(16) STAGES ON LIFE'S WAY. THE EIGHT ROADS' NOOK
Now we are moving from Enten-Eller (Either-Or, 1843) with its two stages, the Aesthetic and the Ethic, to Stadier paa Livets Vej (Stages on the Life's Way,1845).
This book has three parts, because Kierkegaard has now got also to treat the third and last stage, the Religious. A personal development spurred on by several incidents in his life has taken place.
First part of Stadier is titled In Vino Veritas (Truth in Wine, borrowed from Platos Symposion). This is part of "Studier af Forskjellige (Studies by Divers) collected, brought to print and published by Hilarius Bookbinder". And now begins another of Kierkegaaards playing chinese boxes. Hilarius (The Merry Man) finds among manuscripts brought to him for binding, a lot of papers that prove to belong to a now deceased licentiat (a lower academic degree). Hilarius is advised to publish,and does so, without knowing the authors of the manuscripts.
So the first book, In Vino Veritas, is reputedly written by William Afham(Of Him, that is supposedly by Kierkegaard himself). So now we sit with two authors and a publisher put in between, and the whole thing is of course again SK,who expresses his intentions through his invented author figures. He does not share their views, but lays a distance through a pseudonymity and a certain irony. For instance, the symposion feast in In Vino Veritas is about woman, but she is seen negatively, by Aesthetics who cannot grasp her full humanity, but only enjoys and then discards, in different ways. Kierkegaard, of course, abhorred that kind of living.
But he used elements from his own experience. One of them is for today. SK loved to hire an open landau and drive out of København, past Hillerød, into the big Grib skov (forest), where he sought out a secluded spot called the Eight Ways' Nook. There he sat for a while musing and thinking, and then drove home again, to work, walk in his rooms, form sentences, write.
I have been past that spot on bicycle many times in the early morning No car is allowed into the forest there, so it is quiet and peaceful.A memorial stone for SK is there. It must be much the same forest as SK saw. High beeches, undergrowth, filtering the light. And the opening eight forest roads to every side.
Now William wants to make a contrast to the lively and illuminated, music filled room of the symposion, and recalls the spot in Grib Skov. It is a famous piece of prose in our literature.
"There is in Grib Skov a place called the Eight Roads' Nook; only he finds it who seeks it worthily, for no map gives it. The name itself also seems to hold a contradiction, for how can the collision of eight roads make a nook, how can the common and trafficked be reconciled with the out of the way and hidden ? And what the Lonely Person flees is just named after the meeting of 3 roads: triviality, how trivial must it be by a collision of eight roads ? And yet it is so: it has really eight roads, but is still very lonesome; off-place, hidden, secretly one is there quite near to a hedge called the Hedge of Disaster. The contradiction in the name then makes the place more lonely, as contradiction always makes lonely. The eight roads, the lively traffic is but a possibility, a possibility for he thought, for nobody travels on this road but a tiny insect, hasting across festina lente ((Hurry slowly)); no one uses it but that fugitive traveller, who incessantly looks around, not for someone, but to avoid everybody, that fugitive who even in his hiding does not sense the traveller's longing for a message from somebody, the fugitive, whom the deadly bullet catches up with, that well explains why the deer now became silent, but not why it was so restless; nobody travels this way but the wind, of which it is not known from where it comes and where it goes. Even he who let himself betray by the seductive beckoning, by which the seclusion in there forks after the wanderer, even he who followed the narrow footpath that tempts into the enclosure of the forest: even he is not there so lonely, as one is at the eight roads on which nobody travels. Eight roads and no traveller ! It is as if the world had died out and the surviving one brought into the dilemma that nobody would be there to bury him; or as if whole peoples had wandered out along the eight roads and forgotten you! - Is it true what the poet says: bene vixit qui bene latuit ((he lived well who hid well)), then have I lived well, for my nook was well chosen. True is also, that the world and everything found in it never looks better, than when seen from a nook, and when one must sneak to see; sure it is also that all that is heard in the world and must be heard, sounds most deliciously and most enchanting heard from a nook, where one must eavesdrop to listen. So then have I more often sought out my nook. I knew it before, long before, now have I learnt not to need the night to find silence, for here it is always quiet, always beautiful, but most beautiful it sems to me when the harvest sun has mid-evening pause, and the skies are going languishingly blue; when creation breathes after the heat, when the cool air is making itself free, and the leaves of the meadow tremble voluptuously while the forest is waving, when the sun thinks of the evening to cool itself in the sea, when the earth makes for rest and thinks of thanksgiving, when before the parting they understand each in that tender crowding that darkens the forest and makes the meadow greener."
And then William leaves the blessed solitude and goes on to memorize the feast of the symposion, In vino Veritas, some years ago.
(17) IN VINO VERITAS
Today is still In Vino Veritas. Constantin Constantius, the Aesthetic, has made a decision. He invites his friends impromptu to come to a house in Dyrehaven, the Deergarden, North of København, where a meal with light and music has been made ready, and they must come at once. No women about; they will spoil the seance.
No notice, for a pleasure that is forewarned has already lost in joy and so is not complete. His friends come: the Young Person; Victor Eremita; Johannes the Seducer; the Modiste; and two more whom William Afham has forgotten; and they are given the theme for the Symposion talks: Love, or Erotic Relations between Man and Woman. But no private stories! As I have told you, being Aesthetics, they can only see woman partly, not as a human entity.
Now there they stand, waiting for the doors to the banquet room to be opened, like children on Christmas eve.
