The Marvel, the Moment, and the Fullness of Time: Kierkegaard’s Mystical Explorations with John Climacus and John the Silent
Interpreting the thought of Søren Kierkegaard is a notoriously difficult task. One reason for this is that some of his best-known works are written under enigmatic pseudonyms. Of interest here is Kierkegaard’s decision that two of his pseudonyms—Johannes Climacus and Johannes de Silentio—be named after early medieval saints John Climacus (579-649) and John the Silent (454-558). Historically, these figures not only lived in adjourning centuries and geographical areas, but also displayed similar preferences for long periods of monastic prayer and silence. Within Kierkegaard’s literary corpus, Johannes Climacus is first attributed to Philosophical Fragments (1844), while Johannes de Silentio is the authorial voice in Fear and Trembling (1843). This article will focus on the latter. Through an examination of concepts and motifs in Fear and Trembling and Philosophical Fragments, as well as with Kierkegaard’s self-authored Discourses, this article will suggest that Kierkegaard’s choice of medieval guises for his works may not be incidental; rather, just as the historical John Climacus and John the Silent share some poignant biographical similarities—chief among which are extensive silence and prayer before God—so too the works of their Kierkegaardian namesakes share a common message of doxological silence and divine incarnational love.
Publisher: University of Copenhagen
Keywords: Kierkegaard; Climacus; de Silentio; pseudonyms; mystical theology; silence; love
Research Type: Journal Article