A DANISH PHILOSOPHER OF WORLD RENOWN
A Website course
Around the world many arrangements are made in the name of Kierkegaard. But who was he, and what did he do ?
Here is for you the opportunity of a free course in the work of Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55).
You can follow his life and thought by short day-to-day readings of a choice of Kierkegaard's texts, set in the framework of his biography and his philosophical system.
The course is progressive in chronology and in the philosophical development of Kierkegaard. Still texts are sometimes inserted out of time sequence, in order to better illustrate his work.
There is great interest in Kierkegaard here and abroad. But many people are a bit afraid of approaching his work, because they find it very difficult. This I have tried to get around, and long teaching experience to different publics has shown that people can grasp Kierkegaard's thoughts when these are presented plainly and properly.
If you are not a Quaker, then Kierkegaard was not either. If you are, you will find related thoughts in his work.
Kierkegaard was not only a deep and great philosopher, but also an artist with a keen observation and a wonderful command of language, its words and rythm. I have tried, in translating, to preserve that rythm. So sometimes you will find the language form a bit strange, until you get used to it. The lengthy, uninterrupted periods are his. He thought, and wrote, like that.
It is unwise to try to rush him, skim or jump. Kierkegaard wrote in a different age, with another, more leisurely tempo. He recommends that he be read aloud, or at least slowly.
You will tolerate that some names and words are given in Danish (with translation or in obvious context). So the name Copenhagen is rightly spelt København. Denmark is Danmark. All person names of course are Danish. They hopefully add to the atmosphere, along with the portraits inserted in appropriate places.
The course has been prepared by me, Hans Aaen, an M.A. of Nordic Literature and Philology, and a member of the Danish Quaker YM. The translation has been done for this Website course. I am sole responsible for any errors.
So let us get started!
(2) KIERKEGAARD 'S PHILOSOPHIC SYSTEM
"Geniuses are like thunderstorms: they go against the wind, scare people, purify the air.
The Established has invented several thunder conductors. And they succeed. Yes, indeed it is a success; they succeed in making the next thunderstorm more serious still."
Søren Kierkegaard (SK) worked in the Danish tradition of practical philosophy, as opposed to the German speculative philosophers. But in his method he is influenced by German philosopher Hegel, in that SK adopted his dialectic way of thinking.
SK takes it that human beings must make their choice in life. Each person has many roles to act: person of social standing, married man, captain of the popinjay. But the only one you can choose to be is yourself. Without a choice, one is just a bourgeois philistine, living just so. But choices go to three stages of living,
Between three are two
confiniums, Irony, (A to B) and Humour (B to Religious) There is no
harmonious development leading from one stage to another, but a jump
or even despair. For each of his Stages SK invented pseudonyms,
fictive authors of his books, and for each he creates its own style
coherent with the chosen way of
The fictitious form was chosen "in order to betray People to Truth", leading them to their own stand without personal regards for or against the author, who is SK in hiding. A then is THE LIFE-AESTHETIC. He wishes to enjoy. So there can be no regularity, no obligations, no repetitions of an enjoyment, but instant joy and ecstasy, expressed in jubilant soliloquies or cunning splitup diaries, gnomic prose, but no system.
The ETHIC has system and cohesion, but no passion.
Fulfilment comes in the RELIGIOUS stage, discovered later than the other two after a personal deep crisis, where SK now unfolds his arsenal of style and invention.
A's Papers, in Either-Or (1843) deal with the Aesthetic. He can be pure ecstatic seduction, innocent in his demony, as Don Juan, who can really only be met in Mozart's music; he is pure musical lust. He can be demonic as the Modist, who loves to spy on the women customers in his shop, when they put on a new hat or shawl in front of his mirror, and he can mirror their ecstasy of themselves. K. says that he is demonic unto despair. Or he can be fresh in his feeling of life, as the Young Person.
Before we close for today, let us have a few of the Aesthetic's aphorisms, called Diapsalmata or Interludes. They belong to the times when he cannot have his life's fullness: to enjoy. Then he goes bitter.
"Let others complain that the time is evil; I complain that it is measly; for it is without passion. The thoughts of the people are thin and frail like lace; they themselves pitiable as the lace maker girls. The thoughts of their hearts are too measly to be sinful. For a worm it might be considered a sin to have such thoughts, not for a human who is made in the image of God. Their lusts are sedate and lazy, their passions sleepy; they do their duty, these mercenary souls, but allow themselves like the Jews to file off the coin just a little; they think that even if Our Lord keeps ever so orderly book,one may get away with cheating him a little. Pfui over them ! Therefore my soul always returns to the Old Testament and to Shakespare. There one feels that human beings are speaking; there they hate, there they love, murder the enemy, damn his offspring through all ages, there they sin"
This person obviously wishes Life to be an artistic experience. So he may be called the (Life)Aesthetic. But there is more:
"It happened in a theatre that the coulisses caught fire. The Clown was sent to inform the public. It took this as a joke and applauded; he repeated; they jubilated even more. Thus I think that the World will perish under general jubilation from witty heads believing that it is a witticism."