"As long as you are a child, you have enough imagination to, even if for an hour in a dark room, to hold your soul on the point, on the tip of expectation; when you are older, imagination easily works on you to find the Christmas tree boring, before you get to see it. The wing doors were opened; the effect of the radiant illumination, the coolness that streamed towards them, the spicy enchantment of perfume, the tastefulness of the whole setting for a moment overwhelmed those entering, and when at the same time from the orchestra the tones from the ball in Don Juan sounded, the figures of the entering persons were transformed, and as if by reverence for an invisible spirit surrounding them, they stopped for a moment as he, whom admiration has awakened and who has risen to admiration."
When they have eaten, listened to music, and drunk, they speak. And when that at last is ended, Constantin throws his glass at a double door, the others do the same, the door is opened, and there stands a team of workmen ready to tear everything down. The symposion guests, elated by the destruction going on behind them, part at once in a carriage prepared by Constantin, and he informs them that one mile away there are five carriages waiting to serve each, taking him wherever he wishes. But while the horses are being hitched to before the common carriage, they walk for a while along the road in the dawn of the fresh July morning.
There something happens to one of them, the Young Person, which I shall relate at a later time.
Tomorrow the Modiste has the word. Some passages from his speech on women. When you have read them, if a woman, you may hesitate before entering a fashion shop ever again.
(18) THE MODISTE
Again to our Symposion, in IN VINO VERITAS. The Modiste has the word.
He keeps his boutique with a purpose; he sells his fine goods very cheap, to attract the female customers and observe them off guard, know them by their weakness, that is, he says, to really know them..
"I cheat nobody; the finest, the most costly I deliver, at the cheapest prices, yea, below the price I sell, thus I seek no gain, no, I lose big sums And still I will win, I will, I give my last groat every year to bribe, to buy the organs of the mode, that my game can be won. It is to me a voluptuousness without parallel to take out the costly fabrics, to cut into shape, to cut genuine Brussels lace,in order then to make a clown's dress, I have sales at the cheapest prices, genuine fabrics and modern. You may believe that only in some single moments does woman wish to be in the vogue. Far from that, she always will, and that is her only thought.
-- If it is true ? Well, try it. Let the lover, when he beloved one sinks in bliss to his breast,whispering incomprehensibly: Yours for ever, hiding her head at his bosom, let him say to her: Sweet Cathinka your hairdress is not at all in the vogue. Perhaps the men do not think of it, but the one who knows and enjoys reputation to know it, is the most dangerous man in the kingdom. What blissful hours the lover spends with his beloved before the wedding, I do not know, but the hours of felicity that she has in my shop, they pass his nose. Without my Royal Patent and my sanction a wedding is still either an invalid act or a most plebeiian enterprise. Let the moment already be there, when they are to meet before the altar, let her step forward with the best conscience of the world, that everything is bought from me and before me all has been tested, if I would rush up, saying: but God, my graciuos miss, that myrth wreath sits all wrong, - then the ceremony might be postponed. But all this the men know not of, one must be a modiste to know. It demands such immense reflexion to control a woman's reflexion, that only a man who dedicates himself to it, can do it, and master it if he is originally gifted. Happy therefore the man who does not engage himself to any woman, she still is not his, even though she may not belong with any other man, for she belongs to that phantom, made by the unnatural dealings of female reflexion with feminine reflexion: vogue. See therefore a woman should always pay oath by vogue, then her oath would have impact; for the mode is still the only thing she always thinks of, the only thing that she can think together with and into everything. From my shop to the distinguished world has the glad message gone out to all distinguished ladies, that mode dictates the use of a special kind of headgear when going to church, and that this headgear must again be somewhat different for high mass and for evensong.
Then when the bells ring, then her equipage pulls up before my door. Her Grace gets out (for this has also been proclaimed that no one can set that headgear right but me, the Modiste): I rush towards her with deep bows, lead her steps into my cabinet; while she weakly vegetates, I set everything in order. She is finished, she has mirrored herself; quick as a messager of the gods I hurry ahead, I have opened the cabinet door and bow, rush for the shop door, lay my arm on my breast as an oriental slave, but encouraged by a gracious small curtsy I even dare to throw at her an adoring and admiring handkiss - she sits in her carriage, look! she has forgotten the hymn book, I hurry out and hand it through the window at her, permit myself once more to remind her to hold the head a trifle to the right, and adjust it herself a little, if by descending she should upset the headgear a little. She drives along and is edified."
The Modiste says he is furious to achieve his ultimate goal: to make women walk around with a ring in the nose. Little could he know that both young women and men would come to that 150 years later. And in the navel, lip or wherever.
Kierkegaard says that the Modiste is demonic despair in passion.
(19) MORNING TEA WITH THE ASSESSOR
Now for the last time back to the Symposion, which has now ended. In the fresh morning air the group of table friends walk, while the horses are spanned in. There they come upon a couple in a garden, they approach, and look into a summer house - and into the next stage, the Ethic. This surprises them. For here, at the morning tea, sit Assessor ((Judge) ) Vilhelm and his young wife. Now comes a long stretch, where nothing seems to happen.
Let us not forget that this is an age of another tempo than ours; more leisurely, more time to reflect and find one's own thoughts. - Physically, the samovar was very popular here in the 19th century.
