Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing by Søren Kierkegaard

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Analysis

Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing is Kierkegaard’s treatise written to facilitate a believer’s preparation for the rite of confession. The central category in Kierkegaard’s thought is that of the individual. It is the one who faces his destiny, the Eternal, God himself. Kierkegaard urges the reader to become aware of this, considering himself as separated from the crowds and positioned before the face of God, and to accept his responsibility as such.

Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing is a devotional book written by a pious thinker. This is how Kierkegaard presents a dialectic of the Eternal and the temporal, and how he connects these philosophical categories with the religious act of repentance:

It is true that the temporal order has its time; but the Eternal shall always have time. If this should not happen within a man’s life, then the Eternal comes again under another name, and once again shall always have time. This is repentance . . . But the call of repentance is always at the eleventh hour. Therefore confession is always at the eleventh hour, but not in the sense of being precipitate. For confession is a holy act, which calls for a collected mind. (chapter 15)

But repentance requires concentration of all one’s faculties upon one goal. There are numerous and various distractions in man’s life, and it is his task to rid himself of all such factors:

A collected mind is a mind that has collected itself from every distraction, from every relation, in order to center itself upon this relation to itself as an individual who is responsible to God. It is a mind that has collected itself from every distraction . . . (chapter 15)

Unless one chooses to concentrate upon the one thing (and this is nothing other than the supreme Good), one is subject to double-mindedness. Kierkegaard then dedicates several chapters to the factors that hinder one from achieving this purity of heart. These are, among other things, the desire for variety and reward, the fear of punishment and the tendency to avoid it, self-seeking interests masked as the desire for the good, and the lack of commitment to a noble ideal.

Besides, the one who seeks purity of heart must be willing to pay the price. He must be ready to face his own weaknesses and suffer. At that, Kierkegaard stresses the individual’s responsibility for his own spiritual condition.

What at present is your condition in suffering? The doctor and the pastor ask about your health, but...

(The entire section is 641 words.)