Pro and Contra
"... Do you know, Alyosha -- don't
laugh I made a poem about a year ago. If you can waste another ten
minutes on me, I'll tell it to you."
"You wrote a poem?"
"Oh, no, I didn't write it,"
laughed Ivan, and I've never written two lines of poetry in my life.
But I made up this poem in prose and I remembered it. I was carried
away when I made it up. You will be my first reader -- that is listener.
Why should an author forego even one listener?" smiled Ivan.
"Shall I tell it to you?"
"I am all attention." said
"My poem is called The Grand Inquisitor;
it's a ridiculous thing, but I want to tell it to you.
Chapter 5: The Grand
"EVEN this must have a preface --
that is, a literary preface," laughed Ivan, "and I am a
poor hand at making one. You see, my action takes place in the sixteenth
century, and at that time, as you probably learnt at school, it was
customary in poetry to bring down heavenly powers on earth. Not to
speak of Dante, in France, clerks, as well as the monks in the monasteries,
used to give regular performances in which the Madonna, the saints,
the angels, Christ, and God Himself were brought on the stage. In
those days it was done in all simplicity. In Victor Hugo's Notre Dame
de Paris an edifying and gratuitous spectacle was provided for the
people in the Hotel de Ville of Paris in the reign of Louis XI in
honour of the birth of the dauphin. It was called Le bon jugement
de la tres sainte et gracieuse Vierge Marie, and she appears herself
on the stage and pronounces her bon jugement. Similar plays, chiefly
from the Old Testament, were occasionally performed in Moscow too,
up to the times of Peter the Great. But besides plays there were all
sorts of legends and ballads scattered about the world, in which the
saints and angels and all the powers of Heaven took part when required.
In our monasteries the monks busied themselves in translating, copying,
and even composing such poems- and even under the Tatars. There is,
for instance, one such poem (of course, from the Greek), The Wanderings
of Our Lady through Hell, with descriptions as bold as Dante's. Our
Lady visits hell, and the Archangel Michael leads her through the
torments. She sees the sinners and their punishment. There she sees
among others one noteworthy set of sinners in a burning lake; some
of them sink to the bottom of the lake so that they can't swim out,
and 'these God forgets'- an expression of extraordinary depth and
force. And so Our Lady, shocked and weeping, falls before the throne
of God and begs for mercy for all in hell- for all she has seen there,
indiscriminately. Her conversation with God is immensely interesting.
She beseeches Him, she will not desist, and when God points to the
hands and feet of her Son, nailed to the Cross, and asks, 'How can
I forgive His tormentors?' she bids all the saints, all the martyrs,
all the angels and archangels to fall down with her and pray for mercy
on all without distinction. It ends by her winning from God a respite
of suffering every year from Good Friday till Trinity Day, and the
sinners at once raise a cry of thankfulness from hell, chanting, 'Thou
art just, O Lord, in this judgment.' Well, my poem would have been
of that kind if it had appeared at that time. He comes on the scene
in my poem, but He says nothing, only appears and passes on. Fifteen
centuries have passed since He promised to come in His glory, fifteen
centuries since His prophet wrote, 'Behold, I come quickly'; 'Of that
day and that hour knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father,'
as He Himself predicted on earth. But humanity awaits him with the
same faith and with the same love. Oh, with greater faith, for it
is fifteen centuries since man has ceased to see signs from heaven.
No signs from heaven come to-day
To add to what the heart doth say.
There was nothing left but faith in what
the heart doth say. It is true there were many miracles in those days.
There were saints who performed miraculous cures; some holy people,
according to their biographies, were visited by the Queen of Heaven
herself. But the devil did not slumber, and doubts were already arising
among men of the truth of these miracles. And just then there appeared
in the north of Germany a terrible new heresy. 'A huge star like to
a torch' (that is, to a church) 'fell on the sources of the waters
and they became bitter.' These heretics began blasphemously denying
miracles. But those who remained faithful were all the more ardent
in their faith. The tears of humanity rose up to Him as before, awaited
His coming, loved Him, hoped for Him, yearned to suffer and die for
Him as before. And so many ages mankind had prayed with faith and
fervour, 'O Lord our God, hasten Thy coming'; so many ages called
upon Him, that in His infinite mercy He deigned to come down to His
servants. Before that day He had come down, He had visited some holy
men, martyrs, and hermits, as is written in their lives. Among us,
Tyutchev, with absolute faith in the truth of his words, bore witness
Bearing the Cross, in slavish dress,
Weary and worn, the Heavenly King
Our mother, Russia, came to bless,
And through our land went wandering.
