EXISTENTIALIST GODFATHER BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

The corpus of theologian Soren Kierkegaard, godfather of anti-systematic existentialism, elevates the arrogant individual to self-righteous superhuman divinity, giving disenchanted secular socialists and spiritual communists further cause to
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eschew existentialism and to embrace alternatives such as personalism, a less well known yet influential response to the horrors of world wars. Since existentialism is ideally anti-systematic hence irrational, and since a person cannot make a meaningful statement without resorting to a linguistic system, it is difficult if not impossible to say just what existentialism is if anything at all, except that it was originally associated with a hodgepodge of antithetical notions bandied about in smoky post-war Paris jazz cellars: An American reporter wanted to label the scene there and inquired into the nature of the cultural movement. What were they doing? Someone said they were “just existing.” A jazz singer flippantly dubbed the movement “Existentialism.” The term caught on but it was some time before the prominent existentialists admitted to being existentialists instead of muddle-headed, basement philosophers-at-large. One thing was for certain: existentialists like other people were war-weary and they hated the systems that had murdered millions and leftEurope in ruins. Existentialists therefore put concrete individual existence before abstract general being. The abstract constitutions of being were in effect systematic explanations of existence that subordinated the individual to the whole, that incorporated and made cannon meat out of persons. Ironically, existentialists inherited and unwittingly embraced the skeptical and materialistic enlightenment they cursed; some turned to an even more systematic materialistic exploitation of humankind; namely, communism. Personalists also deplored the war, particularly the degradation of personal being to a matter of eking out material subsistence. In fine, personalists were indignant over the indignities persons had suffered at the hands of those materialists and idealists who gave lip service to persons but who were not respecters of persons and who believed persons were mere things or animals to be scientifically manipulated to suit the ulterior motives of the power elite. Instead of focusing on the existing

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individual, personalists wanted to restore the person as a sort of inviolable shield against utter incorporation and corruption by collectives. Ancient pagans had giving little truck to the concept of person. It was the Christians who firmly staked a claim to the discovery if not invention of the personal concept, holding that the person is a substance in its own right. The Christian person is ideally free and independent: although the Christian person might cooperate with the group, s/he stands apart from the collective, as a person, while at the same time recognizing other persons as self-conscious, free-willed beings. The church made Christian persons of individuals and set them apart from the secular political organization as the personal property of the Church, which offered a viable alternative to the usual way of the world. Yet a growing number of individuals became displeased with a church that had apparently sold their souls to the state if not to the devil himself. They protested against the imperial marriage of church and state; when greeted with repression, they ironically looked to nations for protection from the old world order – our new world order may soon resemble the old one, but without a viable, catholic alternative. Catholic philosophers described the person as a rational, individual or undivided substance that is separate from others and subsists by itself, hence is purportedly “incommunicable.” This magic circle seemingly isolating the individual from harm differs somewhat from the one penned by existentialists for the existing individual: The person was deemed “rational” by nature, but existentialists discounted rationality as a virtue. Of course rational communication is in fact common to human nature: “reason” is the “natural law” of human beings, that which differentiates them from other beings or forms of existence. In fact the person as we presently understand the person is the foundation of society and its communication. The person has so many edges in common that the edge between one person and another is blurred despite the obvious physical existence of the body, the instrument of
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personal expression, which exists in time and space. Christian salvation depends on that blur, the inter-subjective commune of persons in the divine person. Indeed, persons are only found in communities. While the competing individual often defines individuality by acting against other individuals, the cooperative person loves all persons alike; that is, to the extent of their goodness in the truth of harmonious fellowship – the person is decisively fashioned by acts in accord with those goods. Now the idol of existentialism is the existing individual. Existentialism is out of vogue today, so we speak of existentialists as if they are extinct, perhaps transformed into something else again. Many existentialists were atheists. Christian existentialists were largely “protesting” Christians if not philosophical anarchists or so-called anarcho-Christians. Catholic scholars respect existentialism, but may express rightful reservations about its subjective tendency and its ethical relativism – God‟s commandments should be dutifully obeyed in all circumstances. We notice that many of the philosophical notions of the existentialists who survived World War II resemble aspects of the anti-intellectual, anti-ideology of their worst enemy the Nazis and fascists. Most of all, existentialists are supposed to hate systems – their predecessor Kierkegaard believed that intricate systems of thought were in fact enormous lies guiding the world to ruin. Does not the gospel doom all who do not incessantly protest the degradation of the once noble (arab) man of the wilderness, whose descendents emigrated to the cities, where seeds are systematically mixed in the civic harlot, where men became liars and hypocrites? The greatest existentialists systematically decried the middling, milling systems at length. Their literature sometimes interchanged the term “person” with “individual,” as if the terms were synonymous, but we should not be confused by the naming game. Inasmuch as the person is a social system, anti-systematic thinkers would rid the world of that supposedly fictional entity, the persona, along with the Big Lie: the System, the Establishment. But the reduction of the person to a supposedly