"I prefer speaking to children; for of them it can be hoped that they will grow into reasonable creatures; but those who have become so - Lord Jemini!"
We shall have some more of A's aphorisms later on.
(3) ENTER THE SEDUCER
The Aesthetic of course, in his relations to woman can only be the Seducer. Here Johannes the Seducer comes in with his Diary of the Seducer.
This easily read book is modelled on other Copenhagen novels at the time, ridiculing among other things the endlessly long engagements to be married. The main character and diary writer Johannes mirrors himself in the women, and has developed amusing and extremely cunning techniques. In one part of the Diary he uses social and personal influence to seduce a servant maid. In another part of the Diary he surprises a young bourgeoise girl in the country road, scheming at once against her, making her comfortable with him and at the same time somewhat uncertain, curious and restless. That is for a start, and as he says, he has his force in the opening manouvres.
Once the woman is conquered, having yielded everything to him, she loses his every interest. This man enters the life of young Cordelia, and we know how this will end., from her desperate parting letters set at the beginning. She is lured into his embrace along many twisted ways, but having given herself she loses any interest, but for the possible psychologic manouvering that could make her believe that she broke with him, uncertain of what really and fully happened.
Thus Johannes stands as the past master of women-hunt, but at the same time doomed to begin all over again with each new conquest. He never gets any further. And the Ethic (B's papers of course) reproaches him violently and connects him to the emperor Nero.
Here are two of the letters he writes to Cordelia.
In old tales we can read that a river fell in love with a girl. Thus is my soul like a river, which loves you. Sometimes it is tranquil and lets your image mirror itself deep and unmoved in it, sometimes it has the illusion of having caught your image, then its wave curls in order prevent you from escaping again; sometimes it softly curls its surface and plays with your image, sometimes it has lost it, then will its wave become black and despairing. So is my soul; like a river that has fallen in love with you.
Is an embrace a strife ?
Let us stop for today.
(4) "GUILTY?" - "NOT-GUILTY?"
The Diary of the Seducer has a religious counterpart, called "Guilty ?" - "Not-Guilty ?" where a man, called Quidam (Mr Somebody), who is (keep your ears stiff) an invention of another invented SK.pseudonym Frater Taciturnus (The Silent Monastery Brother) as a psychologic experiment of the Frater. This Frater lives in the confinium of humour, lacking the intense passion of the Religious stage. And he knows it.
But he invents Quidam, who has broken engagement (as SK.himself did) in order not to load his depressive mind on to a guiltless woman,thus ruining her life. But now Quidam has to relive, each midnight, in memory, what she said and did just one year ago. He never gets to know whether it was right or wrong of him to break, and not realize in practice the human common venture of marriage. So contrary to Johannes he is driven by a sense of guilt,more than Ethic, his despair drives him to the Religious stage.
Behind this of course are experiences of SK. himself.
But in between the midnight remembrances are set observations and memories of another mood. Here is one.
Quidam writes in his diary for June 7, at midnight:
"When I was a child, a small peat-pond was to me my All: the dark treeroots here and there that stuck out into the deep darkness, were vanished realms and countries, every discovery important to me as those before the Deluge to the naturist. Events were there enough, for if I threw out a stone, what immense movements did it not produce, one circle bigger than the other, until the water was again still; and if I threw the stone in another fashion, then was the movement different from the former, and in itself rich in new diversity. Then I lay at the edge and looked out over the surface, how the wind began, not until in the middle, to curl up the water, till the rifled billows vanished among the sedge on the opposite side; then did I mount the willow-tree bending over the pond, sat as far out as possible, loaded it down a little to stare into the dark, then came the ducks swimming to foreign countries, climbed on to the narrow strip of land which ran out and made a bay with the sedge, where my punting boat was at harbour. But should now a wild duck fly from the woods over the pond, then its cries awakened deep and dark memories in the heads of the slow ducks, they began to beat their wings, to fly wildly along the surface: then also a longing awakened in my breast, until again I stared myself content at my little peat-pond.
This is how it always goes, so merciful, so rich is existence: the less you have, the more you see. Take a book, the poorest one ever written, but read it with the passion that it is the only one you will read: you end up reading everything out of it, that is: as much as was in yourself, and more you would yet never read to you, even if you read the best books."
Next time we shall go with Quidam from book to woman.
(SK by Zeuthen 1843)
(5) QUIDAM ON ONE WOMAN ("Guilty?"-"Not Guilty?")
