PART 2 OF 4
THE QUESTION TO THE SINGLE ONE 
The Unique One and the Single One
Only by coming up against the category of the "Single One: and by making it a concept of the utmost clarity, did SOren Kierkegaard become the one who presented Christianity as a paradoxical problem for the single "Christian." He was only able to do this owing to the radical nature of his solitariness. His Single One cannot be understood without his solitariness, which differed in kind from the solitariness of the earlier Christian thinkers, such as Augustine or Pascal, whose name one would like to link with his. It is not irrelevant that beside Augustine stood a mother, and beside Pascal a sister, who maintained the organic connection with the world as only a woman as the envoy of elemental life can; whereas the central event of Kierkegaard's life, and the core of the crystallization of his thought, was the renunciation of Regina Olsen as representing woman and the world. Nor may this solitariness be compared with that of a monk or a hermit; for the monk or hermit, renunciation stands essentially only at the beginning, and even if it must be achieved and practiced ever anew, it is not that which constitutes the life theme, the basic problem, the stuff out of which all teaching is woven. But for Kierkegaard, this is just what renunciation is. It is embodied in the category of the Single One, "the category through which, from the religious standpoint, time and history and the race must pass" (Kierkegaard, 1847).
By means of an opposition, we can first of all be precisely aware what the Single One, in a special and specially important sense, is not. A few years before Kierkegaard outlined his "Report to History" under the title The Point of View for My Work as an Author, in whose "Two Notes" the category of the Single One found its adequate formulation, Max Stirner published his book about "The Unique One."  This, too, is a border concept like the Single One, but from the other end. Stirner, a pathetic nominalist and unmasker of ideas, wanted to dissolve the alleged remains of German idealism (so he regarded Ludwig Feuerbach) by raising not the thinking subject nor man, but the concrete present individual, as "the exclusive I" to be the bearer of the world, that is, of "his" world.
Here this Unique One "consuming himself" in "self-enjoyment" is the only one who has primary existence; only the man who comes to such a possession and consciousness of himself has primary existence -- on account of the "unity and omnipotence of our I that is sufficient to itself, for it lets nothing be but itself." Thus, the question of an essential relation between him and the other is eliminated as well. He has no essential relation except to himself (Stirner's alleged "living participation" "in the person of the other" is without essence, since the other has in his eyes no primary existence). That is, he has only that remarkable relation with the self which does not lack certain magical possibilities (since all other existence becomes the haunting of ghosts that are half in bonds. half free), but is so empty of any genuine power to enter into relation that it is better to describe as a relation only that in which not only I but also Thou can be said. This border product of a German Protagoras is usually underrated; the loss of reality which responsibility and truth have suffered in our time has here if not its spiritual origin, certainly its exact conceptual proclamation. "The man who belongs to himself alone ... is by origin free, for he acknowledges nothing but himself," and "true is what is Mine," are formulas which forecast a congealing of the soul unsuspected by Stirner in all his rhetorical assurance. But also many a rigid collective We, which rejects a superior authority, is easily understood as a translation from the speech of the Unique One into that of the Group-I, which acknowledges nothing but itself -- a translation carried out against Stirner's intention, for Stirner hotly opposes any plural version.
Kierkegaard's Single One has this in common with its counterpoint, Stirner's Unique One, that both are border categories: it has no more in common than this, but also it has no less.
The category of the Single One, too, means not the subject or "man," but concrete singularity; yet not the individual who discovers his existence, but rather the person who is finding himself. But this finding oneself, however primordially remote from Stirner's "utilize thyself," is not akin either to that "know thyself" which apparently troubled Kierkegaard very much. For it means a becoming, a becoming, moreover, under a weight of seriousness that, for the West at least, emerged only with Christianity. It is, therefore, a becoming which (though Kierkegaard says that his category was used by Socrates "for the dissolution of heathendom") is decisively different from that effected by the Socratic "maieutic." "No one is excluded from being a Single One except he who excludes himself by wishing to be 'crowd.'" Here not only is "Single One" opposed to "crowd," but also becoming is opposed to a particular mode of being which evades becoming. That may still be in tune with Socratic thought. But what does it mean, to become a Single One? Kierkegaard's account shows clearly that the nature of his category is no longer Socratic. It runs, "to fulfil the first condition of all religiosity" is "to be a single man." It is for this reason that the Single One is "the category through which, from the religious standpoint, time and history and the race must pass."
Since the concept of religiosity has since lost its definiteness, what Kierkegaard means must be more precisely defined. He cannot mean that to become a Single One is the presupposition of a condition of the soul, called religiosity. It is not a matter of a condition of the soul, but a matter of existence in that strict sense in which -- precisely by fulfilling the personal life -- it passes, in its essence, beyond the boundary of the person. Then being, familiar being, becomes unfamiliar, and no longer signifies my being. but my participation in the Present Being. That this is what Kierkegaard means is expressed in the fundamental word that the Single One "corresponds" to God. In Kierkegaard's account, then, the concept "of all religiosity" has to be more precisely defined by "of all religious reality." But since this also is exposed to the epidemic sickening of the word in our time, by which every word is at once covered with the leprosy of routine and changed into a slogan, we must go further, as far as possible, and, giving up the vexatious word "religion," take a risk, but a necessary risk, and explain the phrase as meaning "of all real human dealings with God." That Kierkegaard means this is shown by his reference to a "speaking with God." And indeed a man can have dealings with God only as a Single One, as a man who has become a Single One. This the Old Testament -- though there a people too meets the Godhead as a people -- expresses by permitting only a person bearing a name, Enoch, Noah, to "have dealings with Elohim." Not before a man, in perfect reality -- that is, in finding himself -- can say I, can he, in perfect reality-that is, to God -- say Thou. And even if he does it in a community, he can only do it "alone." "As the 'Single One: he [every man] is alone, alone in the whole world, alone before God." That is -- what Kierkegaard, strangely, does not think of -- thoroughly unsocratic: in the words "the divine gives me a sign." Socrates' "religiosity" is represented in a way significant for all ages; but the words "I am alone before God" are unthinkable as coming from him. Kierkegaard's "alone" is no longer of Socrates; it is of Abraham -- Genesis 12:1 and 22:2 alike demand, in the same words "Go before thee." the power to free oneself of all bonds, the bonds to the world of fathers and to the world of sons -- and it is of Christ.
