chapter  I
22 Pages


KIERKEGAARD pertinaciously challenged his countrymen on their pretensions to Christian faith and made the vanity of their German culture the constant target of his Attic wit. The seriousness of his sustained campaign sealed his separation from normal domestic happiness and from the fellowship of his generation, condemned him to loneliness and a tragic role. ‘Like a solitary fir tree egoistically separate and pointed upward I stand, casting no shadow, and only the wood-dove builds its nest in my branches.’ Whether his was a case of the prophet without honour in his own country, or just a case, is a difference of opinion between his many disciples and admirers in the world to-day and others who having neither sympathy nor patience either with him or with his ideas explain both from the sufficient evidence of his neurosis and its cause. At least the disciples have read and studied him, and it is safe to say that nobody can read him to any extent without being permanently impressed by the exceptional intellectual and literary power of the man and the genuine totality of his Christian inwardness. He was physically deformed, he was crippled by a sense of guilt, he was ‘a genius in a market town’: this was a mixture that had to explode in excess, an extreme concentration or an extreme dissipation. The absolute disjunction of his first book Either-Or, which remained the clue to all his thinking, was not merely nor mainly the slogan of his attack upon the Hegelian

principle of mediation and synthesis, but was rooted, and consciously rooted, in his personal need for tension, passion, sacrifice, individuality. Between the absolute of concentration and of dissipation the choice was inevitably certain: he proposed to think and will one thing, and became a man set apart, a sacrifice, a personality, whose challenge to his time was carefully planned and copiously and energetically worked out to a conclusion in his active life, with effects that still reverberate in theology and philosophy; whilst in his inner orientation he became a man turned away from this world ‘who historically speaking died of a mortal disease, but poetically speaking died of longing for eternity’.