Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1843

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Two Upbuilding Discourses (1843) is a major work by Søren Kierkegaard, published three months after the publication of his big book, Either/Or. Either/Or work ended without a conclusion to the argument between A, the aesthete and B, the ethicist, as to which is the best way to live one's life. Kierkegaard hoped the book would transform everything for both of them into inwardness.


As translated in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Soren Kierkegaard 1843-1844 (1990) by Howard V. Hong


  • Although this little book (which is called “discourses,” not sermons, because its author does not have authority to preach, “upbuilding discourses,” not discourses for upbuilding, because the speaker by no means claims to be a teacher) wishes to be only what it is, a superfluity, and desires only to remain in hiding, just as it came into existence in concealment, I nevertheless have not bidden it farewell without an almost fantastic hope. Inasmuch as in being published it is in a figurative sense starting a journey, I let my eyes follow it for a little while. I saw how it wended its way down solitary paths or walked solitary on public roads. After a few little mistakes, through being deceived by a fleeting resemblance, it finally met that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader, that single individual it is seeking, to whom, so to speak, it stretches out its arms, that single individual who is favorably enough disposed to allow himself to be found, favorably enough disposed to receive it, whether at the time of the encounter it finds him cheerful and confident or “weary and pensive,” –On the other hand, inasmuch as in being published it actually remains quiet without moving from the spot, I let my eyes rest on it for a little while. It stood there like a humble little flower under the cover of the great forest, sought neither for its splendor nor its fragrance nor its food value. But I also saw, or thought I saw, how the bird I call my reader suddenly noticed it, flew down to it, picked it, and took it home, and when I had seen this, I saw no more. Copenhagen, May 5, 1843
    • Preface

The Expectancy of Faith

  • There is talk of the good things of the world, of health, happy times, prosperity, power, good fortune, a glorious fame. And we are warned against them; the person who has them is warned not to rely on them, and the person who does not have them is warned not to set his heart on them. About faith there is a different kind of talk. It is said to be the highest good, the most beautiful;, the most precious, the most blessed riches of all, not to be compared with anything else, incapable of being replaced. Is it distinguished from the other good things, then, by being the highest but otherwise of the same kind as they are-transient and capricious, bestowed only upon the chosen few, rarely for the whole of life? If this were so, then it certainly would be inexplicable that in these sacred places it is always faith and faith alone that is spoken of, that it is eulogized and celebrated again and again.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 9-10
  • If one person went to another and said to him, I have often heard faith extolled as the most glorious good: I feel though that I do not have it; the confusion of my life, the distractions of my mind, my many cares, and so much else disturbs me, but this I know, that I have but one wish, one single wish, that I might share in this faith.
    • p. 11
  • If by my wishing or by my gift I could bestow upon him the highest good” he said, “then I could also take it from him, even if he would not have to be afraid of that. Worse yet, if I could do that, then the very moment I gave it to him I would be taking it from him, since by giving him the highest, I would be depriving him of the highest, because the highest was that he could give it to himself. Therefore, I will thank God that this is not the way it is.
    • p.16
  • all who are expecting do have one thing in common, that they are expecting something in the future, because expectancy and the future are inseparable ideas. The person who is expecting something is occupied with the future.
    • p. 16
  • How, then, shall we face the future? When the sailor is out on the ocean, when everything is changing all around him, when the waves are born and die, he does not stare down into the waves, because they are changing. He looks up at the stars. Why? Because they are faithful; they have the same location now that they had for our ancestors and will have for generations to come. By what means does he conquer the changeable? By the eternal, one can conquer the future, because the eternal is the ground of the future, and therefore through it the future can be fathomed. What, then, is the eternal power in a human being? It is faith. What is the expectancy of faith? Victory-or, as Scripture so earnestly and so movingly teaches us, that all things must serve for good those who love God.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 19
  • “When the world commences its drastic ordeal, when the storms of life crush youth’s exuberant expectancy, when existence, which seemed so affectionate and gentle, changes into a pitiless proprietor who demands everything back, everything that it gave in such a way that it can take it back-then the believer most likely looks at himself and his life with sadness and pain, but he still says, “There is an expectancy that the whole world cannot take from me; it is the expectancy of faith, and this is victory. I am not deceived, since I did not believe that the world would keep the promise it seemed to be making to me, my expectancy was not in the world but in God.
    • Two Upbuilding Discourses (16 May 1843) in The Expectancy of Faith From Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses. p. 23-24
  • Knowledge of the truth I may perhaps have attained to; happiness certainly not. What shall I do? Accomplish something in the world, men tell me. Shall I then publish my grief to the world, contribute one more proof for the wretchedness and misery of existence, perhaps discover a new flaw in human life, hitherto unnoticed? I might then reap the rare reward of becoming famous, like the man who discovered the spots on Jupiter. I prefer, however, to keep silent.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swensen, p. 34
  • If you had loved people then the earnestness of life might have taught you not to be strident but to become silent, and when you were in distress at sea and did not see land, then at least not to involve others in it; it might have taught you to smile at least as long as long as you believed anyone sought in your face an explanation, a witness. We do not judge you for doubting, because doubt is a crafty passion, and it can certainly be difficult to tear oneself out of its snares. What we require of the doubter is that he be silent. That doubt did not make him happy-why then confide to others what will make them just as unhappy.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 22-23
  • An expectancy that without a specified time and place is nothing but a deception; In that way one may always go on waiting; such an expectancy is a circle into which the soul is bewitched and from which it does not escape. In the expectancy of faith, the soul is indeed prevented from falling out of itself, as it were, into multiplicity; it remains in itself, but it would be the worst evil that could befall a person if it escaped from this cycle.
    • p. 23

Every Good and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above

  • When you had doubts about what came from God or about what was a good and perfect gift, did you risk the venture? And when the light sparkle of joy beckoned you, did you thank God for it? And when you were so strong that you felt you needed no help, did you then thank God? And when your allotted portion was little, did you thank God? And when you allotted portion was sufferings, did you thank God? And when your wish was denied, did you thank God? And when you yourself had to deny your wish, did you thank God? And when people wronged you and insulted you, did you thank God? We are not saying that their wrong thereby ceased to be wrong-what would be the use of such pernicious and foolish talk! It is up to you to decide whether it was wrong; but have you taken the wrong and insult to God and by your thanksgiving received it from his hand as a good and perfect gift? Did you do that?
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 43
  • Did you keep the apostolic words holy? Did you treasure them in a pure and beautiful heart and refuse to be ransomed for any price or any wily bribe on the part of prudence, from the deep pain of having to confess again and again that you never loved as you were loved? That you were faithless when God was faithful; that you were lukewarm when he was ardent; that he sent good gifts that you perverted to your own detriment; that he inquired about you but that you would not answer; that he called to you but you would not listen; that he spoke cordially to you but you ignored it; that he spoke earnestly to you but you misunderstood it; that he fulfilled your wish and for thanks you brought new wishes; that he fulfilled your wish but you had made the wrong wish and were quick to anger?
    • p. 44

See also