is the most glorious of all. Then he will strive to be gladdened by it in such a way that he is not merely contented with it, to give thanks for it in such a way that he is not contented with grace; will not grieve over that which was denied, over the language difference between God’s eternal trustworthiness and his childish little faith, which, however, no longer exists since now “his heart is strengthened by grace and not by food” (Hebrews 13:9). P. 301-302 Now the first self has a specific craving; it is conscious of possessing the conditions; the surrounding world, as it understands it, is as favorable as possible; they are just waiting for each other, as it were: the happy self and the favors of fortune-oh, what a pleasant life! But the deeper self does not give ground, does not haggle, does not give its consent, does not compromise; it merely says: Even in this moment everything can be changed. Yet people come to the aid of that first self with the explanation. They call to him; they explain this is the way it goes in life, that there are some people who are fortunate and are to enjoy life and that he is one of them. P. 315

b. The Thorn in the Flesh. (2 Corinthians 6.3-10, 11.23-27)
But an inexpressible beatitude he could not express-alas, and to prevent it, he was given a thorn in the flesh. Consequently, that suffering and this beatitude correspond to each other. If that beatitude is reserved only for an apostle, then let no one fear the suffering. But if that is the case, then there is nothing to speak about, and it is not even worth speaking about it in the first place. So banish all curiosity, which is doomed without even knowing it, since its doom is either that he it is unable to understand it or that it will be able to understand it, and its sin is either it neglects lesser matters in order to drop off into reverie about riddles or that it craftily applies its talents to making them ununderstandable and hypocritically pretends that this is a desire for understanding. Let everyone test himself. With regard to what he has experienced, let him be true to himself, but let no one forget that blessedness of the spirit and suffering of the spirit are not something external of which one can honestly and truly say: The circumstances of my life did not provide me the opportunity to experience this. In the world of the spirit, there is neither sport nor spook; there luck and chance do not make one person a king, another a beggar, one person as beautiful as an Oriental queen, another more wretched than Lazarus.  In the world of the spirit, the only one who is shut out is the one who shuts himself out; in the world of the spirit, all are invited and therefore what is said about it can be said safely and undauntedly; if it pertains to one single individual it pertains to all.  P. 334-335

c. Against Cowardliness. (2 Timothy 1.7)
If it is really so that there is something in life that has or can have such power over a person that it little by little makes him forget everything that is noble and sacred and makes him a slave in the service of the world, of the moment; if it is really so that time has or can gain such power over a person that while it adds days to his life it also every passing day measures the greater distance of his life from the divine, until he, trapped in everydayness and habit, becomes alienated from the eternal and the original; if experience has taught us that this has also happened to someone who once had a strong sense of the presence of the eternal-then it certainly would be beneficial to recommend every means against this and desirable that the recommending be done in an earnest but also winsome way. P. 347 Do you not know that the witnesses are there, that these witnesses are your thoughts, that this eyewitness is you yourself, whom the day of reckoning will compel to by your own informer, without being able to his the most secret counsel or forget the most fleeting thought or keep a single thought so well concealed inside you that your conscience would not know how to wrench open your inclosing reserve and the involuntary self-appraisal would not know how to tear it from you? P. 351 Anyone upon whom God does not confer knighthood with his powerful hand is and remains cowardly in his deepest soul, if for no other reason than that he was too proud to bear the accolade, inasmuch as it, like every accolade that confers knighthood, requires the confession of one’s own unworthiness. We shall now, therefore, speak: Against Cowardliness. P. 353

d. One Who Prays Aright Struggles in Prayer and is Victorious – in that God is Victorious.
There is an upside-downness that wants to reap before it sows; there is a cowardliness that wants to have certainty before it begins; there is a hypersensitivity so copious in words that it continually shrinks from acting; but what would it avail a person if, double-minded and fork-tongued, he wanted to dupe God, trap him in probability, but refused to understand the improbable, that one must lose everything in order to gain everything, and understand it so honestly that, in the most crucial moment, when his soul is already shuddering at the risk, he does not again leap to his own aid with the explanation that he has not yet fully made a resolution but merely wanted to feel his way. Therefore, all discussion of struggling with God in prayer, of the actual loss (since if the pain of annihilation is not actually suffered, then the sufferers is not yet out upon the deep, and his scream is not the scream of danger but in the face of danger) and the figurative victory cannot have the purpose of persuading anyone or of converting the situation into a task for secular appraisal and changing God’s gift of grace to the venture into a temporal small change for the timorous. P. 380-381 One person contends for the fulfillment of the wish, another against the fulfilled wish, since it was precipitous. One person strains every nerve even though he keeps on praying; another is expecting everything from the prayer even though he keeps on working; one ponders the relation of the fulfillment to the work; another ponders the misrelation. P. 388