Clarity demands a further twofold distinction. First, with respect to mysticism. Mysticism too lets man be alone before God, but not as the Single One. The relation to God which it thinks of is the absorption of the I; the Single One ceases to exist if he cannot, even in devoting himself, say I. As mysticism will not permit God to assume the servant's form of the speaking and acting person, of a creator, of a revealer, and to tread the way of the Passion through time as the partner of history, suffering along with it all destiny, so it prohibits man, as the Single One persisting as such, from really praying and serving and loving, such as can be done only by an I to a Thou. Mysticism only tolerates the Single One in order that he may ultimately dissolve. But Kierkegaard knows, at any rate in relation to God, what love is, and thus he knows that there is no self-love that is not self-deceit (since he who loves -- and it is he who matters -- loves only the other and essentially not himself), but that without being and remaining oneself, there is no love.
The second necessary distinction is with respect to Stirner's Unique One. (For the sake of conceptual precision, this expression is to be preferred to the more humanistic ones, such as Stendhal's egotiste.)
A preliminary distinction must be made with respect to so-called individualism, which has also produced a "religious" variety. The Single One, the person ready and able to "stand alone before God," is the counterpart of what, in the not distant past, was still called -- using a term which is treason to the spirit of Goethe -- personality; and man's becoming a Single One is the counterpart of "personal development." All individualism, whether it is called aesthetic or ethical or religious, finds a cheap and easy pleasure in man provided only he is "developing." In other words, "ethical" and "religious" individualism are only inflections of the "aesthetic" -- which is as little genuine aesthesis as the former are genuine ethos and genuine religio.
Morality and piety, where they have in this way become an autonomous aim, must also be reckoned among the shows and show pieces of a spirit that no longer knows about being, but only about its reflections.
Where individualism ceases to be wanton, Stirner begins. He is also, it is true, concerned with the "shaping of free personality," but in the sense of a severance of the "self" from the world: he is concerned with tearing apart his existential ties and bonds, with breaking free from all ontic otherness of things and lives, which now may only serve as "nourishment" of his selfhood. The contrapuntal position of Stirner's Unique One to Kierkegaard's Single One becomes clearest when the questions of responsibility and truth are raised.
For Stirner, both are bound to be false questions. But it is important to see that though intending to destroy both basic ideas, he has destroyed only their routine forms, and thus, contrary to his whole intention, has prepared for their purification and renewal. Historically minded contemporaries have spoken disparagingly of him as a modern sophist; since then, the function of the sophists, and consequently of their like in later times, has been recognized as the function of dissolving and preparing. Stirner may have understood Hegel just as little as Protagoras did Heraclitus; but even as it is meaningless to reproach Protagoras with laying waste the gardens of the great cosmologist, so Stirner remains untouched when he is ridiculed as the unwitting and profane interloper in the fields of post- Kantian philosophy. Stirner is not, any more than the sophists were, a curious interlude in the history of human thought. Like them, he is an epeisodion in the original sense. In his monologue, the action secretly changes; what follows is a new thing: as Protagoras leads towards his contemporary Socrates, Stirner leads towards his contemporary Kierkegaard.
Responsibility presupposes one who addresses me primarily, that is, from a realm independent of myself, and to whom I am answerable. He addresses me about something that he has entrusted to me and that I am bound to take care of loyally. He addresses me from his trust, and I respond in my loyalty or refuse to respond in my disloyalty; or, having fallen into disloyalty, I wrestle free of it by the loyalty of the response. To be so answerable to a trusting person about an entrusted matter that loyalty and disloyalty step into the light of day -- but both are not of the same right, for now loyalty, born again, is permitted to conquer disloyalty -- this is the reality of responsibility. Where no primary address and claim can touch me, where everything is "my property," responsibility has become a phantom. At the same time, life's character of mutuality is dissipated. He who ceases to make a response ceases to hear the Word.
But this reality of responsibility is not what is questioned by Stirner; it is unknown to him. He simply does not know what of elemental reality happens between life and lire, he does not know the mysteries of address and answer, claim and disclaim, word and response. He has not experienced this because it can only be experienced when one is not closed to the otherness, the ontic and primal otherness of the other -- to the primal otherness of the other, which, of course, even when the other is God, must not be confined to a "total otherness." What Stirner with his destructive power successfully attacks is the surrogate for a reality that is no longer believed; he attacks the fictitious responsibility before reason, an idea, a nature, an institution, all manner of illustrious ghosts, all that in essence is not a person, and hence cannot really, like father and mother, prince and master, husband and friend, like God, make you answerable. He wishes to show the nothingness of the word which has decayed into a phrase; he has never known the living word, he unveils what he knows. Ignorant of the reality whose appearance is appearance, he proves its nature to be appearance. Stirner dissolves the dissolution. "What you call responsibility is a lie!", he cries, and he is right: it is a lie. But there is a truth. And the way to it lies freer after the lie has been seen through.
