KIERKEGAARD and CHRIST
by David Eide .

Kierkegaard. There is a worthy name to contemplate. European intellectuals at the mid-point of the 19th century, under the influence of the French Revolution and the beginning of the technology revolution, realized that a thinker would have to choose one path or the other. That to slouch down to the status quo would be a denial of thought. To rationalize it would be to put thought to sleep. But, what critical attitude to take? Hegel had provided the opening since he believed the "new age" to be authentic enough to make everything previous acceptable to it. Marx said no, the "new age" must be acceptable to the laws which produced it in the first place. And Kierkegaard said it is meaningless without some actual existing human being who is contradictory and sincere and the end-point, the terminus, for all the impersonal development within society.

How can one approach Kierkegaard’s Christianity these days? You ask yourself some of the same questions Kierkegaard raised himself. He definitely and with courage and genius threw the gauntlet at the feet of his fellow social creatures: "You say you are a Christian society. You say you are Christian men and women. Is this true? If it is true, then this must be the best Christian society and best Christian men and women that history has produced because you act and speak as if it is the case. And being Christians you are honest and sincere."

If this is not the case then I have only a few options as a thinker. I can call the whole Christian show a sham and give my allegiance to a counter-Christian movement, socialism perhaps. Or, I can accept Christianity as completely as I humanly can and out of that experience explore the nature of the relation as it has manifested in the specific location and time I am living.

Christianity then becomes several things at once. It’s the acceptance of the figure of Christ as authentic and true, as the one who He said He was. Plus, the dialectical relation that Christ had with his own Jewish tradition, plus the intercourse of that faith with pagan, wild western Europe and even the effect of a scientific, technological, bureaucratic society on dynamic faith.

The question of God is not separate from the question of Christ since if Christ was who He said He was God is implied in all His acts and parables. Even if all the world were to reject God, Christ and banish religion all together but one man was to accept the burden of the question of God, God would live. And if the person were to accept the question then it would structure all other questions in his mind.

The problem with Kierkegaard is that he was not in relation to fanaticism. He was in relation to the European Protestants of his day, comparable to the low-energy church going public in the suburbs.

If he had relations to the fundamentalists, to the backward and neurotic manifestations of "total faith" Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc he may have had a different attitude. Of course he would have excused the fundamentalist away by saying that the fundamentalists have no or little relation to the city, to the middle and upper-middle classes, to the publishing, business sectors, to the political life which is overwhelmingly mainstream Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish. Therefore, a fringe group even though, in the modern world they have assumed one of the prime centers.

He was in relation to a city, the main elements of a nation with a specific history of its own and the larger map of Europe, so believed that the experience of Copenhagen in its inward aspects was indeed universal.

We, in our time are in relation to a nation for good or ill. We are burdened by a sophistication that allows for more freedom but has its’ own excesses and self-celebration. It hardly believes in anything but its own desires. Death is shrugged off. “We have one life and then we’re out of here.” And our affluence and good fortune seem to chase the bogymen away.

Kierkegaard and Kafka are quite similar. Kafka was more intimidated by society but his truth was as profound. He was inundated by the effectiveness of its ability to destroy all good, proper and human truth out of the picture and substitute for it a pale reflection of its own passion. The overwhelming effect of this destroys a sense of the future.

Then there is no solace but the truth itself. And what is truth?

You also have to realize the straightjacket that the two individuals, to name just wo, were in. The European societies of the 16th-19th centuries were god awful places for the majority of people. And Kafka lived more in Kierkegaard’s Europe than the present day set up. Air-tight, determined, with the will to power fierce, sick and poor, contending absolutes. History was much more an oppression than a teacher of men.

These qualities adhere in America to some degree. But in starkly different ways modern America has been "too free." Too expansive and so has grown a "big head" that has to be humiliated from time to time. It is more challenging to face America as a free man then it is to try and re-capture the wisdom of some European worthy.

What this conjures in my own mind is that social acrimony is based on the belief that a person has been cheated or betrayed by parents, teachers, or priests. That the young see these types as willing to sacrifice their children to their own neurosis and then, when they seek to correct, they see how unfavorably they reacted to it. That can’t occur unless the person is in relation to something outside the family and school that reveals the sense of betrayal or sense of being cheated. If the person is fortunate, he grows to realize that was a misplaced acrimony and the wound gets healed.

Look at the stupidity of many who consider themselves sophisticated and yet develop some thinking identity with the "United States of America" or "Russia" for that matter. It reminds me of the Greek philosopher who said that god is only a reflection of the person perceiving god and that if cats or monkeys had gods they would look like super-cats or super-monkeys. This has come about because freedom has largely been the choice to project identity into whatever appeals to the free person. It could be a rock star, a nation, a belief, or even oneself.

Some thinkers have realized this dilemma and recognized identity for the ad-hoc thing it is. Image commands these days; media commands. At least the sense of identity, everything else becomes sentimentalized; for the mass of common people it is so. And it is true that whoever commands the image commands the mind of the person attached to the image. Unless, that is, the mind strives for an enlightened view where image is subdued for Logos.

