I am almost finished the first volume of Either / Or and as I have mentioned earlier it has been a more rewarding experience than the first go round in which I did not finish. The book seems to read with two clear book-ends. The first is Mozart’s Don Juan. Don Juan represents pure and immediate sensuality. The highest form of this is music. As soon as the focus shifts to lyrics then an element of reflection is immediately introduced. The closing book-end is the Diary of a Seducer which is collection of reflections and letters in which a man seduces a young woman to engage him. This still represents an aesthetic mode like Don Juan but is clearly now also a reflective mode. What I find interesting about the Diary is the way in which it begins themes which will later be taken up by Kierkegaard.
Having done some earlier research on Kierkegaard’s influence on psychology and counselling much was made of his approach as ‘mid-wife’, that is, of clearing space for the individual to come to his or her own conclusions; to existentially engage the individual, to set them in motion (though without knowledge of this having been facilitated by someone). Towards the end of his life Kierkegaard reflects on this practice as an author but already here in the Diary Kierkegaard uses similar language as a seducer. Leading up to the proposal of engagement the seducer writes,
The whole episode must be kept as insignificant as possible, so that when she has accepted me, she will be able to throw the least light upon what may be concealed in this relationship. The infinite possibility is precisely the interesting. If she is able to predict anything, that I have failed badly, and the whole relationship loses its meaning. That she might say yes because she loves me is inconceivable, for she does not love me at all. The best thing is for me to transform the engagement from act to an event, from something she does to something that happens to her, concerning which she must say: “God only knows how it really happened.
Then later in the Diary are collections of short ‘notes’ that are to arouse the erotic (the immediate) in her. These are notes of absolutes and totalities.
I am poor – you are my riches; dark – you are my light; I own nothing, want nothing. And how can I own anything? It is a contradiction to say that he can own something who does not own himself. I am as happy as a child, who can and should own nothing. I own nothing; for I belong only to you; I am not, I have ceased to be, in order to be yours.
It does not take much to see how these notes extend from the aesthetic to the religious. But first it seems they must pass through the ethical. And I am about to enter volume II.