"They were surprised - not those two, whom the leaves concealed, those two happy ones, who were far too deep in domestic joy to be observant, too secure to think themselves object of anybody's attention, except for the morning sun that with pleasure glanced in at them, while a tender breeze wafted in the branches,and while the countryside calm as everything about them made peace around this little summer house. The happy couple were not surprised and observed nothing. That they were married, was clear enough, that was seen at once, alas! if one is in company with an observer. --- How long they had been married, was not to be defined precisely. The wife's small doings at the tea-table did indeed happen with sure practice,but still also with so much almost childish intensity in the work, as if she were a newly wed. - So our lovely housewife, then, was occupied; she poured boiling water into a pair of cups, probably to heat them right, she emptied it out, set the cup on a tray, poured the tea, served the accessories, now she had finished, was it then jest or earnest ? Even if someone is no friend of tea, he should have been in the Assessor's stead, to me this drink at the moment seemed the most inviting, and only the inviting air of the young wife seemed to me more inviting. It seemed that she had until now had no time to talk, now she broke silence, and handing the tea she said:"Now hurry, Dear, and drink, while the tea is warm, the morning air is still rather cool, and this is the least I can do for you, to be a little careful." " The least?"asked the Assessor laconically. "Yes, or the Most, or the only Thing." The Assessor looked at her as a question,and while he prepared the enjoyment for himself, she continued."You interrupted me yesterday, when I was to begin that, but I have repeatedly thought about it,many times, and now especially, you know well because of whom: it is sure and true, had you not married, you would have become something quite differently great in the world." While the cup was still on the tray, the Assessor sucked the first mouthful with obviuos pleasure, truly refreshed, or was it just joy at the Lovely one. I think so; but she seemed only to be happy that its taste pleased him. Now he set the cup on the table near him, took out a cigar and said: "May I light it at your heater light." "Willingly," she answered, took with a teaspoon a glow and brought it to him. He lit the cigar, put his arm around her waist, while she rested on his shoulder, he turned his head to the other side in order to blow the smoke, now his eye rested upon her with a devotion, which the eye can explain, still he smiled, but this smile of joy had a tinge of melancholy irony."
(The young wife now goes on to explain, while the Assessor hums a tune, to the words of The Man went into the forest, cut for himself of the white sticks.He dissolves the scene as in a joke, for the man in the song gets himself beaten.)
"You see, it is a jest, and from that there are so many ways out." He got up, put a kiss on her brow, laid her arm in his and disappeared in a leafy path leading from the summer house."
But Victor has disappeared from the company. He returns, having sneaked into the house itself through a French door, and there he has found a manuscript of Mr.Assessor, which he intends to publish. ."Have I published his other ones, then it is no more than my due, also to publish this one." But even as he was putting it into his pocket, I stole it secretly from him.--So now, when I publish the manuscript, I am again just nothing, for it is the Assessor's, and I as the publisher am only in my nothingness as a Nemesis over Victor, who probably thought to have the right to publish."
And all this to make way for the Ethic B's papers, which are often directed against the Aesthetic, A.
One of them is about Marriage,of course. KS has created this long scene to make a prelude to the manuscript, which we now have at fourth hand: his own anonymous, the Assessor, Victor, and the narrator. Now we know the background in which the Assessor happily lives,and out of which he writes.
(20) ASSESSOR V. ON CHOOSING
Now for Assessor Vilhelm. He is not so entertaining as the Aesthetic, but he has something important to tell, although Kierkegaard does not agree with him through and through. One of the things that are somewhat boring in the Assessor, is his lack of passion. Only when he writes to A the Aesthetic, can he get angry, and then he links him with Emperor Nero. But here he rolls out a thoughtcarpet in The Balance between the Aesthetic and the Ethic in Working out One's Personality.
And he says a thing which is central to Kierkegaard: choosing with the intensity of passion.
What I have so often told you, I say it once more, or rather I cry it to you: Either-Or! On me these words have always made a strong impression. - I think of an early youth,where, without really understanding what it is to choose in life, with childish confidence listened to the speech of my seniors, and the moment of choice became to me solemn and revered, even though in choosing I only followed somebody else's directions. I think of the moments in later life, where I was in the dividing path, where my soul was matured in the hour of decision. I think of the many, less important, but to me not uninteresting cases in life, where choosing was the issue; for even if there is only one context where this word has its absolute meaning, namely every time on one hand Truth, Justice and Holiness, on the other hand Lust and Inclinations, obscure Passions and Perdition,show up, then it is always important also in things, where it is in itself innocent, which one chooses, to choose right, to test oneself, so that one shall not painfully retreat to the point of departure, and thank God if one has not more to reproach oneself than having wasted one's time.
The choice itself is decisive for the contents of the personality. - If you imagine a helmsman of a ship at the moment when it has to cross over, then he may say, I can do either this or that; but if he is not a mediocre helmsman, then he will also be aware that, during all this, the ship is going at its usual speed , and that thus there is only a moment where it does not count whether he does this or that. So it is with Man, if he forgets to take this speed into account, then at last a moment comes, where there is no more talk of an Either-Or, not because he has chosen, but because he has left it out, which can also be expressed in this way, because others have chosen for him, because he has lost himself. Now if you will the understand me right, then I can willingly say that in choosing it is not so much the matter of choosing the right thing, as of the energy, the seriousness and the pathos, by which one chooses. In this the personality proclaims itself in its inner infinity, and thereby again the personality is consolidated. So even if a person chose the wrong thing, then he will still, even because of the energy by which he chose, find that he chose the wrong thing. Since indeed the choice is undertaken with the whole intensity of the personality, his being is purified, and he himself brought into an immediate relation to the eternal power that ever present pervades the whole existence. So for freedom I fight, for the future time, for Either-Or."
So far the Assessor..
(21) THE ENGAGEMENT
This is a story of tragic love with farreaching spiritual and literary consequences, insofar as its main male person necessarily set it into these categories and transformed it into creative work of genius. In this way it is not just a painful game between two persons, a personal tragedy for one of them, a town scandal, but an event in our culture.
