Sören Kierkegaard divided our heart’s contradictory mix of drives and motivations into three “spheres of existence.” The aesthetic life is where we begin. We try to satisfy our physical and emotional desires with external things, seeking happiness on the surface of our lives. Then, wearied of a life out of control, a life that just happens to us, we embrace what Kierkegaard calls the ethical life. Rooted in the social values of morality, conscience, and institutional religion, these ethical choices bring stability and conviction to our lives. But, as admirable as these ethical choices are, our hearts contradicting emotions continue to plague us. The motivations of the aesthetic self continue to intrude. (Charles E. Moore, Introduction, Provcations: Spiritual Writings of SK).
Our frustration eventually brings us to the third sphere, religious life, which is not about institutionalized religion but a person’s seeking of who he is “before God.” From the moment we humans are aware of ourselves as being ourselves, we are being nudged to this moment. As Kierkegaard assures us: “To need God is nothing to be ashamed of but is perfection itself. It is the saddest thing in the world if a human being goes through life without discovering that he needs God!” (Moore 30)