Kierkegaard writes on these three forms of despair that results from one’s relation to themselves, who they are and what they are. The first form is not recognizing that you are a self, most people are in this camp since they are indwelled in worldly idols that taint their consciousness. The second form is not willing to be yourself, which you may find something more desirable than duties that come with who you are. The final form is willing to be yourself, which I will argue is the hardest and the most despair we will be put through, but leads to the most meaning, purposeful life one can live.
“Every actual moment of despair is traceable to possibility; every moment he is in despair he is bringing it upon himself… in every actual moment of despair the person in despair bears all the past as a present (17).” When willing to be yourself, it is so difficult to relinquish your past from your consciousness, blatantly impossible. The past is what brought you to your recognition of yourself, so you are weary to avoid that. The consciousness arises your memories of that despair when you experience similar moments that bring the possibility of your past. It brings into imagination that you could bring greater despair to yourself and experience for worse pain.
“The person in despair cannot die; “no more than the dagger can slaughter thoughts (18).” The more consciousness you have when willing to be yourself, the more responsibilities you have to commit no matter the pain. Most certainly in the Christian worldview, we are called to be followers of Christ because that is who we are. It brings worse despair yet the greatest happiness. “To be sure, it is happiness, but happiness is not a qualification of spirit, and deep, deep within the most secret hiding place of happiness there dwells also anxiety, which is despair; it very much wishes to be allowed to remain there, because for despair the most cherished and desirable place to live is in the heart of happiness (25).” Willing to be yourself brings the most out of your being and flourishing with true meaning that gives rational happiness, but with that comes the cost of greater anxiety of possibly losing it all.
Delusion is a great happiness for those who fail to recognize themselves or will not to be themselves, for consciousness of that is lessened, so the pain is lessened. However, with these two, fantasia comes about, which is extreme, delusional imagination. Your self becomes this fantasia, you will do anything you can to achieve this fantasia and that is your flow of consciousness. “The fantastic is generally that which leads a person out into the infinite in such a way that only leads him away from himself and thereby prevents him from coming back to himself (31).” He appears to become more of himself, his godlike state, while in all reality, he is becoming farther and farther from his true self.
Those who will to be themselves paradoxically bring into existence a new category, happiness, and despair both consciously recognized. These individuals will have the strongest concept of God. Christians will have the strongest defeat of their own despair yet will still have it in this lifetime. “In the latter case, the individual in despair is like the consumptive: when the illness is most critical, he feels well, considers himself to be in excellent health, and perhaps seems to others to radiate health (45).” Christians could possibly fall into imagination of a situation that may seem to be from God, this is when they will bring maximum despair because this imagination makes claims of who they are supposed to be. This is praying against God’s status quo, where we take something to be God’s will when it is not.
The other despair that can come about for the Christian or those who are willing to be themselves, will be despair for others while we are ourselves happy. The worst form of mental pain is freely caring about others while they do not want your happiness or willing to be themselves. “The opposite to being in despair is to have faith (49).” This is true in one sense and not in another sense. To be in faith is to get rid of your despair, but it is not to get rid of the despair you feel from others. An exceedingly difficult question asked by nonbelievers is this, how can we be happy in Heaven knowing others are in Hell? We can be happy knowing that we no longer in despair of ourselves, but what about this despair for others we loved?
There is no sound answer to this question, but this is part of rational faith that requires us to believe apparent absurdities. Would God therefore have the greatest despair since he truly cares more about those people in Hell than any one human being could? Willing to be yourself brings you out of despair unless you come across past despair, which is another trial you must endure to continue to be yourself. Willing to be yourself makes you more empathetic and not wanting others to remain in despair. Is this not the Gospel existentially speaking?
This brings despair, since he cares more for the recognized self then the actual self not recognizing themselves, deluding themselves into real despair for themselves. Those willing to be themselves will always be conscious of their despair which makes it steady, while those not willing to be themselves in the first two forms of despair, will eventually feel all their despair in one actual moment that will bring fatalism, nihilism, and pessimism all at once. Willing to be yourself makes you more conscious and gives you the greatest concept of God and to know his will, wills you to be yourself, which brings the greatest happiness based in reality, not self-created delusions by willing not to be yourself.
