Essay on Kierkegaard's "Purity of Heart"
June 20, 1970 (ll)
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Kierkegaard's "Purity of Heart" (transcribed and edited June 20, 2016)    “To Everything There is a Season” -- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8>

I know only one thing about the future. I will die. The state of consciousness that knows me, the state that allows or impels me to write these words will die. That consciousness is at least in part determined by my physiological sensual experiences, including the electrical pathways of my brain. The senses and the brain will change at a time in my future, rot and lose their ability to function as they do now. But if a part, even a small part, of what I know as “me” is changed, the resultant “me” will not be the “me” I now know. I will die. I know that; it is the only thing I know of the future. Any prediction or belief I have concerning my state after I die is conjectural, irregardless of the fervor with which I hope my image to be correct. I cannot know about a state in which knowing is based on anything that I do not now possess.

I also know certain things about the present. I am alive, and I know that I am alive. I also know that I can create images for things I cannot sense. A circle, a Gaussian distribution, a god, an eternity. When one asks, “What is the eternal?”, I can answer, “What eternal?” Eternal time? Eternal consciousness? Eternal knowledge? What eternal? To a response of “The” eternal or “Eternal of Eternals”, I can answer, “The eternal is the same as infinity divided by three”, because one modifier is a valid as any other. I cannot know the eternal, I can only know an image of the eternal. I cannot even know if the image represents a facet, however small, of something that is other than an ephemeral hope. I do know that I can know the image, however. I also know that I can create my own image of the eternal.

Many images of the eternal have been created. One image is an encompassing symmetry plane dividing the world into good and bad. Dispute exists as to the perfection of the symmetry – is the good stronger? or is the evil? or neither? (Zoroaster before I was aware of him) A variant of this image envisages a knower and a feeler, as both the good and the bad side, a God and a Devil. If this image is to be believed, God in all his knowing – knowing beyond our knowing – might chuckle as he watches us try to create an image to match his reality, as a great artist might chuckle as he watches a two year old baby attempt to copy the artist’s best work. He might say, “That is very good, but don’t be afraid to throw away your image and try anew.”

Another image accepts the symmetry plane, but maintains that the plane is thinner than the smallest reflection unit. Thus a very thin line exists between the good and the evil, and this line is the eternal calm. The creators of this image might envisage the eternal calm not caring whether we draw the line with the perfect smoothness that it really is. The eternal calm can absorb the roughness of our image with as much attention as a single dust particle settling from a gentle breeze rends to the skin of a peacefully grazing deer. A variant of this image maintains that the gentle, impersonal harmony and rhythm of the eternal calm can guide our hands in shaping and smoothing our image that it may become more like that which the image represents, if only we be receptive to the harmony.

Many other images are created. They are all beautiful, all works of art surpassing anything drawn with a pen. They are the most beautiful creations in man’s collection of images. The images are so beautiful that we often confuse them with the thing they are created to represent, a thing we cannot know, a thing we cannot completely image, a thing we cannot even know if we should attempt to image. In our confusion, we worship the image. We worship the creation rather than the creator. We then argue, sometimes violently, about which creation is better, truer, or more eternal. We forget that the creator of a thing, may also disassemble, modify, and manipulate the matter, be it ethereal or substance, from which the thing itself is made.

The creator is a higher order thing than the creation, or lower dependent on the image one wishes to be true. Have we perhaps learned that all images of the eternal are beautiful, more deserving of our worship? Have we yet learned that our images are images? And if we worship the image, it is but an idol? Have we yet learned to admit a truth that of all the truths proffered, we do not know what is true or even if truth is true? Have we yet learned to know that we do not know?

Hope, wish and believe we can, but know we cannot, not now, perhaps never. My hopes for a magic that will allow me to retain a knowledge of my own knowing after the substance of my knowing is rent asunder in the rot of the soil are hopes I cannot ignore or abandon. But can I know that my hope is a creation of the same “me” that creates the image I hope is real? Can I also know that worship of my images is worship of a less worthy thing than worship of myself, the creator of my images? Perhaps the eternal is worthy of my worship, except the only eternal I can worship is one which I can create and cannot be the eternal I may wish to worship. In constructing an image of the eternal to which I am compelled to direct my worship, I am free to construct that image as I wish. I am now constructing that image as man himself.

