The Essential Kierkegaard

By Søren Kierkegaard; Howard V. Hong et al. | Go to book overview

THREE DISCOURSES ON
IMAGINED OCCASIONS
(APRIL 29, 1845)
BY S. KIERKEGAARD

Published one day before Stages on Life's Way, Three Discourses constitutes another element in the series of signed works that parallel the pseudonymous publications. The Preface addresses the reader with an invitation to the “appropriation” of what one reads, an intimation of the thesis “subjectivity is truth” in Postscript. The theme of the first discourse, “On the Occasion of a Confession,” affirms that to seek God begins in silent wonder and holy fear and culminates in the awareness that “God is near enough, but no one without purity can see God, and sin is impurity and therefore no one can become aware of God without becoming a sinner.64 The final clause is a repetition of the subject of the final section of Either/Or, II, “…That in Relation to God We Are Always in the Wrong,” and the preceding italicized line anticipates the theme in Part One of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits:“Purity of heart is to will one thing.” The second discourse, “On the Occasion of a Wedding,” points ahead to Works of Love in reaffirming Judge William's distinction (in Either/Or, II, and Stages) between Elskov (erotic love) and Kjerlighed (agapē love) and emphasizes the resolution that is the heart of marriage. The third discourse is on the educational value of the contemplation of death, particularly one's own, echoed in many of the later works.

Discourses on Imagined Occasions and Stages are not only publication companion pieces but are also inversely related in content. “On the Occasion of a Confession,” with an emphasis on stillness, wonder, and seeking God, is Kierkegaard's counterpoise to “In Vino Veritas” in Stages, with its banquet and speechmaking on erotic love. “On the Occasion of a Wedding” deepens and rectifies Judge William's panegyric on marriage in Either/Or, II, and in the second part of Stages. And “At a Graveside,” on the earnestness in life evoked by the earnest thought of death, constitutes an unambiguous sharpening of the implicit ethical and religious earnestness in Quidam's “‘Guilty?’/‘Not Guilty?’” in Part Three of Stages. Some readers see the relationship in reverse order (the first discourse and the last as balancing the last part and the first in Stages). In both views the two works are related in content, and one is perhaps justified in imagining that Kierkegaard alternated between his ordinary desk, spread with the ongoing manuscript of Stages, and his high desk, at which he intermittently worked on Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions.


AT A GRAVESIDE

Then all is over!—And when the person stepped up to the grave first because he was the next of kin, and when after the brief moment of the speech he was the last one at the grave, alas, because he was the next of kin—then all is over. If he remained out there, he still would not learn what the deceased is doing, because the deceased is a quiet man; if in his trouble he called out his name, if in his grief he sat listening, he still would learn nothing, because in the grave there is quiet, and the deceased is a silent man; and if rec

V 226

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