What results is a collective image that is raised and torn down every four or five years. It is like the command menu on a personal computer. One shimmers and fades out, another emerges shimmering and remains.

What comes with this recognition? What does the individual do when he has reached that point in development? He either buttresses the collective image or helps tear it down for a new one. Or, he searches for some new foundation, some firm ground in which he stands without fear of the crashing waves being created all around him.

He sees the collective image for what it is- even uses it- but doesn't allow himself to get confused, swallowed and drowned by it.

It is the distance between the awareness that a huge, ambiguous, anonymous thing exists, even seeing it in the mind occasionally- and wanting to break that image down, wanting to subvert the generations of it. There is story in that distance.

The figure of Christ is very interesting. I don't believe that Christ is simply another vagrant prophet who arose at the right time and that the religion which followed him was a simple case of his followers waiting out time, having the patience and common sense to hold onto what felt most authentic for them. Christ works, even after twenty centuries. And I suspect twenty centuries down the road Christ will still be working. That says to me that Christ was the manifestation of the original energy of the universe and can’t be created or destroyed.

I am also interested in the tradition of God as revealed in the Old Testament. My thought may suggest that God to the Hebrews was like "technology" in modern societies. It was a collective work of distinct, arcane knowledge heightened by the furthest implication of itself. Even if this was the simple truth it would be necessary to understand God. To, at the very least, understand the nature of technology. And I'm not unwilling for a moment to suspend my belief in God and say, "let's look at the implications of a world that has banished God." I could even say, "God is a desperation. God is the profoundest attempt to bring all of life to account in a centering belief.”

Just as you can scorn "god worshippers" by seeing what they do and what they say about themselves, how much ignorance they disguise under their god worship, how much of it is driven by the need to have power, the need to order life around the personal idiosyncrasy of the person or group of persons so too you can scorn the god deniers by the simple ignorance and arrogance of their claims. What do the god deniers reveal by their acts and words?

And isn't it true that one of the first things you look at when reaching maturity is what type of people are gaining credibility using whatever form of judgment and discrimination you are endowed with. Personally, in my limited scope and experience, very few individuals who have gone to religion, embraced it, has impressed me. Very few individuals who have gone into politics or business, scholars, etc have demonstrated that they are aware of the true nature of their choice.

Sometimes when the personal relation to the divine seems lacking, seems to slide down to mediocre acceptance of all in a cowardly but purely human way, one often goes to the impersonal relation; that is, the events, catastrophes, general movements and disposition of societies in all parts of the globe. One says "this couldn't possibly occur without the impetus of some general design we are only faintly aware of. To ascribe all of that to "God" is understandable but not sufficient really. Isn't that the form of perception which has occurred in the past thousand years or so? It’s only been in the last 100 years or so that men and women have been attempting to describe events, the inhuman, through reasons of his own making.

There are obviously many questions involved here and I am only touching a precious few.

What this particular age has proven is that men and women can "substitute" the striving for heaven for the striving for earth in a manner of speaking. And that the "striving for the earth" ends in exhaustion, has its taboos and limitations just the faiths’ it tries to replace.

Of course these are general questions.

* * * * * * * *

The "unconscious" goes through all kinds of social expression. Politics, religion, entertainment, law among others. These basic categories of organized life always present their conscious and unconscious imprints.

These, obviously, are huge categories of experience. The feeling and intellect battle mightily over the way in which these categories are approached and defined.

What you discover after a while is that the "unconscious" of all these categories make their way to the light of day; become political movements, cults, strange, fringe phenomena and, on the other hand, rigidity, fears, repression.

"Mainstream" society focuses on that aspect of the unconscious which plays on its consciousness more or less. That unconscious rears itself up, lives its life, extends itself as far as it can and then falls back into the general unconscious of the society. This is the "great forms" that consciousness meets within its growing stages. Technology and science are categories as well.

This is common knowledge of course but is it’s a good place to start.

You can't automatically organize the world or nation or anything through the "unconscious" period.

There are pressures of the paranoid mind or feelings which is exacerbated by the size, content and complexity of things in general.

Nearly every thought which has passed through the brain finds its complement outside of it.

The "effect" of the unconscious is its "feeling" of truth - its specific insight which organizes the will around it. The fear that "pressures" that feeling so forth and so on.

After a while you have to ignore the unconscious of society. Know the danger signals and ignore the rest.

The problem occurs when the "unconscious" rules- when it determines, when it is defining and so on.

That's why a well-defined emergence from the unconscious attempts to destroy all existing "rules" definitions and determinations. And why there are "competing" unconscious forms and so on.

These are simple observations. Power being the greatest urge of the unconscious. Power and its resentment. This is a, if not the great force, in human affairs.

1986


Back to Essay Page

Back to davideide.com


© 2014 David Eide. All rights reserved.