D. Anthony Storm's Commentary on Kierkegaard

Other (Posthumous) Works

Journals And Papers

  • Journals and Papers
  • Journalerne og Papirer
  • 1833-1855, published posthumously
  • SKS17-27, Søren Kierkegaards Papirer


Throughout Kierkegaard's adult life he maintained a journal. This journal is more than a diary. It is a huge repository of his fertile thoughts, experiences, and literary projects—including several works left unpublished during his lifetime. In all, it amounts to well over 7000 pages, excluding numerous scraps. In them we see alternative drafts of published works, biographical events, musings, and outpourings.

The entire journal has been edited and published in Danish in thirteen volumes, which consist of twenty-five separate bindings, including indices. Currently there are no complete translations in English, though H. and E. Hong have published a six volume edition. (See the Bibliography for a list of the various editions.) These journals also include posthumous and uncompleted works. A definitive text is currently being worked on in Denmark by the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre at the University of Copenhagen.

Kierkegaard knew that these journals would not only be published, but would be closely examined so as to reconstruct certain biographical details of his life and thought. He took pains, however, to conceal many things. This is well illustrated by the quote at the top of this page. Notwithstanding this deliberate obfuscation, the journals are highly informative of the man, and bear witness to the fecundity of his imagination, the poetic quality of his prose, and the rare intellect which he possessed. It is clear from his writings and from these journals that he was brimming over with ideas which needed to be—to use his own word—expectorated. It is very likely that if it were not for his recourse to unceasing writing that his sometimes unstable personality would have degraded, for Kierkegaard's family was noted for emotional instability. Indeed, his brother became quite unstable in later years, as did some of Kierkegaard's nephews. It is a testimony to Kierkegaard's diligence, piety, and mental effort that he remained in control of his faculties. The journals were the result of his emotional and intellectual outpourings.

Kierkegaard began the journals in late 1833 when he was just twenty years of age. He continued them until his death. Even during the "silent" years of 1852-54, when he published nothing until his attack on the Lutheran Church in December of 1854, he added greatly to the journals. Though most of the entries are not dated precisely, they are frequent enough, and describe events clearly enough, that they can be somewhat accurately dated. What were at first isolated entries became, in Kierkegaard's estimation, a formal journal by 1842.

The Nature and Transmission of the Journals

The transmission of the journals is a bit problematic. Kierkegaard's brother-in-law, J. C. Lund, first took upon himself the task of collating the journals. Kierkegaard's brother Peter then possessed them, but did little to edit or publish them. In 1865 H. P. Barfod set out to complete the task of preparing the journals for publication. Unfortunately, after he copied much of the work, he threw away or lost the originals. This affects most of the entries up to 1846. Using his copies to establish the original is sometimes problematic, because certain spelling alterations were made. The journals themselves contain numerous changes and marginal notes. Kierkegaard anticipated these emendations, since he left wide margins when he began his musings. Even so, many of these entries are so fully formed that they are fit for publication as they stand.

Classification of the Entries

Here all quotes are numbered according to Lund's and Barfod's system. All translations are by A. Hannay, unless noted otherwise. Editorial omissions, whether by Hannay or by me, are indicated by [...] to distinguish them from Kierkegaard's own punctuation. Furthermore, all entries use a special system whereby they contain an A, B, or C. Hannay explains this convention. "...A-entries are journal entries proper, though not, or very seldom, in the sense of plain records of the day's events; there are indeed very few 'journal' entries in that sense, though recollections of past events do indeed occur.... B-entries are notes in connection with works to be published, or in some cases actual excerpts, included in Papirer and here because they have been underlined by Kierkegaard and occasionally commented upon. C-entries are of a more academic provenance, mainly notes or comments on theological, philosophical and literary topics." Exact dates are provided when they can be determined from the context or when explicitly stated. In later volumes there are extra volumes that are sections of a volume, e. g., VII 1 and VII 2. X 6 means that volume 10 has six sections, each section taking up a volume in its own right. Inside the volumes, an entry may have a subsection, e. g. VI B 40:3. The colon followed by the 3 indicates that we are looking at the third section of a B entry.

I have decided not to make too many comments, since the bulk of the entries are self-explanatory.


The actual first entry was on December 3, 1833. It was a translation into Latin of St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. However, it is the entry below which is listed first in the journal by convention.

You always need one more light positively to identify another. Imagine it quite dark and then one point of light appears; you would be quite unable to place it, since no spatial relation can be made out in the dark. Only when one more light appears can you fix the place of the first, in relation to it (April 15: I A 1).

It seems to me that Christian dogmatics must be an explication of Christ's activity, the more so since Christ established no teaching but was active, He didn't teach that there was a redemption for man, he redeemed men. A Muhammadan dogmatics (sit venia verbo [pardon the expression]) would be an explication of Muhammad's teaching, but a Christian dogmatics is an explication of Christ's activity. Christ's nature was imparted through that activity, Christ's relation to God, human nature, man's situation conditioned by Christ's activity (which was really the main thing). All the rest would then be regarded as mere introduction (November 5: I A 27).

Certainly faith must involve an expression of will, yet in a sense other than that in which, for instance, all acts of cognition must be said to involve an expression of will; for how else can I explain that the New Testament has it that he who does not have faith shall be punished? (November 25: I A 36).

Even as a young man Kierkegaard was already developing a concept of willed faith. He would later remark that objections to Christianity are not due to intellectual doubt, but rather to insubordination, an act of defiance centered in the will.

As a contribution to fixing the concept of faith, it may be remarked that we say of a sick person afraid of dying that he believed he was going to die, where the expression of will is precisely lacking; similarly somebody who is afraid of ghosts; that we can say on the other hand: I would like to believe but I cannot, since here the expression of will seems precisely to be present (December 31: I A 44).


Just as there are people who, like the French fashion boutiques, put on show everything they have, so there are people in whom one keeps on suspecting something deep but where it nevertheless all turns out to be just like a muddy pond or mirror—everything reveals itself there (April 3: I A 52).

Kierkegaard's emphasis on subjectivity also begins early in his intellectual life.

The subjectivity which I myself think must first be born with regard to the Church—in that every new norm one wants to impose on the Church faces the same objection rightly raised against the Bible—is already prototypically there in the most objective thing of all; the confession begins: I believe (I A 56).

The following is an excerpt from a well-known entry, when Kierkegaard was facing a crisis of decision. It is dated August 1, 1835, and was written when he was at Gilleleje, a coastal resort, where he had spent the summers of 1834 and 1835. One may wish to keep in mind the young Descartes' attempts at setting a new course toward objective truth, and compare the discovery of Kierkegaard's 'I' with Descartes' proof of his 'I'.

The way I have tried to show in the preceding pages is how these matters actually appeared to me. But when I try now to come to an understanding with myself about my life, things look different. Just as a child takes time to learn to distinguish itself from objects and for quite a while so little distinguishes itself from its surroundings that, keeping the stress on the passive side, it says things like 'me hit the horse', so too the same phenomenon repeats itself in a higher spiritual sphere. Therefore I thought I might gain more peace of mind by taking up a new line of study, directing my energies towards some other goal. I might have even managed for a while in that way to banish a certain restlessness, though no doubt, it would have returned with greater effect like a fever after the relief of a cool drink. What I really need is to be clear about what I am to do, not what I must know, except in the way knowledge must precede all action. It is a question of understanding my destiny, of seeing what the Deity really wants me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. And what use here would it be if I were to discover a so-called objective truth, or if I worked my way through the philosophers' systems and were able to call them all to account on request, point out inconsistencies in every single circle? And what use here would it be to be able to work out a theory of the state, and put all the pieces from so many places into one whole, construct a world which, again, I myself did not inhabit but merely held up for others to see? What use would it be to be able to propound the meaning of Christianity, to explain many separate facts, if it had no deeper meaning for myself and for my life? [...] What use would it be if the truth were to stand before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I acknowledge it or not, and inducing an anxious shudder rather than trusting devotion? Certainl y I won't deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge, and that one can also be influenced by it, but then it must be taken up alive in me, and this is what I now see as the main point. It is this my soul thirsts for as the African deserts thirst for water. This is what I lack, and this is why I am like a man who has collected furniture and rented rooms but still hasn't found the beloved with whom to share life's ups and downs. But to find that idea, or more properly to find myself, it is no use my plunging still further into the world. [...] Vainly I have sought an anchorage, not just in the depths of knowledge, but in the bottomless sea of pleasure. I have felt the well-nigh irresistible power with which one pleasure holds out its hand to another; I have felt that inauthentic kind of enthusiasm which it is capable of producing. I have also felt the tedium, the laceration, which ensues. I have tasted the fruits of the tree of knowledge and relished them time and again. But this joy was only in the moment of cognition and left no deeper mark upon me. It seems to me that I have not drunk from the cup of wisdom but have fallen into it. [...] My companions have with few exceptions exerted no marked influence upon me. [...] So I am standing once more at the point where I must begin in another way. I shall now try to look calmly at myself and begin to act inwardly; for only in this way will I be able, as the child in its first consciously undertaken act refers to itself as 'I', to call myself 'I' in a profounder sense. I will hurry along the path I have found and shout to everyone I meet not to look back as Lot's wife did but remember that it is uphill that we are struggling (I A 75).

Christianity or being a Christian is like every radical cure; one puts it off as long as possible (October 9: I A 89).


What is really important in speculative reasoning is the ability to see the particular within the whole. Just as most people never actually savour a tragedy—for them it falls apart into mere monologues, and an opera into arias, etc.—so also in the physical world; for example, if I walked down a road crossed by two other roads parallel to each other with some ground between them, most people would only see the road, the strip of ground, and then the road. They would be incapable of seeing the whole like a piece of cloth with various stripes on it (January 7: I A 111).

It has often struck me when reading a good poem or some other work of genius that it was a good thing after all that I myself was not its author, for then I would not be allowed to vent my joy without fear of being accused of vanity (January: I A 118).

People understand me so little that they fail even to understand my complaints that they do not understand me (February: I A 123).

These early entries not only show the young Kierkegaard as a thinker, esthete and spiritual man, but also as man given to moments of great pathos and depression, as the following quote demonstrates. The young Kierkegaard, though only a student himself, was a part of the Copenhagen intellectual and social circle, where he was viewed as a young man of superior wit, charm and originality.

I have just come back from a party where I was the life and soul. Witticisms flowed from my lips. Everyone laughed and admired me—but, I left, yes, that dash should be as long as the radii of the earth's orbit ——— and wanted to shoot myself (I A 161).

Damn and hell, I can abstract from everything but not from myself; I can't even forget myself when I sleep (I A 162).

Though Kierkegaard was always known as an individualist, he would always walk the streets and converse with whomever he met. This early entry shows that he realized the need not to remain isolated.

It is dangerous to cut oneself off too much, withdraw from the bonds of society (I A 177).

Kierkegaard was an anti-Hegelian even at this period. While working on his dissertation in 1841-42 he attended lectures by Schelling in Berlin, who sought to demolish Hegel's philosophy. Here the young Kierkegaard spoofs Hegel's triad consisting of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. He would later parody this in Prefaces.

The Hegelian cud-chewing process with three stomachs—first immediacy—then regurgitation—then down again. Maybe a succeeding master-mind could continue this with four stomachs, etc., down once more and up again. I don't know whether the master-mind grasps what I mean (August 25: I A 229).

In the end it's all a question of ear. The rules of grammar end with ear—the edicts of law end with ear—the figured bass ends with ear—the philosophical system ends with ear—which is why the next life is also represented as pure music, as a great harmony—if only my life's dissonance may soon be resolved into that (September: I A 235).


In Practice In Christianity, published in 1850, Kierkegaard addressed the essential offensive aspect of the centrality of Christ in belief. This entry would indicate that the concept of offense was on his mind years earlier. Note: this entry is out of sequence because some entries were found separately, on three fine, gilt-edged papers, and not among the other journal notes. The significance of these sheets can be seen when one reads of the "Great Earthquake" below.

When someone first begins to reflect on Christianity, before he enters into it, it is at first undoubtedly a cause of offense. Indeed, he may wish it had never come into the world, or at least that the question of it had never arisen in his consciousness. So it is nauseating to hear all this talk by interfering busybodies about Christ being the greatest of heroes. A humorous view is greatly to be preferred (II A 596).

On a visit to the Rørdams in Frederiksberg from May 8 to May 12 Kierkegaard met Regine Olsen for the first time. In an entry that also was found among the gilt-edged papers, he writes in brief.

I stand like a solitary spruce, egoistically unfettered and pointing upwards, throwing no shadow, and no stock-dove builds its nest in my branches (Sunday, July 9, 1837, in Frederiksberg Park after a visit to the Rørdams: II A 617).

The following fragment, also out of sequence, shows us a morose side of the younger Kierkegaard.

Everyone take his revenge on the world. My revenge consists in bearing my distress and anguish enclosed deeply within me while my laughter entertains everyone. If I see someone suffer I give him my sympathy, console him as best I can, and listen to him calmly when he assures me that I am fortunate. If only I can keep this up until the day I die I shall have had my revenge (II A 649).

Philosophy is life's dry nurse, it can look after us but not give suck (II A 59).

I too have combined the tragic with the comic: I make witticisms, people laugh—I cry (July 14: II A 132).

It is our age's tragedy that everyone speaks the truth—how much better it would have been to live in an age when everyone lied but the stones spoke the truth (October 10: II A 178).

All other religions are indirect speech; the founder steps aside and introduces another speaker, they themselves therefore belong to the religion—Christianity alone is direct speech (I am the truth) (October 29: II A 184).

The historical anticipation of, and likewise the corresponding position in purely human consciousness to, the Christian 'Credo ut intelligam' [I believe so that I may understand] is the ancient 'Nihil est in intellectu quod non antea fuerit in sensu' [There is nothing in the intellect that is not already manifest to the senses] (November 15: II A 194).

I think that if ever I become an earnest Christian my deepest shame will be that I did not become one before, that I had to try everything else first (December 8: II A 202).

I would like to write a short story in which the main character is a man who has acquired a pair of spectacles one lens of which reduces images as powerfully as an oxyhydrogen microscope and the other magnifies on the same scale, so that he apprehends everything very relatively (December 10: II A 203).


When his beloved teacher Poul Møller died on March 13, 1838, Kierkegaard made the following note. He was very fond of the man, as is evidenced by his dedication in The Concept of Anxiety.

Again such a long time has passed in which I have been unable to rally myself for the least thing—I must now make another little attempt at it. Poul Møller is dead (II A 209).

Just as Kierkegaard's journals are full of moments of despondency and emotional unrest, they are often redolent with joy. He felt impressed to note the date and time.

There is an indescribable joy that is kindled in us just as inexplicably as the apostle's unmotivated exclamation: 'Rejoice and again I say, Rejoice'. —Not a joy over this or that, but a full-bodied shout of the soul 'with tongue and mouth and from the bottom of the heart': 'I rejoice in my joy, of, with, at, for, through, and with my joy' —a heavenly refrain which suddenly interrupts our other songs, a joy which like a breath of air cools and refreshes, a puff from the trade winds which blows across the plains of Mamre to the eternal mansions (10:30AM, May 19: II A 228).

This next quote was found among the gilt-edged papers, and not in the journal proper, and is thus out of sequence in the journal catalogue system.

