At this point, Kierkegaard examines the nature of wonder – which is perhaps an initial step in seeking after God. The argument will move from pagan wonder to a more deliberate striving to find God.
He explains wonder as the result of one coming upon something “unknown, and thus wholly undetermined, or rather infinitely determinable.” When we come upon some-thing whose nature we cannot readily understand or explain, we may assign any number of explanations to account for the sight. He considers a number examples of the pagan being confronted in nature with some event he cannot readily explain. That event, being unexplained causes the pagan to wonder.
He then makes this observation: the greatest wonder one could experience would be to encounter God: for what would be more inexplicable in terms of something else than God. Kierkegaard then writes this about God, God “is the inexplicable whole of existence.”
What this phrase means is itself a wonder, because I am not quite sure how to take it. The language seems most explicable as pantheism, an identification of God with nature. This is problematic, because Kierkegaard is not a pantheist. He is unquestionably Christian.
The statement is explicable from the position of a pagan – and he immediately returns to the question of the pagan. But then we are left to wonder what he means by “God.” The God of a Christian and of a pagan are very different things.
Kierkegaard wrote so quickly and so very much, I should not be surprised with an inartful phrase here or there. This is especially the case when he is also seeking to be deliberately evocative and paradoxical. Finally, I am also working with a translation. The best I can make of this idea is that it a pagan concept of “God.”
What then happens when the sight which was a primitive wonder becomes domesticated and no longer provokes worship? When the idolatry is brought indoors so to speak, it become poetry (or “posey” in my translation).
The posey aside, what happens to the one who was seeking God who wished to encounter God and who has come to realize that what once brought wonder has only brought disillusion? That thing which previously was full of wonder is now seen as a deception. For example
“When the gnarled tree-trunk creates the illusion of a figure unfamiliar to him, resembling a human being, and yet, to his surprise, resembling supernatural proportions he stops and worships.” What when that pagan realizes, this is merely a tree and no wonder?
He realizes that he has been stumbling merely toward that which he does not understand. At that point he no longer experiences wonder but only confusion.
Here he moves from wishing to find God. Now he must seek. He cannot trust to blundering along and being surprised and worshiping whatever he stumbles upon provided it provokes an emotion and surprise. Wonder alone is an insufficient guide to God. There must be a purposeful striving.