I was assigned this book in the spring of 1976 for a History of Modern Philosophy course at the University of Northern Colorado. Having cut my philosophical teeth on Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, and being in the heady environment of the state university (albeit not a distinguished one), I had, in a protracted fit of post-adolescent pseudo-intellectualism, thrown of the light religion of my youth and was endeavoring to embrace atheism. Thank God, I would eventually fail in this Promethean task.
I wrote a short essay against SK for my class, but had not taken on this formidable volume, relying only on secondary sources. But then one night, after a bizarre dream that covertly indicated my alienation from God, I picked up the book and began reading--not at the beginning, but at a random place. Then the book began to read me. It explained my "despair" as form of rebellion against God. "Defiant despair" is what SK called it: despair that finds its meaning in being miserable in its rebellion against God. He called it the most "potentiated" (or full-bloodied) form of despair.
I saw myself in the dense and psychologically thick description. SK read my soul in Christian terms, and it disarmed and alarmed me. This marked a turning point; about a month later, I gave up this despair and instead embraced the Christian message. A few years later I taught through this demanding and rewarding book in a class at the University of Oregon--the only time I have done so in all my years of teaching.
I must part company with SK's rejection of rational apologetics (natural theology and historical evidences for Christianity); however, his divination of the soul, his art of uncovering the soul's escape mechanisms, his ability to bring one before God through this writing...is uncanny. Call it subjective apologetics. Call it brilliant.