SK had a married sister, whose family he visited sometimes, and one day there was a guest, Regine Olsen, 16 years old. SK found her lovely, and at once fell in love. 1839 , Feb.2nd, his diary has this:
"You are the ruler of my heart,"Regina"((Queen")), hidden in the deepest secrecy of my breast, there, where Heaven and Hell are at equal distances, - unknown divinity! In every girl's face I see features of your beauty, but I feel that I must have all the girls in order to, out of their beauty,as it were, to extract yours; and at the next moment you are so close to me, so present, so mightily filling out my spirit,that I am transfigured to myself and feel, that here it is good to be.You blind god of Love! You who see in secret, will you give me openness ? Shall I find what I seek, here in this world, shall I live to see the conclusion of all the eccentric determinators of my life, shall I hold you in my arms - or: DOES THE ORDER SOUND ONWARDS ? "
1849, July 3., he passed his theologic exams. A promise to his father was now fulfilled, SK was free. The father had left so much money to him and his still living brothers and sisters, that Søren could live off the capital and his royalties.
September 8. he met Regine outside her home, and she told him she was alone and asked him up.There, at the piano, he interrupted her play and proposed. She answered not one word. He then took leave of her and went to her father, who was sympathetic to SK and willing. Two days later Søren came by appointment to Regine, who said yes.
Then began the double joy and torment; he saw almost immediately that this was wrong of him. "Do it, and you will regret it. Don't do it, and you will regret it." But he felt the depths of his decision, and worse: he had lured someone else out there.
Meanwhile he played his part as a fiancé in one of the very long engagements then common in the København bourgeoisie. I have mentioned them earlier. Søren came on visits and charmed the family Olsen. They found him queer, but they were taken in by his merry behaviour. Why not marry her ? Three reasons stood before him: "The penitence in my life, my way of living until now, my depressive mind, that was enough." He felt that he would have to confess his previous sin to her, and moreover, he must tell her about his father. And without a vicar's job he could not support a family.
Meanwhile he lifted her as high as he could. He shared his interests, thoughts and books with her, sent letters and presents. She responded with all her warmth and encouragement.
"She was light as a bird, as daring as thought, I let her rise higher and higher, I held out my hand, and she stood on it and flapped her wings, and she cried down at me: here is glorious; she forgot, she did not know that it was I who made her light, I who gave her the daring of the thought, the faith in me that made her walk on the water, and I acclaimed her, and she accepted my acclamation."
But soon they both understood that this was a double, and therefore false, situation. Then began a play between them, she did hers, he his, as best they could, she to hold and to comfort, he to release her and get away, but to keep her his for eternity, since she could not be his in time.
(22) THE ENGAGEMENT. A LITTLE STORY.
Now we shall have an excerpt from "Guilty ?"- "Not-Guilty?" where SK uses observations and thoughts from his engagement and puts them in Quidam's pen, which is led by the hand of Frater Taciturnus, and published by Hilarius Bookbinder. Not more complicated than that, and now you know why SK went to such pains; but you have not heard all about his machinations.
Today a year ago.
-- I have felt within myself that there is an unrest in my whole being, that something terrible was fermenting, I have not slept all night, and now I see the process, alas! I see the process not in the matter, but toward destruction.She yields herself at a rate which sets my whole being in anguish, and still she is lovable to mine eyes, and moves me deeply, but this giving herself and my emotion torments me.Even if I were someone else than I am, I cannot understand this dedication, and I cannot thus give myself . And I who am a closed mind: she knows very little about me, what a misproportion! I shall have all power over her, she none at all over me.Is such a relation a marriage ? It is like a seduction story. Will I then seduce her ? Abominably. And is there no higher kind of seduction, worse than that of lust ? She says that she has never felt happier than now; she cares for nothing except her ecstasy. Is this love from my side, to see such a misproportion ? And I know myself, that I am a closed nature. Yes I have really been brought to see that my exercise may lead to being allowed to hide my enclosedness. But her devotion will be the demand that turns my being upside down. True enough, she really does not grasp this; but I know it, and what do I do ?
Today she asked me to sit on a chair. I did so, suspecting nothing.Then she went back a few steps, came near and threw herself on her knees. Indeed there was a little roguishness in it, but essentially there was melancholy, and then a bliss, yes I must call it, an insane bliss at having found a just expression at her passion. In the same second I seized her and stood her up. --- Have I demanded this ? Truly, she has never understood me. I myself have never bent my knees at any person, maybe I could do it to her, if the relation demanded so, but to her and my personalities it should never happen.
--- Indeed I know that a girl is different from a man, but still I never can forget this, it has brought a rage into my blood, a confusion in my brains, a fear in my seclusion, a despair in my decision, and above all a rushing to the suspecting ear, which to me is forerunner and speedy messenger about the extreme."
(23) ENGAGEMENT ENDED, AND NEVER ENDED
SK played his part. At an early occasion, where also some of his family were present at the Olsens, he shifted them from theme to theme, amusing and spellbinding them. Even 60 years later, Regine remembered that day. Not what was said, but the atmosphere this magician created with his words and gestures. But then Søren could go home and lie weeping in his bed at night. He knew this engagement was wrong.
Regine sensed it. Sometimes he would sit weeping at her side. Her father Terkel Olsen also had depressive periods, and Søren had told her some of the truth about his father. She made small tricks with him, such as being too good for him and wanting to break, at other times she humbled herself before him.
Now convention, and SKs nature, demanded that the girl should break the engagement and not sit there as someone discarded. She would not. "You will never be glad anyway", she said, "so what does it matter that I remain with you. Even if it could be in a small closet."
When you visit the City Museum in København, you will find the Søren Kierkegaard study, with writing desk, pictures, some personal belongings,and a little mahogany cabinet, 1.60 m. high, maybe less. This he had fashioned after her measures and words, and in it he stored her documents, letters.