Man is the eternal, and more, the creator of the eternal. Good or truth, bad or falsity as elements of man’s image may easily be interchanged with the eternal as a cornerstone for the creation of the image.

But if it is man that is worthy of worship, what part of man? His truth? His intellect? His feelings? To pursue this question requires constructing an image of man toward which man should direct his worship. And the image will be different for each imaginer. No difference exists between worship of images of man and images of the eternal.

Is it possible to worship man and not an image of man? One may respond that this requires worshipping the bad in man as well as the good, to which a self-worshipper may say, “Yes, but your assignment of good and bad in man flows from your worship of another image you place above your worship of man, therefore you do not speak with the worship of man in your possession”.

Another may respond that this requires elevation of man above the natural and temporal substrate from which he comes, the harmony and rhythm of time, and hence ignores the cause of things. The self-worshipper again may say, “Yes, but your judgment of elevation and of causes flows from your worship of other images.”

What then do we worship of man? – nothing “of” man – man. Images are of man, only man is man, and all of man is mankind. Individual man is totally man as is the conglomerate, mankind. However an individual must resort to images if he wishes to define “mankind” or “individual man”, as a thing toward which worship should be directed. Only if he worships but does not direct his worship can one worship man.

Despite the warning outlined above, an inquiry into the object of worship is in order. Worship posits that man is unique in that he alone may worship. The uniqueness of man is not within the framework of the all-encompassing symmetry plane. Good or evil can be assigned to this uniqueness. Borne out of the image of man’s uniqueness as evil is mans' original sin. The reflection across the symmetry plane is man’s compassion and love.

Certain images stress the importance of one above the other. The image that stresses the eternal calm places both good and evil as illusions external to the indifferent plane of division. Thus only the unconscious, unconsciounable is truly good. Man’s participation is more the temporal, ephemeral assignment of good and evil to a lower order existence than emersion in the valueless eternal calm. Granite is the god to emulate. The eternal wisdom of the eternal calm is inherent in the cycle of all things, but only man in his arrogance abandons the eternal in pursuit of the ephemeral, thus falling from truth by his art of pursuing truth.

The sect which worships “nature” as that which is “not man” or not influenced by man pursues this image. Man’s attempts at image construction are interpreted as misplaced, perhaps evil, and definitely antithetical to the worship of the eternal wisdom of nature. But this image abstracts man from nature, and maintains that man’s uniqueness is the only non-natural thing in the universe. Rather than worshipping the uniqueness, worshipping all of man, the uniqueness is relegated to sin, or to illusion, both a lower order of things to be avoided in one’s worship. The abstraction of man, the setting apart from nature, the abandonment of the garden, man’s unavoidable condition is evil. This image is a blasphemy of man, a self-hatred, a permanent condemnation to hell.

Another approach stresses the good side of the symmetry plane, rather than condemning the creation of the plane. It holds that despite man’s unique and inherent evil, a unique and inherent goodness exists also. Man’s compassion or even will to do the good is a popular expression of the worship of the good in man. An especially appealing belief is that man is unique in nature in his compassion for suffering, his compassion for life. I think this not unique to man, but expressed in all life, more decipherable in mammals similar to ourselves. All life is committed to preserving life and alleviating suffering. Why do squirrels scratch at fleas? Times must be when a commitment to preserve a part of life results in the irreversible modification of other life. Cats eats deer, but do so in a compassion for life and compassion for sufferings of her hunger and her cubs.

What is uniquely man is not the compassion of life, but the ability to ignore that compassion. Thus to worship man is to worship his compassion, his will to do “good”, as well as his will to ignore the passion and suffering around him. It is to worship the ability of one mother to plunge into a raging river to save her drowning child; and the ability of another mother to stoically resist the compassion and watch her child swept away to death; and the ability of yet another to dance with joy in her image that God has finally taken her child away from the travails of life. To worship man is to worship the ability to create images, not the image itself, not to judge the merits of one image or another. The image that blasphemes man is as wonderful and as powerful as the one that exalts man’s compassion and will. Both flow from the same uniqueness that is man, the ability to create many mental images.