And that certainly was so, I assure you.
"And behold, He deigned to appear
for a moment to the people, to the tortured, suffering people, sunk
in iniquity, but loving Him like children. My story is laid in Spain,
in Seville, in the most terrible time of the Inquisition, when fires
were lighted every day to the glory of God, and 'in the splendid auto
da fe the wicked heretics were burnt.' Oh, of course, this was not
the coming in which He will appear, according to His promise, at the
end of time in all His heavenly glory, and which will be sudden 'as
lightning flashing from east to west.' No, He visited His children
only for a moment, and there where the flames were crackling round
the heretics. In His infinite mercy He came once more among men in
that human shape in which He walked among men for thirty-three years
fifteen centuries ago. He came down to the 'hot pavements' of the
southern town in which on the day before almost a hundred heretics
had, ad majorem gloriam Dei, been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand
Inquisitor, in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king,
the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of
the court, and the whole population of Seville.
"He came softly, unobserved, and
yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him. That might be one of
the best passages in the poem. I mean, why they recognised Him. The
people are irresistibly drawn to Him, they surround Him, they flock
about Him, follow Him. He moves silently in their midst with a gentle
smile of infinite compassion. The sun of love burns in His heart,
and power shine from His eyes, and their radiance, shed on the people,
stirs their hearts with responsive love. He holds out His hands to
them, blesses them, and a healing virtue comes from contact with Him,
even with His garments. An old man in the crowd, blind from childhood,
cries out, 'O Lord, heal me and I shall see Thee!' and, as it were,
scales fall from his eyes and the blind man sees Him. The crowd weeps
and kisses the earth under His feet. Children throw flowers before
Him, sing, and cry hosannah. 'It is He- it is He!' repeat. 'It must
be He, it can be no one but Him!' He stops at the steps of the Seville
cathedral at the moment when the weeping mourners are bringing in
a little open white coffin. In it lies a child of seven, the only
daughter of a prominent citizen. The dead child lies hidden in flowers.
'He will raise your child,' the crowd shouts to the weeping mother.
The priest, coming to meet the coffin, looks perplexed, and frowns,
but the mother of the dead child throws herself at His feet with a
wail. 'If it is Thou, raise my child!' she cries, holding out her
hands to Him. The procession halts, the coffin is laid on the steps
at His feet. He looks with compassion, and His lips once more softly
pronounce, 'Maiden, arise!' and the maiden arises. The little girl
sits up in the coffin and looks round, smiling with wide-open wondering
eyes, holding a bunch of white roses they had put in her hand.
"There are cries, sobs, confusion
among the people, and at that moment the cardinal himself, the Grand
Inquisitor, passes by the cathedral. He is an old man, almost ninety,
tall and erect, with a withered face and sunken eyes, in which there
is still a gleam of light. He is not dressed in his gorgeous cardinal's
robes, as he was the day before, when he was burning the enemies of
the Roman Church -- at this moment he is wearing his coarse, old,
monk's cassock. At a distance behind him come his gloomy assistants
and slaves and the 'holy guard.' He stops at the sight of the crowd
and watches it from a distance. He sees everything; he sees them set
the coffin down at His feet, sees the child rise up, and his face
darkens. He knits his thick grey brows and his eyes gleam with a sinister
fire. He holds out his finger and bids the guards take Him. And such
is his power, so completely are the people cowed into submission and
trembling obedience to him, that the crowd immediately makes way for
the guards, and in the midst of deathlike silence they lay hands on
Him and lead him away. The crowd instantly bows down to the earth,
like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in
silence and passes on' The guards lead their prisoner to the close,
gloomy vaulted prison- in the ancient palace of the Holy, inquisition
and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning,
'breathless' night of Seville. The air is 'fragrant with laurel and
lemon.' In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly
opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his
hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands
in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last
he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.