Paradox is the intellectual life's authentic pathos, and just as only great souls are prone to passions, so only great thinkers are prone to what I call paradoxes, which are nothing but grand thoughts still wanting completion (II A 755).

An important fragment that Kierkegaard wrote when he was twenty-five is on the so-called "Great Earthquake" when he came to an understanding about his father and the entire family. His father had cursed God due to his hardship and poverty as a shepherd child. Even though shortly later he was rescued from this life and became very prosperous, he felt that the blessings upon his family were God's ironic revenge. This despair was inherited by his children, five of whom died prematurely, including his wife. Significantly, this entry is preceded by a quote from King Lear, Act 5 Scene 3.

It was then the great earthquake occurred, the terrible upheaval which suddenly pressed on me a new infallible law for the interpretation of all phenomena. It was then I suspected my father's great age was not a divine blessing but rather a curse; that our family's excellent mental abilities existed only for tearing us apart from one another; I felt the stillness of death spreading over me when I saw in my father an unhappy person who would survive us all, a monumental cross on the grave of all his expectations. A guilt must way on the entire family, God's punishment must be upon it; it was meant to disappear, expunged by God's mighty hand, deleted like an unsuccessful attempt, and I only occasionally found some little solace in the thought that upon my father had fallen the heavy duty of reassuring us with the consolation of religion, administering the last sacrament, so that a better world might still stand open for us even if we lost everything in this one, even if that punishment the Jews always called down upon their foes were to fall on us; that all memory of us would be wiped out and no trace found (II A 805).

On this entry Kierkegaard makes a corresponding note.

Torn apart as I was, with no prospect of leading a life of earthly happiness ('that I might prosper and live long in the land'), with no hope of a happy and pleasant future—which is part and parcel of the historic continuity of the domestic life of the family—what wonder that, in despairing hopelessness, I seized upon the intellectual side of man alone, clung to that, so that the thought of my considerable talents was my only consolation, idea my only joy, people of no consequence for me (II A 806).

In considering the final sentence above, it should be recalled that Kierkegaard was a hidden man in his study and heart, but he was a most public man in that he would stroll the streets engaging in conversation with people from all classes.

Fixed ideas are like cramp, for instance in the foot—yet the best remedy is to step on them (July 6: II A 230).

Kierkegaard's father died on August 9, 1838. For some time they had been distant from each other, but were reconciled near the end. This entry is dated July 9. This reconciliation stimulated his spiritual side, as can be seen from the entry immediately following, made on the same day. The entry following that is dated to August 11.

How I thank you, Father in heaven, for having kept for a time, present here on earth where my need for this can be so great, an earthly father who, as I so very much hope, will with your help have greater joy in being my father the second time than he had the first (II A 231).

I shall work on coming into a far more intimate relation with Christianity; up to now I have in a way been standing altogether outside it, fighting for its truth. I have borne the cross of Christ in a quite external way, like Simon of Cyrene (Luke 23.36) (II A 232).

My father died on Wednesday (the 8th) at 2:00 a.m. I did so earnestly desire that he should live a few years more, and I regard his death as the last sacrifice his love made for me, because he has not died from me but died for me, so that something might still come of me. Most precious of all that I have inherited from him is his memory, his transfigured image, transfigured not by my poetic imagination (it has no need of that), but many little single traits I am now learning about, and this I will try to keep most secret from the world. For at this moment I feel there is only one person (E. Boesen [his best friend]) with whom I can really talk about him. He was a 'faithful friend' (II A 243).

It's a strange contrast: paganism prized the bachelor state, Christianity recommends celibacy (August 11: II A 244).


Longing is the umbilical cord of the higher life (II A 343).

The young Kierkegaard first met Regine Olsen in 1837, whom he called Regina, when she was 14. He was smitten by her, but did not pursue her due to her age. He developed a relationship with her in 1839, and later became engaged to her in 1840. The engagement ended the following year, but Regine would have a most profound effect on his life and writings.

You, my heart's sovereign mistress ('Regina'), stored in the deepest recesses of my heart, in my most brimmingly vital thoughts, there where it is equally far to heaven as to hell—unknown divinity! Oh, can I really believe what the poets say: that when a man sees the beloved object for the first time he believes he has seen her long before, that all love, as all knowledge, is recollection, that love in the single individual also has its prophecies, its types, its myths, its Old Testament? Everywhere, in every girl's face, I see features of your beauty, yet I think I'd need all the girls in the world to extract, as it were, your beauty from theirs, that I'd have to criss-cross the whole world to find the continent I lack yet that which the deepest secret of my 'I' magnetically points to—and the next moment you are so near me. so present, so richly supplementing my spirit that I am transfigured and feel how good it is to be here.

You blind god of love! You who see in secret, will you make it known to me? Am I to find here in this world what I seek, am I to experience the conclusion of all my life's eccentric premises, am I to conclude you in my embrace—or:

Do the orders say: march on? Have you gone on before me, you, my yearning; are you beckoning to me, transfigured, from another world? Oh, I will throw everything overboard to become light enough to follow you (February 2: II A 347).

In this next entry Kierkegaard addresses a young man, like the older author of the Book of Proverbs. But he himself is only twenty-six at this time. Kierkegaard's poor health and periods of melancholia made him feel old before his time.

The whole of existence makes me anxious, from the smallest fly to the mysteries of the Incarnation. It's all inexplicable, myself most of all. For me all existence is contaminated, myself most of all. Great is my distress, unlimited. No one knows it but God in heaven and he will not comfort me. No one but God in heaven can console me and he will not take pity on me—Young man, you who are still at the beginning of your endeavor, if you have lost your way, turn back! Turn to God and under his tutelage you will take with you a youthfulness fortified for adult deeds. You will never know the suffering of one who, having wasted the strength and courage of youth in rebellion against him, must now, exhausted and faint, begin a retreat through ruined lands and ravaged regions, surrounded on all sides by the abomination of destruction, by gutted cities and the smoking ruins of disappointed hopes, by prosperity trampled down and strength brought low—a retreat as slow as a bad year, long as eternity, interrupted monotonously by the constantly repeated plaint: 'These days give me no pleasure' (May 12: II A 420).

Philosophy in relation to Christianity is like someone accused before the Inquisition and who makes up a story which coincides in all essentials yet is altogether different (II A 493).

The reason why my progress through life is so uncertain is that my forelegs (expectation, etc.) have been weakened in early youth through over-exertion (July 22: II A 510).

Most people think, speak, and write in the way they sleep, eat, and drink—with no question ever arising of their relation to the idea. It happens with very few, and then this decisive moment has either an extraordinary propulsive power (the genius) or through anxiety it paralyses the individual (irony) (September 6: II A 556).


There are few entries from the end of 1839 and the beginning of 1840 since Kierkegaard was working on his examinations. This first entry asserts the limitations of a comprehensive system of philosophy, epitomized by Hegel.

All in all, one must say that modern philosophy, even in it's most grandiose form, is still really just an introduction to making philosophizing possible. Certainly, Hegel is a conclusion, but only of the development that began with Kant, and was directed at cognition. We have arrived through Hegel, in a deeper form, at the result which previous philosophers took as their immediate point of departure (or, as now, happy in that result) enters into a properly anthropological contemplation, that is something that has not been begun (July 5: III A 3).

Kierkegaard was influenced by Plato's theory of recollection, whereby all knowledge is a remembrance of things from former incarnations. Kierkegaard was concerned with how we know, and what constitutes objective certainty. Ultimately he proffered subjective knowledge since man, he asserted, cannot know things objectively (absolutely) since, as he says in Johannes Climacus, thinking and being are not one.

It's a thought as beautiful as it is profound and valid which Plato utters when he says that all knowledge is recollection, for how sad if what should reassure a human, that in which he could really find rest, lay outside him and indeed, as far as that goes, were always outside, and if the only means of consolation were to drown out that internal need, so that it would never be satisfied, with the busy, noisy world of that external scienticity (sit venia verbo [pardon the expression]). This reminds one of the view expressed in modern philosophy in the observation that all philosophizing is a calling to mind of what is already given in consciousness, except that this one is more speculative and that more pious, and therefore even a little mystical, inasmuch as it gives rise to a polemic against the world aimed at subjugating knowledge of the external world in order to bring about the stillness in which these recollections become audible [...] (July 10: III A 5).

Throughout Kierkegaard's pseudonymous philosophical writings that would begin in 1843 he published edifying (literally upbuilding) works under his own name. His inclinations toward edification preceded those writings.

It is strange how Hegel, as is everywhere apparent, hates the edifying; but edification is not an opiate that lulls people to sleep, it is the finite spirit's Amen, and a side of cognition that shouldn't be ignored (July 10: III A 6).

In his unfinished and posthumous Johannes Climacus Kierkegaard would address Cartesian doubt and presupposition. Descartes attempted in his meditations to remove all presuppositions from his mind in an attempt to seize that which is critically unassailable, to then use those presuppositions as a base for inquiry. Kierkegaard criticized the pretense of a presuppositionless position in philosophy. All philosophical statements come out of some context.

If it were true that philosophers are without presuppositions, an account would still be due of language and its whole importance for speculation. For here speculation has indeed a medium which it has not provided for itself and as the eternal secret of consciousness for speculation is its being the unity of specifications of nature and of freedom, so also language is partly an original given and partly something that freely develops. And just as little as the individual, no matter how freely he develops, can never reach the point of absolute independence, since true freedom consists on the contrary in appropriating the given, and consequently in becoming absolutely dependent through freedom, so too with language; though we do at times find the ill-conceived tendency not to want to accept language as a freely appropriated given but rather to give it to oneself, whether that manifests itself in the highest regions where it usually ends in silence [In the margin: the negation of language] or in the personal isolation of a jabbering argot. Perhaps the story of the Babylonian confusion of tongues may be explained as an attempt to construct an arbitrarily formed common language, which attempt, just because it lacked fully integrative commonality, had to break up into the most scattered differences, for here it's a question of totum est parte sua prius [the whole is before its own parts], which was not understood (July 18: III A 11).

Greetings to you, village beauty, young girl who pokes her head inquisitively out of the window; fear not, I shall not disturb your peace; oh, just look straight at me, so that I do not quite forget you ( July: II A 17).

I am always accused of using long parenthetical clauses. Reading for my exam is the longest parenthesis I have experienced (July: III A 35).

Again, the ups and downs of Kierkegaard's moods are noteworthy. Some indeed have thought him to be manic-depressive. His bouts of depression can be seen in the following. At this time he is still engaged to Regine Olsen. It is no wonder that he would later claim to be unsuitable for her. A cross is drawn above the passage.

I am so fed up and joyless that not only have I nothing to fill my soul, I cannot even conceive of anything that could possibly satisfy it—alas, not even the bliss of heaven (July: III A 54).

To you, O God, we turn for peace...but give us also the blessed assurance that nothing can take this peace from us, not we ourselves, not our bad, earthly wishes, my wild desires, not the craving of my restless heart! (July: III A 55)

It is dreadful, the total spiritual impotence I suffer at this time, just because it is combined with a consuming longing, with a spiritual ardour—and so without form that I don't even know what it is I am missing (July: III A 56).

It isn't want that arouses the true ideal longings in man, but abundance; for the want still contains an earthly skepticism (July: III A 63).

From July 19 to August 6, 1840 Kierkegaard made a pilgrimage to his father's birthplace, Sæding, where he was to preach in the little church. He experienced much trepidation at the thought. Sæding, in Kierkegaard's words, was "the poorest parish in the Jutland heath area".

I sit here quite alone (many times I've been just as alone but never so aware of it) and count the hours until I see Sæding. I can never recall any change in my father, and now I am about to see the places where as a poor boy he tended sheep, the places for which his descriptions have made me homesick. What if I were to become ill and be buried in the Sæding churchyard! Strange thought! His last wish to me fulfilled—is that really to be my earthly life's destiny? In God's name! Yet compared with what I owed him the task wouldn't be so inconsiderable. I learned from him what fatherly love is and through this gained a conception of divine fatherly love, the one unshakeable thing in life, the true Archimedean point (July: III A 73).

The following entry indicates that Kierkegaard came to terms with his mood swings, and believed strongly in the necessity and benefit of sorrow.

There is after all an equilibrium in the world. To one God gave the joys, to the other the tears and permission every once in a while to rest in his embrace; and yet the divine reflects itself far more beautifully in the tear-dimmed eye, just as the rainbow is more beautiful than the clear blue sky (III A 83).

There's a difference as big as that between heaven and hell between the proud courage that dares to fear all and the humble courage that dares to hope for all (November 15: III A 217).


Kierkegaard continually dealt with the motif of hiddenness and revelation, or indirect versus direct communication. Even in his journals, which he knew would be published and scrutinized, he could not fully "expectorate".

The only thing that consoles me is that I could lay myself down to die and then, in my last hour, dare to confess what I cannot so long as I live, the love that makes me as unhappy as it makes me happy (III A 90).

As everyone knows, there are insects which die in the moment of fertilization. Thus it is with all joy: life's supreme and most voluptuous moment of pleasure is attended by death (III A 96).

Kierkegaard is noted for his frequent ironic and hyberbolic utterances, as in the following.

Next to taking off all my clothes, owning nothing in the world, not the least thing, and then throwing myself in the water, I find most pleasure in speaking a foreign language, preferably a living one, in order to become estranged from myself (III A 97).

Kierkegaard always struggled with doubt, but knew full well that the fault of modern philosophy was that it was founded upon skepticism.

My doubt is terrible.—Nothing can stop me—it is a hunger of damnation—I can devour every argument, every consolation, and reassurance—I rush past every obstacle at a speed of 50,000 miles a second (III A 103).

Aristotle's view that philosophy begins with wonder, not as in our time with doubt, is a positive point of departure, for philosophy. The world is surely going to learn that it is altogether impossible to begin with the negative, and the reason it has succeeded so far is that the philosophers have never abandoned themselves completely to the negative, and thus have never seriously practiced what they have preached. They merely flirted with doubt [...] (III A 107).

Against the prevailing method of Hegelianism, which continually resolves opposites into unities in a never ending evolutionary process, Kierkegaard posited the idea of the paradox, which he would later proffer in Works of Love and Practice in Christianity. The paradoxical, according to Kierkegaard, is a tension between apparent (or real) opposites that cannot be resolved without the negation of both extremes. The paradox creates offense, which forms the crux of our faith-decision, turning away skepticism or attracting through faith.

Philosophy's concept is mediation—Christianity's the paradox (III A 108).

As we have said elsewhere, Kierkegaard broke off his engagement in 1841, considering himself to be unsuitable for marriage. Kierkegaard would later use the motto "Better well hanged than ill wed" for his Philosophical Fragments. It is a translation from a German edition of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, I, 5.

The universalization of the particular proposition 'Marry or don't marry, you'll regret it either way' is a sort of résumé of all life's wisdom, and the personal relationship in which a teacher should always stand to his disciple is best rendered by 'You're very welcome'. But you cannot say to someone what you nevertheless normally consider the best of all: 'It's best that you go away and hang yourself', for then you would have to say: 'Hang yourself or don't hang yourself, you'll regret it either way' (III A 117).

The following entry has the letter 'R' above it for Regine.

...and I loved her much, she was light as a bird, bold as an idea; I let her climb higher and higher. I reached out my hand and she stood upon it and fluttered her wings, and she called down to me. It's wonderful up here. She forgot, she did not know, that it was I who made her light. I who gave her boldness of thought, that it was faith in me that made her walk upon the water, and I paid homage to her and she accepted my homage. At other times she fell to her knees before me and wanted only to gaze up at me, wanted to forget everything (III A 153).

