The Dreamers

Soren Kierkegaard was influenced by the works of Lucian of Samosata 120-180 AD (headings are links)

Lucian had a Vision about Culture

‘And I, child, am Culture, no stranger to you even now, though you have yet to make my closer acquaintance. The advantages that the profession of a sculptor will bring with it you have just been told; they amount to no more than being a worker with your hands, your whole prospects in life limited to that; you will be obscure, poorly and illiberally paid, mean-spirited, of no account outside your doors; your influence will never help a friend, silence an enemy, nor impress your countrymen; you will be just a worker, one of the masses, cowering before the distinguished, truckling to the eloquent, living the life of a hare, a prey to your betters. You may turn out a Phidias or a Polyclitus, to be sure, and create a number of wonderful works; but even so, though your art will be generally commended, no sensible observer will be found to wish himself like you; whatever your real qualities, you will always rank as a common craftsman who makes his living with his hands.

then will you handle crowbars and graving tools, mallets and chisels; you will be bowed over your work, with eyes and thoughts bent earthwards, abject as abject can be, with never a free and manly upward look or aspiration; all your care will be to proportion and fairly drape your works; to proportioning and adorning yourself you will give little heed enough, making yourself of less account than your marble.’

Kierkegaard thought it was good for individuals to work  with their hands.

By working human beings resemble God, who indeed also works. When a human being works for his food, we will not foolishly say that he is supporting himself; expressly to call to mind how glorious it is to be a human being, we prefer to say: He is working together with God for his food. He is working together with God-that is, he is God’s co-worker. It is a perfection not to be a child all one’s life, not always to have parents to take care of one while they are alive and also when they are dead. The dire necessity-which, incidentally, still specifically acknowledges the perfection in the human being-is needed merely to force the person who himself is unwilling to freely understand that to work is a perfection and therefore refuses to go to work gladly. Therefore even if there were no so-called dire necessity, it would still be an imperfection for a human being to cease working.

Allow us to mention a great example who actually can be said to have honored what it means to work-the Apostle Paul. If anyone at all might have wished the whole day to be twice as long-then certainly Paul; if anyone at all could have given every hour great meaning for many-then certainly Paul; if anyone at all could easily have been supported by the congregations-then certainly Paul; and yet he preferred to work with his own hands!
Soren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, March 13, 1847 by Soren Kierkegaard, copyright 1993 by Howard Hong, Princeton University Press p. 198-199

Phalaris, I by Lucian of Samosata  120-180AD

“And what will you say,” rejoined Perilaus, who stood by, “when you see the ingenious mechanism within it, and learn the purpose it is designed to serve?” He opened the back of the animal, and continued: “When you are minded to punish any one, shut him up in this receptacle, apply these pipes to the nostrils of the bull, and order a fire to be kindled beneath. The occupant will shriek and roar in unremitting agony; and his cries will come to you through the pipes as the tenderest, most pathetic, most melodious of bellowings. Your victim will be punished, and you will enjoy the music.”


What is a poet? An unhappy man who in his heart harbors a deep anguish, but whose lips are so fashioned that the moans and cries which pass over them are transformed into ravishing music. His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalaris imprisoned in a brazen bull, and slowly tortured over a steady fire; their cries could not reach the tyrant’s ears so as to strike terror into his heart; when they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music. And men crowd about the poet and say to him, “Sing for us soon again”-which is as much as to say, “May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be fashioned as before; for the cries would only distress us, but the music, the music, is delightful.” And the critics come forward and say, “That is perfectly done-just as it should be, according to the rules of aesthetics.” Now it is understood that a critic resembles a poet to a hair; he only lacks the anguish in his heart and the music upon his lips. I tell you, I would rather be a swineherd, understood by the swine, than a poet misunderstood by men.

Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or Volume I Edited by Victor Eremita, February 20, 1843, translated by David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson Princeton University Press 1971 p.19

Lucian was an early witness to Christianity. He seems to have made fun of the way Christians are fooled by the sagacious. Kierkegaard followed his example.

The Death of Peregrine by Lucian of Samosata

It was now that he came across the priests and scribes of the Christians, in Palestine, and picked up their queer creed. I can tell you, he pretty soon convinced them of his superiority; prophet, elder, ruler of the Synagogue—he was everything at once; expounded their books, commented on them, wrote books himself. They took him for a God, accepted his laws, and declared him their president. The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day,—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.