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“responsible” individual would unwittingly leave him stripped of his husk, in anxious discontent and vulnerable to the charismatic likes of Mussolini and Hitler, who had no qualms about conflating god, ego and persona, and presenting themselves as the Supreme Person. Of course the subject of personalism is the person. We cannot get rid of the personal category simply because we happen to have bad examples, at least not if we want to communicate effectively, for the person is the platform of communication. The socially integrated individual is a person, a synthetic personal system or compromise between I and We, if not a substantial being in itself. Persons or personal forms vary according to different circumstances including their various biological determinants yet are essentially alike or equal in communal spirituality. That is, a person is a spiritual, mental, moral being, a human being, and as such is a communicating terminal engaged in continuous social compromise. But for Kierkegaard, whose assiduous study of dialectics turned him against its dynamic logical system, there could be no compromise, no golden mean, no higher Hegelian unity: there was only either-or, a choice first of all between an art of living that refuses to judge lest ye be judged and an ethics that would do nothing but judge in order to exist, ultimately decided by a leap to foolish faith in the apotheosis of the absurd individual, the self-caused, narcissistic existent who drowns himself in his own image because he is nothing without his peers, Even Kierkegaard, whose contempt for society led him to prefer the abstract individual or “category of one” behind imperfect personal masks, preferred to project his inner conflicts and conceal his self-contradictions and hypocrisy by speaking indirectly through several personifications. His thought-provoking Either-Or, for instance, appeared in the guise of a conversational work of fiction, a novel inhabited by fictional persons and not as a direct philosophical tome in the form of a coherent system of thought. Notwithstanding the complexity of the novel‟s subject matter,
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which is essentially an analysis of his romantic contradictions, the work was popular with readers who were ordinarily put off by philosophy. Kierkegaard, perhaps for want of concrete unity with all individuals in his category of one, used the indirect form of communication, or his multiple masks, to slander the person as such rather than to spiritually substantiate it. Following suit, prominent existentialists deliberately tried to popularize their abstract philosophy by presenting it in fictional form, that is in plays and novels, behind which their fundamental spiritual incoherence might be hidden and their personal confusion exposed through neurotic caricatures. Albert Camus, for one, who very much admired Kierkegaard, is best known as the philosopher of The Absurd; he noted in his diary that a good novelist must be a philosopher. Camus, incidentally, was an atheist educated by Jesuits, who are capable of writing the best and most sympathetic books on atheism. Jean Paul Sartre, profoundly influenced by Kierkegaard, was a novelist and playwright when not preoccupied with infinite reflections on being and nothingness. Personalists, whose person is essentially rooted in spirituality, have claimed that the person is not merely the biological and social development called personality but is in itself a blessed spiritual substance. Furthermore, personalists may hold that reality consists of interacting self-conscious persons, each of them depending on the divine or supreme person for their singularity, which may somehow survive the obvious death of the body. Personalists and existentialists alike may speak conventionally of the person, and say a person, generally speaking, is an individual human being. It follows that the categorical person is not merely a thing or animal. At the very least, a human being is the most dignified member of the animal kingdom. Again, the human being as an individual person is allegedly an undivided, self-conscious, willful, free, moral agent who has such dominion over his world that he might either deliberately or unwittingly destroy it. Yet human beings are social creatures.

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Existentialists overemphasize the singular or existent aspect of persons, and unduly decry the rational and moral organization of personality, thus throwing out the person to save the undivided individual, leaving him free to “sin at will.” And personalists commit the same sin against their personal concept when they overemphasize its individual aspect. On the other hand, devout personalists might say that, given the divine order that is best obeyed, the individual is only free to sin, a freedom extended to humankind as a divine common courtesy. Persons are free to act and thus shape their personalities, but they would be better off obeying God‟s commandments. Although persons are dignified by the image of their creator, they sin in their pride. Before god all persons are equal, particularly when freed from sin; freed of their freedom, they have in humble obedience no cause for arrogance. Absent mistakes or sins there would be no human progress towards perfection, however perfection may be conceived. Self-reflection reveals flaws; something better is conceived; idols are cast down and ideals raised up as standards for action. The term „human‟ is derived from root-terms meaning “he who draws out thought,” or he who thinks. The human person is rational. The spirit or breath that inspires man is physically communicated by means of meaningful words; the meaning conveyed depends on a mental process of rational choices. The ability to choose and discriminate among particulars and to abstract general or higher concepts from particulars is a moral process; therefore, the terms spiritual, mental and moral are to a certain extent virtually synonymous. A person is at once a spiritual, mental and moral being. The emphasis here is on being, and not on the individual existent which is a unique coincidence of universal qualities or predicates without which the individual would not suffer his uniqueness nor imagine his independence. That is, although the person may not be abstracted from individuality and individuality may not be substracted from personality, the personalist puts personal being before individual existence, for existence is nothing without being, and in being the individual has