"'Is it Thou? Thou?' but receiving
no answer, he adds at once. 'Don't answer, be silent. What canst Thou
say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast
no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then,
art Thou come to hinder us? For Thou hast come to hinder us, and Thou
knowest that. But dost thou know what will be to-morrow? I know not
who Thou art and care not to know whether it is Thou or only a semblance
of Him, but to-morrow I shall condemn Thee and burn Thee at the stake
as the worst of heretics. And the very people who have to-day kissed
Thy feet, to-morrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap
up the embers of Thy fire. Knowest Thou that? Yes, maybe Thou knowest
it,' he added with thoughtful penetration, never for a moment taking
his eyes off the Prisoner."
"I don't quite understand, Ivan.
What does it mean?" Alyosha, who had been listening in silence,
said with a smile. "Is it simply a wild fantasy, or a mistake
on the part of the old man -- some impossible quid pro quo?"
"Take it as the last," said
Ivan, laughing, "if you are so corrupted by modern realism and
can't stand anything fantastic. If you like it to be a case of mistaken
identity, let it be so. It is true," he went on, laughing, "the
old man was ninety, and he might well be crazy over his set idea.
He might have been struck by the appearance of the Prisoner. It might,
in fact, be simply his ravings, the delusion of an old man of ninety,
over -- excited by the auto da fe of a hundred heretics the day before.
But does it matter to us after all whether it was a mistake of identity
or a wild fantasy? All that matters is that the old man should speak
out, that he should speak openly of what he has thought in silence
for ninety years."
"And the Prisoner too is silent?
Does He look at him and not say a word?"
"That's inevitable in any case,"
Ivan laughed again. "The old man has told Him He hasn't the right
to add anything to what He has said of old. One may say it is the
most fundamental feature of Roman Catholicism, in my opinion at least.
'All has been given by Thee to the Pope,' they say, 'and all, therefore,
is still in the Pope's hands, and there is no need for Thee to come
now at all. Thou must not meddle for the time, at least.' That's how
they speak and write too -- the Jesuits, at any rate. I have read
it myself in the works of their theologians. 'Hast Thou the right
to reveal to us one of the mysteries of that world from which Thou
hast come?' my old man asks Him, and answers the question for Him.
'No, Thou hast not; that Thou mayest not add to what has been said
of old, and mayest not take from men the freedom which Thou didst
exalt when Thou wast on earth. Whatsoever Thou revealest anew will
encroach on men's freedom of faith; for it will be manifest as a miracle,
and the freedom of their faith was dearer to Thee than anything in
those days fifteen hundred years ago. Didst Thou not often say then,
"I will make you free"? But now Thou hast seen these "free"
men,' the old man adds suddenly, with a pensive smile. 'Yes, we've
paid dearly for it,' he goes on, looking sternly at Him, 'but at last
we have completed that work in Thy name. For fifteen centuries we
have been wrestling with Thy freedom, but now it is ended and over
for good. Dost Thou not believe that it's over for good? Thou lookest
meekly at me and deignest not even to be wroth with me. But let me
tell Thee that now, to-day, people are more persuaded than ever that
they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to
us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing. Was
this what Thou didst? Was this Thy freedom?'"
"I don't understand again."
Alyosha broke in. "Is he ironical, is he jesting?"
"Not a bit of it! He claims it as
a merit for himself and his Church that at last they have vanquished
freedom and have done so to make men happy. 'For now' (he is speaking
of the Inquisition, of course) 'for the first time it has become possible
to think of the happiness of men. Man was created a rebel; and how
can rebels be happy? Thou wast warned,' he says to Him. 'Thou hast
had no lack of admonitions and warnings, but Thou didst not listen
to those warnings; Thou didst reject the only way by which men might
be made happy. But, fortunately, departing Thou didst hand on the
work to us. Thou hast promised, Thou hast established by Thy word,
Thou hast given to us the right to bind and to unbind, and now, of
course, Thou canst not think of taking it away. Why, then, hast Thou
come to hinder us?'"
"And what's the meaning of 'no lack
of admonitions and warnings'?" asked Alyosha.