It would be a good idea to read all about the seventeenth through nineteenth century scientists. Søren Kierkegaard read the books written during those centuries about the “world of the spirit” and “how” humans relate in it, if it exists.

Are you dreaming or are you awake?
Is the spirit world just an idea or is it real?
Who is the God taught man?

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim 1486-1535
Catherine of Genoa 1447-1510
St John of the Cross 1542-1591
René Descartes 1596-1650
John Locke 1632-1704
Emanuel Swedenborg 1688-1772
Immanuel Kant 1724-1804
Johann Gottlieb Fichte 1762-1814
Søren Kierkegaard 1813-1855

The Way To Write History by Lucian of Samosata

A report that Philip was marching on the town had thrown all Corinth into a bustle; one was furbishing his arms, another wheeling stones, a third patching the wall, a fourth strengthening a battlement, every one making himself useful somehow or other. Diogenes having nothing to do—of course no one thought of giving him a job—was moved by the sight to gird up his philosopher’s cloak and begin rolling his tub-dwelling energetically up and down the Craneum; an acquaintance asked, and got, the explanation: ‘I do not want to be thought the only idler in such a busy multitude; I am rolling my tub to be like the rest.’

When Philip threatened to lay siege to the city of Corinth and all its inhabitants hastily bestirred themselves in defense, some polishing weapons, some gathering stones, some repairing the walls, Diogenes seeing all this hurriedly folded his mantle about him and began to roll his tub zealously back and forth through the streets. When he was asked why he did this he replied that he wished to be busy like all the rest, and rolled his tub lest he should be the only idler among so many industrious citizens. Such conduct is at any rate not sophistical, if Aristotle be right in describing sophistry as the art of making money. It is certainly not open to misunderstanding; it is quite inconceivable that Diogenes should have been hailed as the saviour and benefactor of the city.

Søren Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments , p. 5


The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise by Pierre Abelard
Pierre ABÉLARD (1079 – 1142) and HÉLOÏSE D’ARGENTEUIL (c.1090 – 1164)


Interior Recollection by Albertus Magnus 1200-1280

The Non-Existence of Magic by Roger Bacon 1214-1294


The Book of the Twelve Beguines by Jan van Ruysbroeck, 1293-1381



The Scale of Perfection  by Walter Hilton 1340-1396



A: Spiritual Dialogue Between the Soul, the Body, Self-Love, the Spirit, Humanity, and the Lord God.

B:Ascent of Mount Carmel    St John of the Cross 1618

B: Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes 1641

C: John Locke on Understanding Paul’s Epistles

I remembered that St. Paul was miraculously called to the ministry of the Gospel, and declared to be a chosen vessel; that he had the whole doctrine of the Gospel from God, by immediate revelation; and was appointed to be the apostle of the Gentiles, for the propagating of it in the heathen world. This was enough to persuade me, that he was not a man of loose and shattered parts, incapable to argue, and unfit to convince those he had to deal with. God knows how to choose fit instruments for the business he employs them in. A large stock of Jewish learning he had taken in, at the feet of Gamaliel; and for his information in Christian knowledge, and the mysteries and depths of the dispensation of grace by Jesus Christ, God himself had condescended to be his instructor and teacher.

John Locke on Paul's Epistles

D:   Arcana Coelestia by Emanuel Swedenborg 1749-56

It may therefore be stated in advance that of the Lord’s Divine mercy it has been granted me now for some years to be constantly and uninterruptedly in company with spirits and angels, hearing them speak and in turn speaking with them. In this way it has been given me to hear and see wonderful things in the other life which have never before come to the knowledge of any man, nor into his idea. I have been instructed in regard to the different kinds of spirits; the state of souls after death; hell, or the lamentable state of the unfaithful; heaven, or the blessed state of the faithful; and especially in regard to the doctrine of faith which is acknowledged in the universal heaven; on which subjects, of the Lord’s Divine mercy, more will be said in the following pages.

E:  Dreams of a Spirit-Seer by Immanuel Kant 1766

There lives at Stockholm a certain Mr. Swedenborg, a gentleman of comfortable means and independent position. His whole occupation for more than twenty years is, as he himself says, to be in closest intercourse with spirits and deceased souls; to receive news from the other world, and, in exchange, give those who are there tidings from the present; to write big volumes about his discoveries; and to travel at times to London to look after their publication. He is not especially reticent about his secrets, talks freely about them with everybody, seems to be entirely convinced of his pretensions, and all this without any apparent deceit or charlatanry.