Kierkegaard means true responsibility when, rushing in a parabola past Stirner, he speaks thus of the crowd and the Single One: "Being in a crowd either completely releases the Single One from repentance and responsibility, or else weakens his sense of responsibility. since the crowd leaves only a fraction of responsibility to him." These words, to which I intend to return, no longer imply any illusion of a responsibility without a receiver; they imply genuine responsibility, now recognized once more, in which the demander demands of me the entrusted good, and I must open my hands or they petrify.
Stirner has unmasked as unreal the responsibility which is only ethical by exposing the non-existence of the alleged receivers as such. Kierkegaard has proclaimed anew the responsibility which is in faith.
And as with responsibility so with truth itself: here the parabolic meeting becomes even more uncanny.
"Truth ... exists only -- in your head." "The truth is a -- creature." "For Me there is no truth, for nothing passes beyond Me." "So long as you believe in the truth, you do not believe in yourself.... You alone are the truth." What Stirner undertakes here is the dissolution of possessed truth, of "truth" as a general good that can be taken into possession and possessed, that is at once independent of, and accessible to, the person. He does not undertake this like the sophists or other sceptics by means of epistemology. He does not seem to have been acquainted with the epistemological method; he is as audaciously naive in his behavior as though Hume and Kant had never lived. But neither would epistemology have achieved for him what he needed; for it, and the solipsist theory as well, lead only to the knowing subject, and not to the concrete human person at which Stirner aims with undeviating fanaticism. The means by which he undertakes the dissolution of possessed truth is the demonstration that it is conditioned by the person. "True is what is Mine." Here already lies hidden the fundamental principle of our day: "What I take as true is defined by what I am." To this, two statements may be taken as alternatives or as a combination -- to Stirner's horror, certainly, but in logical consistency as an inescapable interpretation. There is first the statement, "And what I am is conditioned by my complexes," and second, the statement, "And what I am is conditioned by the class I belong to," with all their variants. Stirner is the involuntary father of modern psychological and sociological relativism, which for its part (to anticipate) is at once true and false.
But again Stirner is right, again he dissolves the dissolution. Possessed truth is not even a creature; it is a ghost, a succubus with which a man may succeed in effectively imagining he is living, but with which he cannot live. You cannot devour the truth; it is not served up anywhere in the world; you cannot even gape at it, for it is not an object. And yet, there does 'exist a participation in the being of inaccessible truth -- for the man who stands its test and "makes it true." There exists a real relation of the whole human person to the unpossessed, unpossessable truth, and it is completed only in standing the test and "making it true." This real relation, whatever it is called, is the relation to the Present Being.
The rediscovery of truth, disenthroned in the human world by the semblance of truth, but in truth eternally irremovable -- a truth which cannot be possessed but which can be served, and for which service can be given by perceiving and standing test -- is accomplished by Kierkegaard in a paradoxical series of statements. It begins with the words, "He who communicates it [the truth] is only the Single One. Its communication is again only for the Single One; for this view of life, 'the Single One,' is the very truth." You must listen carefully. Not that the Single One exists, and not that he should exist, is described as the truth, but "this view of life," which consists in the Single One's existing, and which is therefore simply identified with him: to be the Single One is the communication of the truth, that is, the human truth. "The crowd," says Kierkegaard, "produces positions of advantage in human life," which "overlook in time and the world the eternal truth -- the Single One." "You alone are the truth" is what Stirner says. "The Single One is the truth," is what is said here. That is the uncanny parabolic phenomenon of words to which I have referred. In a "time of dissolution" (Kierkegaard), there is the blank point at which the No and the Yes move up to and pass one another with all their power, but purely objectively and without consciousness. Now Kierkegaard continues: "The truth cannot be communicated and received except as it were before God's eyes, by God's help; so that God is there, is the medium as he is the truth .... For God is the truth and its medium." Thus "the Single One is the truth," and "God is the truth." That is so because the Single One "corresponds" to God. Hence Kierkegaard can say that the category of the Single One is and remains "the fixed point which can resist pantheist confusion." The Single One corresponds to God. For "man is akin to the Godhead." In Old Testament language, the Single One realizes the "image" of God precisely through having become a Single One. In the language in which alone a generation, wrestling with the problem of truth, succumbing to it, turning from it, but also exploring it ever anew, can understand, the Single One existentially stands the test of the appearing truth by "the personal existence expressing what is said" (rather, "what is unsaid"). There is this human side of truth -- in human existence. God is the truth because he is; the Single One is the truth because he reaches toward his existence.
Stirner has dissolved the truth which is only noetic, and against all his knowledge and desire, cleared a space into which Kierkegaard's believed and tested truth has entered, the truth which can no longer be obtained and possessed by the noesis alone, but which must be existentially realized in order to be inwardly known and communicated.