Today Quidam moves his text from Nature (the peat pond) via books (take a book, the poorest..) immediately to the human world, the girl to whom he was engaged, but broke. Not a very gifted girl, but even so the more lasting impression:
"Childhood times are now long since passed, so I may perhaps not have so much to give as regards imagination, thus am I changed. But the object of my observation has not grown much bigger in relation to what an elderly person has otherwise. There is one person, a single one, around which Everything turns. I stare and stare so long at this girl, until I produce that out of myself, which I might otherwise never have got to notice, even if I had seen ever so much; for from this did not follow that my inner life had been transparent to me. Had she been uncommonly gifted in spirit, then she would never have worked so on me.
She is enough to me even in the responsability, and the responsibility is again mine, and still she is the one, who in this responsibility brings me my inner life to consciousness. I was much too much, and much too definitely developed for her, relating, to influence me,and neither was she equipped to enrich me spiritually with new contents. But in order to, in the last instance, understand oneself, the thing is to place oneself in the right situation. In this she has, in the responsibility, been helpful to me. In this respect my suffering is an outright favour. The testing silence of responsability teaches one to have to help oneself by virtue of spirit; feats, action, activity, so often praised, and deserving that, could easily have an extra ingredient of distraction, so that one does not get to know, what one can do by the power of spirit, and what the manifold outward impulses help one to achieve; one is also free of many a terror, which does not get the time to reach one, but to get away from it is not to have overcome it nor to have understood oneself. In the responsibility she will in future help me, for I shall not have finished, where she."
The contrast to the Seducer will be apparent. To him, lasting things, repetition and responsibility, even guilt, will be a town in Outer Mongolia.
Tomorrow we shall go back to SK's early life with is father..
Kierkegaard said: I am not so difficult to read. Just remember to read me slowly.
(6) SK'S EARLY LIFE: THE FATHER.
Søren Kierkegaard's life is remarkably void of outer events: a university career, a philosophic doctorate, a broken engagement, journeys to Berlin, newspaper feuds. But inside it is boiling with passion for philosophy and wish to clear the way for that single person, whom he repeatedly calls "with gratitude - my reader." Which way ?
- that will come much later.
SKs life begins in a double sense with his father, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard. Michael was sent out as a little boy on the moors of Jutland to tend sheep. One day, cold, hungry and wet, the 8 year old got up on a hillock, stretched his blue fist to heaven and cursed the God who let a small boy suffer a life like that.
A few days later he was sent to København to a wealthy merchant relative to learn the trade of clothes, and he was very gifted and successful. But he never forgot the curse, and took it for granted that it would fall back on himself, like a doom, from God in Heaven.
Michael waited, it seems, for God to act. The year 1813 came, and as a consequence of the Napoleonic wars, Danmark went state bankrupt. It is possible that Michael then expected God to settle with him and strike him down into poverty. But no. He had placed all his fortune in state bonds, which was the only valuable excepted from writing down to zero, because of the trade with countries abroad. So Michael found himself stone rich, while compatriots were broke. He will have concluded, out of his almost pathologic melancholy, that God waited for a deeper strike, that as in the Old Testament a curse from God would mean that he was to be the last of his family, that their "name should be altogether erased from this earth."
Then, as Søren later wrote,"I was born in the year 1813, the year where so many a false money bill saw daylight."
There is a deep and sad secret behind his birth,but that came later to his knowledge. As a child, he lived with his father in a comfortable flat in Central København, and Søren often saw guests, even university people,.who came to discuss with the rich clothing merchant, as if to whet their wits on him. In "Johannes Climacus" he gives a description:
"When then on some occasion the father entered into dispute with someone, then was Johannes all ears, and the more so as everything passed with an almost festive order. The father always let the opponent speak to the point, asked him carefully if he had more to add, before he himself started his replique. Johannes had followed the counterpart's dis-course with tense attention, was in his way cointerested in the outcome. The pause came, the father's answer followed, and lo! in the turning of a hand everything was different. How that happened, was a riddle to Johannes, but his soul amused itself by this theatre. The counterpart again spoke, Johannes was even more attentive to really hold on to everything; the opponent ended, Johannes could almost hear his heart beating, so impatiently did he wait for what might well happen.
- It happened; in a moment all was turned upside down, the explicable made inexplicable, the certain dubious, the contrary evident. When a shark is about to seize its prey, it must throw itself on to its back, becasuse its mouth is on its belly; it is dark on the back, silvery white under the belly. It is said to be a wonderfuld sight, to see this change of colour; at times it is said to flash so strongly that it almost hurts the eye, and yet it is amusing to look at. A similar change did Johannes witness, when he heard the father in dispute. He again forgot the words said, both what the father and the counterpart had said, but this shivering of the soul he did not forget. Analogies to this, his schoollife did not let him miss; he saw how a word could alter a whole sentence, how a subjunctive in the middle of an indicative sentence could throw a change of light upon it all. The older he got, the more the father engaged himself in him, the more attentive did he grow to that incomprehensible thing, as if the father was in a secret understanding with what Johannes would say, and therefore by a single word could confuse everything. When then the father did not only take the opposition, but himself discoursed on something, then he saw, how he managed, how he successively arrived where he wanted. He had a hunch, that the reason why the father could with one word turn everything about, must lie therein, that he himself in the succession in which he had the thought, must have forgotten something."