Was Swedenborg a God taught man who wrote out his visions? Kant discussed this with his students at the University of Koenigsberg and then wrote a book about it.

kant and swedenborg

Eighteen years later Immanuel Kant was still teaching at the University of Koenigsberg and he was discussing what an enlightened spirit is and how one can become such a thing. He wrote an essay:

F:  Was ist Äufklarung? (What is Enlightenment?) 1784

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage s man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! “Have courage to use your own reason!”- that is the motto of enlightenment.

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance. They are the reasons why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor. If I have a book that thinks for me, a pastor who acts as my conscience, a physician who prescribes my diet, and so on–then I have no need to exert myself. I have no need to think, if only I can pay; others will take care of that disagreeable business for me. Those guardians who have kindly taken supervision upon themselves see to it that the overwhelming majority of mankind–among them the entire fair sex–should consider the step to maturity, not only as hard, but as extremely dangerous.

Kant discussed the private and public use of reason and wrote about the “scholar” in the following way,

a scholar he has complete freedom, even the calling, to communicate to the public all his carefully tested and well meaning thoughts on that which is erroneous in the symbol and to make suggestions for the better organization of the religious body and church. In doing this there is nothing that could be laid as a burden on his conscience.

G: The Nature of the Scholar  1806
Johann Gottlieb Fichte decided to enlarge on Kant’s idea of the scholar in his 1806 lectures at the University of Jena.

the Scholar and the unlearned person stand, and ought to stand, on common ground,—as Citizens. Both can raise themselves above the law in the same way,—by integrity of purpose; but this is not calculated upon in either of them, and in neither can this integrity become apparent in the sphere of external legislation. And since the Scholar is further a member of a certain class in the State, and practises in it a certain calling, he lies also under the compulsory obligations belonging to that class and calling;—and here once more it cannot be apparent whether he fulfils his duties in this sphere from integrity of purpose or from fear of punishment; nor does it in any way concern the community by what motive he is actuated so that his duties are fulfilled.

swedenborg, kant and fichte

An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?

Academical Freedom from Fichte’s The Nature of the Scholar 1806.

Soren Kierkegaard attended the University of Copenhagen from 1830-1840 and studied to become a Lutheran pastor. The new ideas concerning what a scholar can and can not say forced him to “venture out” on his own as a religious author. He emphasized over and over again that he was “without authority” since he didn’t believe he had a direct calling from God to become a preacher in the State Church of Denmark Much has happened since Swedenborg, Kant, Fichte, and Kierkegaard lived, however, their writings are still studied today in many universities. Kierkegaard thinks its good to study the Bible before reading speculative books about the Bible or Christianity.

01 Family 3

He was also against making the world of the spirit into a scholarly enterprise because it would be a regression instead of progression. He thought Christianity would become a group exercise rather than the single individual standing before Christ as the only authority there is in Christianity. The battle of the Christian soldier is fought on the inside with oneself rather than externally with the neighbor, whom you “shall love.” (A Positive Commandment) He stressed the importance of the single individual over the crowd.

The deification of the established order is the secularization of everything. With regard to secular matters, the established order may be entirely right: one should join the established order, be satisfied with that relativity, etc. But ultimately the relationship with God is also secularized; we want it to coincide with a certain relativity, do not want it to be something essentially different from our positions in life – rather than that it shall be the absolute for every individual human being and this, the individual person’s God-relationship, shall be precisely what keeps every established order in suspense, and that God, at any moment he chooses, if he merely presses upon an individual in his relationship with God, promptly has a witness, an informer, a spy, or whatever you want to call it, one who in unconditional obedience and with unconditional obedience, by being persecuted, by suffering, by dying, keeps the established order in suspense.
Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity (1850) p. 91 Hong

Christianity isn’t academics. Its a way of life. One that is to be lived rather than dreamed about or even written about.