But there is still a third and last point of contact and repulsion. For Stirner, every man is the Unique One if only he discards all ideological ballast (to which for him what is religious belongs), and settles down as owner of his world property. For Kierkegaard, "every, absolutely every man" "can and ought" to be "the Single One" -- only he must ... what, indeed, must he? He must become a Single One. For "the matter is thus: this category cannot be taught by precept; it is something that you can do, it is an art, ... and moreover an art whose practice could cost the artist, in time, his life." But when we investigate closely to see if there is a more exact definition anywhere, even if not precisely one that can be taught by precept, one will be found -- no more than one, no more than a single word, but it will be found: it is "obey." This is what is under all circumstances prohibited to Stirner's Unique One by his author. It is easy to discover that behind all Stirner's prohibitions to his Unique One this stands as the real, comprehensive, and decisive prohibition. With this one verb, with this word of "doing," Kierkegaard finally thrusts off the spirit which, without either of them knowing it, had approached so near, too near, in the time of dissolution.
And yet -- the illumination of our time makes it visible -- the two, primally different, primally strange to one another, concerning one another in nothing, but with one another concerning us, work together, not a hundred years ago but today, the one announcing decay as decay, the other proving the eternal structure to be inviolable. To renounce obedience to any usurping lord is Stirner's demand; Kierkegaard has none of his own -- he repeats the ancient, misused, desecrated, outworn, inviolable "Obey the Lord." If a man becomes a Single One, "then obedience is all right," even in the time of dissolution. where otherwise obedience is not all right.
Stirner leads men out of all kinds of alleys into the open country where each is the Unique One and the world is his property. There they bustle in futile and noncommittal life, and nothing comes of it but bustle, till one after the other begins to notice what this country is called. Kierkegaard leads to a "narrow pass"; his task is "where possible to induce the many, to invite them, to stir them to press through this narrow pass, the 'Single One: through which, note well, none passes unless he becomes the 'Single One: since in the concept itself the opposite is excluded." I think, however, that in actual history the way to this narrow pass is through that open country that fint is called individual egoism, and then collective egoism, and, finally, by its true name, despair.
But is there really a way through the narrow pass? Can one really become the Single One?
"I myself do not assert of myself," says Kierkegaard, "that I am that one. For I have indeed struggled for it, but have not yet grasped it, in the continued fight never forgetting that it is beyond human strength to be 'the Single One' in the highest sense."
"In the highest sense": that is spoken with a Christian and a christological reference; it manifests the paradox of the Christian task. But it is also convincing to the non-Christian. It has in it the assertion that no man can say of himself that he has become the Single One, since a higher sense of the category always remains unfulfilled beyond him; but it also has in it the assertion that every man can nevertheless become a Single One. Both are true.
"The eternal, the decisive, can be worked for only where one man is; and to become this one man, which all men can, means to let oneself be helped by God," This is the way.
And yet it is not the way, for reasons of which I have not spoken in this section and of which I now have to speak.
The Single One and His Thou
Kierkegaard's "to become a Single One" is. as we have seen, not meant Socratically. The goal of this becoming is not the "right" life, but entry into a relation. "To become" here means to become for something -- "for" in the strict sense in which the circle of the person himself is transcended. It means to be made ready for the one relation which can be entered into only as the Single One. the one. the relation for whose sake man exists.
This relation is an exclusive one, the exclusive one, and this, according to Kierkegaard, means that it is the excluding relation, excluding all others; more precisely, that it is the relation which in virtue of its unique, essential life drives all other relations into the realm of the unessential.
"Everyone should be chary about having to do with 'the others,' and should essentially speak only with God and with himself," Kierkegaard says in his exposition of the category. Everyone, so it is to be understood, because everyone can be the one.
This joining of the "with God" with the "with himself" is a serious incompatibility that nothing can mitigate. All the enthusiasm of the philosophers for monologue, from Plato to Nietzsche, hardly touches the simple experience of faith that speaking with God is something toto genere different from "speaking with oneself," whereas, remarkably enough, it is not something toto genere different from speaking with another human being. For in the latter case, there is in common the fact of being approached, grasped, addressed, which cannot be anticipated in any depth of the soul; but in the former, there is no such common fact in spite of all the soul's adventures in doubling roles -- games, intoxications, dreams, visions, surprises, overwhelmings, overpowerings -- in spite of all tensions and divisions, and in spite of all the noble and powerful images for traffic with oneself. "Then one became two": that can never be ontically true, just as the reverse "one and one in one" of mysticism can never be ontically true. Only when I have to do with another essentially -- that is, in sum a way that he is no longer a phenomenon of my I, but instead is my Thou -- do I experience the reality of speech with another, in the irrefragable genuineness of mutuality. Abyssus abyssum clamat: what that means the soul first experiences when it reaches its frontier and finds itself faced by one that is simply not the soul itself and yet is a self.
But on this point Kierkegaard seems to correct himself. In the passage in his Journals where he asks the question, "And how does one become a Single One?", the answer begins with the formulation, obviously more valid for the problem there under discussion, that one should be, "regarding the highest concerns, related solely to God."
If, in this statement, the word "highest'; is understood as limiting in its content, then this is self-evident: the highest concerns can be put only to the highest. But it cannot be meant this way: that is clear from the other statement, "Everyone should ...." If both are taken together, then Kierkegaard's meaning is evident: the Single One has to do essentially-is not to be "chary" -- only with God.
But thereby the category of the Single One, scarcely properly discovered, is already fatefully misunderstood.
Kierkegaard, the Christian concerned with "contemporaneity" with Jesus, here contradicts his master.