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dignity over particulate existence or dirt. The being placed before the existent is the person. The person is supreme; but that does not mean that each and every private person is free to run amok as his independent “conscience” might dictate. The person is the supreme mode of moral action. But behold what enlightening reason has done: It has dissolved the metaphysical notion of the person and reduced the person to the complicated dirty details of a mental construct – personality, a heuristic device for understanding how individuals and collectives behave differently or similarly given the same or different circumstances. In fine, the personality is presumably nothing but a complex psychological structure. Moreover, personality is an organization of traits that distinguishes one person from another – there are different types of persons. But what a person is, objective scientists, notwithstanding their careful experiments, cannot really say. In fact there has been little or no success in typecasting people, for the measurements tend to lump everyone in the middle. A psychologist might write an entire book on personality, entitle it Person, and not offer a single definition of just what a person is because his person is insubstantial. Contrary to what we expect, the experts cannot really predict what a person will do, especially since so many persons have been depersonalized – demoralized. Too many good scientists, despite their good intentions, seemingly ignore or have forgotten the most famous inscription on the temple at Delphi – Know Thyself. In any case, so-called persons are so commonplace nowadays that it might be said that persons are no respecters of persons. In fact, a frustrated Christian cult that despises “humanism” for its humanity and calls Jesus its “political hero” is virtually lording it over the most Christian nation on Earth, or rather the most Roman nation in the imperialistic sense – thus does one take on the characteristics of the hated enemy. The personalist philosopher Karol Wojtyla (the late John Paul II), confronted with the despairing and anxious mental processes of war-shocked intellectuals whose
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main concern was their dreadful existence as alienated individuals, worked to rejuvenate the conception of the substantial person in his early work, The Acting Person. As a devout Catholic the budding saint undoubtedly had a universal model in mind; that is to say, a supreme personal model all persons could freely choose and systematically imitate and identify with rather than losing themselves speculating infinitely on an incomprehensible unknown god or impersonal force. Before all, spiritual Personalists preach a gospel of communal life made possible by the appearance of a Personal Saviour; that is, a savior for all persons as social persons, not just for selfish individuals who want to exist forever. The objective norms of humankind are drawn from our personal nature, our being, and are realized in our behavior. Since the person is a social being, love is essential to persons; their conscience is an inter-subjective universal ethic that strives for a loving order in voluntary social cooperation as a personal commune. Such cooperation cannot depend on faith alone but must involve rational works. But existentialists were wary of personalism. They were personally familiar with the crimes against humanity fomented by charismatic personalities; accordingly, they abhorred the cultivation of personal being in any shape or form. For them, personality was simply a fictitious system or lie; leaders donned messianic personas to delude people into conformance with one evil social system or the other. Furthermore, existentialists decried the “rational”, “enlightened” or “illuminated” systems of thinking, the abstract masks that had seemingly led to the widespread havoc and panic of competing mob behavior instead of a loving world order. Against the mob they raised the banner of the existing individual. Kierkegaard, the godfather of modern existentialism, was the foremost selfappointed apostle for the absolute freedom of the individual, the sort of individual who is not determined by society but who chooses his identity. By virtue or vice of blind faith, Kierkegaard found his identity in the absolute and his certitude in
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ignorance. He conjoined himself with the divine anarch who allegedly appeared on earth as his own son, a convicted criminal who obediently subjected himself to capital punishment in an ancient version of suicide-by-cop. The notion that god would murder himself is patently absurd if god is by definition immortal and eternal. Yet suicide proves the freedom of mortal man, who fashions god in his ideal image; ironically, to avoid the immediate satisfaction of his death instinct, his religion may constitute virtual suicide through its repressive morality, and if his freedom were not sin it would be voluntary slavery or absolute submission and obedience to the arbitrary authority of the representatives of the unknown god. For example, the so called free man becomes the prisoner of god, a monk subdued in his cell, but one who feels he is free in his repudiation of worldly life. And we have good cause to admire the saintly man who has conquered himself, even more than the hero who conquers the world. At least the monkish man who loves people in the abstract does little damage in fact, and with an ample supply of popcorn and iced tea and an Internet connection he might effectually invoke good works in the name of his god. On the other hand, the realization of freedom in incipient Totalitaria relies on a totalizing social order wherein individuals, freed from the inhibition of high civilization hence enslaved by base passions, are encouraged to run amok in concert and commit all sorts of crimes against humanity, crimes authorized, sanctioned, and condoned by a charismatic father or messianic leader, and they do so in the name of love for one‟s kind and country and fuehrer, perchance pursuant to a political religion called national socialism if not democracy, and, when spiritual religion is invoked, they kill one another in the name of the god of life and death, the invisible arbitrator who hands down victory and defeat according to the luck of the contingencies drawn and the might of the self-righteous. To the victors belong the spoils; eventually the entire world shall be conquered and therefore saved by supermen led by the messiah.But of course such a massive criminal enterprise is doomed to disorganization and