If it were so, as conceited sagacity, proud of not being deceived, thinks, that we should believe nothing that we cannot see with our physical eyes, then we first and foremost ought to give up believing in love. If we were to do so and do it out of fear lest we be deceived, would we not then be deceived? We can, of course, be deceived in many ways. We can be deceived by believing what is untrue, but we certainly are also deceived by not believing what is true. We can be deceived by appearances, we certainly are also deceived by the sagacious appearance, by the flattering conceit that considers itself absolutely secure against being deceived.

Which deception is more dangerous? Whose recovery is more doubtful, that of the one who does not see, or that of the person who sees and yet does not see? Which is more difficult-to awaken someone who is sleeping or to awaken someone who, awake, is dreaming that he is awake?

Which is sadder, the sight that promptly and unconditionally moves one to tears, the sight of someone unhappily deceived in love, or the sight that in a certain sense could tempt laughter, the sight of the self-deceived, whose fatuous conceit of not being deceived indeed is ridiculous and laughable if the ridiculousness of it were not an even stronger expression of horror, since it shows that he is not worthy of tears. Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love 1847 Hong p. 5-6


Is it possible that the same power that discovers a multitude of sins, the same power that almost multiplies the multitude as it infuses the human heart with love’s concern, is it possible that the same power can hide it in the same person? And yet would it be good if this were not so? What, then, is love? is it a dream in the night that one has merely by sleeping? Is it a stupor in which everything is forgotten? Shall we hold love in such disdain that it is in this sense that it covers a multitude of sins? Then it would be better to retain the light mentality of youth, or the adult’s self-examination, or the individual’s own self-righteousness.

Must wisdom be bought, understanding be bought, peace of mind be bought, the blessedness of heaven be bought, must life be bought in the pain of birth, but love is not supposed to know any birth pains? Love is no dream.

Soren Kierkegaard, Three Upbuilding Discourses 1843,  Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses 1843-1844 p. 73


 If, however, this view, that to need God is man’s highest perfection, makes life more difficult, it does this only because it wants to view man according to his perfection and bring him to view himself in this way, because in and through this view man learns to know himself. And for the person who does not know himself, his life is, in the deeper sense; indeed a delusion. But such a delusion is rarely due to a person’s not discovering the capabilities entrusted to him, to his not trying to develop them as much as possible in conformity with his given situation. He does really sink deep roots into existence and does not deal light-mindedly with himself like the very talented child who does not understand how much has been entrusted to it, like the light-minded rich youth who does not understand the significance of gold-and so it is that we speak of a person’s self in terms of monetary value, and he who knows himself knows down to the last penny what he is worth and knows how to exchange himself so that he obtains the full value.

If he does not do this, then he does not know himself and is deluded, which the person of good sense will surely tell him and, as life proceeds, will tell him, step by step, that he is not delighting in life in the springtime of life, that he is not affirming himself for what he actually is, that he does not know that people take a person for what he himself claims to be, and that he has not known how to make himself important and thereby to give life importance for himself. Alas, but even though a person also knew himself ever so well in this sense, even though he knew how to invest himself in life ever so advantageously and with interest, do you suppose he would therefore know himself? But if he did not know himself, then in the deeper sense his life would indeed be a delusion.

What would that sagacious self-knowledge be other than this-that he knew himself in relation to something else but did not know himself in relation to himself; in other words, despite its apparent reliability, all his self-knowledge was altogether vague, since it involved only the relation between a dubious self and a dubious something else. This something else could be changed, so that someone else became the stronger, the more handsome, the richer; and this self could be changed, so that he himself became poor, ugly, powerless; and this change could come at any moment. Once this something else is taken away, he is indeed deceived, and if this something else is of such a nature that it can be taken away, he is indeed deceived even if it is not taken away, since the whole meaning of his life was founded on this something else. In other words, there is no delusion if something that can deceive does so, but instead it is a delusion when it does not.

A self-knowledge of that kind if very imperfect and far from viewing man according to his perfection. Would it not be a strange perfection about which one must finally say, after perhaps having extolled it in the strongest terms: In addition, this is a delusion? Along this road, one never comes to view man according to his perfection, and in order to begin doing that, one must begin to tear oneself loose from any such view, which is just as difficult as tearing oneself out of a dream without making the mistake of continuing the dream: dreaming that one is awake. In a certain sense this is quite complicated, because a person’s real self seems to him to be so far distant that the whole world seems much closer to him, and quite terrible, because the more profound self-knowledge begins with what someone who is unwilling to understand it might call a shocking delusion: instead of becoming the master, to become one in need; instead of being capable of all things, to be capable of nothing at all. Ah, how difficult it is at this point not to fall into dreams again and to dream that one is doing this by one’s own power.