"Why, that's the chief part of what
the old man must say.
"'The wise and dread spirit, the
spirit of self-destruction and non-existence,' the old man goes on,
great spirit talked with Thee in the wilderness, and we are told in
the books that he "tempted" Thee. Is that so? And could
anything truer be said than what he revealed to Thee in three questions
and what Thou didst reject, and what in the books is called "the
temptation"? And yet if there has ever been on earth a real stupendous
miracle, it took place on that day, on the day of the three temptations.
The statement of those three questions was itself the miracle. If
it were possible to imagine simply for the sake of argument that those
three questions of the dread spirit had perished utterly from the
books, and that we had to restore them and to invent them anew, and
to do so had gathered together all the wise men of the earth -- rulers,
chief priests, learned men, philosophers, poets- and had set them
the task to invent three questions, such as would not only fit the
occasion, but express in three words, three human phrases, the whole
future history of the world and of humanity- dost Thou believe that
all the wisdom of the earth united could have invented anything in
depth and force equal to the three questions which were actually put
to Thee then by the wise and mighty spirit in the wilderness? From
those questions alone, from the miracle of their statement, we can
see that we have here to do not with the fleeting human intelligence,
but with the absolute and eternal. For in those three questions the
whole subsequent history of mankind is, as it were, brought together
into one whole, and foretold, and in them are united all the unsolved
historical contradictions of human nature. At the time it could not
be so clear, since the future was unknown; but now that fifteen hundred
years have passed, we see that everything in those three questions
was so justly divined and foretold, and has been so truly fulfilled,
that nothing can be added to them or taken from them.
"Judge Thyself who was right --
Thou or he who questioned Thee then? Remember the first question;
its meaning, in other words, was this:
"Thou wouldst go into the world,
and art going with empty hands, with some promise of freedom which
men in their simplicity and their natural unruliness cannot even understand,
which they fear and dread -- for nothing has ever been more insupportable
for a man and a human society than freedom. But seest Thou these stones
in this parched and barren wilderness? Turn them into bread, and mankind
will run after Thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient,
though for ever trembling, lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them
Thy bread." But Thou wouldst not deprive man of freedom and didst
reject the offer, thinking, what is that freedom worth if obedience
is bought with bread? Thou didst reply that man lives not by bread
alone. But dost Thou know that for the sake of that earthly bread
the spirit of the earth will rise up against Thee and will strive
with Thee and overcome Thee, and all will follow him, crying, "Who
can compare with this beast? He has given us fire from heaven!"
Dost Thou know that the ages will pass, and humanity will proclaim
by the lips of their sages that there is no crime, and therefore no
sin; there is only hunger? "Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!"
that's what they'll write on the banner, which they will raise against
Thee, and with which they will destroy Thy temple. Where Thy temple
stood will rise a new building; the terrible tower of Babel will be
built again, and though, like the one of old, it will not be finished,
yet Thou mightest have prevented that new tower and have cut short
the sufferings of men for a thousand years; for they will come back
to us after a thousand years of agony with their tower. They will
seek us again, hidden underground in the catacombs, for we shall be
again persecuted and tortured. They will find us and cry to us, "Feed
us, for those who have promised us fire from heaven haven't given
it!" And then we shall finish building their tower, for he finishes
the building who feeds them. And we alone shall feed them in Thy name,
declaring falsely that it is in Thy name. Oh, never, never can they
feed themselves without us! No science will give them bread so long
as they remain free. In the end they will lay their freedom at our
feet, and say to us, "Make us your slaves, but feed us."
They will understand themselves, at last, that freedom and bread enough
for all are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be
able to share between them! They will be convinced, too, that they
can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, worthless, and rebellious.
Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again,
can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful
and ignoble race of man? And if for the sake of the bread of Heaven
thousands shall follow Thee, what is to become of the millions and
tens of thousands of millions of creatures who will not have the strength
to forego the earthly bread for the sake of the heavenly? Or dost
Thou care only for the tens of thousands of the great and strong,
while the millions, numerous as the sands of the sea, who are weak
but love Thee, must exist only for the sake of the great and strong?