She did not love my shapely nose, nor my fine eyes, nor my small feet, nor my good mind—she loved only me, and yet she didn't understand me (III A 151).

When it was clear to him that he was unsuitable for marriage, Kierkegaard decided to convince Regine Olsen that he was a scoundrel, and thus make it easier for her to part from him. She did not take the bait, but on the contrary saw through his guise. Her father as well tried many times in vain to dissuade Kierkegaard from this activity.

So you think I long to give her this proof of my love, this redress for all the humiliation she must have suffered from commiserating relatives and friends (God knows that it was not my fault that it happened this way), by taking the plunge once again, by showing them it wasn't from duty, or fear of people's judgment, that I remained with her—but that I, the most unstable of all people, should now come back to her. [...] And now here I am, hated by everyone for my faithlessness, the apparent cause of her unhappiness, and yet I am as faithful as ever. And even if I could only see her happy with another, however painful that might be to my human pride, I would be happy. But at present she is consumed with grief because I, who could make her happy, would not. And truly I could have made her happy, were it not, etc.

And though it is unwise for my peace of mind, I still can't help thinking of the indescribable moment when I should go back to her. And though I generally consider myself able to suffer what I regard as God's punishment, this sometimes becomes too much for me. I also believe that I have done her wrong in not letting her know how much I am suffering. [...] and I am convinced that she is not suffering as much as I am. God grant that some good may still come to her from my suffering (III A 159).

You must know that you consider it your good fortune never to have loved anyone else but her, that you will stake your honour on never loving another (III A 160).

[...] I believe my relation to her can truly be called unhappy love—I love her—she is mine—her only wish is that I remain with her—the family implores me—it is my greatest wish—I must say no. To make it easier for her I'll do what I can to make her believe I was a plain deceiver, a frivolous person, if possible to get her to hate me; for I believe it will always be even harder for her if she suspected it was melancholy—but how much melancholy and frivolity resemble each other ! (III A 161).

I can't become quit of this relationship for I cannot poetize it, the moment I want to put words to it I'm possessed by an anxiety, an impatience, which wants to resort to action (III A 164).

...and this terrible unrest—as if wanting to convince myself every moment that it was still possible to go back to her. O God, if only I dared. It's so hard; I had placed in her my last hope in life, and I must deprive myself of it... How strange, I've never really thought of being married, but I never thought it would turn out like this and leave so deep a wound. [...] how often I have been close to setting her love on fire, not to a sinful love, but I had only to say to her that I loved her and everything would be in motion thus to end my love life. But then it struck me that this would do her no good, that I might bring a thunderstorm upon her head through feeling responsible for my death. I preferred the course I have taken; my relationship to her was always kept so vague that I had it in my power to interpret it as I wanted. I gave it the interpretation that I was a deceiver. Humanly speaking, it is the only way to save her, to give her soul resilience. My sin is that I did not have faith, faith that for God all things are possible, but where is the borderline between that and tempting God? Yet my sin has never been that I didn't love her. Yes, had she not been so devoted to me, so trusting, had she not given up her own life to live for me—well, then, the whole thing would have been a storm in a teacup; it doesn't bother me to make a fool of the whole world, but to deceive a young girl. Ah, but if I dared go back to her, and she, as though still not believing I was false, nevertheless thought for sure that once I was free I'd never come back. But calm yourself, my soul, I will act firmly and decisively according to the view I think right. I will also watch what I write in my letters. I know my moods, but in a letter I can't, as when I am speaking, instantly dispel the impression when I see it is becoming too strong (III A 166).

Contradiction is really the category of the comical (III A 205).


(Note: Some of the entries under this heading cannot be accurately dated.)

My head is as empty and dead as a theatre when the play is over (III A 224).

On Cartesian doubt:

It's a very remarkable thing that almost all the skeptics have always left the reality of the will unaffected. That is how they were able actually to get where they wanted, for recovery takes place through the will. The way in which the skeptics usually expressed themselves is very striking. They thought that as far as action is concerned, one could as well be content with probability, just as if it were less important to act rightly than to know rightly (IV C 56).

On Hegelian evolution:

If understanding, emotion, and will are essential to a human being, to human nature, then all this nonsense about world-evolution now assuming a higher level than before disappears, for if there is movement in world-history it belongs to providence and human knowledge of that is most incomplete.[...]

Any other view overlooks the significance of the individuals in the race and simply mirrors the history of the race, from which it would follow that essentially different human beings are produced at different times and the universal oneness of being human ceases.

What distinguishes the great individual from the insignificant individual, therefore, is not that he has something essentially different, or has it in a different form (for this, too, would be an essential difference, especially according to modern form theory), but that he has everything in higher degree.

The collateral (IV C 78).

The reason why man is saved by faith and not works, or more accurately, in faith, is deeper than one thinks. The whole explanation derived from sin is by no means exhaustive. The reason is that, even if man himself accomplished the good, he cannot know that, for then he would have to be omniscient. Therefore no one can argue with our Lord. I dare not call even the most exalted deed, humanly the most noble deed, for I must always say: God alone knows if it was really that. So I cannot possibly build my salvation upon it (IV C 82).

It's the same in the world of science as in the business world; exchange took place first in kind, later money was invented, now all scientific exchange is done in paper money which no one bothers about except professors (IV A 66).

If a person has one thought, but an infinite one, he can be borne along by it through his entire life, lightly and on wings, just as the Hyperborean, Abaris, traversed the whole world borne by an arrow (Herodotus, IV, 36) (IV A 21).


It's curious how strictly, in a sense, I am being educated. Now and then I am put down into a dark cave where I creep around in agony and pain, see nothing, no way out. Then suddenly a thought awakens in my mind, so vivid that it feels as though I have never had it before, even though it is not an unfamiliar one and I had once been wed to it but only, so to speak, with the left hand, but now also with the right. When it has taken a hold in me I am clapped a little on the shoulder, taken by the arms; and I who had been squashed like a grasshopper then grow up again, healthy, thriving, warm and lively as a newborn babe. Then it's as though I had to pledge to follow this thought to the end; I pledge my life and now I am in harness. I cannot stop and my powers sustain themselves. Then I finish, and it starts all over again (IV A 89).

My destiny seems to be to discourse on truth as far as I can discover it but in such a way as at the same time to demolish all possible authority on my own part. Since I then become incompetent and to the highest degree unreliable in men's eyes, I speak the truth and thus place them in the contradiction from which they can be rescued only by appropriating the truth themselves. It is only the personality that can absorb truth and make it his own that is mature, no matter whether it is Balaam's ass talking, or a guffawing crosspatch, or an apostle, or an angel (IV A 87).

At Vespers on Easter Sunday in Frue Kirke (during Mynster's sermon), she nodded to me. I do not know if it was pleadingly or forgivingly, but in any case very affectionately. I had sat down in a place apart, but she discovered it. Would to God that she had not done so. Now a year and a half of suffering and all the enormous pains I took are wasted; she does not believe that I was a deceiver, she has faith in me. What ordeals now lie ahead of her. The next will be that I am a hypocrite. The higher we go, the more dreadful it is. That a man of my inwardness, of my religiousness, could act in such a way. And yet I can no longer live solely for her, cannot expose myself to the contempt of men in order to lose my honor—that I have done. Shall I in sheer madness go ahead and become a villain just to get her to believe it—ah, what help is that. She will still believe that I was not that before (IV A 97).

The thought that God is love in the sense that he is always the same is so abstract that really it is a skeptical thought (IV A 102).

Certainly God is love, but not to sinners. It is first in Christ that he is this: i. e. the Atonement (IV A 104).

If I had had faith I would have stayed with Regine. Thank God I have now seen that. I have been on the point of losing my mind these days. Humanly speaking, I have been fair to her; perhaps I should never have become engaged, but from that moment I treated her honestly. In an esthetic and chivalrous sense, I loved her far more than she loved me, for otherwise she would neither have shown me pride nor alarmed me later with her shrieking. [...] My relation to her must not become poetically defuse [...] Humanly speaking, I was acting with perfect rectitude and have behaved most magnanimously towards her in not letting her suspect my pain. In a purely esthetic sense I have acted with great humanity towards her, I even praise myself for doing what few in my place would do. For if I had not thought so much of her well-being I might well have taken her, since she herself begged me to do so (which she certainly should not have done; it was a false weapon), and her father begged me to do so, doing her a kindness and fulfilling my own desire. And if in time she had become weary I could have chastened her by showing that it was something she had herself insisted upon. That I did not do (IV A 107).

Faith has hopes, therefore, for this life, but note well, on the strength of the absurd, not on the strength of human understanding, otherwise it is only good sense, not faith (IV A 108).

Every individual life is incommensurable with the concept; so the highest cannot be to live as a philosopher—what does this incommensurability dissolve into?—into action. What unites all human beings is passion. So religious passion, faith, hope and love are everything—the great thing is to live one's life in what is essential for all human beings, and in that to have a difference of degree. Being a philosopher is just about as a good a difference as being a poet (IV C 96).


I was born in 1813, the wrong fiscal year, in which so many other bad banknotes were put in circulation, and my life seems best compared to one of them. There is something of greatness about me, but because of the poor state of the market I am not worth much.

And at times a banknote like that became a family's misfortune (44 V A 3).

Most people now live within a certain reflection and so never do anything altogether immediately but flounder in the immediate and reflection. Once reflection is totally exhausted faith begins. Here, again, it is just as bad to come with probabilities or objections, since to have arrived at faith all such provisionalities must be exhausted. All that can occur to reflection in that respect faith has already thought through (44 V A 28).

Formerly a man derived self-importance from being nobly born, rich, etc. Today we have grown more liberal, more 'world-historical'. Now all of us derive self-importance from being born in the nineteenth century. O, you wonderful nineteenth century! O, enviable lot! (44 V A 38).

Kierkegaard repeated his plea for passion in thinking and living as opposed to mere self-reflection. But by this he did not mean blind passion, as the following entry indicates.

Let no one misunderstand all my talk about pathos and passion to mean I intended to give my blessing to every uncircumcised immediacy, every unshaven passion (44 V A 44).

If Hegel had written his entire Logic and said in the preface that it was merely a thought-experiment in which he had even shirked things in various places, he would no doubt have been the greatest thinker that ever lived. As it is he is comical (44 V A 73).

[...] [liberum arbitrium [free will] which can just as well choose good as evil is radically to abrogate the concept of freedom and to despair of any explanation of it. Freedom is being able. Good and evil do not exist outside freedom, since this distinction exists precisely by virtue of freedom. (44 V B 56:2).

A tenet—if one can use that word—of existentialism is the ability and necessity of choosing. This ability to choose does not imply a dispassionate choice. Only God can be void of passion and necessity. We live in a context of one sort or another, and therefore all choice is borne out of some material and mental situation which itself affects us so that we cannot ever choose carelessly.



One is not unpopular because one uses technical terms; that's just an accident and using them can become the fashion, as often happens all the way down to the most common man.

That person is and remains unpopular who thinks a thought through to the end. That is why Socrates was unpopular, notwithstanding he used no technical terms; for to keep a hold of his 'ignorance' requires more vital effort than the whole of Hegel's philosophy (VI A 15).

Kierkegaard would call the results of the objective approach to truth "approximation-knowledge". In his Philosophical Fragments and its sequel Concluding Unscientific Postscript, he treated the problem of trying to encapsulate truth in formulas, countering such attempts with his subjective approach. Due to the inherent limitations of our minds, we must approach the Absolute as the individual subjective creatures that we are. Hegel, who claimed to have devised a philosophical System to account for all phenomena, is always uppermost in Kierkegaard's mind when he criticizes all attempts at objectifying truth and God himself.

[...] In relation to the absurd, objective approximation is nonsense; for in trying to grasp the absurd, objective knowledge has literally gone broke to its last shilling.

The way of approximation here would be to interrogate witnesses who have seen the God and have either believed the absurd themselves or not believed it. In the one case I gain nothing and in the other I lose nothing—to interrogate witnesses who have seen the God perform a miracle, which is partly something that cannot be seen, and if they have believed it, well, it is just a further consequence of the absurd. But I need not dilate on this here; I have done that in the Fragments. Just as the problem for Socrates was to prevent himself coming to nothing in objective approximation, so too is it our problem. It is precisely a matter of putting aside introductory comments, old certainties, proofs from effects, pawnbrokers, and all such, in order not to be prevented from clarifying the absurd—so that a person can believe if he will.

If a speculator would care now to give a guest performance here and say: From an eternal and divine point of view there is no paradox here—that is perfectly correct; but whether or not the speculator is himself the eternal, and who sees the eternal, is another matter. If he then goes on talking, eternally indeed but in the sense of the song—it lasts for ever—we must refer him to Socrates, for he hasn't even grasped the Socratic, let alone found time from that vantage-point to comprehend what lies beyond (VI B 42).

Notwithstanding the preceding, Kierkegaard does in places acknowledge the genius of Hegel.

[...] I here request the reader's attention for an observation I have often wished to make. Do not misunderstand me. I`do not fancy myself a devil of a thinker who would remodel everything, etc. Such thoughts are as far as they could be from my mind. I nurture what is for me at times a puzzling respect for Hegel; I have learned much from him, and I know very well that I can still learn much more when I return to him again. The only thing I give myself credit for is sound natural abilities and a certain honesty which is armed with a sharp eye for the comical. I have lived, and am perhaps uncommonly tried in the casibus [cases, a term from grammar] of life, in the confidence that an open road for thought might be found; I have resorted to the works of the philosophers and among them Hegel's. But here is where he leaves me in the lurch. His philosophical knowledge, his amazing learning, the insight of his genius, and everything else good that can be said of a philosopher, I am willing to acknowledge as any disciple. Yet, no, not acknowledge—that is too distinguished an expression—willing to admire, willing to learn from him. But nevertheless, it is no less true that someone who is really tested in life, who in his need resorts to thought, will find Hegel comical despite all his greatness (VI B 54:12).

There is indeed no denying Hegel's genius, enormous learning, and his influence on philosophy. Yet there is something comical, so Kierkegaard thought, that a mere man could devise a system to explain everything.

[...] A person can be a great logician and become immortal on account of his merit, yet prostitute himself by assuming that the logical is the existential, and that the principle of contradiction is abrogated in existence because it is undeniably abrogated in logic, while in fact existence is the very separation which prevents the flow of pure logic. Hegel may very well be world-historical as a thinker, but one thing he has clearly lacked: he was not brought up in the Christian religion, or only moderately. For just as the person brought up to believe in God learns that, even if every misfortune fell to his lot in life and he never had a happy day, he must simply hold out, so also the person brought up in Christianity learns to regard this as eternal truth and to look on every difficulty as simply a spiritual trial. But so far from Hegel's concept of Christianity bearing the imprint of this childlike primitivity of inwardness, his treatment of faith—e. g. of what it is to believe—is nothing but pure silliness [corrected from "stupidity"]. I am not afraid to say this. If I presumed to say of the most simple-minded man alive that he is too stupid to become a Christian, that would be a matter between myself and God, and woe unto me! But to say this of Hegel remains only a matter between myself and Hegel, and a few Hegelians at most, for the stupidity is of another kind; and to say this is no blasphemy against the God who created man in his image, and consequently against every man, and against the God who took human form in order to save all, the most simple-minded as well (VI B 98:45).