Thoughts on Crucial Situations in Human Life 1845 — Swenson Translation 1941 Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions Hong Translation 1993
a. On the Occasion of a Confession.
The person who wishes also seeks, but his seeking is in the dark, not so much in regard to the object of the wish as in regard to his not knowing whether he is getting closer to it or further away. Among the many goods there is one that is the highest, that is not defined by its relation to the other goods, because it is the highest, and yet the person wishing does not have a definite idea of it, because it is the highest as the unknown-and this good is God. The other goods have names and designations, but where the wish draws its deepest breath, where this unknown seems to manifest itself, there is wonder, and wonder is immediacy’s sense of God and is the beginning of all deeper understanding. The seeking of the wishing person is in the dark not so much in regard to the object, because this is indeed the unknown, as in regard to whether he is getting closer to it or further away-now he is startled and the expression of his wonder is worship. Wonder is an ambivalent state of mind containing both fear and blessedness. Worship therefore is simultaneously a mixture of fear and blessedness. Even the most purified, reasonable worship is blessedness in fear and trembling, trust in mortal danger, bold confidence in the consciousness of sin. Even the most purified and reasonable worship of God has the fragility of wonder, and the magnitude of the God-relation is not directly determined by the magnitude of power and of wisdom and of deed; the most powerful person is the most powerless; the most devout person sighs out of deepest distress; the most mighty is the one who rightly folds his hands. P. 18 Hong tr

b. On the Occasion of a Wedding.
The saying declares: Love conquers everything. This is how it ought to sound at the beginning and be duly said by the one making the resolution. But the person who is ignorant of the danger, who excludes the danger and does not include an actual conception of it in the resolution, whose courage therefore has lost the victory, just as good deeds miss the reward because the reward has been enjoyed in advance-that person is not resolved. Neither is that person resolved who runs aimlessly and definitely misses the mark because he believes he is near it. Neither is that person resolved who improvidently and relying on an enigmatic power ventures out on the road and does not include in his resolution an actual conception of God’s help, of the necessity for it and of its sufficiency. Neither is it a joint resolution, because at that very moment the two are of one mind and both are without resolution. P. 50 Hong Just as a true conception of life is required for making a resolution, so also a true conception of oneself-something implied in what was said-is required. There may have been someone who sent out his spying thoughts to get diversified impressions of life but who could not take himself back, who abandoned himself-and, alas, lost himself. But the person who by marriage binds another person life to his own, who by marriage makes a commitment that no time will dissolve and every day will require to be fulfilled, from that person a resolution is required, and in this resolution, therefore a true conception of oneself. And a true conception of oneself, the inwardness of this conception is the earnestness. P. 57 Hong

c. At a Graveside.
Have any notion you wish, fanciful or true, about your life, about its importance for everybody, about its importance for yourself-death has no notion and pays no attention to notions. Ah, if anyone ought to be tired of repetition, death certainly ought to be, which has seen everything and the same thing again and again. It was seen many times even the death uncommon for centuries; yet no dying person has ever seen death change color, has seen it shaken by the sight, has seen the scythe tremble in its hand, has seen a hint of change of countenance in its calm face. That death can make a finish is indeed certain, but the challenge of earnestness to the living is to think it, to think that all is over, that there comes a time when all is over. This is the difficult thing, because even in the moment of death the dying person still thinks that he still might have some time to live, and one is afraid to tell him that all is over. P. 79 Hong The earnest thought of death has taught the living person to permeate the most oppressive dissimilarity with the equality before God. No comparison has that impelling power and so reliable gives the urgent person the true direction as does the comparison the living person makes between himself and the equality of death. If the most conceited of all comparisons is the one made when a person disdains all other comparisons in order to him compare himself with himself in self-satisfaction; indeed, if perhaps no vain woman ever stood so vain, surrounded by admiration, as when she stood alone before her mirror-ah, then no comparison is as earnest as the comparison of the one who, alone, compares himself with the equality of death. P. 89 Hong

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