No, we care for the weak too. They are sinful and rebellious, but
in the end they too will become obedient. They will marvel at us and
look on us as gods, because we are ready to endure the freedom which
they have found so dreadful and to rule over them -- so awful it will
seem to them to be free. But we shall tell them that we are Thy servants
and rule them in Thy name. We shall deceive them again, for we will
not let Thee come to us again. That deception will be our suffering,
for we shall be forced to lie.
"'This is the significance of the
first question in the wilderness, and this is what Thou hast rejected
for the sake of that freedom which Thou hast exalted above everything.
Yet in this question lies hid the great secret of this world. Choosing
"bread," Thou wouldst have satisfied the universal and everlasting
craving of humanity -- to find someone to worship. So long as man
remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully
as to find someone to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established
beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it.
For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find what one
or the other can worship, but to find community of worship is the
chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the
beginning of time. For the sake of common worship they've slain each
other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another,
"Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill
you and your gods!" And so it will be to the end of the world,
even when gods disappear from the earth; they will fall down before
idols just the same. Thou didst know, Thou couldst not but have known,
this fundamental secret of human nature, but Thou didst reject the
one infallible banner which was offered Thee to make all men bow down
to Thee alone- the banner of earthly bread; and Thou hast rejected
it for the sake of freedom and the bread of Heaven. Behold what Thou
didst further. And all again in the name of freedom! I tell Thee that
man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly
to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the ill-fated
creature is born. But only one who can appease their conscience can
take over their freedom. In bread there was offered Thee an invincible
banner; give bread, and man will worship thee, for nothing is more
certain than bread. But if someone else gains possession of his conscience
-- Oh! then he will cast away Thy bread and follow after him who has
ensnared his conscience. In that Thou wast right. For the secret of
man's being is not only to live but to have something to live for.
Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent
to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth,
though he had bread in abundance. That is true. But what happened?
Instead of taking men's freedom from them, Thou didst make it greater
than ever! Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death,
to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is
more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing
is a greater cause of suffering. And behold, instead of giving a firm
foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest for ever, Thou
didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic; Thou didst
choose what was utterly beyond the strength of men, acting as though
Thou didst not love them at all -- Thou who didst come to give Thy
life for them! Instead of taking possession of men's freedom, Thou
didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with
its sufferings for ever. Thou didst desire man's free love, that he
should follow Thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place
of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide
for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before
him as his guide. But didst Thou not know that he would at last reject
even Thy image and Thy truth, if he is weighed down with the fearful
burden of free choice? They will cry aloud at last that the truth
is not in Thee, for they could not have been left in greater confusion
and suffering than Thou hast caused, laying upon them so many cares
and unanswerable problems.
"'So that, in truth, Thou didst
Thyself lay the foundation for the destruction of Thy kingdom, and
no one is more to blame for it. Yet what was offered Thee? There are
three powers, three powers alone, able to conquer and to hold captive
for ever the conscience of these impotent rebels for their happiness
those forces are miracle, mystery and authority. Thou hast rejected
all three and hast set the example for doing so. When the wise and
dread spirit set Thee on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Thee,
"If Thou wouldst know whether Thou art the Son of God then cast
Thyself down, for it is written: the angels shall hold him up lest
he fall and bruise himself, and Thou shalt know then whether Thou
art the Son of God and shalt prove then how great is Thy faith in
Thy Father." But Thou didst refuse and wouldst not cast Thyself
down. Oh, of course, Thou didst proudly and well, like God; but the
weak, unruly race of men, are they gods? Oh, Thou didst know then
that in taking one step, in making one movement to cast Thyself down,
Thou wouldst be tempting God and have lost all Thy faith in Him, and
wouldst have been dashed to pieces against that earth which Thou didst
come to save. And the wise spirit that tempted Thee would have rejoiced.
But I ask again, are there many like Thee? And couldst Thou believe
for one moment that men, too, could face such a temptation? Is the
nature of men such, that they can reject miracle, and at the great
moments of their life, the moments of their deepest, most agonising
spiritual difficulties, cling only to the free verdict of the heart?
Oh, Thou didst know that Thy deed would be recorded in books, would
be handed down to remote times and the utmost ends of the earth, and
Thou didst hope that man, following Thee, would cling to God and not
ask for a miracle. But Thou didst not know that when man rejects miracle
he rejects God too; for man seeks not so much God as the miraculous.