At the desk he wrote her many letters and sometimes saw to it that his man delivered them just before he himself came up.
But on the day, when his disputation had been accepted by the University, he sent back her ring, with a note: "In order not to, more often, make a trial of what still must happen,that which, when it has happened, may give the strength as is needed, then let it now be happened. Above all, forget the one who writes this; forgive a man who, even if he did accomplish something, still did not accomplish to make a girl happy."
No, he was not let off that easily. She went to his lodgings, found him not at home, and wrote a small letter, passionate and desperate, conjuring him by God, for his eternal salvation, for every memory, for JESUS CHRIST AND SØREN'S FATHER.
That one went home. Two powers bound Søren, that of God, and that of his dead Father. He must get rid of her completely, and so he started his tragic comedy of errors and deceptions,.changing his mind and moods, to bring her at last to the state where she had enough and dismissed him.
Meanwhile her father had tried to speak to Søren, telling him that Regine did not sleep at night, and begging him to reverse his decision, destructive to her health. Søren did not bend, and the family was unhappy. A sister to Regine still said: I find that he is a good man, however queer.
And København buzzed with rumours. He experimented with her. He was extremely rude to the sorrow stricken family. "If you have more to say to me, I beg you to do so soon, for I am going to the theatre."
Lies and gossip are twin sisters.
But then Regine broke with him."Now you are free; come no more to me." A handshake, and the last kiss. Some good time later she married Fritz Schlegel, who had been her private tutor, and when he became governor of our West Indian islands, she followed him and became First Lady out there. When SK died and tried to leave her what he had, with the same rights as if she had been his wife, the Schlegels understandably enough declined the heritage.
Regine always later kept him in friendly memory. She lived until 1904, to the age of 82. At the news of his death she was painfully surprised, since she had always thought that they would have some kind of explanation to each other when they grew old. She wrote in a letter to his nephew Henrik Lund:
"So it came the more unexpectedly over me and filled me, not only with sorrow, but with consternation, as if even by this putting off I had done him some great wrong... But after his death it has appeared thus to me, as if it were a duty I had neglected out of cowardice, a duty not only to him, but to God, to whom he sacrificed me, be it now out of an inborn tendency to selftorment (a doubt which he shared), or, as I assume that time and the results of his work show, a higher calling from God."
To him she was and remained his before God and in eternity. His love for her never stopped, and it had great effects on his writings. There she is encased, as if in her little closet at the museum, but also as a neverending inspiration. "In History she will walk by my side."
Regine Olsen as painted by Emil Bærentzen 1840
(24) AFTER THE ENGAGEMENT. SK IN SOCIAL LIFE
The day before her departure for our West Indies, Regine arranged to meet Søren in the street. They greeted each other, but no word was said. They never met again.
DSK went to Berlin, his only journey abroad. Returned home, he began his production in earnest and in a few years wrote what amounts to 4000 printed pages plus an intense diary. What København saw was the little man walking in the streets, talking to everyone, peasants, saleswomen, university people - he knew everybody of substance in the city. And he had a special faculty for talking to people, and remembered them and what they had said to him last time. He made a point of greeting politely everyone whom he had ever contacted. SK loved mystification.He had secretaries to rewrite his manuscripts, so as to prevent printers from recognizing his very fine hand,which would have blown the pseudonyms. He was of course found out, but wrote confusing letters to the editor in Victor Eremita's name, and then in his own, denying everything. He made a point, even when he was busy reading the proofs of Enten-Eller, to go to the theatre, just for a few minutes, (guess what ouverture he loved to hear) to be seen there, and then whisk himself home to work.
Once he was walking along the now covered Ladegård rivulet, when he overheard some of the paupers, who were set to sweeping the streets, discussing in a pause what a miracle could be like. "Well," said one,"a miracle, that is if someone came and gave me a Blue Man" (a money bill). SK could not resist this, but stepped forward, took out his wallet, produced the bill - a fortune to the poor man - and doffed his top hat solemnly to the man. And left.
A son of the Reverend Spang at the Holy Ghost Church remembered SK from his childhood home:
"As a rule, he came at dusk to fetch my Father for a walk. We were most often at tea table, he sat among us, but would have nothing. But he always partook of the conversation with his quite weird, uncommon gift to speak with everybody of any age, any condition of life... If Father's old father was present, SK could address him in such a a straightforward and plain way that it was as if Grandfather spoke to one of his equals; and we children - he could joke and laugh so heartily with us and at us, cooked with my sister, tasted the children's food and was glad and merry, so that one should be tempted to think him a very happy man of a light and forward disposition; then his head would, under this glad, happy laughter, sink quite down between the shoulders, while he reclined on the chair and rubbed his hands. so that the diamond in his ring sparkled in emulation with the deep, soulful eyes, blue and mild. This ring was our joy, and when we improvised our little comedies on the puppet theatre, it must always be arranged so, that it could also have its part in the play.
We had in our house an original, a servant of the real københavner sort, a true type. SK,who loved speaking to all possible persons, had his continuous fun of talking to her and make her speak up; he often had a good talk with her in the courtyard, and that was repeated in the sitting-room to great amusement for us children. Especially he was so jubilant when once she had said, "Now look, Mr. Magister, every proper girl must have two lovers. The young joiners are the best in summer, but the young shoemakers give the best balls in winter."
(25) SUMMING UP UNTIL 1846
A little repetition. We go back to 1843, when Kierkegaard published his Either-Or (Enten-Eller).He treats two stages on Life's way, the Aesthetic and the Ethic. The publisher was given as Victor Eremita (The victorious Hermit). Behind him were anonymous authors called A and B.