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disintegration in the end, for it is not rational at all: it is essentially an irrational, degenerate, and demonic adventure based on the lust for cheap thrills, and thrives on brutish, uneducated emotions that lead nowhere. Since fanatic mob leaders rationalized their fanaticism, many existentialists erroneously placed the blame for the horrors of human misbehavior on human reason, whereas the fanatics had, in their despair and dread, resorted to uninhibited feelings and simple emotions as their saving grace. Notwithstanding the rationale, the massive violence was rooted in that irrational resort to begin with; hence the frustrated brutes tend to be their own worst enemies, sometimes forsaking their precious individuality to secular communism after a brief period of anarchism. Kierkegaard renounced reason reasonably and he repudiated intellect intellectually. He resigned himself to the unknown god who is the one and only god, that is to say his version of the Christian god: he presumed before his leap to faith that fundamental Christianity is the only truth, no matter how absurd its expressions might seem to the worldly wise. Indeed, he argued that the greatest passion may only be had in believing absurd doctrine. And the true Christian apostle, not the hypocrite of the established church, has faith in such absurd doctrine on his own authority as long as it is pronounced in the name of highest authority: “An apostle has no other authority but his assertion, and at most by his willingness to suffer everything for the doctrine,” claimed the man who called himself a “knight of resignation.” We wonder not at his Christian foolishness: Kierkegaard, we note well, was a Lutheran, and Luther was wont to refer to his contradictions as “God‟s mysteries.” Well, then, any doctrine would do, would it not? Say, the Nazi doctrine. Indeed, Hitler might be deemed a god-incarnate. And if god ordered a father to sacrifice his son or the children of his country or all the children in the world, the father would do so forthwith, and plead at the murder trial that the voice of god had told him to do it. In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard celebrates Abraham‟s willingness to murder his son
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Isaac. And did not the Hebrew father in Heaven have his innocent son tortured and murdered on Earth, thus converting evil to good and providing superstitious regressives with a sufficient reason for humiliating child abuse for centuries to come? Fortunately, Churchmen who actually read, understood, and valued the Gospel knew very well that Jesus did not preach nor condone child abuse. But according to Kierkegaard‟s theology, it would not have mattered even if Jesus had advocated infanticide, or had condoned beating children with rods, or, a prescribed by Judaic law, stoning them to death for disobeying their parents. Christianity; as Kierkegaard conceived it, was not of this world; nor, he said, did Christ intend it to be. For example, Christian women should be content with their subjugated lot on Earth: “What Christ said of this realm, that it is not of the world, applies to everything Christian. Foolish people have tried foolishly, in the name of Christianity, to make it secularly manifest that the wife is empowered with the same rights as man. Christian religion never demanded or wished anything of that sort.” Kierkegaard posited three ways of being: aesthetical, ethical, and religious. We concoct three equations accordingly: For the aesthetical, the relative: I am of that multiplicity. For the ethical, the duality: I am not that. For the religious, the absolute: I am I. In the last instance, I AM, or I=I, would of course suffice. Kierkegaard, an aesthete who did not have to work or compromise himself for his daily bread, espoused the ethical life before he became a spiritual. As far as he was concerned, an ethical man had no choice but to choose himself, the penultimate good. But the ethical life was not good enough for him for there was no end to the choices to be made, just as there is no end to the number of things aesthetes might appreciate, hence the ethical man leaped to faith and became a religious man who worshipped the unknown god, purportedly the ultimate good. Kierkegaard despised the aesthete he obviously was; the aesthete was a sort of dissolute pantheist, finding his illusory good in whatsoever happened to please him at
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the moment, but incapable of taking any decisive action but avoidance. "You are capable of spending a whole month reading nothing but fairy tales”, Kierkegaard writes in Either/Or, “you make a profound study of them, you compare and analyze, and your study is not barren of result - but what do you use it for? To divert your mind; you let the whole thing fire off in a brilliant display of fireworks… We have the disgusting sight of young men who are able to mediate Christianity and paganism, are able to play with the titanic forces of history, and are unable to tell a plain man what he has to do in life..." Thinkers given to infinite reflections have oft recommended that aesthetes withdraw from their addictive substances and take up philosophy instead. Philosophy may be a lot of nonsense about common sense, yet it provides salve for the wound. Philosophy is a poetic art and not a predictive science. Few philosophers foreswear art nowadays: they would not have psychologically afflicted people forsake therapeutic art. The diversity of artistic expression in contrast to the unity of ethical tyranny is no reason to abandon art – quite to the contrary. In truth, the highest aesthetic expression of the intelligent love and celebration of life found in art may vary in technique but not in principle – works of art would be worthless without striving for an accord or harmonious agreement. Perhaps we can thank Kierkegaard and the existentialists for helping art degenerate even further, into abstract symbols representing arrant arrogance. The so-called anti-art movement of the contemporary cult of individualism rejected the social or objective principle of art and left us with a lazy reduction to the absurd claim that art is merely subjective, hence one individual work is as good as another, and any criticism of an individual work is an unwarranted “fascist” intrusion into the right of “contemporary” artists to individual equality. Thus does the “Contemporary” artist bury his head in sand and thereby save himself and his work from reality and from the criticism of “cultural fascists.” He succeeds on whim – some piece of nonsense or an accident widely publicized may turn him into