Kierkegaard's journals contain a few references to his intention to pursue the priesthood. One reason that he could never reconcile himself to this mode of existence was that it seemed hypocritical to him to earn a living off of teaching people to "deny themselves".

My idea is now to qualify myself for the priesthood. For several months I have prayed to God to help me further, for it has long been clear to me that I ought not to continue as an author, which is something I want to be only totally or not at all. That's also why I haven't begun anything new while doing the proof-reading, except for the little review of Two Ages which is, once more, concluding (VII I A 4).

Ultimately, Kierkegaard attacked Official Christianity in the strongest terms, while remaining a Christian.

Kierkegaard's father Michael, when yet a child, cursed God for his sufferings and poverty. Though he lived into his eighties, he had often felt that God had given him long life in revenge. He maintained this notion because his wife and five of his seven children died in succession. Only Søren and Peter survived the elder Kierkegaard.

How dreadful, the thought of that man who as a small boy tending sheep on the Jutland heath, in much suffering, starving and exhausted, once stood up on a hill and cursed God!—and that man was unable to forget it when he was eighty-two years old (VII I A 5).

Kierkegaard's pseudonyms served, and were grounded in, several causes. One purpose was to remove focus from the author and place it on the works. For more on this see Kierkegaard's Authorial Method.

Up to now I've been of service by helping the pseudonyms to become authors. What if I decided from now on to do in the form of criticism what little writing I can allow myself! I'd then commit what I have to say to reviews in which my ideas developed out of some book or other, so that they could also be found in the book. At least I'd escape being an author (VII I A 9).

The so-called Corsair Affair had ended only a few months prior to this entry, which is equally applicable today.

In Danish letters these days the fee even for authors of repute is very small, whereas the tips dropped to the literary hacks are very considerable. Nowadays the more contemptible a writer the better his earnings (VII I A 18).

For, in my view, being victorious doesn't mean that I triumph but that the idea triumphs through me, even if it also means that I am sacrificed (VII I A 27).

The following entry is a clue to understanding Kierkegaard's method of composition, as well as Plato's influence on him.

The fact that several of Plato's dialogues end with no conclusion has a far deeper reason than I had earlier thought. For this is a reproduction of Socrates' maieutic skills, which activate the reader or listener himself, and therefore end not in any conclusion but with a sting. This is an excellent parody of the modern rote-learning method that says everything at once and the quicker the better, which does not awaken the reader to any self-activity, but only allows him to recite by heart (VII I A 74).

Once again, in the following entry, Kierkegaard has Hegel particularly in mind.

In relation to their systems most systematizers are like a man who has built a vast palace while he himself lives nearby in a barn; they themselves do not live in the vast systematic edifice. But in matters of the spirit this is and remains a decisive objection. Spiritually, a man's thoughts must be the building in which he lives—otherwise it's wrong (VII I A 82).


I am accused of causing young people to acquiesce in subjectivity. Maybe, for a moment. But how would it be possible to eliminate all these phantoms of objectivity such as the public, etc. except by stressing the category of the particular? Under the pretext of objectivity the aim has been to sacrifice individualities altogether (VIII I A 8).

The evolution of the whole world tends in the direction of the absolute significance of the category of the particular, which is precisely the principle of Christianity. But as yet, concretely, we haven't come especially far, for it is only recognized in in abstracto. That explains why it still impresses people as presumptuously and overweeningly arrogant to speak of the single individual, instead of recognizing that absolute humanity means precisely that everyone is a single individual. Sometimes the misunderstanding is expressed piously. Thus when the late Bishop Møller of Lolland says (in the introduction to his Guide) that it would be too bad if truth (in this case Christianity) were accessible only to a few individuals and not to all, he certainly says something true but also something false, for although Christianity is indeed accessible to all, this—take note—is by virtue, and only by virtue, of each of us becoming an individual, becoming the single individual. But as yet there is neither the ethical nor the religious courage. Most become quite afraid when each by himself is expected to be the single individual. This is how the matter twists and turns. One moment it is supposed to be arrogant to present this view of the individual, and then when the individual is to try it out in practice, the thought is much too big for him, too overwhelming (VIII I A 8).


Regarding spelling I bow unconditionally to authority [...]. But punctuation is different; there I bow unconditionally to no one and in this respect I very much doubt whether there is any Danish writer to match me. My whole make-up as a dialectician with an unusual sense of the rhetorical, all the silent intercourse I constantly have with my thoughts, my practice in reading aloud: all of this can't help but make me pre-eminent in this regard.

I make distinctions then in my punctuation. In a scholarly paper I punctuate differently from the way I do in a rhetorical work. This will probably already be quite enough for most people, who only acknowledge one grammar. It goes without saying that with regard to punctuation I would certainly not dare to hold out my writings as examples for schoolboys or quite young people straightforwardly to follow. [...] It is especially with rhetoric that my punctuation diverges because it is developed. What particularly occupies me is the architectonic dialectic which the eye sees in the proportions of the sentences, which at the same time, when one reads them aloud, is their rhythm—and I always imagine a reader reading aloud. That again is why sometimes I use commas very sparingly. For instance, where I want a subdivision following a semicolon I do not place a comma between such clauses. [...] In this I keep up a constant feud with compositors who, with the best of intentions, put commas everywhere and by so doing disturb my rhythm. [...] Above all, I must repeat that I imagine readers reading aloud and therefore well practised in following the oscillation of every thought in its least detail, and also able to imitate this with the voice. I would be quite happy to submit to the test of an actor or an orator—someone used to modulation—reading, as an experiment, a small fragment of my discourses: I am convinced he will admit that he finds indicated in my text much of what ordinarily he must determine for himself. Abstract, grammatical punctuation just isn't good enough when it comes to rhetorical writing, particularly when spiced with irony, epigram, subtlety and, in the ideal sense, malice, etc. (VIII I A 33).

It is an awful satire and an epigram on the temporalism of the modern age that nowadays the only thing people can think of using solitude for is punishment, gaol. How different, then, our present from that time when, however secular temporalism was, people nevertheless believed in the solitude of the cloister, and solitude was revered as the highest, as the category of the eternal; how different now that it is abhorred as an abomination and used only for the punishment of criminals. Alas, what a change! (VIII I A 40).

Now they can do what they want with me—mock me, envy me, refuse to read me, bang me on the head, put me to death; what they cannot in ail eternity deny is my idea and my life, that mine was one of the most original thoughts in a long time and the most original in the Danish language, that Christianity needed a maieutician, and I understood how to be that while no one knew how to appreciate it. The category of proclaiming Christianity and confessing Christ isn't appropriate in Christendom; here the maieutic is exactly right; it assumes that human beings possess the highest but wants to help them become aware of what they possess (VIII I A 42).

I am well aware that in the matter of priestly robes some prelates use broadcloth, others silk, velvet, bombazine, etc., but I wonder if this is the real vestment. I wonder if the true canonicals are not these: being mocked in a good cause, being scorned and spat upon, it being these that give the order of ranking. Surely, now, Christ isn't a suicide; so the conclusion is evident that it is the world's guilt that was revealed by crucifying him. And how much better the world has become. But preaching about this dressed in silk and finery to a gaping crowd! Disgusting! (VIII I A 102).

Man is becoming more and more akin to animals: people no longer talk of men a thousand strong but of 1000 horsepower (VIII I A 241).

No one wants to be a 'human being', that's not supposed to be something worth being. No one wants to be a 'Christian', that's not supposed to be anything either. People don't think tasks like these suffice for life. Yet they all want—yes, they fight and struggle and wear themselves out—to become something. But this something is, for instance, Counsellor of Chancery or Squadron Surgeon (VIII I A 368).


The year 1848 was notable for two reasons in particular. First, there was the Dano-Prussian war in which Denmark lost territory, and in which Kierkegaard sensed a greater appeal to mob mentality among the populace. Second, in Kierkegaard's internal life, he had a momentous experience in which he felt that God had forgiven and forgotten his sins.

The mainspring in the whole enormous edifice of existence, and the mainspring which connects in turn every joint to the whole (as the links in a chain) is personality: everyone (in the world of nature) is personality; everyone (in the world of spirit) is personality. And now personality has been abolished. God has become impersonal; all communication is impersonal—and here especially the two dreadful calamities which are really the driving forces behind impersonality: the press—and anonymity.

Error's greatest triumph is to acquire an impersonal medium of communication and then anonymity. It is rubbish to say that the press itself heals the wounds it inflicts. Because since all true communication is personal (for personality is truth), it will always be more difficult for it to use the press. But error is always impersonal.

Without the daily press and without anonymity one always has the consolation that it is a definite individual person who voices the error, gives impudence expression, etc. In that case there's hope that many will shrink from being that individual, and one knows in any case who he is. But the Somebody who is nobody (and therefore has no responsibility) can put any error into circulation without a thought of responsibility and with the help of the most dreadfully disproportioned communications medium, that is terrible. And that this irresponsible error should then be taken up by the public which is again nobody! There is no one anywhere, and that is why there is error everywhere. [...] (VIII I A 540).


Psychologically the difficulty here is not at all where one generally imagines it.

(Let's assume.)

The difficulty is to what immediacy does one who believes in this revert, or what is the immediacy that follows upon this belief, and how is it related to what is otherwise called immediacy?

Believing the forgiveness of sins is a paradox, the absurd, etc.: that's not what I am speaking about, but something else.

I assume then that someone has had the enormous courage of faith truly to believe that God has literally forgotten his sin, a courage found, maybe, in fewer than ten persons in each generation—that insane courage, after developing a mature conception of God, to believe this, that God can quite literally forget.

Still I assume it. What then? So now everything is forgotten, he is like a new man. But if no trace at all is left, should that not mean that a person can now live in the carefree way of youth? Impossible!

And precisely in this I find proof that it is indescribably unfortunate to raise a child rigorously in Christianity, because then you confuse a man's life on a most horrific scale until he is somewhere in his thirties.

How could the person who believes in the forgiveness of sins possibly become young enough to fall erotically in love!

There lies the problem of my own life. I have been raised with extraordinary rigour in Christianity by an old man. That is why I feel my life is so horribly confused. That is why I have been brought into collisions of which no one conceives, let alone speaks. And not until now, in my thirty-fifth year, have I perhaps learned, by the weight of suffering and the bitter taste of repentance, so much of what it means to die from the world that there can properly be a question of my finding my whole life and my salvation through faith in forgiveness of sins. But really, though spiritually as strong as ever, I am much too old to fall in love with a woman and that sort of thing.

You must have lived out your life a bit to feel the need for Christianity. If forced on you earlier it makes you in fact quite mad. There is something in a child and a youth that is so naturally part of them that God himself can be said to have wanted it thus. Essentially, the child and the youth live only in the category of soul, neither more nor less. Christianity is spirit. To conceive a child as belonging in the category of spirit is a cruelty to be compared with killing it, and this Christianity never intended.

And the reason why the whole of Christianity in Christendom has become mainly blether is that one is raised in it. Only rarely, very rarely, is a child raised in it with enormous strictness, and that, wrong as it may be, is much to be preferred even if it destroys his childhood and youth. But as a rule people are raised in it in a chattering way and then it's just rubbish. After all, it is better to have stood all these agonies in childhood and youth by being stretched (as on the rack) in the category of spirit which you have not yet reached, to have endured all these agonies so that one's childhood was sheer misery—and then at last, in total deliverance, understand that now I can use Christianity, now it exists for me and is my All. This, after all, is better than bletheringly never to have been one thing or the other (VIII I A 663).

But then my father's death was also a fearfully harrowing experience; how much so I have never told a single soul. My whole past life was in any case so altogether cloaked in the darkest melancholy, and in the most profoundly brooding of misery's fogs, that it is no wonder I was as I was. But all this remains my secret. On someone else it might not have made as deep an impression—but there was my imagination, and especially at the beginning when it still had no tasks to apply itself to. A primitive melancholy like that, such a huge dowry of distress, and what was in the profoundest Sense the tragedy of being a child brought up by a melancholy old man—and then to be able with a native virtuosity to deceive everyone into thinking I was life and joy incarnate—and then that God in heaven should help me as he has (IX A 70).

My father died—I got another father in his place, God in heaven—then I discovered that my first father literally had been my stepfather and only figuratively my first father (IX A 106).

The following quote helps to explain why Kierkegaard broke off his engagement with Regine Olsen.

A line: 'Oh, how hard to be as old as one is made by the eternal when after all one is a man, man most of all, and when all existence speaks to one in the language of youth. There was a young girl I loved, lovely she was, and so young (how blissful it must be to be so young!), and persuasive and inviting. Oh, dreadful sorrow! I was an eternity too old for her' (IX A 108).

The point in Christianity is that it is present to us. That is why no poet; no orator, can portray it; they use too much imagination. It is precisely on that account (that is, for the wrong reason) that poets and orators are loved and held in esteem. For from a distance Christianity appears to human eyes to be an amiable thing.

Only a dialectician can represent it by hollowing it into our presence, as it were, through constantly removing all delusions. Such a dialectician will for that reason not be suffered kindly, for at close range Christianity is odious and shocking (IX A I 114).

The best proof of the soul's immortality, God's existence, etc. is really the impression one has from childhood, namely the one which in distinction from all those scholarly and bombastic proofs could be put by saying that it is absolutely certain because my father told me (IX A 118).

From now on there will be no prophets, judges, etc, to walk at our head and lead the race forward, but martyrs who by hurling themselves against the human invention of progress force the race back. Only thus will there be progress—in intensity. The lesson has been given us once and for all, in this regard there is nothing further to add, but it is a matter of taking it to heart.

This human progress simply makes everything thinner and thinner—with the help of God's guidance everything will be grasped more and more inwardly (IX A 126).

...Thus in a way I began my activity as an author with a falsum or with a pia fraus [pious fraud]. The fact is, in so-called established Christendom people are so settled in the delusion that they are Christians that if there is to be any question of making them aware, one will have to resort to many an artifice. If someone not otherwise known as an author starts off straightaway as a Christian author, he will not catch the ear of his age. His contemporaries are immediately on their guard, saying, 'That's not for us,' etc.

I began as an estheticist—and then reached the religious, though with a rapidity that no doubt went unnoticed, and then I evinced what it is to become a Christian, etc.

This is the way I present myself here as an author for my contemporaries—and it is the way in which I belong to history in any case. It is only here I believe I can risk, or am able to say, anything about myself as an author. I do not believe that my personality, my private life, and whatever I may have to reproach myself for,, are matters of public concern. I am the author, and who I am in myself and what has been granted me are things I am well enough aware of. I have come to terms with everything that could serve my cause.

I would especially ask every more competent person to be slow to judge powers and the use of powers that are not seen every day I ask this of the more competent in particular for there would be no use asking it of fools. But every more competent person has a proper respect for himself and for his judgment—and precisely for this reason I ask him to judge with care.

It is Christianity that I have wanted, and still want, to present; to that end every hour of my day has been and is dedicated (IX A 171).

I. Christianity is no doctrine (then there arose all the nuisance about orthodoxy, with quarrels about this and that, while life itself remains quite unchanged, and they dispute what is Christian just as they do what is Platonic philosophy and all that kind of thing) but an existential communication. That is why each generation must start on it anew; all this erudition about the preceding generations is essentially superfluous, yet not to be scorned if it understands itself and its limits, utterly dangerous if it does not.