SK himself was
hidden,but soon guessed at. The problem of the book is to choose, to
Tread into Existence.
We have already seen Diapsalmata, heard from the Symposion, and the Diary of the Seducer. The Diary was in the public mind, of course, seen as a key document to SK's own engagement story. København was a small town then.
Also we have met Assessor Vilhelm, the Ethic.He has the last words in the book, aimed at the Aesthetic A. This ending points forward in SK's orientation and production:"The edifying in the thought that towards God we are always in the wrong."
Very soon he entered the Religious stage in Stages on Life's Way, where we shall read in Fear and Trembling about Abraham. In Stages he also set the diary novel "Guilty?"-"Not-Guilty ?" which is the opposite of the Diary of the Seducer.This has also been quoted and explained.
In 1846 he disclosed himself as the author behind all the pseudonyms. Let us not forget that he believed he would live only until 1847. The Finishing Unscientific Postscript explains the stages. Stages on Life's Way had also appeared then, therefore he could explain all three stages.
So here he sums up:
"But back to the Stages (Stadierne). From Enten-Eller (Either-Or) it is distinctly different by a partition in three. There are three stages, an aesthetic, an ethic, a religious, still not abstract, but concrete in the Existence-Definition as enjoyment-perdition; action-victory; suffering. Still, despite this tripartition, the writing is justly an Either-Or. The aesthetic and the religious stage are namely in an essential relation to each other. The unacceptable of Either-Or was even, that the book ended in the Ethic. In the Stages this has been made clear, and the Religious maintains its place.
.. The tripartition has changed the position of Existence between the stages. In Either-Or the aesthetic standpoint is an existence-possibility and the ethic is existing. Now the Aesthetic is existing, the Ethic fighting against the Aesthetic, which he easíly overcomes again, not by the seductive gifts of spirit, but by ethic passion and pathos; and against the Religious. When the Ethic finishes, he does his utmost to defend himself against the decisive form of a higher standpoint. That he defends himself in this way, is quite in order, since he is not a standpoint, but an existing individual."
Let us stop here for today. Kierkegaard comes back terribly tomorrow.
(26) CONCLUDING UNSCIENTIFIC. POSTSCRIPT TO THE PHILOSOPHICAL FRAGMENTS
by Johannes Climacus, published by Søren Kierkegaard."
Here SK breaks his pseudonymic silence and speaks on his own authority. The year is 1846; he may think he will die in a year's time.
"The Aesthetic in Enten-Eller (Either-Or) was a possibility of existence; he was a young, richly gifted, partly hopeful young man, trying himself and life out.... The Assessor was, in comparison, jovial, ethically sure and essentially admonishing... In Stadier the Aesthetic treads more definitely into existence, and therefore it becomes, though latent in the very presentation, evident that the aesthetic existence, even where a milder light falls upon it, just as it is always mainly glamorous, is perdition; but this is not a strange standpoint, as that of the Assessor, who makes this clear as a warning to a young person, whose life is not yet in the deepest meaning decided. To admonish against a definite aesthetic existence is too late, to intend to admonish Victor Eremita, Constantin Constantius, the Modist or Johannes the Seducer is to make oneself ridiculous,and produce a comic effect...
The young person comes closest by being only a possibility, and therefore is still to be hoped for. He is essentially thought-melancholy. Constantin Constantius is intelligence-hardening. Victor Eremita is sympathetic irony. The Modist is demonical despair in passion. Johannes the Seducer is perdition in cold, a "branded" and extinct individuality. All of them are consequent unto despairing...
Johannes the Seducer concludes that the woman is only the moment... Where Johannes the Seducer ends, the Assessor begins: that Woman's beauty grows with the years. Here time is accentuated ethically...
The aesthetic stage is very briefly sketched... by pushing this back, the more to bring the ethical stage and especially the religious one to the fore. As for the contents of the writing as such, I shall not enter further. Its meaning, if it does have any, will be imbedded in the differently demonstrated existence-intensity of the divers stages, in passion, irony, pathos, humour, dialectic ((=philosophy)).
My thesis was, that Subjectivity, Intensity is the Truth. That was to me the decisive moment as to the problem of Christianity, and for that same reason I have thought fit to pursuit a certain striving in the pseudonymous writings, which has until the last one honestly refrained from lecturing, and to have to take the last one especially in consideration, because it was published after my Smuler ((Philosophiske Smuler(*), Philosophical Fragments)),and freely reproducing reminds of the earlier ones, and through humour as confinium defines the religous stage...
There are three spheres of existence: the aesthetic, the ethical, the religious. Corresponding to these are two confiniums: irony is the confine between the aesthetic and the ethical; humour is the confine between the etical and the religious.
Irony is the education of the spirit, and therefore follows closest upon immediacy - then comes the Ethic, then the Humorist, then the Religious."
So far, so good. Going back you will find these theses hinted at from the beginning, then exemplified in texts, and now in his own explanation.
( * Smuler can well mean crumbs.)
By immediacy SK means what you may find in a young child.
(27) KIERKEGAARD AND THE CORSAREN
Since mid-30es, SK had a religious conviction. While he issued his Enten-Eller anonymously and with much hullaballoo to disguise himself as the author, he gave out little sermons in his own name:Two Edifying Discourses, dedicated to the memory of his father. They are marked with pietistic intensity, demanding a personal faith and deep commitment to God. He continued sending out such minor books.
But by 1846, with Enten-Eller, he seems to have considered his literary work as complete. He probably hoped for a position as a country parson, now that he could not be a professor of philosophy, somewhere in the part of Danmark, from where his family came. To close the circle as it were.
