Monday, July 9, 2012

The Devil in Jutland (ii)

His wife was a simple woman from a coastal town, and he met her accidentally when his star was just rising.  She was the eldest daughter of a moderately successful herring exporter, and Soren was a young pastor and instructor at the local university who had just published a learned monograph that caused quite a stir.  He claimed that evil, as an entity, either personified by the devil or conceptualized as an idea, did not truly exist.   

This was certainly not a novel idea, but it came about at a time when learned theologians, while toying with the concept, had proved incapable of jettisoning the familiar and even comforting image of Satan.  Soren Christensen’s monograph became a lightning rod for the debate, and legions either piled onto his side or onto the side of Evil.  He was thrust into the light of academic celebrity and remained there.  He met Katrina at a small gathering of her father’s for the faculty of the Religious College.  When Soren saw her he instantly fell in love.  It was a firm love.  He loved her with the conviction he had for his students, his books, his ideas, his church and his God, but with the added dimension of the erotic.  Her small body and his robust frame seemed inappropriately matched - but it was not the case.  It was a passionate pairing, though no one ever suspected it.   In public they were the perfect picture of decorousness; they never even held hands.  But their secret malady was a great pleasure and release, and soon, in quick succession, Katrina bore a son and a daughter and seemed poised to bear many more. 

In between the two children Soren completed a large, rather formal theological work in elaborate Danish prose which stated, essentially, that nothing existes but God; there was no evil, no deprivation. God was All and All was God.  Only errors in human perception led to other, divergent opinions.   

Soren followed up this production with several popular essays that were printed, widely read and soon translated into every major European language.  He was able to quit teaching and with his income buy a modest but spacious house in Blundsoun, on the North Sea.  There he wrote in a small cottage in the yard, facing the sea wall.  The building was heated by a stove in the winter time and a peasant girl brought him a parcel of charcoal every morning.  The stove was small, but gave off a great deal of heat and he often had to open the cottage door for a fresh breeze, even in the deep of a North Sea winter.   

They were not ideal conditions, but they suited his temperament.  He wrote every day and gave periodic lectures at the local university and gymnasium which were well attended.  Men from other parts of Europe and even America often knocked on his door to meet this illustrious man of God who had the good fortune to present at the right time and place an idea that had existed for eternity: the world is wholly good.  There is no evil.  There is only sloppy, ill-considered thinking about such lofty, perfect ideas as the Good and God.

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