2. In respect of Christianity (since it is no doctrine) it is therefore not a matter of indifference who presents it, as it is with a doctrine, so long as the presenter says (objectively) the right thing. No, Christ did not appoint professors but followers. When Christianity (precisely because it is not a doctrine) is not reduplicated in the life of the person presenting it, it is not Christianity he presents, for Christianity is an existential communication and can only be presented by its existing. Indeed, living in it, expressing it existentially, etc., is what it means in general to reduplicate (IX A 207).


I have never had the joy of being a child. The terrible torments which I suffered disturbed the tranquillity there must be in being a child, having things in one's own hands, being occupied, etc., delighting one's father; for my inner unrest meant that I was always, always, outside myself.

But then it often seems as though my childhood returned, for unhappy as my father made me it's as though I experienced being a child in my relationship to God, as if the whole of my first childhood had been so dreadfully wasted just so that I could experience it all the more truly the second time in the relationship to God (X I A 8).

My whole observation of Denmark makes my life unpleasant here; there is something unpleasant in knowing that one is convinced of a country's downfall, while everyone exults at the thought of an incomparable future (X I A 36).

Kierkegaard, who was politically a conservative in that he shunned all that savored of the crowd, would be on amiable terms with King Christian VIII, as is evidenced in this entry.

Tragic, as I once said to Christian VIII, how tragic to be a genius in a market-town. Naturally I put it so as to make it a gesture of politeness towards him. I said,'Your majesty's only misfortune is that your wisdom and sense are too great and the land too little; it is a misfortune to be a genius in a market-town.' To which he replied, 'But so much the more can be done for individuals.' It was the first time I spoke with him. He said many flattering things to me and begged me to visit him, to which I replied,'Your majesty, I visit no one.' He then said, 'Yes, but I know you have no objection to my sending you a messenger.' To which I replied,'I am your subject, your majesty has only to command, but I make one condition in return.' 'What is that, now!' 'That I am permitted to speak with you alone.' At that he shook my hand and we parted. In the course of the conversation, at the beginning, he also said something to me about my having so many ideas, and so couldn't I give him some. To which I replied that I thought my whole effort was, amongst other things, also to any government's advantage but that the point in it was exactly that I was and remained private, since otherwise some narrow interpretation would immediately be interposed. And I added besides: 'I have the honour of serving a higher power into whose hands I have put my life.' (X I A 41).


A theologian, but not yet appointed. He has worked very hard for a number of years and attained some measure of fame, which will definitely ensure that everyone will rush to hear him preach in church, particularly all the high-ups.

He lets it be known that he is going to preach and selects the finest, most splendid church in the capital.

Everyone is in church, including the king and queen.

He mounts the pulpit, offers a prayer, and then reads his text, which is about Christ chasing the money-lenders from the temple. Immediately afterwards he begins like this:

'Let the word be spoken, the word I have to say in this world, and for which I have prepared myself all my life. Let that word now be spoken: To preach Christianity in surroundings like these is not Christianity, be they ever so Christian, it is not Christianity; Christianity can be preached only by its being realized in the lives we live. And I hereby transform this house into actual life. I am now in your power, I, just one man, but now I will speak—and then it is real life. I will speak of it being possible to preach Christianity only by living it.'

Attack on the whole smart church and smart congregation. Christ was not a smartly turned-out man who, in a smartly decorated church, preached to a smartly turned-out gathering that truth suffers—it was an actual fact that he was spat upon.

Uproar throughout the church. The cry goes out: Down with him, throw him out! But the preacher rises and speaks out in a voice of thunder which drowns out all the clamour: You see, now it is right, now I am preaching Christianity; had my intention been suspected I would have been prevented from mounting the pulpit here, or else you would all have stayed at home. But now I stand here, I am now speaking and I make you responsible before God; you must hear me out, I am speaking the truth.

Now, there you have an awakening! (X I A 136).

Understanding the totality of my work as an author, the maieutic purpose, etc. also means understanding my personal existence as an author, what I have done qua author in my personal life to give it support, throw light on it, conceal it, give it direction, etc.: something even more wide-ranging than, and just as interesting as, the whole authorship itself. And in a more ideal sense it all leads back to 'the single individual', who is not myself in an empirical sense but the author.

That Socrates belonged to his teaching, that his teaching ended in himself, that he himself was his teaching, that in the actual environment he was artistically what he himself taught—we have learned to recite that by rote, for it can hardly be said that people grasp it. Even the systematizers speak of Socrates in this way. But everything now is supposed to be objective. And if one uses one's own person maieutically it is taken to be in the manner of [Hans Christian] Andersen. All this was needed to throw light on my position in the development. Objectivity is taken to be higher than subjectivity. Quite the contrary; that is to say, an objectivity which takes shape in a corresponding subjectivity, that is the goal. The System was something inhuman to which no person could correspond either as author or executor (X I A 146).

It is often said that if Christ were to come to the world now he would be crucified again. This is not quite true. The world has changed; it now rests on 'understanding'. So Christ would be ridiculed, treated like a madman, but a madman one laughs at. [...] Now I understand better and better what an original and deep fundamental relation I have to the comic, and this will be of use for me in illuminating Christianity. [...] (X I A 187).

What is it to believe? It is to will (what you must, because you must): God-fearingly and unconditionally guarding yourself against vainly thinking that you want to understand, and against vainly imagining that you could understand (X I A 368).

DE SE IPS0 [About himself, oneself]

In fact something other than what I first envisaged will happen.

When I began as author of Either/Or I no doubt had a far more profound impression than the clergy of this country of the terror of Christianity. I had a fear and trembling as no one else. Not that I would give up Christianity on that account. No, I interpreted it in another way. For one thing I had early learned that there are people who seem chosen to suffer, and for another I was aware of having greatly sinned; so I assumed Christianity just had to appear to me in this terrifying form. Yet how cruel and untrue of you, I thought, to want on that account to terrify others, perhaps upset many a happy, amiable life, which may, after all, even have truth in it, be Christian. It was so completely foreign to my nature to want to terrify others that it was my pleasure, both sadly and perhaps also a little proudly, to comfort others and be gentleness itself towards them—oblivious to the terrors in my own heart.

So my plan was humorously (so as to lighten my touch) to tip my contemporaries the wink (whether they wanted to take the hint or not) that greater pressure was needed—but not to do more than that. I aimed to keep to myself the heavy pack I bore, as my cross. I have often objected to people who are sinners in the strictest sense making an immediate fuss about striking terror into others.—This is where Concluding Postscript comes in.

Then I saw with horror what was meant by a Christian state (and I saw it especially in 1848), I saw how those who were supposed to be ruling in both Church and state cravenly hid themselves while baseness impudently raged. And I experienced just how a truly unselfish and God-fearing effort (and my effort as an author is that) is rewarded—in a Christian state.

My fate is then decided. It is now up to my contemporaries what price they will put on being a Christian, how terrifying they make it. As for myself, no doubt I will be given the necessary strength—I was about to say 'unfortunately'. Truly I say this without pride. I both have been and am willing enough to pray to God to exempt me from this terrible negotiation; further I am human myself and I, too, love to lead a happy life, humanly speaking, here on earth. But if there is to be Christendom, a Christian state, as one sees all over Europe, then I propose to start here in Denmark, listing the price of being a Christian so that the whole concept of the state Church, official appointment, a living, is exploded.

I dare do no other, for I am a penitent from whom God can demand everything. But my being a penitent is also the reason for my pseudonymity. Still, the persecution will fall on me personally, while I am secured against any esteem and regard that come my way from another quarter.

For some years now I have been so inured to bearing the treachery and ingratitude of a small country, the envy of the well-regarded, the mockery of the rabble, that perhaps I—for want of anyone better—am qualified to proclaim Christianity. Bishop Mynster can keep his velvet robe and his Grand Cross (X I A 54I).

This is surely one of the more interesting arguments for separation of Church and state.

'The Church' should really represent 'becoming', 'the state', on the other hand, 'subsisting'. That is why it is so dangerous for the state and Church to grow together and be identified with each other. With 'the state', even though for one or another institution it might prove less fortunate, just because it is the subsisting order one should be very wary about abolishing it, precisely because 'state' is part of the concept of 'subsisting', and one may be better served by energetically maintaining a less than successful subsistence than reforming it too soon. With 'the Church' it is quite the opposite, since its concept is Becoming. 'Becoming' is more spiritual than 'subsisting'; the servants of the Church should therefore not be state functionaries, not even married, but those expediti [those unfettered, ready or without obstruction] who are suited to serving 'becoming' (X I A 552).


The real thinker always presents the crux of a matter; that is exactly where his eminence lies—only a few can follow him. Then along comes the professor; he takes away the 'paradox'—a sizeable crowd, just about the great mass itself, can understand him; and then the truth is now thought to have become truer!

Even if an eminent thinker came up with the thought of 'a system' he would never get it finished—he would be too honest for that. But just one little hint to the professor of what he is engaged in—and the professor has the system finished in a trice.

The professor always appears to be a Tom, Dick, and Harry sort of thinker—it has to look like that when the task is reflected through the medium of the public, or when one and all are thinkers.

A real thinker can only think comically of the professor. The professor is what Leporello is to a Don Juan, only more so for falsely accrediting to himself a great esteem in the eyes of pseudo-intellectuals (X I A 573).

In every generation most people, even among those who are said to dabble in thought (professors and the like), live and die in the illusion that there is, and if it were granted them to live longer, would persist, a continued straightforward ascent of increasing comprehension. How many experience at all the maturity of discovering that there comes a critical point where it turns the other way, and from then on it is a matter of an increasing grasp of the fact that there is something one cannot grasp.

This is the Socratic ignorance, and it is this our age's speculation has needed as a corrective.

As Joh. Climacus [a pseudonym of Kierkegaard's earlier philosophical works] rightly remarks, where the higher life should dawn for them most people veer off and become practical, 'husband, father, and captain of the rifle club'. As Anti-Climacus [a pseudonym of Kierkegaard's decidedly, later religious works] rightly remarks, most people simply don't have the experience of being spirit; therefore neither do they experience this qualitative meeting with the divine. For them the divine is common, rhetorical chit-chat, a hiatical superlative of the human. Hence their eternal bliss in the illusion. To be able more and more to grasp it, if only they had time and didn't have to go to the office, the club, chat with their wives, etc., if only they had time, they'd be sure to get a firm grasp of the divine.

The Socratic ignorance, but mark well, modified in the spirit of Christianity; that is maturity, intellectually what rebirth is ethico-religiously, what it is to be a child again. [...] (X I A 679).


Only in a real-life situation is it possible to have a true impression of essential Christianity. When Christians were persecuted, accepting Christianity meant being put straightaway on the list of the proscribed; it was a situation which tended to make a man reflect on whether he wanted to be a Christian or not. In the dead calm of an illusion in which everything is left to a purely inner decision, one can become anxious and fearful—is one really a Christian or is one perhaps deluding oneself?

Let me now imagine someone saving to himself: It is easy to see that what paid professionals proclaim in the churches is not Christianity, but I myself know what Christianity is. I am going to teach it, plant it right in the heart of Christendom here and now (for my own sake as well; so as to produce the state of tension needed of an infinite decision). Naturally, Christendom will become enraged, and I will come close to experiencing persecution. But that is what I need in order effectively to pose the question of whether or not I want to be a Christian, and that is in fact what Christendom needs.

Has one a right to do that? What guides him is a concern for the truth, and I can't judge otherwise than that he does have that right.

But I do not take such a responsibility upon myself.

I believe that if a person is to be used on that scale, guidance helps by forcing him. By educating him, guidance leads him forward little by little; he does not come to such a momentous decision by an arbitrium [a free act].

Altogether, the proper comfort for those really used as instruments is precisely that their suffering is in one sense involuntary. Just as Plato says in the Republic that only those should rule who have no desire to do so, so someone is used by guidance to do just what he is least inclined to do. Thus guidance uses the most sensitive people for just about the most cruel functions, the weakest and most timorous for the toughest, just as it used Moses, who remonstrated quite rightly that he was anything but a speaker, in the mission to Pharaoh (X 2 A 13).


On the seething, foaming sea there is a boat with just one man, a pilot or whatever. Calmly he sits in the stern of the boat, his hand on the helm, while the boat sails on in proudest flight. It is lifted up on the crest of a dizzying wave—the spectators on shore shudder in admiration; he himself is calm and seems almost to delight in what makes them shudder. Suddenly he detects a slight jolt in his hand, telling him: either your hand has become paralyzed or the boat is not obeying the helm. It would have been impossible to see this even if one were sitting beside him as the calmest observer—and without altering his quiet posture, he heads for the abyss.

What is terrifying is that the terror is concentrated in one single almost unnoticeable point, that the terror is really not at all expressed, that he stays sitting there quite unchanged in the same bold, calm posture and yet crippled, so that he is headed for disaster. The terror itself is that the terror is not manifested in any way, not so much as in a movement of the arm (X 2 A 109).

It would be a good topic for a sermon, the words to be found somewhere in the second part of Either/Or: The dreadful thing is not that I shall suffer punishment when I perpetrate evil; the dreadful thing is that I might perpetrate evil and there was no punishment (X 2 A 115).


If anyone said that as a religious author I am awfully severe on my contemporaries, I would (though without admitting that it is true) reply: But why are you so severe against me! Consider my life as an author, my industry, my exertion, my disinterestedness—then the judgment must be that I am a kind of oddity, an exaggeration—while you, who perpetrate the most despicable literary trade, live in abundance and have the power, and while all who want a finite objective are rewarded by that and additionally by being thought serious.

Is this not severity against me? My life now is in rapport with ideality; I feel personally under a religious obligation; half measures and chatter I cannot abide, my life is in all respects either-or. If I am to be an adornment for my country, then let it be said; but if people are to be allowed to take every kind of liberty with me, well then, I must also say that I live in my fatherland like a folly—and I must keep the ideality to myself, I cannot do without the Christian: ergo, I must force the price of being a Christian up further. If wantonness and crudeness and envy are allowed to treat an authorial endeavour that is in every way respectable as I have been treated, well now, one must put up with the fact that I form a suspicion concerning the right of such a country to call itself purely Christian; one must put up with the fact that I force up the price of being Christian.

I may well suffer as a result, but I will not let go of the idea. If people press harder on me, well, I shall suffer more, but I cannot let go of the idea, and so the counter-pressure which I exert will become even stronger. I find no pleasure in this situation, but in the direction of the idea I can do no other, and religiously I feel myself under an obligation.

Or has it become a crime, my being an author? Just one example. Three years ago Concluding Postscript was published. It is the keystone of an earlier authorial endeavour on a grand scale; the work itself is the fruit of one or one and a half years' industry, and industry that I call industry; it cost me between five and six hundred rigsdaler to publish. Sixty copies of the book were sold. It received no mention anywhere. On the other hand I was, to the jubilation of the rabble, portrayed and ridiculed in the Corsair; in Kjøbenhavnsposten, P. L. Møller poured scorn on it and me; in Flyveposten, people wrote about my trousers, that now they were too long; people wrote that to incite the rabble's mockery of me.

And then people want to complain that I am severe—but no one is to say anything about the severity shown against me (X 2 A 124).


When I myself, for instance, believe this or that on the strength of everything's being possible for God, what is the absurd? The absurd is the negative property which ensures that I have not overlooked some possibility still within human reach. The absurd is an expression of despair: that humanly there is no possibility—but despair is the negative criterion of faith.