But two men came across. One of them he never met, and the other he could run into daily in the streets; one was the parson Adler and the other an author, Meir Aron Goldschmidt.
Adler lived in Bornholm, on the outskirts of the realm, and published a book of sermons in which he maintained to have revelations from Jesus, who had dictated him some texts. SK was interested, but soon found out was Adler must be seen as a mental case. Still, it led SK to thinking of the relation between the general, the authorities, the establishment, and the individual. This he was to develop later in his formidable attacks on the Danish State Church.
But Goldschmidt. He edited and gave out the most funny and satirical paper ever produced in Danmark, the Corsaren. In an untiring battle with absolutist censorship, embodied in the unfortunate censor Reiersen. Goldschmidt had strawmen as responsible editors with the job of going to prison when that was decreed against the Corsaren. This led eventually to one of the most queer findings of our Supreme Court, who sentenced Goldschmidt as the PRESUMED editor of Corsaren to a solid fine and prison. Goldschmidt could laugh: he says he was in Norway and Sweden, and when he returned here, and the police wanted to arrest him, the Swedish skipper told them he was in Swedish territory and so intouchable.
Now what did Goldschmidt mean to the public and to Kierkegaard ?
He attacked with articles so witty that we have hardly seen the like of them: bad government, the King Chr.VIII who had developed from a liberal prince to a stiff conservative king who kept to Absolutism, while posing as a man of progress. And other notables felt the whip. SK one day found this too much and did two fatal things. First, he complimented G. on some of his writings and advised him to practise his hand in comic composition. Then he asked in the newspaper Fædrelandet (yes, it does mean Fatherland) to be smeared like some good people he had seen treated in Corsaren. G., who in his way admired SK, took up the challenge and gave him one satiric push after the other, while his caricaturist depicted SK as a little, puny, hunch-backed fellow with a big hat and trousers legs of uneven length.
SK took this very much to heart. In this little town as København was then, people pointed fingers at his trousers legs: "There goes Either-Or", and SK could study mankind in a new way. He found that going up to one of these men and asking for fire to his cigar, he was met with perplexed politeness.
But his tailor was on the point of stopping to work for him, because people were hesitant to order their clothes from the firm.
The Corsaren satire was not stopped by SK. He might have done it by simply asking Goldschmidt to stop; but true to his fashion he only gave indirect hints when they met in the street. SK always wanted people to draw their own conclusions and find their own truth. An awkward situation for both of the two men. It ended with Goldschmidt one day meeting SK in the street and getting a big and luminous glance from the very blue eyes. And Goldschmidt, as he expresses himself, resolved to "go abroad, get rid of wittiness and learn something."
What Goldschmidt learnt is not of consequemce to this story. But what Kierkegaard learnt is. He saw that being a Christian witness is not to be a respected citizen with a cosy life. No, to be persecuted and ridiculed, not least by the Multitude. Multitude, as he said, is Untruth. And these, in themselves small, events led SK into the third and last phase of his life work.
SK: portrait and caricature by Klæstrup
(28) THE RELIGIOUS STAGE (beginning)
SK came to this in the course of his life, which he could not direct, but where he must admit that "Life is understood backwards, but must be lived forwards."
Still, over the years he had a growing sense of being led by God,after a plan hidden to SK. The events of his life, as he interpreted them, now led him into THE RELIGIOUS STAGE.
This means a personal development, a literary creative period, and finally a public campaign against the established church. Personally, he was always under religious influence. First from his pietistic father,then by mid-1830es from a personal breakthrough, then by mid-1840es from the events triggered off from the Adler and the Corsaren affairs,and some personal spiritual experiences.
Adler, being a priest in the state church, maintained fundamental views in contrast to those of the church, and SK realized that, apart from Adler being a psychic case, one could not work inside the church and at the same time counterworking it. The extraordinary person must step out of the ordinary. This came to mean much to SK.
The Corsaren affair meant that SK withdrew more into himself; still maintaining his daily walks, observing people in the streets as a police detective and having conversations with them, so important to his mental work, but also that he had a new understanding of being a Christian. Not a Christian in the ordinary comfortable sense, where one does just as the other nice people, and as fashion and good taste dictates, that is being Christian in an aesthetic sense - but as the extraordinary one who takes his Christian faith seriously and will witness to it. Religiousness A is contrasted with the special Religiousness, practised by the Knight of Faith.
May I add for myself that Christianity is mission. Evangelion (Gospel) means good news, and news will out to others. The witness of this can be full of joy , but also very risky. A Witness is in Greek a martyr, and martyrdom can mean, as it might do to the early Christians, loss of job, fortune, family, and life. It still does today, in many places.
To SK the pain of Christian faith was double. First, there is the logic pain, a cross to the thought, that God chose to reveal Himself as a human, Jesus. The eternal broke into the temporary.This paradox cannot be understood; only grasped at in faith. But with the Corsaren feud came the second, and more painful, understanding, that being an extraordinary witness means to give up normal happy life. The individuals of the multitude dared not assault Jesus person to person, alone with him, but when they became multitude, they did their worst. Multitude is irresponsibility. So a Christian martyr must be ready to give up civil respect and be mocked at and degradingly treated.
This is the second pain of the faith.
Why pain ? Easily explained, maybe too easily. Any athlete knows that breaking a record means physical pain, when the body is strained to the utmost of its ability for a period which it cannot decide itself. This pain can be very intense. So also the the extraordinary person, the Knight of Faith, who has a similar experience. The logic paradox requires "jumping into the 10.000 fathoms of water."
But the martyrdom can mean losing anything until life itself. But to some people it is the only way. SK himself, who lived a good life with theatre, fine food, cigars and tours into the country, was aware that he was himself not the Knight of Faith. But he took up the challenge in his way, and we shall see where that led him, in the end.