To the question -- which was not merely directed at "tempting" him, but was rather a current and significant controversial question of the time -- as to which was the all-inclusive and fundamental commandment, the "great" commandment, Jesus replied by connecting the two Old Testament commandments between which the choice lay: "Love God with all your might" and "Love your neighbor as one like yourself."  Both are to be "loved," God and the "neighbor" (that is, not man in general, but the man who meets me time and again in the context of life), but in different ways. The neighbor is to be loved "as one like myself" (not "as I love myself"; in the final reality, one does not love oneself, but one should rather learn to love oneself through love of one's neighbor); to him I should show love as I wish it shown to me. But God is to be loved with all my soul and all my might. By connecting the two, Jesus brings to light the Old Testament truth that God and man are not rivals. Exclusive love of God ("with all your heart") is, because he is God, inclusive love, ready to accept and include all love. It is not himself that God creates, not himself he redeems; even when he "reveals himself," it is not himself he reveals: his revelation does not have himself as object. He limits himself in all his limitlessness; he makes room for creatures, and so, in the love of him, he makes room for love to creatures.
"In order to come to love," says Kierkegaard about his renunciation of Regina Olsen, "I had to remove the object." That is sublimely to misunderstand God. Creation is not a hurdle on the road to God; it is the road itself. We are created along with one another and directed to a life with one another. Creatures are placed in my way so that I, their fellow creature, by means of them and with them, may find the way to God. A God reached by excluding them would not be the God of all beings in whom all being is fulfilled. A God in whom only the parallel lines of single approaches intersect is more akin to the "God of the philosophers" than to the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." God wants us to come to him by means of the Reginas he has created, and not by renunciation of them. If we remove the object, then -- we remove the object altogether. Without an object, artificially producing the object from the abundance of the human spirit and calling it God, this kind of love has its being in the void.
"The matter must be brought back to the monastery from which Luther broke out." So Kierkegaard defines the task of the time. "Monastery" can here mean only the institutional safeguarding of man from an essential relation -- inclusive of his whole being -- to any others but God. And certainly, to one so safeguarded, the orientation toward the point called God is made possible with a precision not to be attained otherwise. But what "God" means in this case is, in fact, only the end point of a human line of orientation. The real God is hardly to be reached by a line shorter than each man's longest, which is the line embracing the world that is accessible to him. For the real God is the Creator, and all beings stand before him in relation to one another in his creation, becoming useful for his creative purpose in living with one another. To teach an acosmic relation to God is not to know the Creator. Acosmic worship of a God of whom one knows, as does Kierkegaard, that it is of his grace "that he wills to be a person in relation to you," is Marcionism, and not even consistent Marcionism: for this worship does not separate the creator and the redeemer, as it would have to do were it consistent.
But one must not overlook the fact that Kierkegaard is not at all concerned to put Luther breaking out of the monastery in the wrong. On one occasion, he treats Luther's marriage as something removed from all natural personal life, from all directness between man and wife, as a symbolic action, a deed representing and expressing the turning point of the spiritual history of the West. "The most important thing," he makes Luther say, "is that it becomes notorious that I am married." But behind Luther's marrying Katharina, there emerges, unnamed but clear, Kierkegaard's not marrying Regina. "Put the other way round, one could say . . . in defiance of the whole nineteenth century, I cannot marry." Here there is added as a new perspective the qualitative difference between historical epochs. Certainly, on Kierkegaard's view, it is true for both ages that the Single One should not have to do essentially with any others but God; according to him, then, Luther speaks not essentially but only symbolically with Katharina: though bound to the world, he remains essentially worldless and "alone before God." But the symbolic actions are opposed: by the one, the word of a new bond with the world -- even if, perhaps, in the end, a bond that is not binding -- is spoken to the one century, by the other, the word of a new, and in any event binding, renunciation is spoken to the other century. What is the reason? Because the nineteenth century has given itself up to the "crowd," and "the crowd is untruth."
But now two things are possible. Either the bond with the world preached with his life by Luther is in Kierkegaard's view neither binding, nor "essential," nor necessary for the leading of Luther's age to God. But that would make Luther one who permits what is not binding to be effective as something that is binding; it would make him one who has a different thing to say for men than he has for God, who treats the sacrament as though it were fulfilled outside God; it would make Luther one whose symbolic action possessed no authority. Or else, on the other hand, the bond with the world preached with his life by Luther is in Kierkegaard's view binding, and essential, and necessary for leading to God. Then the difference between the two epochs, which is indubitably a qualitative one, would enter in what is basically independent of history, more so than birth and death -- the relation of the Single One to God. For the essential quality of this relation cannot be of one kind in the former century and of another in the latter; it cannot in the one go right through the world, and in the other go over and beyond the world. Human representations of the relation change, the truth of the relation is unchangeable because it stands in eternal mutuality; it is not man who defines his approach to it, but the Creator who, in the unambiguity of his creation of man, has instituted the approach.
It is certainly not possible to speak of God other than dialectically, for he does not come under the principle of contradiction. Yet there is a limit to dialectic where assertion ceases, but where there is knowledge. Who is there who confesses the God whom Kierkegaard and I confess who could suppose in decisive insight that God wants Thou to be truly said only to him, but to all others merely an unessential and fundamentally invalid word -- that God demands of us to choose between him and his creation? The objection is raised that the world as a fallen world is not to be identified with the creation. But what fall of the world could be so mighty that it could for him break it away from being his creation? That would be to make the action of the world into something more powerful than God's action, into something compelling him.