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an instant celebrity. Since the anti-artist is unable to think coherently, that is, along social lines, his concepts are as incoherent as his constructions – he is unable to give us a beautiful drawing of a person; may heaven forbid if he does turn to fine art, and that his gift of personal beauty is the ideal beauty of a clothed Madonna or nude Venus. The postmodern aesthete cannot mediate Christianity and paganism, or depict the titanic forces of history – his flyers are filled with absurd explanations. Again, the aesthetically inclined person, whom Kierkegaard would save with a moralizing novel, hopes to escape from the ultimate cause of anxiety – mortality – into the enjoyment of ephemeral feelings and the appreciation of beauty found in nature and art, including the art of personal living. But Kierkegaard‟s ethical individual finds his solace in absolute solitude, in premature or living death, in the choice of nothing, really, in virtual suicide. "(The Ethical) is not a question of the choice of something.... The alternative is the aesthetical, the indifferent ...." Kierkegaard mistakenly charges the aesthete with his own melancholic indifference to the world at large: he claims that the ethical realm is an infinite movement along hierarchically arranged values whereby one becomes (not creates) his genuine being by making important choices. But the plethora of choices available in the aesthetic realm are relative hence of equal value, constituting a flight from the ultimate Either/Or, that of good or evil – Kierkegaard‟s ethical doctrine does not require a preoccupation with choosing good things: an individual must make willful decisions, and it is in those decisions and not in the particular things or acts chosen that he eventually finds his real self. In fine, the distinction drawn between the aesthetic and ethical spheres is specious. The only way out is to delude oneself into believing in an absolute, and then choosing it once and for all as one‟s salvation forever and evermore. The absolute is not really an absolute, for it is indefinite, it does not include all instances in a concrete universal, and may be nothing at all, or, say the omnipotent
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feeling in the womb, yet it shall do as long as one feels good about it and sincerely espouses it as an existent. It is a matter of attitude, really, and one's attitude in choosing oneself must be sincere, for as one believes, so one is. What counts, says Kierkegaard, is the energetic sincerity of choosing the real either/or over the mere either/or, such as choosing to visit the bank or barber. The real choice is ultimately between good/evil, good being the real self. Kierkegaard admits that many other worthwhile decisions may be made along the way to finding/receiving one's self. But if the religious man places his faith in feeling and sincerity, as did Kierkegaard, how does he differ from the aesthete, except that the aesthete has many objects to feel instead of no-thing? The aesthete‟s preference for felt qualities instead of abstract ideation is deemed to be mistaken because feelings are manifold and divide the individual instead of saving him from the conflict rooted in the basic conflict between the existent individual and its society. That basic conflict, as internalized separation, gives the person over to anxiety, depression and despair. The person‟s joint role as an “I” and a “We” – with the “I” as part and parcel of “We” – are both introjected as social conditions, yet the mystical unification and at-one-ment of subject and object wanted by the anxious ethical individual in flight from his existence as an individuate cannot be obtained in fact short of death. After death the hated objective world ironically survives the particular subject who would outlast it if only he could; but his existence as an individual was in fact the temporary, unique coincidence of universal qualities. Still, when alive he might have taken pleasure in his existential crucifixion on the crossbars of time and space, maintaining, in his temporal torment, the notion of eternal life free of the very impediments that gives him cause to suffer life in hopes of salvation from it. In his finality, this particular supreme arbiter loves himself only; he cannot part with himself to merge with the nymphs calling to him from the social forest. Life then, for Kierkegaard‟s ethical person, who is burdened by the necessity of
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dreadful choices which in effect constitute a negation of possibilities, is a bitter thing. But the lemon can be made sweet by a faithful leap to the religious sphere, a transcendental planet far removed from both the aesthetic and ethical planets. Not that we want to stereotype the existentialist saint who called himself a “knight of resignation” for giving his confounded ethics up to god, but we cannot help but repeatedly observe from his personal behavior that he was a sublime instance of the frustrated, indecisive aesthete he denounced when wearing his ethical hat. That is precisely why his corpus, especially Either/Or, can be of enormous assistance to discomfited intellectuals whose fearful skepticism and weak-kneed armchair wisdom provides them with neurotic justification for their defensive habit of indecisiveness. It is evident that Kierkegaard 's Either/Or is a self-divisive elaboration of his personal conflict with society, a war he preferred to fight within, from his armchair, instead of the field without – that is, he took the path of the saint instead of the hero. Supported by an inheritance that he refused to invest lest he be guilty of usury, Kierkegaard, in a despairing state of bourgeois self-contempt, composed a conflict between art for its own sake and the realistic business of the mind, that he might continually choose something valuable upon which spiritual profit can be realized and infinitely accrued rather than something of fleeting gratification that must be eliminated as waste. Finally, why not pile up treasure in heaven instead of counting on earthly things, including vain thoughts that are bound to be relatively disappointing simply because they must inevitably fall short of the ideal? Kierkegaard chose for the sake of choosing, and in the end he thought he made the ultimate choice, of his absolutely good self, as distinguished from creating art for its own sake. The god he leaped to in the end, in a grand renunciation of ethical behavior, resembled the inchoate self he grew weary of choosing. He fled from the irrational to the Irrational;salir de Guatemala y entrar en Guatepeor.