At the same time, entering into the Religious Stage, SK develops his style to perfection. May I remind that each stage is given its own stylistic characteristics. The (Life) Aesthetic swings between ecstatic speeches when he is enjoying fully (and nothing else will do)and shorter, surly aphorisms (the Diapsalmata) when he is down. Nothing in the nature of systematic presentation of thoughts can be had from him.
But the Ethic is systematic. He has his logic at hand, but he is idyllic and prosaic, and has no real passion. The nearest he comes to that is when he addresses the Aesthetic (My Friend! I cry to you an Either-Or!"). Then he can get angry and links the Aesthetic to emperor Nero.
Then in the Religious Stage SK develops his full scale of forms and style. Apart from poetry, which he never wrote, being a master of prose, he now employs speeches, short-stories, philosophic dissertations, sermons. And stylistically he uses quiet intimacy, logic, anger, humor, irony sharpened into sarcasm, the whole range at his disposal. His language reaches heights not elsewhere known in Danish. Kierkegaard has come into his own.
Add to this that within each stage SK creates persons, who are authors with each his style.
(29) THE RELIGIOUS STAGE (continued)
We have approached it in many small ways, since SK himself did it almost so. But the transition from either the (Life)Aesthetic or the Ethic or one of the confines is a jump. On to the 70.000 fathoms water.
Already SK had mentioned under the Ethic that the Ethic's engagement in marriage, where he " makes the general condition become reality", is a venture, at least simply because it will last his life through, and commits him to Repetition (Gjentagelsen), from which the Aesthetic will stand back.
But being an Ethic is not enough, as we have seen under Humor. The Ethic lacks the religions passion, although he can think in religious terms, and can be in his way a pious and just man. So when and if he stretches himself upwards, he becomes aware of the misproportion to the Religious, and must resort to humor, going home again.
The Religious person does things that goes beyond the ethic stadium. Abraham, whom you shall meet, is confronted with God's demand for him to sacrifice his own son. Ethically he is committed to loyalty to Isaac, but seen in religious context God has an enormous claim on him. And he complies and makes really ready to act upon it. There God stops him. It was just a test, but one of life and death, therefore of faith.
The Ethic marries and is happy with marriage and his dutiful relations and his work. But this is not enough. There is responsibility and the ensuing guilt,as seen before. It is, says SK, an edifying thing that before God we are always at fault.This is part of the blessing. SK was never afraid of paradoxes. He knew that we must live them.
Let me stop this for today, but quote from the religious stage. It is a quote that you may love much, also for its musical language. SK begins by quoting Jesus, Matthew 11:28.
"THE INVITATION. Come here all you who work and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Then goes the invitation out along the common roads, and along the lonely ones, and along the loneliest, yea, where there is a road so lonely that only one, one solely, no one else knows it, so that there is only one track, that of the unhappy, who along this road fled with all his misery, otherwise no track, and no trace that along this road one can come back: there also the invitation presses on...Come here, come here all of you, and you, and you, and you too, you loneliest of all fugitives!"
(30) SK IS BACK, AND WITH MODERN COMPANY
Let me recapitulate, and bring in some new thoughts.
Now SK says that life is about choosing. You can choose nothing - which in itself of course is a negative choice - but then you are a spidsborger, that is a philistine, an individual without existence, just following the rest of the herd.
But if you choose, you will go into one of the Stadier. Either the (Life)Aesthetic, the Irony confine, the Ethic, the Humourous confine, or the Religious. There is no organic or harmonious transition between these. The Aesthetic may jump to the Religious. The driving force is despair.
Despair has its root in Anguish. This is not fear), which has an object.You fear something. But anguish is shapeless and can pop up at unforeseen times in life. It has no object, and so cannot be defined and fought. It is there, and acts before the emptiness..
An example: Stage fever or exams fever, which may be the same deep down, are caused by the ego trying to start forward; but there is nothing. The time is not there to act. But once the signal for the occasion is there, then the capable one takes heart, and acts.
Some people may have that as part of their fear of death,which they see as pure not-being.
The anguish concept has had deep influence on modern thinking and sometimes art. Modern people are maybe more subject to anguish, since the moral and religious norms are gone. And modern existentialists are occupied by the fact that sometimes things say us nay. Sartre calls it nausea.
Now SKsays that anguish is not a sign of sickness; on the contrary, because it leads us into despair, and despair will drive us to choose.
Let us not forget that SK said that the choice in itself is not the all-decisive thing. The important is the intensity with which we choose. Then we cannot go wrong.
But what to choose ? As also the modern existentialists after Søren are aware, we can, and do, have many roles to play in our lives.One can be State Counsellor, married husband, and King of a Bird Shooting Contest. But the only person we can really choose, is oneself. On the contrary, Multitude is irresponsability.
Now SK gets difficult. Because, as he says, choosing oneself is taking over reponsibility as if one could help being what one is. Your guilt is there. Sartre drives this even further when he says that you cannot blame e.g. your unhappy childhood for what you are and do. Sooner or later you have the choice,and you grow in the direction taken.
Back to SK.
This means that choice is intimately connected with guilt. And since SK is a religious philosopher, he says that before God we are all guilty, and, says he, that is the edifying thought, that before God we are always in the wrong.
Sartre and others are also occupied with responsability and guilt, but since to them "God is dead", guilt is different.
To them it is connected with freedom, which is a fearful thing. It means that all moral values, which have until now been assessed with God as the ultimate guarantee, must now be set by ourselves. We have to decide what is good and what is bad. So, says Sartre, it would be wonderful if God did exist.
Tomorrow we go back to SK in his own age.