The essential is not that we should see things as standing out from God, nor as being absorbed in him, but that we should "see things in God," the things themselves. To apply this to our relations with creatures: only when all relations, uncurtailed, are taken into the one relation, do we set the circle of our life's world round the sun of our being.
Certainly that is the most difficult thing, and in order to be able to do it, man must let himself be helped from time to time by an inner-worldly "monastery." Our relations to creatures are always threatening to become incapsulated. As the world itself is sustained in its independence as the world through striving to be closed against God, though as creation it is open to him, so every great bond of man -- though in it he perceives his connection with the infinite -- protects itself vigorously against continually debouching into the infinite. Here the monastic forms of life in the world, the loneliness in the midst of life into which we turn as into hostelries, help us prevent the connection between the conditioned bonds and the one unconditioned bond from slackening. This, too, if we do not wish to see our participation in the Present Being die off, is an indispensable interchange, the systole of the soul to its diastole. The loneliness must know the quality of strictness, of a monastery's strictness, in order to do its work. But it must never wish to tear us away from creatures, never refuse to send us off to them. If it failed to do that, it would act contrary to its own law and would close us up, instead of enabling us, as is its function, to keep open the gates of finitude.
Kierkegaard does not conceal from us for a moment that his resistance to a bond with the world, his religious doctrine of loneliness, is based on personal nature and personal destiny. He confesses that he "ceased to have common speech" with men. He notes that the finest moment in his life is in the bath house, before he dives into the water: "I have nothing more to do with the world." He exposes before our eyes some of the roots of his "melancholy." He knows precisely what has brought him to the point of being chary about having to do with others, and of essentially speaking only with God and with himself. And yet, as soon as he begins with the "direct" language, he expresses it as an imperative: let everyone do so. Continually he points to his own shadow -- and wants to leap across it. He is a being excepted and exposed, and certainly so are we all, for so is man as man. But Kierkegaard has moved to the fringe of being excepted and exposed, and maintains equilibrium only by means of the extraordinary balance of his "author's" reticently communicative existence with all the complicated safeguards of the "pseudonyms"; whereas we are not on the fringe, and that is no "not yet" nor any sort of compromising. no shirking of melancholy; it is organic continuance and grace of preservation, and it is significant for the future of the spirit. Kierkegaard behaves in our sight like a schizophrenic, who tries to win over the beloved individual into "his" world as if it were the true one. But it is not the true one. We, ourselves wandering on the narrow ridge, must not shrink from the sight of the jutting rock on which he stands over the abyss; nor may we step on it. We have much to learn from him, but not the final lesson.
Our rejection can be supported by Kierkegaard's own teaching. He describes "the ethical" as "the only means by which God communicates with 'man'" (1853). The context of the teaching naturally prevents us from understanding this in the sense of an absolutizing of the ethical. But it must be understood in such a way that not merely an autarcic ethic, but also an autarcic religion, is inadmissible, so that as the ethical cannot be freed from the religious neither can the religious be freed from the ethical without ceasing to do justice to the present truth. The ethical no longer appears here, as in Kierkegaard's earlier thought, as a "stage" from which a "leap" leads to the religious, a leap by which a level is reached that is quite different and has a different meaning; here it dwells in the religious, in faith and service. This ethical can no longer mean a morality belonging to a realm of relativity, time and again overtaken and invalidated by the religious; it means essential acting and suffering in relation to men, coordinated with the essential relation to God. But only he who has to do with men essentially can essentially act and suffer in relation to them. If the ethical is the only means by which God communicates with man, then I am forbidden to speak essentially only with God and myself. And so indeed it is. I do not say that it is forbidden to Kierkegaard on his rock, alone with the mercy of the Merciful. I say only that it is forbidden to you and to me.
Kierkegaard is deeply conscious of the dubiousness which arises from the negativizing extension of the category of the Single One. "The frightful thing," he writes in his Journal, and we read it, as he wrote it, with fear and trembling. "is that precisely the highest form of piety, to let everything earthly go, can be the highest egoism." Here obviously a distinction is made according to motive, and the idea of egoism used here is an idea of motivation. If we put in its place an objective idea, an idea of a state of affairs, the statement is changed to a still more frightful one: "Precisely what appears to us as the highest form of piety -- to let everything earthly go -- is the highest egoism."
Is it true that the Single One "corresponds" to God? Does he realize the "image" of God solely by having become a Single One? One thing is lacking for that -- and it is the decisive thing.
"Certainly," says Kierkegaard, "God is no egoist, but he is the infinite Ego." Yet thereby too little is said of the God whom we confess -- if one dares to say anything at all. He hovers over his creation not as over a chaos; he embraces it. He is the infinite I that makes every It into his Thou.
The Single One corresponds to God when he, in his human way, embraces the bit of the world offered to him as God embraces his creation in his divine way. He realizes the image when, as much as he can in a personal way, he says Thou with his being to the beings living round about him.