And as man cannot bear to be without the miraculous, he will create
new miracles of his own for himself, and will worship deeds of sorcery
and witchcraft, though he might be a hundred times over a rebel, heretic
and infidel. Thou didst not come down from the Cross when they shouted
to Thee, mocking and reviling Thee, "Come down from the cross
and we will believe that Thou art He." Thou didst not come down,
for again Thou wouldst not enslave man by a miracle, and didst crave
faith given freely, not based on miracle. Thou didst crave for free
love and not the base raptures of the slave before the might that
has overawed him for ever. But Thou didst think too highly of men
therein, for they are slaves, of course, though rebellious by nature.
Look round and judge; fifteen centuries have passed, look upon them.
Whom hast Thou raised up to Thyself? I swear, man is weaker and baser
by nature than Thou hast believed him! Can he, can he do what Thou
didst? By showing him so much respect, Thou didst, as it were, cease
to feel for him, for Thou didst ask far too much from him -- Thou
who hast loved him more than Thyself! Respecting him less, Thou wouldst
have asked less of him. That would have been more like love, for his
burden would have been lighter. He is weak and vile. What though he
is everywhere now rebelling against our power, and proud of his rebellion?
It is the pride of a child and a schoolboy. They are little children
rioting and barring out the teacher at school. But their childish
delight will end; it will cost them dear. Mankind as a whole has always
striven to organise a universal state. There have been many great
nations with great histories, but the more highly they were developed
the more unhappy they were, for they felt more acutely than other
people the craving for world-wide union. The great conquerors, Timours
and Ghenghis-Khans, whirled like hurricanes over the face of the earth
striving to subdue its people, and they too were but the unconscious
expression of the same craving for universal unity. Hadst Thou taken
the world and Caesar's purple, Thou wouldst have founded the universal
state and have given universal peace. For who can rule men if not
he who holds their conscience and their bread in his hands? We have
taken the sword of Caesar, and in taking it, of course, have rejected
Thee and followed him. Oh, ages are yet to come of the confusion of
free thought, of their science and cannibalism. For having begun to
build their tower of Babel without us, they will end, of course, with
cannibalism. But then the beast will crawl to us and lick our feet
and spatter them with tears of blood. And we shall sit upon the beast
and raise the cup, and on it will be written, "Mystery."
But then, and only then, the reign of peace and happiness will come
for men. Thou art proud of Thine elect, but Thou hast only the elect,
while we give rest to all. And besides, how many of those elect, those
mighty ones who could become elect, have grown weary waiting for Thee,
and have transferred and will transfer the powers of their spirit
and the warmth of their heart to the other camp, and end by raising
their free banner against Thee. Thou didst Thyself lift up that banner.
But with us all will be happy and will no more rebel nor destroy one
another as under Thy freedom. Oh, we shall persuade them that they
will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us and submit
to us. And shall we be right or shall we be lying? They will be convinced
that we are right, for they will remember the horrors of slavery and
confusion to which Thy freedom brought them. Freedom, free thought,
and science will lead them into such straits and will bring them face
to face with such marvels and insoluble mysteries, that some of them,
the fierce and rebellious, will destroy themselves, others, rebellious
but weak, will destroy one another, while the rest, weak and unhappy,
will crawl fawning to our feet and whine to us: "Yes, you were
right, you alone possess His mystery, and we come back to you, save
us from ourselves!"
"'Receiving bread from us, they
will see clearly that we take the bread made by their hands from them,
to give it to them, without any miracle. They will see that we do
not change the stones to bread, but in truth they will be more thankful
for taking it from our hands than for the bread itself! For they will
remember only too well that in old days, without our help, even the
bread they made turned to stones in their hands, while since they
have come back to us, the very stones have turned to bread in their
hands. Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission!
And until men know that, they will be unhappy. Who is most to blame
for their not knowing it?-speak! Who scattered the flock and sent
it astray on unknown paths? But the flock will come together again
and will submit once more, and then it will be once for all. Then
we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such
as they are by nature. Oh, we shall persuade them at last not to be
proud, for Thou didst lift them up and thereby taught them to be proud.