But not only should uniqueness of man be worshipped. Not all in man is unique. The hydrogen and oxygen are the same in granite as in man. We share much. To worship man is not to worship nature OR worship man for they are separated only by images. This does not mean that each facet of nature does not love its own uniqueness, for upon classification even individual hydrogen atoms are unique. Thus it is true that everything is unique and everything is at the same time the same thing.Aphorism 28 The eternal calm and the unique compassion of man are both creations of man, both knowable only as images, both true expressions of the uniqueness of their creator.

Let us not be afraid to acknowledge images, and direct our worship to the creator of images, knowing that we cannot clearly define an object to focus our direction. Today the entire human world is connected by an electronic communication link. Today atomic warfare could unleash an annihilation of all images, even eternity. Self-worship and the admission that the images are of a lower order than the creator of images are not conducive to political control. Secret knowledge and proscribed duties are necessary for political control. The worship of images foster social coherence and makes possible the concentration of human energies toward ends inherent in the image, but it robs the individual of his uniqueness and denies him his greatest power.

Many are controlled by fear; fear that the images proffered by those with secret knowledge, with “visions”, “communications with God”, or "edicts of the governor" are not images but real. One may ask, “Who am I in my lowly, sinful state to question the wisdom of St. Thomas or Rousseau or Father Pete or Professor Smith; they are wise; let them tell me how to achieve my hope of immortality; let them worry, I have other things to do.” One of them or someone will tell the lowly questioner, but they will always extract a certain sacrifice as payment for their services. Sacrifices willingly accepted as payment for services rendered form the basis of social control and stability. The man who worships himself and his own ability to create images cannot be controlled by an evangelist for another image.

Commonly the self-worshipper’s behavior will not threaten the evangelist, but the self-worshipper can never be completely trusted to be pliant. One may respond that social control is necessary to prevent chaos that is destructive to all, thus the profferal of images, secret knowledge, and duties are essential to preserve the environment which permits a lone individual to create his own images.

A difficult argument to counter, but the self-worshipper again can say, “Your definition of chaos is inherent in your worship of an image, and your image assumes that my desire to create my own images is sufficiently significant to render me compliant with your wishes for the avoidance of chaos." But as I maintained at the beginning of this discussion, I only know one thing of the future, I will die. I do not know if that is chaos and neither do you, but I assume it is, therefore your threat of chaos is only an agreement with the only with the only knowledge you or I possess of the future. You cannot threaten me with certainty, only with probability, and then only if I share your image.”

The barriers to social acceptance of truth are found in cretins and phantasmists. Phantasmists proffer images with blind conviction and cretins accept them with self-liberating freedom from truth. Between them they create the ephemeral world as it is, and recreate each instant, and as such are part of man and a part of the self-worshipper’s object of worship. For again, the ephemeral as well as the eternal are creations of man, but neither IS man.

But if there is no image that is true, how can one avoid suicide as an act of commitment to an image as correct as any other image? The self-worshipper will answer, “I cannot judge the relative merits of suicide. But if I worship man, a suicide prevents my further worship. There is no moral obligation not to commit suicide, in fact it is the highest expression of the ability in man to create images, it is worship of an image that maintains purpose can be served by an act of supreme image creation, destruction of all images. I chose not to end my worship but, please, feel no exhortation from me to prevent you from submitting to your own image.”

Man’s ability to commit suicide is part of man, individual and conglomerate, and as part of man is part of the object toward which worship is to be directed. Suicide should not be condemned no more nor no less than the eternal calm or murder or any other image of man’s mind, nor should it be worshipped; not the image -- the creator of the image. Death is the only experience I know I will have, thus to will only certainty is delusion. Certainty is beyond the power of the will.

In a more lighthearted vein, I want to accumulate all the worship credits I can before I test my hope for the truths of an image concerning a time after certainty. I worship man, all of him, his good, his bad, myself, conglomerate mankind, his past, every instant of it, his consciousness of time, of necessity, of eternal, of compassion, his political systems, his artistic expressions, his inquisitions, his revolutions.

But this is directing the worship despite the earlier caution. More generally I worship the world as it is, rather than how I would have it be.