So with offence and faith—offence is the negative criterion which fixes the quality separating God and man, but the believer is nevertheless not offended—he expresses just the opposite of offence, yet always has the possibility of offence as a negative category.

But 'faith' has perhaps never before been presented by someone who is as dialectical as he is immediate. That person alone is continually aware that this immediacy of which he speaks is a new immediacy, and it is this that the negative criterion assures. Take another relationship. Blessedness—and suffering. The true expression here is: blessedness is in suffering. But rarely is it presented in this way: a person may have suffered indescribably before gaining faith, and now he has it, all is sheer blessedness. This presentation shows that he is no dialectician, for he has no criterion for where his blessedness lies, whether he may not be deluded. But his presentation pleases people, for with his help they take blessedness in vain and are satisfied with faith at second hand, etc (X 6 B 78).

There has been such frequent discussion of that passage in the Scripture: All is revealed in the mystery, and a certain speculation has insisted on being, not a profane speculation, but within the mystery.

In respect of Christianity I would stress another side of the concept of mystery: the ethico-religious. Christianity entered as a mystery, and the greatest possible human guarantee was required for admittance; how profane Christianity has been made by the slipshod way in which, without further ado, everyone is made into a Christian and everyone is allowed to be one!

Christianity understood very well that what especially matters with regard to serving the truth is that the individual should become fitted to be its instrument, But in our objective, bustling times no one gives such things a thought. Hence this unholy preaching of Christianity—objectively quite correct—by people who really have no inkling of Christianity. Nothing, nothing has so confused, yes, abolished Christianity as the un-Christian way in which it is preached.

It is true that Christianity has never been, has indeed abhorred the thought of being, a mystery in the sense of existing for a few distinguished minds which have been initiated. No, God has chosen the poor and the despised—but there was no want of initiation: not the intellectual but the ethical initiation, personality's enormous respect for admittance into the Christian community, a respect expressed not in assurances and frills but existentially in action (X 2 A 341).

The condition for a person's salvation is the faith that there is, everywhere and at every moment, an absolute beginning. When someone who has egoistically indulged himself in the service of illusions is to start upon a purer striving, the crucial point is that he believes absolutely in the new beginning, because otherwise he muddies the passage into the old. Similarly with conversion in the stricter sense: faith in the possibility of the new, the absolute beginning, for otherwise it remains essentially the old. It is this infinite intensiveness in faith's anticipation which has the confident courage to believe in it, to transform the old into the completely forgotten—and then believe absolutely in the beginning.

Yet in other respects the criterion of the truth of this faith will be the confidence which, in the opposite direction, has the courage profoundly to comprehend one's earlier wretchedness. A person who does not sense this profoundly and have the courage cannot properly make the new beginning, and the reason for his not sensing it profoundly is precisely that he secretly harbours the thought that, if he considered it properly, it would be too bad for there to be any new beginning for him. Therefore to make it look a little better and be more certain of achieving a new beginning, he does not look too closely—and for this very reason he does not make the beginning.

A beginning always has a double momentum: towards the past and towards the new; it pushes off in the direction of the old as much as it begins the new (X 2 A 371).

Kierkegaard is usually interpreted as being opposed to community and fellowship. This is not quite true, as this following entry suggests.


In 'the public' and the like, the individual is nothing, there is no individual, the numerical is constitutive and the principle of coming into being a generatio aequivoca [spontaneous generation]; apart from 'the public', the individual is nothing, and in the public he is not, in any profound sense, anything either.

In community the individual is; dialectically, the individual is crucial as the prior condition for forming a community, and within the community the individual is qualitatively essential and can at any moment rise above 'community', that is, as soon as 'the others' give up the idea. What holds community together is that each is an individual, and then the idea. The public's cohesion, or its looseness, is that numerality is everything. Every individual in the community guarantees the community; the public is a chimera. In community the single individual is the microcosm who qualitatively repeats the macrocosm; here it is a case of unum noris omnes [you know one, you know all] in the good sense. In the public there is no single individual, the whole is nothing; here it is impossible to say unum noris omnes, for here there is no One. 'Community' is no doubt more than a sum, but is truly still a sum of units; the public is nonsense: a sum of negative units, of units that are not units, that become units with the sum, instead of the sum being a sum of units (X 2 A 390).

This is how Christianity came into the world: it presupposed want, distress, the pain of an anguished conscience under the law, the hunger that cries out simply for food—and Christianity was then the food.

And now—now it is thought that there have to be appetizers to get people to come into Christianity. What appetizers? The preaching of the law? No, no, Christianity must be served up with the appetizing seasoning of proofs, grounds, probability, and the like. And finally, the sermon has come now to concentrate exclusively on whetting the appetite. In other words, Christianity is betrayed, it is denied in effect that Christianity is unconditionally the food, that the error lies in people, that they should be suitably starved, and would then surely learn to need Christianity. But now it is Christianity that needs appetizers, to acquire a little taste—otherwise, presumably, it tastes of nothing. And what then does it taste of with the help of appetizers?

Christianity has been transformed from a primary colour (which is what it is and why it presupposes the resolution in those concerned—the power to resolve, to unlock—always required with a primary colour) into a crumb of caution to be used for avoiding colds, toothache, and the like. And curiously enough, while every inventor of drops, extracts, etc., 'which do neither ill nor good', trumpets his remedies as wonder cures, Christianity is preached in very subdued tones; whereupon straightaway a string of reasons and proofs marches up to make it somewhat probable after all that there is something to Christianity. And it is called preaching. That is why people are paid as 'servants of the word'. In truth, if it comes to that, I think Christianity would be better served by a charlatan than by a legion of such preachers (X 2 A 461).


Here's where I see properly the real nature of my relation to Christianity: when I read a Stoic. What he says may be perfectly true, and often said forcefully and adeptly, but he does not understand me. Everything with the Stoic is pride—no place for sadness. He despises all these people, the ignorant rabble, and treats them like children; for him they do not exist, nothing they do means anything to the wise man, they could not insult him, he not only forgives them their effrontery but loftily thinks: Small children, you simply cannot offend me.

Ah, but this is not at all my own life. Yes, against those of distinction and standing I can indeed be tempted to use that tactic, take up arms in that way. That is why their conduct towards me has never really upset me; I avenge myself in a slightly Stoical manner.

But the common man whom I loved! Conveying a measure of love to my neighbour was my greatest joy. Whenever I saw this despicable condescension towards less important people, I felt able to say to myself, 'At least that's not how I live.' It was my consolation where possible to be conciliatory in this respect, it was my pleasure, my blessed pastime. It was what my life was meant for. So having to put up with the derision of the common man upsets me indescribably. Indeed, scarcely anyone loved the common man as I did—and to see him now turned in enmity against me. A journalist who gulls the common man out of his money and in return gives him confused concepts is regarded as a benefactor, and the person who sacrificed so much—every advantage of affiliation with the upper class—is portrayed as an enemy of the common people, as the one they are to insult.

Life is never like that for the Stoic (X 3 A 13).


Oh, last comfort, having only the comfort of comforting others! Oh, sorrow, when what is called the comfort, and that by which one is oneself comforted, seems to others so horrific that they beg, above all, to be excused that form of comfort, which strikes them as being the worst of all torments (X 3 A 160).


What I really represent is: the stoppage which puts an end to the reflections carried on from generation to generation, and posits the Christian qualities. I have backing to enable me to do this; for I was from very early in life 'brought to a stop', placed in unspeakable agonies outside the universal human, and assigned exclusively to the relationship with God.

Though standing in the very midst of actuality on a scale matched by none other here at home (for I have, after all, more or less attained 'actuality'), I have in another sense lived as though in a world of my own.

Of the rightness of my cause, and its importance, I have never doubted—doubted, no, I am as far as possible from that, I have had but one expression: that I could never thank God enough for what is granted me, so infinitely more than I could, or dared, expect. And I have longed for eternity so as to be able unceasingly to thank God.

A lovely girl, my beloved—her name will go down in history with mine—was to some degree thrown away on me so that, through new pangs (it was, alas, a religious clash of a special kind), I might become what I became. In a sense, I myself was thrown away in turn in the cause of Christianity—in a certain sense, since I have indeed not been happy humanly—oh, but still I can never thank God enough for the indescribable good he has done me, so infinitely much more than I had expected.

Would you ask me if there was anything I felt might have gone differently, so that I could have been happier humanly? Oh, foolish question; no, there are some things I feel could have happened differently so that I could have been happier humanly, but that it would have been better, no, no. And with indescribably blissful amazement, I see in retrospect more and more how what happened was the only, the only right thing (X 3 A 168).


As I have often said, the basic confusion in Christianity has been to make it a doctrine. With a doctrine one has to take care first of all to master it all. Just the opposite with the N. T.; it has solely to do with the ethical, and wants you simply to begin, therefore, with some particular—but then to see to it that you do it. [...]

'But then isn't it of absolute importance to understand first?' No, ethically the important thing is that you do it, do what is so infinitely easy to understand that you understand it immediately, but which flesh and blood would prevent you doing (X 3 A 169).


(1) There is a predominantly poetic element in me which I am insufficiently spiritual to be able to stifle, or even (exactly because this strain is there) really to grasp how it can be God's will with me; nor am I spiritual enough to live as an ascetic.

(2) On the other hand I have knowledge to an unusual degree of what Christianity is, I know how to present it, and have a rare talent in this respect.

(3) Then I use this talent with God's help to present it, win people over to it, so that at least they get an impression, are made aware.

(4) There is still one thing I believe I will be granted the strength to do, namely impart a constant reminder, reminding people gently and kindly, but out of love of the truth, that once I have got them to go into [what Christianity is], the reason why they are doing so is precisely that I myself am not the truly religious person on a grand scale but something of a poet who has used gentler, in other words in the highest sense, less true means; whereas precisely the truly religious person would have been badly received and persecuted because he used the absolutely true means, was in truth earnest, turned everything into ethical reality, rather than conceding a somewhat poetic relation to it, both to himself and to others (X 3 A 191).


The truth is always in the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because as a rule the minority is made up of those who actually have an opinion,'while the strength of the majority is illusory, formed of that crowd which has no opinion—and which therefore the next moment (when it becomes clear that the minority is the stronger) adopts the latter's opinion, which now is in the majority, i. e. becomes rubbish by having the whole retinue and numerousness on its side, while the truth is again in a new minority.

This clumsy monster, the public, etc. fares in respect of the truth in the same way as is said of someone travelling to regain his health: he always arrives one station too late (X 3 A 652).



is the power a man's comprehension exerts on his life.

The person who may have an incorrect conception of God, but nevertheless observes the self-denial this incorrect conception requires of him, has more spirit than the person whose knowledge of God may in scholarly and speculative respects be the most correct but which exerts absolutely no power over his life (X 3 A 736).

The following entry indicates that Kierkegaard was preparing for the assault on Christendom.


When a society is dissolved in this way, as '48 showed, it isn't kings, princes and the like who are to blame, but essentially the clergy.

Either Christianity has absolutely nothing to do with the state and remains primally apostolic, or it wants to involve itself in the state and also have benefits, on its own terms, from doing so. It then becomes a state Church, and the clergy has to answer to the state for the existence at any time of an adequate core of politically indifferent people, that is, of properly religiously engaged, good citizens.

In former times it was these who sustained the state. Christianity is political indifference; occupied with what is higher, it learns to be subservient to all authority.

In former times this religiousness provided states with those good, peaceful citizens who didn't meddle in ruling or dictating to the government.

But religiousness disappeared. The newspapers and public life in general did all they could to drag everyone out into politics—and the clergy neither thought of opposing this nor had it in them to do so.

Now everything is politics and the clergy themselves are the first to make the pace in Parliament.

If one now wants to explain that it is 'the crowd' that is to be countered, the clergy may even think there's something in that, but they themselves are just as ballot-sick as the others.

Which is also why I haven't wanted to leave the matter in abeyance. To begin right at the bottom, I have directed an attack in the direction of the clergy. And the clergy, to be sure, have a huge responsibility (X 3 A 746).


The Church is not to be reformed, nor its teaching. If anything is to be done it is penance by all of us. That is what my being expresses.

I am, in human terms, the most precocious being we have. And what have I learnt! That I scarcely dare call myself a Christian—why then should I want to reform the Church or meddle with such things?

Just as other youngsters go abroad and bring back accounts of foreign customs and manners, so too have I lived for many years as though in a foreign land—in the company of ideals, where it is so blessed to be, all mildness and gentleness if only one is humble and unassuming.

Then I was parted from them. And their farewell went something like this: Go now with God; tell others what you have learnt; and so that you can remember us, take the ideals along poetically. Make the best use of them you can, but remember that you are still responsible for them.

What did I learn? I learnt that to be a Christian is something so infinitely elevated that I scarcely dared call myself one. But I was given leave to use the ideals poetically.

The teaching in the establishment, and its institutions, are very good. But the existences, our lives—believe me, they are mediocre. [In the margin: The teaching is proclaimed from too great a distance; Christianity is no power in our actual lives, our existences are only slightly affected by the teaching.] Yet this may be forgiven if only it is acknowledged. But do not incur new guilt by wanting to reform the Church when Christianity no longer exists.

Just as Luther stepped forth with only the Bible at the Diet, so would I like to step forth with only the New Testament, take the simplest Christian maxim, and ask each individual: Have you fulfilled this, if only to some degree? And if not, do you then want to reform the Church? [In the margin: And no one says: I am just as good as the others, for anyone who says that is most unworthy.] They just laugh! Yet no, even this I have put to rights in advance. They got leave once to take their fill of ridiculing me—something I asked for myself. Now they are presumably tired of that.

Stop, oh, stop! Be content at least for the time being with what I can offer.

And what can I offer? I am a poet—alas, just a poet. But I can present Christianity in the glory of its ideality; and I have done so. Listen to me—at least before you begin reforming and balloting. At least see first how ideal Christianity really is and then take a moment for yourself—before you reform.

I am just a poet, alas, just a poet. Do not look at my life—or look there only to see what a mediocre Christian I am, as you will see best when you hear what I have to say about the ideal. Listen to that, and a fig for my puny person.

I am just a poet. I love this earthly life all too much, I would gladly lead an easy life in human terms, amuse myself, enjoy life, etc. Alas! I see that strictly understood Christianity calls for something quite different. But just because in deep humility I confess my baseness, I have realized that Christianity permits me to live in this way at least for the time being (for I am indeed duty bound to make inquiries, as a child of his father or teacher).

And this is what I offer; this is the condition under which I feel I can offer Christianity—Oh, listen to me, at least before you reform it.

I am just a poet. And in that case what is my task (were I able to bring it to fulfilment, for whether I can do that tomorrow is something I cannot know for certain today; all I feel I can know is that yesterday I managed, more or less)?

Wherever there is something afoot which is according to my lights dangerous to Christianity, there so to speak go I. Not a word do I say to those present, God forbid, not a word about myself that would be disrespectful. So what do I do? I take my stand away, so to speak, in a corner or in the midst of the gathering as the case may be. I then begin to speak out loud to myself like an absentminded person, speak out loud to myself about the ideals. If only you shrill people would talk like that, you all of whose speeches, besides the many brilliant passages in the middle, end with the brilliant conclusion: Now let's take a vote. Something else will happen. One and then another will move aside, saying to himself: That was a strange speech, that about the idea. And believe me, he will not vote.