The shark is not easily forgotten, I think. Here not only a philosopher is speaking, but an image artist. Tomorrow we shall see how father and son had their outings together.
(7) SØREN AND HIS FATHER. . THEIR OUTINGS TOGETHER
A lengthy, but famous, text from Johannes Climacus or De omnibus dubitandum est (Everything Is To Be Doubted). The text reflects Søren's boyhood experience of his outings with his father.
His home did not offer much diversion, and almost never going out, he was early wont to occupy himself with himself and his own thoughts. His Father was a very strict man, seemingly dry and prosaic, whereas under this rough coat he hid a glowing imagination, which not even his old age could dull. When Johannes sometimes asked for permission to go out, then he was often refused; whereas the Father in return sometimes proposed to him, by his hand to walk up and down the floor. This was at first glance a poor substitute, but nevertheless it went with that like the rough coat, it concealed something quite different inside. The suggestion was accepted, and it was left entirely tó Johannes to decide, where they were to go. They then went out of the door, to a nearby leisure castle, or to the beach, or around the streets, all as Johannes wished it; for the Father had the power to do anything. While they thus walked the floor, the Father told about everything they saw; they greeted the passers-by, the carts thundered by and deafened the Father's voice; the cake woman's fruits were more inviting than ever. He told everything so exactly, so live, so present unto the minutest detail, known to Johannes, so explicit and visual what was unknown to him, that he, after an hour's walk with his Father, was so overwhelmed and tired as if he had been out one whole day.
The conjuring of the Father, Johannes soon learned from him. What was before an epic event, now happened dramatically; they spoke together on the walk. Did they take well known roads, then they watched for each other, that nothing was overlooked; if the road was unbeknown to Johannes, then he combined, while the Father's almighty imagination was able to shape all, to use every childish wish as an ingredient in the drama that went on. To Johannes it was as if the world was created during the conversation, as if the Father was the Lord, and himself was his favourite, permitted to mix his foolish flash of ideas into it as merrily as he wished; for he was never refused, the Father never disturbed, everything was included and always to Johannes' full satisfaction.
Tomorrow we shall continue the tale of SK's father.
(8) MORE OF MICHAEL PEDERSEN KIERKEGAARD.
At the age of 40,
Michael did an unusual thing. He retired from business altogether,
and for the rest of his life he was occupied by reading and exploring
philosophical and religious issues. His wife had died childless in
1796 , and he married again with a girl from his home district, Ane,
who had been for some time a servant in his home. They married in
April 97, and their first child was born in September. In all they
had seven children, Søren being the youngest.Some of these
children died young, one became a bishop, one a famous philosopher,
one a merchant like his father.
It is important in order to understand the relations between Søren and his father, to know two things.
The first relates to childhood. Described in "Guilty?"-"Not-Guilty ?" Jan 5.
"Once there was a father and a son.A son is like a mirror, in which the father sees himself, and to the son the father again is a mirror, in which he sees himself in time to come. Still they seldom looked this way at each other, for an exalted lively merriment of conversation was their daily life together. Only it happened just few times, that the father stood before the son with his sad face, looked at him, saying, "Poor child. You go around in quiet despair." There was never further talk of, how this was to be understood, how true it yet was. And the father thought that he was to blame for the son's melancholy, and the son believed that he was the one who caused the father's sorrow - but never was a word exchanged about it."
Søren became a student, with brilliant results, and started an easy-going life,which the father did not like. They had a few serious confrontations. After 1822 the mother and 4 sisters and brothers died, one brother married, and Søren was left alone in the home with his father. He sensed that the father carried around on some deep sense of guilt, saying that he was no good, and that his only wish was to find a place in a mild institution. Søren now had to face life on his own. He wanted "to find the idea for which I shall live and die." He published some minor writings. And after traveling in North Sjælland, he returned one day and found the father near despair. Søren understood in his way, that Christianity was of no help in this dark abyss.
The second thing is that at a mature age Søren one night overheard his father praying aloud to God, once more confessing the sin of imposing himself on his servant girl. SK describes this shock in a sort of myth, Solomo's Dream.
