When I first read Kierkegaard‘s “The Sickness Unto Death” in my young twenties I was well aware that I had discovered a special writer. The more I read of him, the more I found that his works held the undercurrents for much of the existential literature I had already encountered. After pouring myself into his collection, it was easy to see that his writing translated very well from the 1800s to our own time – very much like Dostoevsky’s novels still do today as well.
Kierkegaard‘s book Stages on Life’s Way was perhaps my favorite experience of his works. When you’re engaged with him, there are many difficult passages and concepts – not to mention obscure references and languages that you have to make sense of. It’s clear that he loves Shakespeare and Schiller and other great dramatists, while having a huge issue with Hegel. I think his biggest concern was the watered down Christianity that he felt was plaguing Denmark. For Kierkegaard, Christianity was something to aspire to and not necessarily simple – the cure that was worse than the poison. The religious life finds its security not in knowing, but in believing. And as these beliefs become less defined it becomes more important to pack the central belief of an eternal goodness with you as you move from each location on your journey.
Stages on Life’s Way captivated me because of the three sphere, the aesthetic, ethical, and religious, he turns his attention to the religious. Although I am not going to define these stages according to Kierkegaard here, I intend to create a section on my website to discuss my understanding of his works beginning with Stages.
From my own experience, I have also arranged some of my own writing around stages of beliefs as well:
Stage 1 – Presuppositions : As children our beliefs are given to us.
Stage 2 – Ownership : As adolescents we defend these beliefs even as we break away from our parents.
Stage 3 – Abandonment : As young adults, the insight that comes from experience allows us to break away from black & white thinking.
Stage 4 – Enlightenment : As free thinkers, we replace the security of conviction with openness and compassion.