Soren Kierkegaard, Four Upbuilding Discourses 1844, p. 73 Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses 1843-1844 p. 313-314

Dreamily the spirit projects its own actuality, but this actuality is nothing, and innocence always sees this nothing outside itself. Anxiety is a qualification of dreaming spirit, and as such it has its place in psychology. Awake, the difference between myself and my other is posited; sleeping, it is suspended; dreaming, it is an intimated nothing. The actuality of the spirit constantly shows itself as a form that tempts its possibility but disappears as soon as it seeks to grasp for it, and it is a nothing that can only bring anxiety. More it cannot do as long as it merely shows itself. The concept of anxiety is almost never treated in psychology.

Therefore, I must point out that it is altogether different from fear and similar concepts that refer to something definite, whereas anxiety is freedom’s actuality as the possibility of possibility. For this reason, anxiety is not found in the beast, precisely because by nature the beast is not qualified as spirit. When we consider the dialectical determinations of anxiety it appears that exactly these have psychological ambiguity. Anxiety is a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic sympathy. One easily sees that this is a psychological determination in a sense entirely different form the concupiscentia [inordinate desire] of which we speak.

Soren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin by Soren Kierkegaard June 17, 1844 Vigilius Haufniensis, Edited translated by Reidar Thomte Princeton University Press 1980 Kierkegaard’s Writings, VIII:


Oh, no, it is here as it is with death in life. Not only are they the prey of death who lie upon a sickbed, and whom the physician has given up. Many a one whom death has marked goes about among us. And so there is many a marriage that divorce has marked. No separation has come between the married couple, but an aloof indifference divides them and makes them alien to one another-and yet, for this is why we speak about it, and yet, perhaps the old feelings are not wholly dead. There is no strife between them, no hostile difference, but feeling seems to have withdrawn itself far from the daily intercourse; and yet, perhaps they love one another, but they await an event which will tense the bowstring of resolution and lure the forth an expression, for the daily events are too insignificant.

They feel almost ashamed before each other because of this boredom with the insignificant events. They long perhaps for an understanding, but they cannot rightly get to speak with one another, precisely because there is an opportunity every day, and consequently the opportunity goes unused because it is more difficult to reveal themselves to one another. They were once so happy, oh, so happy, and this consciousness which ought to strengthen them, which at least ought always to be clear, now weakens them. They lose the zest and the courage to venture, and this vanished happiness acquires a sickly, exaggerated glamor for the two lonely people.

Time passes so slowly, a whole life lies there before them, they fear to make, one to the other, the first admission which could unite them in a vigorous resolution, boredom takes the place of harmony, and yet they abhor divorce as a sin. But life is so long-and then the thought of death steals in, for death looses all bonds; they scarcely dare admit it to themselves, and yet so it is. They wish themselves dead, as if that were not unfaithfulness-and yet perhaps they still love one another, and death would perhaps make them realize it. And then one seeks to find the fault in the other, and, instead of a candid discussion of the trouble, misunderstanding conducts its sorry business and estranges them from one another in suspicion and distrust, through charitableness and precipitancy, with reconciliation flaring up and nourishing the disease, while they still love one another.

Soren Kierkegaard, Thoughts on Crucial Situations in Human Life — Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions By Soren Kierkegaard, Copenhagen April 29, 1845, translated from the Danish by David F. Swenson, Edited by Lillian Marvin Swenson
Published by Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1941 Third Printing p. 56-57

The expectation of faith is then victory, and this expectation cannot be disappointed unless a man disappoints himself by depriving himself of expectation; like the one who foolishly supposed that he had lost faith, or foolishly supposed that some individual had taken it from him; or like the one who sought to delude himself with the idea that there was some special power which could deprive a man of his faith; who found satisfaction in the vain thought that this was precisely what had happened to him, found joy in frightening others with the assurance that some such power did exist that made sport of the noblest in man, and empowered the one who was thus tested to ridicule others.

Søren Kierkegaard, Two Edifying Discourses 1843, Swenson trans., 1943 p. 30

Here is a link to my YouTube site.  More on Kierkegaard is available there.

Another site about Kierkegaard

works of SK

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