No one can refute Kierkegaard as well as Kierkegaard himself. Reasoning with and judging himself, he corrects his own spirit from its depths, often before it has uttered its word. In 1845, Kierkegaard enters this unforgettable confession in his Journal: "Had I had faith, I would have remained with Regina." By this he means: "Had I really believed that 'with God all things are possible,' hence also the resolution of this -- my melancholy, my powerlessness, my fear, my fateful alienation from woman and from the world -- then I would have remained with Regina." But while he means this, he says something else too, namely, that the Single One, if he really believes, and that means if he is really a Single One (which, as we saw, he has become for the one relation of faith), can and may have to do essentially with another. And behind this there lurks the extreme that he who can and may also ought to do this. "The only means by which God communicates with man is the ethical." But the ethical in its plain truth means to help God by loving his creation in his creatures, by loving it towards him. For this, to be sure, one must let oneself be helped by him.
"The Single One is the category through which, from the religious standpoint, time and history and the race must pass." What is this "religious standpoint"? One beside others? The standpoint toward God, gained by standing aside from all others? God one object beside other objects, the chosen one beside the rejected ones? God as Regina's successful rival? Is that still God? Is that not merely an object adapted to the religious genius? (Note that I am not speaking of true holiness, for which, as it hallows everything, there is no "religious standpoint.") "Religious genius? Can there be religious geniuses? Is that not a contradictio in adjecto? Can the religious be a specification? "Religious geniuses" are theological geniuses. Their God is the God of the theologians. Admittedly, that is not the God of the philosophers, but neither is it the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of the theologians, too, is a logicized God, and so is the God even of a theology which will speak only dialectically and makes light of the principle of contradiction. So long as they practise theology, they do not get away from religion as a specification. When Pascal, in a volcanic hour, made that stammering distinction between God and God, he was no genius but a man experiencing the primal glow of faith; at other times, however, he was a theological genius, and dwelt in a specifying religion, out of which the happening of that hour had lifted him.
Religion as a specification misses its mark. God is not an object beside objects, and hence cannot be reached by renunciation of objects. God is, indeed, not the cosmos, but even less is he being minus cosmos. He is not to be found by subtraction, and not to be loved by reduction.
The Single One and the Body Politic
Kierkegaard's thought circles round the fact that he essentially renounced an essential relation to a definite person. He did not resign this casually, or in the relativity of the many experiences and decisions of life, or with the soul alone, but essentially. The essential nature of his renunciation, its downright positive essentiality, is what he wants to express by saying: "In defiance of the whole nineteenth century, I cannot marry." The renunciation becomes essential through its representing in concrete biography the renunciation of an essential relation to the world as that which hinders being alone before God. Moreover, as I have already said, this does not happen just once, as when a man enters a monastery and thereby cuts himself off from the world and lives outside it; it is peculiarly enduring: the renunciation becomes the center of a spiritual coordinate system whose every point is determined in relation to this point. It is in this way that the system receives its true existential character, by means of which it has given the impulse to a new philosophy and a new theology. And certainly, there belongs to this secularly significant concreteness of biography the curiously manifold motivation -- which is undoubtedly legitimate, and is to be found piecemeal in the soundings of inwardness -- of the renunciation which Kierkegaard expresses directly and indirectly, by suggestion and by concealment. But beyond that, on a closer consideration, it is to be noted that there arises, between the renunciation and an increasingly strong point of view an attitude which is finally expressed with penetrating clarity in the "Two Notes" to the "Report to History," a secret and unexpressed connection important for Kierkegaard and for us.
"The crowd is untruth." "This consideration of life, the Single One, is the truth." "No one is excluded from becoming a Single One except he who excludes himself by wanting to be crowd." And again: "'The Single One' is the category of the spirit, of spiritual awakening and revival, and is as sharply as possible opposed to politics." The Single One and the crowd, the "spirit" and "politics": this opposition is not to be separated from that in which Kierkegaard enters the world, expressing it symbolically by means of his renunciation.
Kierkegaard does not marry "in defiance of the whole nineteenth century." What he describes as the nineteenth century is the "age of dissolution," the age of which he says that a single man "cannot help it or save it"; he can "only express that it is going under" -- going under, if it cannot reach God through the "narrow pass." And Kierkegaard does not marry, in a symbolic action of negation, in defiance of this age, because it is the "age of the "crowd" and the age of "politics." Luther married in symbolic action, because he wanted to lead the believing man of his age out of a rigid religious separation -- which finally separated him from grace itself -- to a life with God in the world. Kierkegaard does not marry (this, of course, is not part of the manifold subjective motivation, but is the objective meaning of the symbol) because he wants to lead the unbelieving man of his age, who is entangled in the crowd, to become single, to the solitary life of faith, to be alone before God. Certainly, "to marry or not to marry" is the representative question when the monastery is in view. If the Single One really must be, as Kierkegaard thinks, a man who does not have to do essentially with others, then marriage hinders him if he takes it seriously -- and if he does not take it seriously, then, in spite of Kierkegard's remark about Luther, it cannot be understood how he, an existing person, can be "the truth." For man, with whom alone Kierkegaard is fundamentally concerned, there is the additional factor that in his view woman stands "quite differently from man in a dangerous rapport to finitude." But there is still something special to be made clear at this point.