Søren continued his life as a sort of little rowdy,got drunk several times, woke up regretfully, and sought the same bad company. One night it seems more than likely that they ended up in a brothel. Søren never knew what happened, but this event or non-event haunted him for many years later. One of the haunting thoughts was that through his sinful drunken behaviour he might have fathered a child, who would surely have a miserable life. In Stages there is a short story called A Possibility, where a bookkeeper (symbolic title) walks around daily in a certain district of København, looking intently into the face of every child he meets. The possibility of becoming a father in this crooked way is his life's occupation and terror.
But that is a later text.
Kierkegaard writes in his diary now:
"I have just come from a party, where I was the life and soul, jokes streamed out from my mouth, everybody laughed and admired me - but I went ---yes, that streak should be as long as the radii of the earth's course -----and wanted to shoot myself."
We shall have Solomo's Dream tomorrow
(9) SOLOMO'S DREAM
SK again. This almost eventless life, which could be told in ten minutes, must needs be set in several portions here. Each link has a bearing on his work, since like a spider he spins it out of himself, his experiences, his reactions to them, and his enormous reading.
Now for SOLOMOS DREAM.(Solomo was king of Israel after his father David, later than 1000 B.C.)
Stages on Life's Way 2.
”Solomo's dream is enough known, it has enabled to separate truth from deceit, and to make the judging person famous, as the wise prince, his dream is less well known.
Is there any torture in sympathy, then it is to have to be ashamed of one's father, of the one, whom you love most and to whom you owe most, to have to approach him with face turned away, not to see his shame. But what greater bliss of sympathy is there, than to dare love as the son wishes it, and when the happiness is added, to dare be proud of him, because he is the only chosen, the strength of a people, the pride of a country, the friend of God,the promise of future, praised in life, highly laudable by his memory! Happy Solomo, this was your lot!
Then the youth once visited his royal father. In the night he wakes up by hearing movement, where the father slept. Terror seizes him, he fears that an evildoer is about to murder David. He sneaks closer - he sees David in the contrition of his heart, he hears the scream of despair from the soul of the repentant. Deeply tired he seeks again his bed, he slumbers, but he has no rest, he dreams that David is an infidel, rejected by God, that the royal Majesty is a God's wrath over him, that he must wear the purple as a punishment, that he is doomed to rule, doomed to hear the people's blessing, while the justice of the Lord concealed and secretly holds judgment over the guilty one; and the dream intimates that God is not the God of the pious, but of the ungodly, and that one must be an ungodly to become God's chosen One, and the horror of the dream is this contradiction.
”And Solomo became wise, but no hero; he became a thinker, but not a praying; and he became a preacher, but he did not become a believer; and he could help many, but he could not help himself; and he became voluptuous, but not a repentant; and he was contrite, but not raised up again, for the strength of the will had outlifted itself on what was beyond the strength of the youth. And he tumbled through life, thrown in turmoil by life, strong, supernaturally strong, that is womanly weak in the daring enchantments of imagination and wonderful inventions, clever in the explanation of thought. But discord was set in his mind, and Solomo was as the weakened one who cannot carry his own body. In his harem he sat as a feeble old man, until lust awakened and he cried: Beat the tambourines, dance to me, ye Women. But when the Queen of the East came to visit him, lured by his wisdom, then was his soul rich, and the wise answers flowed from his lips like the costly myrrha, flowing down the trees in Arabia."
These two examples of the diversity of SK's mind, that from yesterday, and this one, are necessary to understand what followed in his life.
So tomorrow we continue his biography.
(10) SK in the 30es
Now we must bring SK up through the 1830s.
As may be easy to understand from the previous, Kierkegaard never makes reference to his mother. The matter may have been too painful, and the nice and plain woman can never have measured up to the gifted children .But she cared well for them, no doubt.
Søren now lead a life as a rich man's young son. He was seen in theatres, at concerts (there), in café life, and was in a somewhat dubious company at nights, as we know. His father warned him against this too leisurely life and cut down on his allowances. SK continued his studies, but in opposition to the father. No real literary production, just sketches and small newspaper articles.
Then came a mental breakthrough, during one of his beloved trips to North Sjælland, and later followed by a Christian revival. He reconciled himself with his father, who had gone back on his decision to set Søren on small fare. SK was allowed to move into a flat of his own, and the father gave him an annual allowance of 500 rigsdaler.
Then the debts were paid: 1262 daler in all. 381 for books. Tailor 280. Cafe 235. Tobacco 44.Some small debts from private sources.
May 19,1838 the religious breakthrough came, in an wave of deep joy as converts can feel them.
'And then in the night of August 8th, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard died. That was a thunderbolt. SK felt that his father had died for him, and that the prophecy of the father outliving all his children, several of whom were now dead, was broken. At least SK will have thought that he would live for 33 years, the generation time, that is until 1847. He began to work seriously..
