From a selection of Kierkegaard's works entitled "Provocations":
Truth is the work of freedom and in such a way that freedom constantly brings forth truth. What I am referring to is very plain and simple, namely, that truth exists for a particular individual only as he himself produces it in action. If the individual prevents the truth from being for him in that way, we have a phenomenon of the demonic. Truth has always had many loud proclaimers, but the question is whether a person will in the deepest sense acknowledge the truth, allow it to permeate his whole being, accept all its consequences, and not have an emergency hiding place for himself and a Judas kiss for the consequence.
There is a lot of talk about truth. But the task before us is to vindicate certitude and inwardness, not in abstraction but in an entirely concrete sense. Certitude and inwardness determine whether or not the individual is in the truth. It is not a lack of content that gives rise to arbitrariness, unbelief, mockery of religion, but lack of certitude. Whenever inwardness and appropriation are lacking, the individual is unfree in relation to the truth, even though he otherwise “possesses” the whole truth. He is unfree because there is something that makes him anxious, namely, the good.
It is not my desire to use big words in speaking about the Age as a whole. However, you can hardly deny that the reason for its anxiety and unrest is because in one direction, “truth” increases in scope and in quantity – via science and technology – while in the other, certainty and confidence steadily decline. Our age is a master in developing truths while being wholly indifferent to certitude. It lacks confidence in the good.
Take the thought of immortality, for example. The person who knows how to prove the immortality of the soul but who is not himself convinced by it, and does not live by it will always be anxious. Despite all his proofs, he shrinks from the truth of immortality. He deceives both himself and others by pretending that the proof is enough. In the process of trying to prove immortality he forgets immortality, since immortality is precisely what he fears. He remains anxious and is thus forced to seek yet a further understanding of what it means to believe in the soul’s immortality.
Without inwardness, an adherent of the most rigid orthodoxy may be demonic. He knows it all. He genuflects before the holy. He is ceremoniously flawless. He speaks of meeting before the throne of God and knows how many times to bow. He knows everything, but only like the person who can prove a mathematical proposition when the letters are ABC, but not when the letters are DEF. He is nonetheless anxious, especially whenever he hears something that is not exactly the same as his belief. He resembles the philosopher who has discovered a new proof for the immortality of the soul and then, in peril of his life, cannot produce the proof because he has forgotten his notebooks! What is it that both of them lack? It is certitude.
With what industrious zeal, with what sacrifice of time, diligence, and writing materials the theologians and philosophers in our time have spent to prove God’s existence! Yet to the same degree that the excellence of these proofs increase certainty declines. What is it that such individuals lack? Again, it is inwardness.
But inwardness may also be lacking in an opposite direction. So-called pious Christians are also unfree. They too lack the authentic certitude of inwardness. That is why they are so pious! And the world is surely justified in laughing at them. If, for example, a bowlegged man wants to be a dancing master but is not able to execute a single step, he is comical. So it is also with the multitudes who are so religious. Often you can hear the pious beating time, as it were, exactly like one who cannot dance but nevertheless knows enough to beat time, yet who are never fortunate enough to get in step. In order to reassure themselves, the pious seize upon grandiose ideas that the world hates. They battle ideas, but not with their lives. Such is the life of those who lack inwardness.
Eternity is a very radical thought, and thus a matter of inwardness. Whenever the reality of the eternal is affirmed, the present becomes something entirely different from what it was apart from it. This is precisely why human beings fear it (under the guise of fearing death). You often hear about particular governments that fear the restless elements of society. I prefer to say that the entire Age is a tyrant that lives in fear of the one restless element: the thought of eternity. It does not dare to think it. Why? Because it crumbles under – and avoids like anything – the weight of inwardness.
Discussion of the nature of Ultimate Reality and the path to Enlightenment.
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