And so it goes on. For no more than any woman can ideally resist the poet's Don Juan can any man or woman in the long run ideally resist this talk of the ideal—woe unto the one who could, but he cannot. It steals in through no one knows what pores and apertures, steals into the heart. It may take a long time; one day he begins to act a bit strangely. He shuts himself in or goes out for a solitary walk; he says to himself: That was strange talk, that about the ideal; I want to think it over. And when he opens the door again or comes home, he is a changed man—believe me, he will not vote on Christianity.

We human beings have it in our power all the time, in a certain external, God-forsaken way, to vote on Christianity too. After all, we could say: That's how we would like to have it, and that's what we would call Christianity. Oh! Let us have a care!

Hearken to me! Oh, my friends, I have never before begged for such a thing, but now I beg it in the name of Christianity! Hearken to me! Oh, and you, you women! With you the poet's speech always tends to find favour. Oh, let it find favour so you may stop the men! No more gentle speech could you, or will you, ever hear than that of a wretched poet. But just look once at Christianity; consider only my portrayal of a witness to the truth, to say nothing of an 'apostle' (and a witness to the truth is the least one must be before venturing on 'reform'). Regard this portrait and then look, for example, at me and see what a poltroon I am by comparison—ah, yes, but here in our little neck of the woods, humanly speaking, I am a real prodigy.

I am just a poet, and for that very reason I want a good understanding with you, humanly speaking, for a poet is always weak in this way. If you wanted to understand me, if you wanted—to repay me by giving my life earthly embellishment—I would accept with gratitude. And I feel able to do that, dare it precisely because I only call myself a poet; dare like a child to enjoy these earthly things. Oh, but if the case is to go to the next court of appeal, if it takes a witness to the truth to stop this—no, he will not accept such an assignment. Formidably impervious as someone deceased, unmoved and immovable, he quotes you, or me, all of us, the price of being a Christian, a price as high as 'spirit' is high; he does away with all boundaries; he hurries with longing after his own martyrdom and so cannot save the rest of us. Thus many a frail one falls who could get along under a rather milder condition, were some concession made, and many a vacillating one hardens his heart, etc (X 4 A 33).


That this idea of an abstract free will (liberum arbitrium) is a fantasy, as though a person at every moment of his life had this continual abstract possibility, so that really he never got going, as though freedom were not also an historical state of affairs—this has been pointed out by Augustine and so many moderns.

In my view the matter can be simply illustrated as follows: Take a balance, even the most accurate gold balance—when used for only a week it already has a history. The owner knows this history, for instance that it has a bias in one direction or the other, and so on. This historical feature then continually accompanies its use.

So with the will. It has a history, a continuous history. It can even come to the point where a person finally loses the ability to choose. But that is not the end of the history for, as Augustine so rightly says, this state of affairs is the punishment for sin—and is sin in its turn. The concept of sin keeps one captive in every way. It is not an external thing so that the punishment is something else; no, the punishment, although punishment, is still in its turn sin (X 4 A 236).

May, 1852

'ABOUT HER' [Regine Olsen]

During the latter part of 1851 she encountered me every day. It was when I was walking home along Langelinie, at ten in the morning. It was right on the hour, and the actual spot merely moved farther and farther down the road to the lime-kiln. She came walking from the direction of the lime-kiln.

I have never gone a step out of my way and always turned off down Citadelsveien, even when one day she happened to have come further along the lime-kiln road so that I would have met her if I had not turned off.

And so it went on day after day. The trouble is I am so awfully well known, and it is so rarely a lady walks there alone at that time of day. Nor did it escape me that a few of those habitual pedestrians who met regularly about this time and recognized both of us, had begun to take notice.

So I had to make a change. I also thought it would be best for her, for this daily repetition is enervating if she is thinking of reconciliation with me, for which I would of course have to ask her husband's consent.

So the decision was made: 31 December would be the last time I walked along that road at that time of day.

It was kept. On 1 January 1852 my route was changed and I walked home by way of Nørreport.

So time went by; we did not see each other. One morning she met me on the lake path where I was now in the habit of walking. I took my usual route the next day too. She was not there. As a precaution I nevertheless changed my route from then on, taking Farimags-Veien and then taking different routes home. From then on I did not meet her at this hour on the roads; it would have been difficult now that I took no definite route home and if she normally took the path.

But what happens? Some time had passed, then she meets me one morning at eight, on the avenue outside Østerport, the way I take every morning into Copenhagen.

But the next day she was not there. Since I could not very well alter my route, I continued to walk to town this way. She met me here quite often, sometimes on the ramparts along which I walk to town. Perhaps it was coincidence, perhaps not. I could not understand why she should be walking along there at that time, but, as nothing escapes me, I noticed that she took this route especially if the wind was from the east. So it could be because she could not bear the east wind on Langelinie. But she did also come when the wind was in the west.

Time passed in this way; she saw me now and then, at just the same time, in the morning, and then on Sundays in church.

Then came my birthday. As a rule I am always away on my birthday, but I did not feel altogether well. So I stayed at home, and went to town as usual in the morning to talk with the doctor, since I had thought of celebrating my birthday with something new, never having tasted castor oil before. Right outside my door on the pavement, she runs into me, just before the avenue. As so frequently happens of late, I cannot help smiling when I see her—ah! how much she has come to mean to me!—She smiled back and then nodded a greeting. I took a step past her, then raised my hat, and walked on. [...] (X 4 A 540).


Especially at the end of A Literary Review [Two Ages] I have said that none of the 'unrecognizable ones' dares at any price to communicate directly, or assume recognizability—yet in my On My Work As An Author I have owned up to the esthetic foreground of my authorship and said: 'The whole thing is my own upbringing.' How is this to be understood?

As follows. Granting that the illusion 'Christendom' is the truth and must be left standing, then the maxim is unrecognizability. But if the illusion is to go away we must take it in this way: You are not really Christians. Then there must be recognizability. And here I have intimated the lowest level: that it is I who am being brought up in Christianity.

If the illusion 'Christendom' is the truth, if the current preaching in Christendom is in order, then we are all Christians and all that matters is to increase inwardness: so maieutic and unrecognizability are the maxim.

But then suppose (as I was not aware at the start) that the current preaching in Christendom leaves out something essential in the proclamation of Christianity—'imitation, dying away, being born. again, etc.', then we in Christendom are not Christians, and here the stress must be towards recognizability. As I said, my own proclamation is the lowest in direct recognizability: that the whole thing is my upbringing.

O my God! Oh, thank you! How clear everything becomes to me! (X 4 A 558).


When being a priest means having your life made safe in every possible earthly and worldly way, participating in all the pleasures of life, and on top of that enjoying pleasure and esteem—in return for orating with fine rhetoric, enthusing oneself in the loftiest feelings once a week in a quiet hour (in that splendid work of art called a church where everything is arranged esthetically)—then I maintain that this is the greatest possible distance from Christianity, the most refined gratification, a titillation intensified with a subtlety beyond the contrivance of paganism.

Take any actor and ask him whether the sense of surrendering to the passions is not enormously gratifying, to feel the power he exerts over the audience. That is why the actor cannot live without acting; in a sense a vacation is a deprivation because he misses that intensity.

But then how far more gratifying to play the priest, to take man's sublimest moments, moods and feelings, to feel life's emotions swell up within one, reflected back from the audience. And then with that transfiguring lustre over it all, that it is supposed to be earnest, so that there is no question of bravos or booing; no, only the adoration of the women and the young.

With visible emotion Paulli [the Royal Chaplain] told me when Bishop Mynster was ill how he longed so very much to preach. How moving! Suppose Phister [a noted actor] were sick a few months; how he would long for that emotional heightening on the wooden boards!

There is a deep vein of confusion here and partly also hypocrisy which is quite awful. An adulterer, a robber, a thief caught in the act is not as far from Christianity as such a priest just when he is most bloated by his own eloquence in the pulpit, for the robber and the others do not think that what they do is Christianity (X 4 A 568).


Liberals of our day attack Christianity and call it mythology, poetry.

Then come the defenders (the rescue team as one might satirically refer to them, bearing in mind what that means in case of fire), the official exposition. They protest, swear, and curse the despicableness of such a view; for them Christianity is anything but mythology, poetry.

Aber, aber [But, but]—their exposition taken as a whole leaves imitation out entirely (even their sermons are almost silent on the subject, and their lives express just about the opposite of the imitation of Christ)—ergo, Christianity is for them, in spite of all their protestations, mythology, poetry.

There is something altogether odd about assurances which indirectly point to their own rebuttal. If a man stands there hacking wildly with an axe and protests by everything holy that he is a cabinet-maker, one counters quite confidently: No, anyone who handles an axe like that is certainly not a cabinet-maker, in spite of all protestations (X 4 A 626).


PRIEST: You must die from the world—that will be ten rigsdaler.

NOVICE: Well, as for that, if I have to die from the world, renounce all things worldly, I can see quite well I'll have to put out more than ten rigsdaler, so just one question: who gets the ten rigsdaler?

PRIEST: I do, of course. It's my wages. After all, I and my family must live from proclaiming dying from the world. So it's a very fair price and soon we may well have to charge more. To be fair, you will see that if you are going to proclaim dying from the world in earnest and with zeal, it takes a lot out of a man. So I really have a great need to spend the summer with my family in the country recuperating, etc. (X 4 A 627).


(1) In paganism, and everything pagan, the mark of the God-relationship is happiness, prosperity; being God's loved one is marked by being successful in everything, etc.

(2) In Judaism begins the shift: being God's friend, etc. is expressed by suffering. Yet this suffering is essentially only for a time, a test— then come happiness and prosperity, even in this life. But it is to be distinguished essentially from all paganism in that, here, to be loved of God is after all not quite so straightforward as being a Pamphilius of fortune.

(3) In Christianity being loved by God is suffering, continual suffering, the closer to God the more suffering, yet with eternity's consolation and the spirit's testimony that this is God's love, this is what it means to dare to love God.

The gradation in God's majesty corresponds to these three stages.

In paganism God's majesty is simply a superlative of a human majesty—and the distinguishing mark is therefore its straightforwardness.

First in Christianity does God's majesty become pure majesty, different in kind from what it is to be human, paradoxical majesty and therefore distinguishable by suffering. [...] (X 5 A 39).



'Does this road lead to London?' 'Yes, if you turn round, because you are going away from London.'

I have read many works of theology, some of philology and philosophy, especially philosophical works on Greek philosophy; I bow in deference to the erudition, the research, etc, which they bear witness to; I confess with due modesty that I am still a novice, but there is one thing on which I must disagree with them.

In all of them, without exception, I have found the matter presented as follows.

They say: In Socrates philosophy was still just (N. B. this 'still just')—still just a life. In Plato, however (in other words we have progress, we are moving upwards), it becomes (up we go) doctrine. Then it becomes science. And so it goes with philosophy, on up to our own time when we stand on the pinnacle of science and look back on Socrates as on a lower plane because philosophy was still only a life. [...]

Is this the road to London? Indeed, but only if you turn round.

Yet how is this incomprehensible inversion possible? Quite simply.

For if philosophy (or religion) is a man's life, then because philosophy and religion are heterogeneous with this earthly life, his life (because philosophy and religion are the life in him) will lack all earthly goods and benefits.

Now this is something to which we humans are not at all disposed—and that is something I find quite natural.

Couldn't we find some other convenient solution? Ah, we have it! I exempt my personal life, I make my personal life one thing and philosophy another. In that way I keep control over my personal life and now, just like everyone else, quite unencumbered by philosophy, just like a merchant, a shopkeeper, etc., can so order my personal life as to acquire as many earthly goods and benefits as possible. Philosophy, on the other hand, is science.

In this way, instead of that philosopher in whom philosophy was still just a life [...], we get a docent, a professor of philosophy [...], someone who from the scientific point of view, the objective, superior position, looks back at Socrates as on a lower plane [...].

Does this road go to London? Only if you turn round (X 5 A 113).


Anselm prays to God in all sincerity that he may succeed in proving God's existence. He thinks that he has succeeded and throws himself down to thank God; curious, he does not notice that this prayer and thanksgiving are infinitely more proof of God's existence than—the proof (X 5 A 120).


1853 S. Kierkegaard

Either we must insist that people stop this talk about, and bother with, Christian progress, that we are now superior in Christian terms to medieval Christianity, the monastic renunciation of this world—and one recalls that what I have proposed undeviatingly from the beginning is that we admit the true state of affairs to ourselves, and to God, and to one another, concerning how Christian we are, how far behind, and resort to grace!

Or we must insist that those who carry on this talk about being superior to the medieval monastic renunciation also demonstrate that fact so that we see their lives express it—but there is only one thing superior in Christian terms to medieval monastic renunciation: martyrdom. [...] (X 6 B 235).

...I have something upon my conscience as a writer. Let me indicate precisely how I feel about it. There is something quite definite I have to say, and I have so much upon my conscience that (as I feel) I dare not die without having uttered it. For the instant I die and so leave this world (so I understand it) I shall in the very same second (so frightfully fast it goes!), in the very same second I shall be infinitely far away, in a different place, where, still within the same second (frightful speed!), the question will be put to me: "Hast thou uttered the definite message quite definitely?" And if I have not done so, what then?... There is something quite definite I have to say. But verily I am not eager to say it. On the contrary, I would so infinitely prefer that another should say it—which, however, would not help me, since (as I understand it) it was and remains my task.... For it is not a cheerful message, this definite thing, and I cannot but think that there are several persons dear to me to whom it would be unwelcome to hear it said. Above all there is a right reverend old man, a consideration which has constantly held me back, laid a restraint upon my tongue and upon my pen, a consideration for the highest dignitary of the Church, a man to whom by the memory of a deceased father I felt myself drawn with an almost melancholic affection—and I must think that to him especially it will be very unwelcome that this is said.


From December of 1854 through 1855, the year of his death, Kierkegaard launched his assault upon the Church, beginning with articles in The Fatherland. These were followed by tracts published by Kierkegaard himself under the title The Moment (also translated The Instant). The first installment was dated May 24, 1855, but was not published until all 21 articles in The Fatherland were published—the last of that series appearing on May 26. In this paper Kierkegaard wrote and edited all the articles, and published them at roughly one to four week intervals until his death shortly thereafter. Unlike the articles in The Fatherland, which appeared one at a time, each edition of The Moment contained several articles. Amazingly, they outstripped the circulation of The Fatherland. Some of the articles were so outrageous and acerbic, that many thought that he had lost his mind. After his death some thought to attribute his bile to his illness, but his journal entries give the lie to that hypothesis, as does the great sermon The Changelessness of God. Other reports noted that he never seemed more calm or lucid than during this period. Kierkegaard collapsed in the street after having published his ninth installment. The tenth was found in his study, finished, though not dated for publication. It was published soon after.

The following entry is important in understanding why Kierkegaard delayed in beginning his attack upon the organized church.

1 March 1854


Now he is dead.

If he could have been moved to end his life with a confession to Christianity that what he had represented was not really Christianity but leniency, it would have been much to be desired, for he sustained a whole age.

That was why the possibility of such a confession had to be kept open to the last, yes to the last, in case he wanted to make it on his deathbed. That is why it was not possible to attack him; that is what obliged me to put up with everything, even when he went to such desperate lengths as with that matter with Goldschmidt [editor of The Corsair], since no one could tell whether it might not have moved him to come out with that confession.