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Kierkegaard‟s incisive psychoanalysis of our indecisiveness cuts us to the quick and moves us to bite the hand that feeds us the truth about our vanity. He is a selffulfilling prophet for those of us who fancy ourselves to be creative artists and intellectuals, and whose works are unappreciated by the vulgar mobs and their established authorities. When we blame Kierkegaard we blame ourselves, hence we do not blame him alone for disengaging himself from the world to reflect on it at considerable length, for that was his calling, and it is ours as well. He published some of his work at his own expense, and we sometimes do the same, for we are not as in love with our art for art‟s sake as we think we are, for we want the dignity of recognition one way or another, in the form of critical blame if not praise. Poor Kierkegaard engaged himself in attacking the authors of an established magazine; they in turn made a fool out of him – today the established intelligentsia ignores our bitter attacks or dismisses them as hysterical. He finally attacked the established Christian church in such a way that one wonders who is really a Christian and who is an atheist – how many of us, including avowed atheists, are consciously or subconsciously Christians-of-one? In any case, is it not a fundamental duty of Christians to call each other hypocrites? The primary ethical action we find in Kierkegaard is symbolic action - thinking – exercised in the main to criticize others for not acting ethically, for not taking the one-god versus the satanic multiplicity seriously. We hear the familiar song handed downed from ancient times: The treasure is within, in the inner unity where man is reconciled with himself if not his collective self projected as god. Kierkegaard criticizes critics for not taking up the inner life, for losing themselves in illusions, professions, callings and other forms of escape. And yet his approach is also an escape, an escape that is, for a few of us, the most wonderful one of all, one that causes us to just say no intoxicating substances that we may enjoy the good death in solitude. In any event, life is an escapade! Introverts given to the withdrawn life would
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naturally deride the rare philosopher who says, “As a matter of fact, I am not slightly interested in self-spelunking, given all the objects the universe has to offer instead.What fool compares the depth of his inner life with the extent of the cosmos and insists that the cosmos is merely cosmetic?” Kierkegaard‟s repudiation of rational systems obviously enhanced his appreciation of a pretty woman, at least at a distance. Unlike Madame Bovary, who married and went from lover to lover because no lover was good enough for the romantic inclination she had acquired from the reading of cheap novels, Kierkegaard, the quixotic knight of resignation, would not eat wedding cake to begin with. Still, his ethical self was unscientific and romantic: it sincerely and passionately loves its Self, which is apparently, if capitalized, the highest good or Good if not God. The dualist refrain is familiar: self is good; world is evil. He would forsake the evil world for himself, for the category of one; once he is at one with the category of one, only then may he sincerely love the world: "If the despairing man makes a mistake, if he believes that his misfortune lies in his multifarious surroundings, then his despair is not genuine and it will lead him to hate the world.... When in despair you have found yourself you will love the world because it is what it is." And what is despair? "Despair is doubt of personality," he says. Yes, we agree: we despair when we cannot trust other people‟s personalities; the persona archetype is a social device, a means of conformity, of playing several roles - we admit that it can be viewed as a part of the whole self and not the whole. But if we doubt the reliability of personalities because people have betrayed us, how then can we better trust unmasked brutes? If we hate the social system and choose and love our individuality, how might that be converted into love for other individuals without taking up personal roles, and, in sum, being the person responsible for acting?