His doctorate thesis was in Danish (not Latin! and that was a sensation) "On the Concept of Irony, with Continuous Reference to Socrates "
The Socratic irony consists in a method, which Socrates called his maieutike, midwife technique. Socrates' mother had been a midwife. In his famous dialogues, related by Plato and Xenofon., So. poses as the ignorant, but curious person, asking searching questions, which gradually lead the other person to bring truth out of his own mind. The contrast between So.s professed ignorance and his skilful questioning is called Socratic irony. Here of course is a forewarning of SK's manifold authorship,with fictive persons who are active authors, in order to keep SK's own person away from the message. Still, in his religious discourses, he used his own name all the time.
The disputation, which was hoped to bring him the professorate in Philosophy, did not do that. But of course he was observed in the right circles. And then - he had met Regine.
Let us not go romantic too early We have to back to catch up on Either-Or, tomorrow..
SK by N.C.Kierkegaard 1838
(11) A DEMONIC AUTHOR IS INTRODUCED !
Today we go back to Kierkegaard's Enten-Eller (Either-Or) and the Aesthetic. As may be remembered, in his relations to women he can only be the Seducer. He has something to say about music and seduction. But before that, Kierkegaard invents a person, Victor Eremita (He Who Wins in Loneliness) who one day in haste to find some money in his secretary (a sort of writing desk) opens a secret room, and there finds papers by unknown persons, one in loose order, some scraps of paper with short aphorisms on them: the Diapsalmata; others more coherent, and lastly Diary of the Seducer.
Victor ranges the papers so and so by degrees of coherence,and calls the author A. Then he finds another person's papers, much more orderly in his writing, a judge called Assessor Wilhelm, whom Victor calls B.
Victor reads these papers in loneliness, on the sly, and is fascinated by A. A. only calls himself the publisher of the Diary of the Seducer, not the author.
Here you will see how Kierkegaard uses chinese boxes, one inside the other, all the time picking at our curiosity.
Victor, in his readings at night, senses a sort of anguish in A's preface to them. This sentiment gets himself too.
"It is no wonder to me, that A has gone through this; for even I, who have nothing to do with this tale, yea, even is removed by two tiers from the original author, even I have sometimes become queer in my mind, when in the silence of the night I have handled these papers. It was to me, as if the Seducer, like a shadow, crossed my floor, as if he cast his eye into the papers, as if he was fixing his demonical gaze upon me, saying:"Well, you will publish my papers! That is, by the way, imprudent of you; you do chase an anguish into the dear girls. Still, quite understandably, in return you make me and such as me harmless. There you are wrong; for I just change my method, then are my conditions even more favourable. What influx of small girls, running directly into my arms,. when they hear the demonic name : a Seducer!
Give me half a year, and I will produce a story, more interesting than anything I have experienced until now. I imagine a young, forceful ingenious girl getting the idea of revenging her sex on me. She believes that she will be able to force me, to let me taste the pain of unfortunate love. See this is a girl for me. If she does not herself find out that idea deeply enough, then I shall be her helper.
I shall writhe like the eel of the Molboer ((stupid farmers, explanation below)). And having brought her to the point I want, then is she mine."
But I may already have misused my position as a publisher to burden the readers with my observations. The occasion may speak in my excuse; for it was because of the improper in my situation, caused by the fact that A only mentions himself as a publisher, not as author of this tale, that I let myself be carried away."
So far Victor.
(The Molboer are inhabitants of part of Jutland nearAarhus, who were at the time renowned for their supposed stupidity. It is told that one day they caught an eel in the moist grass, where eels will sometimes go to reach another watercourse, and they decided to drown it. They got a boat, and setting the eel down into the sea, which is its right element, they commented on its writhings:"Yes, Death is hard to go at". By this allusion A of course means that when the girl thinks she has him in pain, he is really in his element.)
(12) ENTER DON JUAN
Kierkegaard had a great love for music, and especially for Mozart's Don Juan. He would go to the Royal Theatre, sit there during the Ouverture, and then hasten home to write. Here he lets Victor Eremita find among A's papers, a dissertation on The Immediate Erotic Stages or The Musically Erotic.
A finds that the really sensually seductive force resides in music. And here he finds Mozart's Don Juan supreme.
