The Crowd is Untruth

by Andrea Elizabeth

With the Pysanky deadline coming up, I decided to try to listen to some Kierkegaard to stay on topic with my reading while waxing eggs. The iTunes store has the largest selection of LibriVox recordings that I found. In keeping with my previous inquiry into individualism, I listened to the essay, ” That Single Individual” (text). Here is an excerpt:

There is another view of life; which holds that wherever the crowd is, there is untruth, so that, for a moment to carry the matter out to its farthest conclusion, even if every individual possessed the truth in private, yet if they came together into a crowd (so that “the crowd” received any decisive, voting, noisy, audible importance), untruth would at once be let in.[Note 3]

For “the crowd” is untruth. Eternally, godly, christianly what Paul says is valid: “only one receives the prize,” [I Cor. 9:24] not by way of comparison, for in the comparison “the others” are still present. That is to say, everyone can be that one, with God’s help – but only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, everyone should cautiously have dealings with “the others,” and essentially only talk with God and with himself – for only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, the human being is in kinship with, or to be a human is to be in kinship with the divinity. The worldly, temporal, busy, socially-friendly person says this: “How unreasonable, that only one should receive the prize, it is far more probable that several combined receive the prize; and if we become many, then it becomes more certain and also easier for each individually.” Certainly, it is far more probable; and it is also true in relation to all earthly and sensuous prizes; and it becomes the only truth, if it is allowed to rule, for this point of view abolishes both God and the eternal and “the human being’s” kinship with the divinity; it abolishes it or changes it into a fable, and sets the modern (as a matter of fact, the old heathen) in its place, so that to be a human being is like being a specimen which belongs to a race gifted with reason, so that the race, the species, is higher than the individual, or so that there are only specimens, not individuals. But the eternal, which vaults high over the temporal, quiet as the night sky, and God in heaven, who from this exalted state of bliss, without becoming the least bit dizzy, looks out over these innumerable millions and knows each single individual; he, the great examiner, he says: only one receives the prize; that is to say, everyone can receive it, and everyone ought to become this by oneself, but only one receives the prize. Where the crowd is, therefore, or where a decisive importance is attached to the fact that there is a crowd, there no one is working, living, and striving for the highest end, but only for this or that earthly end; since the eternal, the decisive, can only be worked for where there is one; and to become this by oneself, which all can do, is to will to allow God to help you – “the crowd” is untruth.

For the most part I agree with this and what follows, especially, “everyone should cautiously have dealings with “the others,” and essentially only talk with God and with himself”. But this leaves out the communion of the Saints and the conciliar decrees of the Councils, especially at the end of the first paragraph above. But if I were in Kierkegaard’s milieu, I should be more cautious. I am pretty cautious anyway, some may even say paranoid. But I trust what all the Saints have in common and what the Church has decreed. I trust that their prayers and council are beneficial to my finding the truth, God helping me. They are the only ones I can trust, yet my choosing Christ or not is ultimately my responsibility. Anyone outside the Church and her teaching must be listened to with caution. This is why the Church is not the democratically appointing crowd.