Despair As Sin:
“Christianity understood, every poet-existence (esthetics notwithstanding) is sin, the sin of poetizing instead of being, of relating to the good and the true through the imagination instead of being that -that is, existentially striving to be that (77).” Socrates described sin as ignorance, while Aristotle would place it in self-indulgence. Aristotle had a category of those who maintained their reason, but still followed a basic appetite. The second from of despair of not willing to be yourself can be seen as the incontinent as Aristotle calls his second form of person.
“Therefore, from a higher point of view, it may be correct to regard paganism as immersed in sin, but the sin of paganism was essentially despairing ignorance of God, of existing before God; paganism is “to be without God in the world (81).” The pagan continues in sin by not recognizing themselves and continuing to live in that ignorance. Everyone eventually has the option to become incontinent in sin or to become continent in virtue. The Pharisees are the incontinent who are more aware of who they are(who they should be), they still follow the basic appetite of pride, which is very much self-indulgence.
The incontinent are pharisaical because they can cover their sin and appetites up with the use of reason. They do not possess wisdom, but rather possess cleverness. Wisdom with virtue is cleverness as Aristotle would say. They know how to be covert, but really suffer the worse despair of oneself because they will not to be themselves, even though they are playing apparently who they are suppose to be, only to get those appetites fulfilled. This is one level of the second form of despair, the other becomes not willing to be yourself by willing yourself to be something else.
Both however carry out the continuation of sin. “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, every unrepented sin is a new sin and every moment that it remains unrepented is also new sin (105).” Both these categories of despair do not proceed from faith, but rather from self-desires not focused on who we are and God. Those who have continuance of faith recognize how powerful sin really is because they will to be themselves which gives the strongest view of reality, since you can look past imagination, fantasia, appetites, and pride.
“The sinner, however, is so much in the power of sin that he has no idea of its wholly encompassing nature, that he is lost and on the way to destruction (105).” Those willing to be themselves have repented of sin because they have had destruction come once and wise fully stopped willing that upon themselves. Those willing to be themselves have awareness of what that sin they committed to themselves did to them and others, ignorance is no longer bliss. While those, still sinning is out of ignorance have not yet felt that pain. They will have the option to repent or to make sin a habit, which they will become. The incontinent or those willing not to be themselves have felt that pain but have chosen to justify their sin with excuses or ad hoc rationalization.
“Sin has become so natural to him, or sin has become so much his second nature, that he finds the daily everyday to be entirely in order, and he himself pauses only for a moment each time he perceives new impetus, so to speak (105).” Aristotle talks about making virtue a habit so that it will become natural to you. This is what he calls the continent person, that they live their life according to truth and virtue by making it a habit. “Excellence is not one act, but rather a habit.” Those continuing in sin make that their habit and take that to be their excellence if they are pharisaical.
“They play along in life, so to speak, but they never experience putting everything together on one thing, never achieve the idea of infinite self-consistency (107).” The greatest delusion facing people in the west is self-pride. Humility is the only way to bring infinite self-consistency since that leads us to God. Those willing not to be themselves are not aware of them not willing to be themselves when they are in sin unless they love sin itself and will a new self into existence. Much of the time, this can be the case which is called demonic despair. They fear inconsistency but can only consciously avoid it by sinning and taking pride in that. These are the hypocrites who can hardly recognize themselves as hypocrites because of their habit of sin which starts with pride.
“The situation of the demonic person is similar state of the alcoholic, who keeps himself in a perpetual state of intoxication out of fear of stopping and of the resulting debility and its possible consequences if he were to be completely sober for one day (108).” The unrepented sinner becomes the acholic but on an eternal level, eternal consciousness of willing to continue in that sin. This is what Lewis describes multiple times as Hell in the great divorce. Not willing to be yourself, but willing to be controlled by a desire of appetite not resulting from faith. This is what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is according to Kierkegaard. Not willing to be yourself, which is prescribed by God, but willing to live by pride in these fleshly desires, making them your God and making yourself become a “god”. It is not that God hates these types of people, it is just impossible to love them.
Will to be yourself according to God by seeking and living by wisdom, integrity, and reason, which all give the most satisfying faith.
Sickness unto Death: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BNY0RZ0/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1