"Now Don Juan not only has his luck with the girls, but he makes the girls happy and - unhappy, but queer enough, this is the way they want it to be, and she would be a miserable girl who did not want to be unhappy for once having been happy with Don Juan. So if I persist in calling Don Juan a seducer, then I do not think him to me as insidiously projecting his plans, cunningly calculating the effect of his intrigues; that by which he seduces is the genius of sensuousness, whose incarnation he seems to be. Wise consideration is not his; his life is foaming as the wine that fortifies him, his life is mobile as the tones that accompany his glad meal, always is he triumphant. He needs no preparation, no start, no time, for he is always at the ready, the strength being always in him and the desire, and only when he desires is he in his element. He sits at table, glad as a god he wields his beaker - he rises, napkin in hand, ready to attack. If Leporello were to wake him up in the middle of the night, he wakes up, always sure of his victory. But this strength, this power words cannot express, only music can make us imagine it; for it is unspeakable to the reflexion and the thought. An ethically determined seducer's cunning plan I can clearly put into words, and music would in vain dare to solve this problem. With Don Juan it is the reverse. What power is it ? - Nobody can tell, even if I asked Zerlina about it, before she goes to the ball: what is the power by which he captivates you ? - then would she answer: it is unknown; and I would say: well spoken, my child! You speak wiser than the sages of India, richtig, das weiss man nicht; and the misfortune is that I cannot tell you either."
Victor and his A and Don Juan will be coming back tomorrow. Kierkegaard is building up to something.
(13) DON JUAN IS STILL AROUND.
Kierkegaard now goes on. Or, shall we say, Victor does. When approaching the climax and finale of the exposition, he uses the exclusive method elsewhere employed by Kierkegaard: not this - not this either - but this. Toward the end of the text the accellerated rythm of the sentences seem to be inspired by the music.
"This vigour in Don Juan, this omnipotence, this life only music can express, and I do have no other expression for it, than life-abundant merriment. So when Kruse ((probably a libretto translator)) lets Don Juan say, entering the stage at Zerlina's wedding,"Merry, Children! Indeed you are all dressed up as for a wedding!" then he says something quite right and furthermore something more than he may have thought of. The merriment, he himself carries it with him, and as for the wedding, it is not without significance that they are all dressed as for a wedding; for Don Juan is not only man for Zerlina, but he celebrates with play and singing all the young girls' weddings in the whole parish . What wonder then that they flock around him, the glad girls. And they are not disappointed either, for he has enough for all of them. Flattery, sighs, daring glances, soft pressing of hands, secret whisper, the dangerous closeness, the tempting removal - and these are still only the minor mysteries, gifts before the wedding. It is a joy to Don Juan to look out over such a rich harvest, he takes on the whole parish, and yet it may not cost him so much time, as Leporello uses in his office. ((making the lists of DJs conquests)).
"By the matter here developed the thought is then again led on to what is the real object of the review, that Don Juan is absolutely music. He desires sensuously, he seduces by the demonic power of sensuality, he seduces everybody. The word, the line is not his due; then he will at once become a reflecting individual. So he has no real stability at all, but he hastens by in an eternal disappearing, even as the music, about which it is true that it is over as soon as it has ceased to sound, and is only recreated when it sounds again. If I would here, then, put the question, how does Don Juan look, is he beautiful, young or older, how old might he be, then this is only a concession on my part, and what can be said about this can only expect to find room here in the same meaning, as a tolerated sect finds in the State Church. Beautiful he is, not quite young; if I were to suggest an age, then I should suggest 33 years, being the generation age. The risky thing about letting oneself go into such an investigation lies therein, that one easily lets go of the totality, in dwelling upon the particular, as if it was by the beauty of that one thing , or whatever one might mention by the way, that Don Juan seduced; then one sees him, but hears him no longer, and therefore he is lost. So if I now would, as if possibly help the reader to an idea of Don Juan, say: see, there he stands, see how his eyes flame, his lip lifts in a smile,so sure he is of his victory,consider his royal look, demanding what is due to the emperor, see how light he treads into the dance, how proudly he stretches out his hand, where is the happy one to whom it is offered; - or I would say: see, there he is in the wood shadows, he leans upon a tree, he accompanies himself on a guitar, and see, there a young girl vanishes among the trees, anguished as a scared game animal, but he has no haste, he knows she is seeking him; - or I might say: there he rests at the banks of the lake in the clear night, so beautiful that the moon stops and relives the love life of its youth, so beautiful that the young girls of the village could give much to dare sneak up and use the moment's darkness, while the moon is rising again, to kiss him - if I did that, then the attentive reader would say, nay, there he has spoiled it all for himself, there he himself has forgotten that Don Juan shall not be seen, but heard. So I will not do it either, but I say: hear Don Juan, that is,if you cannot by hearing Don Juan form an idea of him, then you never will. Hear the beginning of his life; as the lightning unwields itself from the darkness of the thunder cloud, thus he breaks forth from the depths of seriousness, quicker than the pace of lightning, more unstable than this, and still as steady in rythm; hear how he plunges into the manifold life, see how he flungs himself against its firm dam, hear these light violin tones, hear the beckoning of joy, hear the jubilation of lust, hear the festive bliss of enjoyment, hear his wild flight, he bolts past himself, still faster, still more incessant, hear the unbridled demands of desire, hear the rush of love, hear the whisper of temptation, hear the whirl of seduction, hear the moment's quietness - hear, hear, hear Mozart's Don Juan."