If one makes a fairly comprehensive survey of the whole labyrinthine structure of Kierkegaard's thought about renunciation, it will be recognized that he is speaking not solely of a hard, hard-won renunciation of life with a person; but in addition, he is speaking of the positively valued renunciation of life with an impersonal being, conditioned by life with a person -- an impersonal being, which in the foreground of the happening is called "people," and in the background, "the crowd." This being, however, in its essence -- of which Kierkegaard knows or wants to know nothing -- rejects these descriptions as caricatures and acknowledges as its true name only that of res publica, in English the "body politic." When Kierkegaard says the category of the "Single One" is "as sharply as possible opposed to politics," he obviously means an activity that has essentially lost touch with its origin, the polis. But this activity, however degenerate, is one of the decisive manifestations of the body politic. Every degeneration indicates its genus, and in such a way that the degeneration is never related to the genus simply as present to past, but as in a distorted face, the distortion is related to the form persisting beneath it. The body politic, which is sometimes also called the "world," that is, the human world, seeks, knowingly or unknowingly, to. realize in its genuine formations the togetherness of men according to creation. The false formations distort, but they cannot eliminate, the eternal origin. Kierkegaard, in his horror of malformation, turns away; but the man who has not ceased to love the human world in all its abasement sees genuine form even today. Supposing that the crowd is untruth, it is only a state of affairs in the body politic; how truth is here related to untruth must be part and parcel of the true question to the Single One, and the warning against the crowd can be only its preface.
From this standpoint, that special matter can be made clear of which I said that it is an additional reason for Kierkegaard's considering marriage to be an impediment. Marriage, essentially understood, brings one into an essential relation to the "world"; more precisely, to the body politic, to its malformation and its genuine form, to its sickness and its health. Marriage, as the decisive union of one with another, confronts one with the body politic and its destiny -- man can no longer shirk that confrontation in marriage; he can only prove himself in it or fail. The isolated person, who is unmarried or whose marriage is merely a fiction, can maintain himself in isolation; the "community" of marriage is part of the great community, contributing its own problems to the general problems, bound up with its hope of salvation to the hope of the great being that in its most miserable state is called the crowd. He who "has entered on marriage," who has entered into marriage, has taken in earnest, in the intention of the sacrament, the fact that the other is, the fact that I cannot legitimately share in the Present Being without sharing in the being of the other, the fact that I cannot answer the lifelong address of God to me without answering at the same time for the other, the fact that I cannot be answerable without being at the same time answerable for the other as one who is entrusted to me. But in this way, he has decisively entered into relation with otherness; and the basic structure of otherness, in many ways uncanny, but never quite unholy or incapable of being hallowed, in which I and the others who meet me in my life are inwoven, is the body politic. It is to this, into this, that marriage intends to lead us. Kierkegaard himself makes one of his pseudonyms, the "married man" of the Stages, express this, though in the style of a lower point of view which is meant to be overcome by a higher. But it is a lower point of view only when trivialized; there is no higher, because to be raised above the situation in which we are set never yields in truth a higher point of view. Marriage is the exemplary bond; it carries us as does no other into the greater bondage, and only as those who are bound can we reach the freedom of the children of God. Expressed with reference to the man: woman certainly stands "in a dangerous rapport to finitude," and finitude is certainly the danger, for nothing threatens us so sharply as the danger that we remain clinging to it. But our hope of salvation is forged on this very danger, for our human way to the infinite leads only through fulfilled finitude.
The Single One is not the man who has to do with God essentially, and only un essentially with others, who is unconditionally concerned with God, and conditionally with the body politic. The Single One is the man for whom the reality of relation with God as an exclusive relation includes and encompasses the possibility of relation with all otherness, and for whom the whole body politic. the reservoir of otherness, offers just enough otherness for him to pass his life with it.
The Single One in Responsibility
I say, therefore. that the Single One. that is. the man living in responsibility, can make even his political decisions properly only from that ground of his being where he is aware of the event as divine speech to him; if he lets the awareness of this ground be choked off by his group, he is refusing to give God an actual reply.
What I am speaking of has nothing to do with "individualism." I do not consider the individual to be either the starting point or the goal of the human world. But I consider the human person to be the irremovable central place of the struggle between the world's movement away from God and its movement toward God. This struggle takes place today to a very great extent in the realm of public life. not between group and group, but within each group. Yet the decisive battles in this realm as well are fought in the depth, in the ground or the groundlessness. of the person.
Our age is intent on escaping from the demanding "ever anew" of such an obligation of responsibility by a flight into a protective "once for all." The last generation's intoxication with freedom has been followed by the present generation's passion for bondage; the untruth of intoxication has been followed by the untruth of hysteria. He alone is true to the one Present Being who knows he is bound to his place -- and precisely there free for his proper responsibility. Only those who are bound and free in this way can still produce what can be truly called community. Yet even today, the believing man, if he adheres to something that is presented in a group, may do right to join it. But belonging to it, he must remain submissive with his whole life, therefore with his group life as well, to the One who is his Lord. His responsible decision will thus at times be opposed to, say, a tactical decision of his group. At times, he will be moved to carry the fight for the truth, the human, uncertain-certain truth which is brought forward by the depth of his conscience, into the group itself, and thereby establish or strengthen an inner front within it. This can prove more important for the future of our world than all fronts that are drawn today between groups or between associations of groups; for this front, if it is everywhere upright and strong, may run as a secret unity across all groups.
What the right is none of the groups of today can come to know except through men who belong to them staking their own souls to discover and then reveal it, however bitter, to their companions -- charitably if possible, cruelly if must be. Into this fiery furnace, the group plunges time and again, or it dies an inward death.
And if one still asks if one may be certain of finding what is right on this steep path, once again the answer is no; there is no certainty. There is only a chance; but there is no other chance but this. The risk. does not ensure the truth for us; but it, and it alone. leads us to where the breath of truth is to be felt.