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Kierkegaard, to pursue what he believed was the ethical life of Either/Or, ultimately choose the apotheosis of his self. Some of us may choose things to get rid of them, and then feel miserable for doing what we thought was the self-righteous thing to do. Only a mate can adequately sum up humanity. Kierkegaard dismissed the flawed queen of his own mundane affections, his girlfriend, Regine, upon whom he literally reflected at length in lieu of the consummation he had forsworn. She was not good enough or god enough for him: only the unknown god was worthy of his debasement. The true lover must always be wrong; the beloved must always be right. He thought he had ditched her to save her from the mistake of loving the likes of him, a man with cold feet. He eventually made the ultimate choice, a suicidal leap to faith in perfection. Only god can do no wrong despite appearances to the contrary. But nothing is perfect. Kierkegaard‟s faith was really in his own reflection in the pool slowly swirling around the drain, the very mirror of his perturbations, as it were, from which only a chimpanzee with distorted figure could foolishly grin back, for the apostle gazing therein had renounced his reason with an open proclamation of his foolhardiness. Only faith in something absurd can escape the torment of doubting reason; absolute certitude can only be had in ignorance. Nothing, no thing in particular, is really worthy of unadulterated love. That leaves us with universal ideals. Kierkegaard was an idealist in the Platonic sense: the ideal is the real; reality is in heavens unknown as of yet – if only horses had wings. "The poetic ideal is always a false ideal, for the true ideal is always the real. So when the spirit is not allowed to soar up into the eternal world of spirit it remains midway and rejoices in the pictures reflected in the clouds and weeps that they are so transitory. A poet's existence is therefore, as such, an unhappy existence, it is higher than finiteness yet no infiniteness." Infiniteness is, to wit, the ineffable X – we might aptly call it Nothing, or, if you wish, the Origin. The path to X is heady stuff; as Kierkegaard himself remarks: "There is hardly an anaesthetic so powerful as abstract thinking." But his
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tolerance for the anaesthetic led him to take a fatal step. Despairing Kierkegaard wanted out of the hypocritical world; it seemed that only unity with the unknown arbitrary god would save him from himself, in which case he would be an amoral mystic, beyond good and evil, relieved of agonizing decisions. He catches his selfcontradiction on the diving board that constitutes his existence, and further contradicts himself with a grand gesture, a daring leap into the unknown: "I do not create myself. I choose myself. Therefore while nature is created out of nothing, while I as an immediate personality am created out of nothing, as a free spirit I am born of the principle of contradiction." And, "The mystic chooses himself abstractly ... out of the world ... The truly concrete choice is that wherewith at the very same instant some instant I choose myself out of the world I am choosing myself back into the world. For when I choose myself repentantly I gather myself back into the world ... in all my finite concretion, and in the fact that I have thus chosen myself out of the finite I am in the most absolute continuity with it.” Is not that self-choice the principle of original sin? Is not that the hypocrisy or underlying crisis of man? Is not that the principle of original slavery that dooms us to choose or to die? Free will disobeys god‟s law; hence Kierkegaard‟s formerly lauded ethical choices were in fact sinful acts. He says he repents even of his father's sins. But why does he throw himself back into then pit? Why does he not repent of the original sin, that of individuality? In effect he has repudiated his creative choice and his freedom. Afraid to love another, he had no choice but to choose himself, but that self must die. In the end, once he finds his true nature, he must resign his freedom and accept god‟s law that all individuals are born in sin and therefore must die. Repenting of it all, the existentialist theologian gets it all back: "He repents himself back into himself, back into the family, back into the race, until he finds himself in God." Repentance, he says, is the only word that expresses love for God. He chooses to surrender to X. His choice destroys all options. He sets the self up as
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god and chooses god, thus destroying self and god, for he has not chosen something but has rejected everything. From nothing he came and to nothing he returns - god or nothing is permanent. It appears that he identifies his instinct to survival with his particular self or the apotheosis thereof. In the final analysis, Kierkegaard‟s distinction between his ethical and religious self is as false as the one drawn between the ethical and the aesthetical spheres, for the ethical self he chose and the god he leaped to is one and the same thing, and constitutes nothing. Kierkegaard wanted it all for himself: unity, freedom, omnipotence. Enthusiastic individuals or people who have been possessed by god confess that anything goes as long as one has faith in the salvation of the self by virtue of faith alone. But what has he chosen? "Only when I absolutely choose myself,” wrote Kierkegaard, “do I infinitize myself absolutely, for I myself am the absolute for only myself can I choose absolutely, and the absolute choice of myself is my freedom, and only when I have absolutely chosen myself have I posited an absolute difference, the difference, that is to say, between good and evil.... The good... being in and of itself, and this is freedom.... It is... not so much a question of choosing between willing the good or the evil, as of choosing to will, but by this in turn the good and evil are posited...." Despite his assertion that the ethical man chooses his true self instead of creating it from scratch, Kierkegaard‟s fondness for the individual reveals the individual, his abstract “category of one,” as the indefinite or infinite, the unknown Igod, or I-AM of yore. That absolutely free, impersonal supreme being or nothing has no cause to fear and therefore to think ethically as an “I”; that being or nothing is absolute power and unadulterated will unhampered by resistance; that negatively defined quiddity or nothingness is the arbitrary arbitrator, supreme anarch, almighty merciful terrorist; and so on. In effect, then, Kierkegaard would be rid of his individuality and its doctrine.