Now that he is dead without having made the confession everything is changed; all he has left behind is the fact that he has preached Christianity solidly into an illusion.

The situation is also changed regarding my melancholic devotion to my dead father's priest. For it would be too much if even after his death I were unable to speak less reservedly about him, although I know very well that I will always be susceptible in my old devotion and my esthetic admiration.

Originally I wanted to turn the whole thing into a triumph for Mynster. As later I came to see things more clearly it remained my wish, but I was obliged to require this little confession and, not being something I desired on my own behalf, I thought it might be done in a way that made it a triumph for Bishop M.

From the time a secret misunderstanding arose between us my wish was at least to succeed in avoiding an attack on him while he was alive; I thought it quite possible I myself might die.

And yet it came very dose to my thinking I would have to attack him. I missed just one of his sermons, the last; it wasn't illness that kept me, I went to hear Kolthoff preach. I took this to mean: now is the time, you must break with the tradition from Father. It was the last time M. preached. God be praised, is it not like a guidance?

If Bishop M. could have given way (which could after all have been kept from everyone, for whom it would have come to be his triumph) my outward circumstances could also have been more free from care than they were; for in his worldly wisdom Bishop M., who I am sure privately conceded enough to me in respect of spirit, counted on its having to end with my giving in to him in one way or another, because I would be unable financially to hold out against him. To me, a saying he frequently came out with in our conversations, although not directed at me, was very apt: It depends not on who has the greatest strength but on who can hold out longest (XI I A 1).


In our present times just doesn't exist—because Christendom has been made so lacking in character that really there is nothing to persecute. [...] (XI I A 17).


My life is such that attempts are made on the greatest possible scale to drive me mad, with the result that I in fact exist for a whole class of the population as a kind of half-crazy person. And then I have a brother who has adroitly got the judgment passed on me that I represent the ecstatic (for most people this word means the same as mad and in medical works it is also classified as a kind of insanity)—while Martensen is composure itself (XI I A 48).


Man has a natural dread of walking in the dark—so no wonder he naturally shrinks from the unconditioned, from involving himself with the unconditioned, of which it is true that no night and 'no darkness is half so black' as this darkness, and this night in which all relative goals (the ordinary milestones and signposts), in which even the most sensitive and warmest feelings of devotion are extinguished, for otherwise it is not unconditionally the unconditioned (XI I A 95).

Christianity does not unite people—no, it separates them—in order to unite every single one with God. And when a person is able to belong to God, he has died away from what unites people (XI I A 96).

Though a Protestant himself, the following entry clearly shows some of the misgivings Kierkegaard had with organized religion.


Luther, you have a huge responsibility, for when I look more closely, I see more and more clearly that you toppled the Pope only to enthrone 'the public' (XI I A 108).


That is where the fraud lies: from generation to generation people have altered, more and more improperly, the standard for being a human being, subtracted from it.

Although in a certain objective sense Christianity is proclaimed as an objective teaching, owing to the altered standard no one is fit to be a Christian, ergo Christianity is poetry, mythology, and this is what one calls orthodoxy. In the New Testament the standard for being a human being is this: the New Testament contains the requirement, the God-man as the prototype—and every, absolutely every single one of these countless millions of human beings falls quite simply under this requirement, with no nonsense or middle terms.

The way we live is one in which the ethical has been brought into line with such distinctions as genius and talent. With the same imperturbability that one says, I am no genius (since it quite properly neither can nor should occur to him to be that), one says, equally imperturbably, Well, I am not able to deny myself. How charming! And that isn't all; just as one wants to be praised for one's humility when, not being a genius, one doesn't aspire to be one either, so too one wants to be praised for the humility of being humble enough to be content with ethical abjectness.

Splendid! Imagine a school where the pupils spoke of diligence as though it were exactly the same as having a good mind, with the same imperturbability! Where, moreover, the pupil even wants to be praised for humility on the grounds of his lack of diligence, and so says: I am humble enough to be content with being lazy.

The standard for being a human being in the New Testament is the eternal, not a people, a century, a country, the distinguished among one's contemporaries, contemporaneity as such, a miserable contemporaneity, etc. And now think of those dreadful counterfeits of the kind I would, in a word, call the Goethean, the Hegelian, satisfying the age.

Moreover, the New Testament standard for being a human being is to be a single individual—and nowadays everything is association (XI I A 130).


Slight, thin and delicate, denied practically all the physical conditions which, compared with others, could qualify me, too, as a whole human being; melancholy, sick in my mind, profoundly and inwardly a failure in many ways, I was given one thing: an eminently astute mind, presumably to keep me from being completely defenseless.

Already as a young boy I was aware of my mental dexterity and that in it lay my strength in the face of these far stronger comrades.

It was precisely dexterity that had to be resisted. Which is presumably why, having my business in this area, I was equipped with an enormously adroit mind.

But, alas, in a self-seeking sense, I have had no great joy of this power of mine. For this power was so decisively appropriated for religious purposes that through more ideal passions, and by becoming conscious of what Christianity is, I saw that the law for the religious is to act against mental dexterity.

As far as that goes, I am still defenseless, impotent, for this power of mine is not employed to come by what adroit minds ordinarily achieve.

But also, for this very reason I can be the celebrant in the realm of the religious. I am much, much cleverer, far, far more resourceful than the cleverest and most resourceful coeval known to me—but alas, in a certain sense I have all this in order to make myself, humanly speaking, unhappy, my life difficult, troublesome, and embittered.

Yet what I have to do I can indeed do; I can obstruct, bring things to a halt; there is no one alive, no one, so astute that he can devise some piece of astuteness which my policeman's eye does not instantly detect and which my own astuteness cannot instantly expose as a knavish trick.

That is why I was such a torment for the late bishop, who in a finite and self-seeking sense was undeniably very clever. He could never make out my cleverness; although it never occurred; to him to deny that I was clever, the use I made of my cleverness was beyond him. The fact was that I understood the law governing his own cleverness but he did not understand the law governing mine.

This alone, incidentally, makes it intelligible why I must live in the most complete solitariness, for even if I did get someone to understand me in my cleverness, I would get no one to understand me in my use of it. The interpretation of anyone who undertakes to understand me and my life is immediately to the one power lower; it fails to notice that all the clashes of my life are to the one power higher than those of men generally, that they have been brought on voluntarily through my acting religiously against practical reasoning, through my going religiously against myself. As for that, for me it is precisely the worst of all torments if someone takes it upon himself to console me—for he fails altogether to understand what is at issue. There is a world of difference between the following two: someone who happens to be ridiculed against his will, and someone who voluntarily demands it of those who idolized him; someone who for all his efforts never amounts to anything in the world, and someone who systematically prevents himself from amounting to anything in the, world, etc. And worse than all the rubbish and nonsense and furore and maltreatment, much worse is the torment of being consoled by someone who utterly misses the point of one's life, especially when this point is qualificatory to such a degree as to make such a human existence an extreme rarity. The degree of my superiority over my contemporaries was such as occurs seldom. I voluntarily exposed myself to maltreatment—and now people no doubt think I am so weakened after eight years of it that this, the really qualifying factor, could be forgotten and I can be seen in terms of this everlasting and perpetual phenomenon: someone trying vainly to succeed in this world. No, poor miserable market-town, no, it will not work. In this respect I have in the interest of truth taken care so to assemble the various egoisms of the present age that the truth will surely come to light, yet without my profiting from it, something I have no de sire for in any case. But one thing is certain, and my report will be to that effect: when it comes to it, the most miserable thing of all is mediocrity, the deepest damnation is mediocrity—oh, any crime is far preferable to this self-satisfied, smiling, cheerful, blissful demoralization: mediocrity (XI I A 277).


is a trap: you cannot get it without it getting you; you cannot get truth by capturing it, only by it capturing you (XI I A 355).

Kierkegaard's comments on professors and the clergy become increasingly acerbic in this period.


Thus Christianity is on such a high level that even humanity of the best-intentioned kind (and surely St Peter was well-intentioned) is not just a misunderstanding, a false view, but is of 'Satan'.

But what is 'Christendom', what else but a humanity truly not at all as well-meaning as St Peter's.

In other words Christendom is Satan's invention (XI I A 375).


To be 'spirit' is to be 'I'. God wants to have 'I's, because God wants to be loved.

Mankind's interest is in bringing objectivities to bear everywhere; this is where the category of the race sees its gain.

'Christendom' is a society of millions—all in the third person, no 'I' (XI I A 487).


God creates everything out of nothing—and everything God is to use he first turns to nothing (XI I A 491).



So far is theory, preoccupation with theory, from being a support for practice in the ethical domain (where the task is one of self denial, containing the flesh, etc., unlike medical practice and the like which have no relation to change of character)—as though concern with theory improved a person's practice—that in this area theory itself is a confidence trick. What Talleyrand said about speech, that it is given to people to conceal their thoughts, can be said far more truthfully of the relation between theory and practice in the domain of ethics. Theory, doctrine, is there just in order to hide the fact that practice is wanting.

Make the ethical as short as possible—then attention will straightaway focus decisively on whether one does it or does not do it, and one is exposed in all one's nakedness if one does not.

But theory, doctrine, produces an illusion, as if one had a relation to the ethical just by talking about it. Theory and doctrine are a fig leaf, and with this fig leaf a professor or clergyman looks so solemn that it is awesome. And just as one says of the Pharisees that not only do they themselves not enter heaven, they also prevent others from doing so, so too the professor prevents the unlearned man by imbuing him with the idea that it is a matter of doctrine, that he too, in other words, must follow along as best he can. This is of course in the professor's interest, for the more significance is attached to it, the more significance is attached to the professor as well, and the more splendid his chosen trade and the greater his reputation. As a rule the professor's and the priest's cure of souls is a mystification, since it is calculated to prevent people from entering the kingdom of heaven.

Just as it is so difficult in the natural and other sciences, where the apparatus is too large to keep track dialectically since one is continually being distracted by inherently interesting facts of detail, so by introducing doctrine one tries to make it difficult for the ethical to keep track judgmentally of whether one does it or not.

There is an ethical decline whenever it becomes doctrine. First brought by a personality into personal existence, it is then most likely taken over by a Schüler who makes it into a doctrine.

Once this decline has taken place, it is not long before it is promoted and given the title of 'progress', usually by the Schüler's Schüler. From that moment on it goes like a dream—ever onward. Finally, the true progressives, the journalists, show an interest in the doctrine—and now it is unbelievable with what leaps and bounds it advances.

It is curious, this talk of making progress. Just as nature is kind enough to hide from cripples and deformed people the fact that they are crippled and deformed by having them look on themselves as beauties, so too talk of a cause's progress usually takes a proper hold only when it is decidedly in decline—and then becomes more and more conceited and shrill as the less and less significant bric-à-brac latches on to it (XI 2 A 117).


Some of the following entries may come from either 1854 or 1855.


That I shall acquire a certain renown, surely not even my bitterest enemy will deny. But I begin now to wonder whether I shan't become famous in a genre quite different from the one I had envisaged, whether I shan't become famous as a naturalist, in that I have made discoveries or at least delivered a very considerable contribution to the natural history of parasites. The parasites I have in mind are priests and professors, these greedy and virulently self-reproductive parasites which even have the shamelessness (which is more than other parasites have) to want to be of service to those they live off (XI 2 A 277).


Any attempt directed at bringing about a Christian state, a Christian nation, is by its very nature un-Christian, anti-Christian, since all such efforts are possible only through reducing the specification for being Christian—which is just why it opposes Christianity and is directed at bringing about the specious pretext that all are Christians, which makes it so easy to be one (XI 2 A 373).


In the New Testament faith is not an intellectual but an ethical category, signifying the personal relationship between God and man. That is why faith is required (as an expression of devotion), believing against reason, believing although one cannot see (already a qualification of personality and the ethical). The apostle speaks of faith's obedience. Faith is put to the test, is tested, etc.

The confusion of the concept of faith is due mainly to the Alexandrines [Gnostics]. Augustine has also confused it by taking his concept of faith straight out of Plato's Republic (XI 2 A 380).


In the Republic Socrates constantly employs a metaphor from the beehive to describe the pernicious members of society.

This image fits the whole of Christendom and the official clergy admirably. They are just consumers, living off Christianity and giving the appearance of nourishing and serving Christianity, while their ardour and zeal never exceed what pays. This is the most dangerous form of falsification of all—of abandonment (XI 2 A 416).

23 September 55


Only a man of will can become a Christian, because only a man of will has a will that can be broken. But a man whose will is broken by the unconditioned or by God is a Christian. [...] A Christian is a man of will who no longer wills his own will, but with the passion of his crushed will—radically changed—wills another's will.

A man of understanding can never become a Christian; the most he can do is pick away at the Christian problems in imagination. [...] (XI 2 A 436).

For reviewers who thought (for modern reviewers who think) that Kierkegaard was suffering from dementia, the following entry, written just weeks before his death, demonstrates his clear thinking.

25 September 55


Our destiny in this life is to be brought to the highest pitch of world-weariness.

He who when brought to that point can insist that it is God who has brought him there, out of love, has passed life's examination and is ripe for eternity.

It was through a crime that I came into the world, I came against God's will. The offence, which even though it makes me a criminal in God's eyes is in a sense not mine, is to give life. The punishment fits the crime: to be bereft of all lust for life, to be led to the extremity of world-weariness. Man would try his bungling hand at God's handiwork, if not create man, at least give life. 'You'll pay for this all right, for only by my grace is the destiny of this life world-weariness, only to you who are saved do I show this favour of leading you to the highest pitch of world-weariness.' Most people these days are so spiritless, so deserted by grace, that the punishment simply isn't used on them. Lost in this life they cling to this life, out of nothing they become nothing, their life is a waste.

Those who have a little more spirit, and are not overlooked by grace, are led to the point where life reaches the highest pitch of world-weariness. But they cannot come to terms with it, they rebel against God, etc.

Only those who, when brought to this point of world-weariness could continue to insist with the help of grace that it is out of love that God does this, so they do not hide any doubt in their soul, not in the deepest cranny of their soul, that God is love—only they are ripe for eternity.

And God receives them in eternity. What then does God want? He wants souls who could praise, adore, worship, and thank him—the business of angels. That is why God is surrounded by angels, for the kind of beings of which there are legions in 'Christendom', who for ten rigsdaler could bawl and trumpet to God's praise and glory, these do not find favour with him. No, the angels please him, and what pleases him even more than the praises of the angels is a human being who, on life's final lap, when God is transformed as if into sheer cruelty, and does everything with the most cruelly contrived callousness to deprive him of all lust for life, nevertheless continues to believe that God is love, and that it is from love that God does this. A man like that then becomes an angel. And in heaven, there he can very well praise God; but the hardest time is always the time of learning, of schooling. Like someone who got the idea of travelling all over the world to hear a singer with perfect voice, God sits in heaven listening. And every time he hears someone praise him, someone he brings to the extremity of world-weariness, God says to himself: Here is the voice. Here it is, he says, as if he were making a discovery; but he was prepared all the same, for he was himself present with that man and helped him as much as God can in what only freedom can do. Only freedom can do it. But the surprise at being able to express oneself by thanking God as if it were God who did it, and in his joy at being able to do this he is so happy that he will hear nothing, nothing, about he himself having done it but refers everything gratefully to God, and prays God that it will continue to be God who does it, for he does not trust himself but trusts God (XI 2 A 439).