(14) MOZART IN THE STREET
This morning also has Mozart according to Kierkegaard. We are still in A's papers in Either-Or part 1, these Diapsalmata that we started out with.The observation is A's, but may well reflect SK's personal observation in a København street. The ouverture mentioned is of Don Juan.
"These two well known violin strokes! These two well-known violin strokes at this very moment, in the middle of the street. Have I lost my mind, is it mine ear that out of love for Mozart's music has ceased to hear, is it a reward from the gods to give to me unhappy person, sitting as a beggar at the temple door, an ear, which itself performs, what it hears itself ? Only these two violin strokes; for now I hear nothing more. As in that immortal ouverture they break forth from the deep chorale tones, so they here disentangle from the roar and noise in the street, with the full surprise of a revelation. - Still, it must be here somewhere near; for now I hear the light tones of dancing. - So it is to you, unhappy artist couple, that I owe this joy. - One of them might be some seventeen years old, clad in a green coat with large bone buttons. The coat was much too large for him. He held the violin close to his chin; the cap was pressed down over his eyes; his hand hidden in a glove without fingers, the fingers red and blue with cold. The other one was older, wore a chenille. Both were blind. A little girl, probably their guide, stood in front, putting her hands under the scarf. We assembled by and by, some admirers of these tones, a postman with his bundle of letters, a small boy, a servant maiden, a pair of day workers. The aristocratic carriages rolled noisily past, the work wagons drowned these tones, which came out in glimpses. Unfortunate artist couple, do you know that these tones in them hold all the glories of this world. -
Was it not like a love rendezvous.-"
So far A. Or SK's observation during a street walk. His father's early training was not in vain, walking around the table and telling, describing.
(15) A RIDE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE WITH CONSTANTIN
Yes, Don Juan. But there are girls and girls.
Today's text is from The Repetition (Gjentagelsen,1843) An Attempt in Experimenting Psychology by Constantin Constantius.
Another of Kierkegaard's pseudonyms, or rather invented author persons. It is about a common encounter in the countryside, but which becomes unusual through the way in which the girl handles the situation. Today she would have had a ride in his Mercedes. One old Danish Miil is 7½ kilometers.
"He who has had some occasion to observe young girls, to sneak in upon their conversation, will often have heard these formulas: "N.N. is a good man but he is boring; but on the contrary F.F. he is so interesting and piquant." Every time I hear these words in the mouth of a little virgin I always think: "You should be ashamed; is it not sad that a young girl speaks like that." If a man had run wild in the interesting, who then should save him, but just a girl ? And does she not sin in that ? Either the person in question is unable to do that, and then it is indelicate to demand it; or he can, and then ..., for a young girl should even be so careful as never to coax forward the interesting; the girl who does that, she always loses, ideally seen; for the interesting never lets itself be repeated; she who does not, she always gets the victory.
Some 6 years ago I was traveling some 8 Miil in the countryside, and pulled up at an inn where I had dinner. I had eaten a pleasant and tasty dinner meal, was a little exalted, just then stood with a cup of coffee in my hand, huming the perfume of it, when at that moment a young beautiful girl, light and graceful, passes by the window, turns into the courtyard of the inn, from which I drew the conclusion that she would enter the garden.One is young - so, I swallowed my coffee, lit a cigar and was just about to follow fate's beckoning and the girl's traces, when there is a tap on my door, and in comes - the young girl. She curtsies in a friendly way to me, asks me if it could be my carriage standing in the courtyard, if I was going to København, whether I would allow her to come along. The modest and still genuinely feminine dignified way in which she did that, was enough at the same moment to let me lose the interesting and piquant out of sight. And still it is far more interesting to encounter a young girl in a garden, to drive 8 Miil with her alone in one's own carriage, with coachman and manservant, having her quite in one's power. Nevertheless it is my conviction, that even a person of lighter morals than I would not have felt tempted. The confidence with which she let herself into my power, is a better shield than all a girl's cleverness and cunning. We drove together. She could not have felt more secure, if she had driven with a brother or a father. I kept silent and retired, only when she seemed about to make a remark, then I was attentive. My coachman was ordered to make haste. We rested 5 minutes at every station. I got out, hat in hand I asked whether she commanded any refreshment, my man was behind, hat in hand. When we approached the capital I let the coachman drive along a sideway; I got out there, walked half a Miil to København, so that no encounter nor suchlike thing should disturb her. I have never enquired who she was, where she lived, what might occasion her sudden journey: but she has always to me been a pleasant memory, which I have not permitted myself to offend even by an innocent curiosity. - A girl who wills the interesting, she becomes the snare in which she herself is caught. A girl who does not want the interesting, she believes in Repetition. Honour to the one who was originally like that, honour to the one who became so through Time."