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Moreover, the absolute singularity chosen by Kierkegaard is a private and absolutely free godhead, an anarch, in a word, that disposes of and therefore transcends relative good and evil by fiat, therefore making itself in god‟s image. Of course the essence of this "category of one," the universal individual and god presumably chosen by all self-chosen, self-integrated, hence speciously ethical individual, differs from the nature admired by unethical persons; that is, the dissolute aesthetes who are preoccupied with the highest sort of feelings of something called beauty. Beauty is normally associated with pleasurable feelings ascetics abhor because the painful contrary is implied by pleasure felt – in either case, of pain or pleasure, the dignity of the self-caused person, an arrogance found in his freedom, is threatened to be demolished by an external cause. To rid themselves of pain, presumably ethical ascetics would dispose of pleasure as well; they would throw out the baby with the bath water and lay claim to transcendental indifference to the felt qualities of life, the relative value of which philosophers tend to interminably dispute. The transcendental religious sphere, fortunately for Kierkegaard‟s temperament, would not be presided over by the established church of the socially compromising and therefore hypocritical Christians he knew on Earth. As a devout Christian-of-one, Kierkegaard, instead of loving his neighbors wholeheartedly, that is, notwithstanding their relative sins, was moved to hatefully denounce professed Christians for falling far short of his fundamentalist notions. He chose to elevate himself to the rooftop and to cry out to his neighbors, “Hypocrites!” When he collapsed on the street in the midst of his violent attack on the Danish National Church, he told a friend that someone must die for the cause, and he died shortly thereafter. It is no wonder that the seemingly absurd commandment, to love thy neighbor as thyself, had to be written down long ago for lip services, since it is so easily forgotten by the human heart. Thus does the anarcho-Christian become the reflection
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of his fellow enemy – a bigoted, irrational, unethical hypocrite – instead of the reflection of the only Christian who has walked upon this Earth thus far, the very Criterion of Christianity, Jesus the Christ. Although Kierkegaard may not have been the Alien God‟s prophet, he was certainly a seer; in his frustrated aestheticism and representative anxiety and egoism, he was a prefiguration of the “existentialism” to come, particularly spiritual existentialism. In fact, our godfather of existentialism is highly regarded as a theologian in some chambers. And he was a good Christian as far as many fundamentalists are concerned. He was a Christian who died for a good cause; he called organized Christians hypocrites for the usual reasons: for selling their souls to the devil and their consciences to the state. Of course Kierkegaard advocated individual integrity and responsibility. But to what end? What did he integrate his self with? Kierkegaard‟s ethical individual abandons his reasonable reflections, which are the very means to ethical conduct, and leaps blindly to faith in What, which, when described, turns out to be some nude quiddity if anything at all. He evidently no longer has faith in his ability to choose, so he sincerely chooses nothing, really, but non-sense, and he passionately does whatever might come to mind, perchance in the form of an authoritarian command from the charismatic leader of a totalitarian state of being – Kierkegaard admired the biblical willingness of a father to kill his own son (Isaac) upon command of the unknown god. Thus do intelligent men, whose criticism eventually leads them to suspend judgment even in the value of criticism, fall prey to the preaching of that ignorance in which they find their bliss. But then they might go forth to wreak havoc throughout the world for its own sake. Wherefore, until freedom is realized in death, let individuals rebel. “Down with the Establishment! Down with the System! Give me Liberty or give me Death!” is the rebel‟s slogan until his own system is established in tyranny.
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Wherefore let us compromise. Freedom from compromise is found only in omnipotence. He who believes he is god has his noun spelled backwards and shall be brought to heel by his master soon enough. To say the least about Soren Kierkegaard‟s personality, he had a personal problem with his existence. Given the unhappy personal circumstances of his existence – his mother and five siblings died within two years, purportedly because of a curse placed on his family because his father had cursed God – Soren did not want his personal existence: he did not want to be the frustrated aesthete, melancholic philosopher, and discontented Lutheran theologian that he was. He answered Hamlet‟s question in the negative because his being did not suit him in this world, and his ghostly father had assured him of a better existence in the next. Unable to fill the poverty of self-centered existence from without and to lovingly commune with other persons in this world, he turned inward and had foolish faith in unworldly things. We wish he had gotten married, which was, as he said to the aesthete, the ethical thing to do. He might have taken a job with an insurance company, as did Franz Kafka, his great admirer. And if he had invested his inheritance prudently, that job might have been part-time. But his maker did not so provide. He is indubitably at one with the unselfish and communicable divine person, who is in the next world pending the great correction. Whenever we are having trouble making important personal decisions, we are behooved to revisit Kierkegaard‟s works. We shall not forget him, for he saw through us that we might eventually see through him. ne obliviscaris

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