We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful
children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all. They
will become timid and will look to us and huddle close to us in fear,
as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken
before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever that
we have been able to subdue such a turbulent flock of thousands of
millions. They will tremble impotently before our wrath, their minds
will grow fearful, they will be quick to shed tears like women and
children, but they will be just as ready at a sign from us to pass
to laughter and rejoicing, to happy mirth and childish song. Yes,
we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make
their life like a child's game, with children's songs and innocent
dance. Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless,
and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin.
We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated, if it is done
with our permission, that we allow them to sin because we love them,
and the punishment for these sins we take upon ourselves. And we shall
take it upon ourselves, and they will adore us as their saviours who
have taken on themselves their sins before God. And they will have
no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their
wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children according to
whether they have been obedient or disobedient- and they will submit
to us gladly and cheerfully. The most painful secrets of their conscience,
all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all.
And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them
from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in
making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all
the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over
them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There
will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand
sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge
of good and evil. Peacefully they will die, peacefully they will expire
in Thy name, and beyond the grave they will find nothing but death.
But we shall keep the secret, and for their happiness we shall allure
them with the reward of heaven and eternity. Though if there were
anything in the other world, it certainly would not be for such as
they. It is prophesied that Thou wilt come again in victory, Thou
wilt come with Thy chosen, the proud and strong, but we will say that
they have only saved themselves, but we have saved all. We are told
that the harlot who sits upon the beast, and holds in her hands the
mystery, shall be put to shame, that the weak will rise up again,
and will rend her royal purple and will strip naked her loathsome
body. But then I will stand up and point out to Thee the thousand
millions of happy children who have known no sin. And we who have
taken their sins upon us for their happiness will stand up before
Thee and say: "Judge us if Thou canst and darest." Know
that I fear Thee not. Know that I too have been in the wilderness,
I too have lived on roots and locusts, I too prized the freedom with
which Thou hast blessed men, and I too was striving to stand among
Thy elect, among the strong and powerful, thirsting "to make
up the number." But I awakened and would not serve madness. I
turned back and joined the ranks of those who have corrected Thy work.
I left the proud and went back to the humble, for the happiness of
the humble. What I say to Thee will come to pass, and our dominion
will be built up. I repeat, to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient
flock who at a sign from me will hasten to heap up the hot cinders
about the pile on which I shall burn Thee for coming to hinder us.
For if anyone has ever deserved our fires, it is Thou. To-morrow I
shall burn Thee. Dixi.'"
Ivan stopped. He was carried away as
he talked, and spoke with excitement; when he had finished, he suddenly
Alyosha had listened in silence; towards
the end he was greatly moved and seemed several times on the point
of interrupting, but restrained himself. Now his words came with a
"But... that's absurd!" he
cried, flushing. "Your poem is in praise of Jesus, not in blame
of Him- as you meant it to be. And who will believe you about freedom?
Is that the way to understand it? That's not the idea of it in the
Orthodox Church.... That's Rome, and not even the whole of Rome, it's
false-those are the worst of the Catholics the Inquisitors, the Jesuits!...
And there could not be such a fantastic creature as your Inquisitor.
What are these sins of mankind they take on themselves? Who are these
keepers of the mystery who have taken some curse upon themselves for
the happiness of mankind? When have they been seen? We know the Jesuits,
they are spoken ill of, but surely they are not what you describe?
They are not that at all, not at all.... They are simply the Romish
army for the earthly sovereignty of the world in the future, with
the Pontiff of Rome for Emperor... that's their ideal, but there's
no sort of mystery or lofty melancholy about it.... It's simple lust
of power, of filthy earthly gain, of domination-something like a universal
serfdom with them as masters-that's all they stand for. They don't
even believe in God perhaps. Your suffering Inquisitor is a mere fantasy."
"Stay, stay," laughed Ivan.
"how hot you are! A fantasy you say, let it be so! Of course
it's a fantasy. But allow me to say: do you really think that the
Roman Catholic movement of the last centuries is actually nothing
but the lust of power, of filthy earthly gain? Is that Father Paissy's
"No, no, on the contrary, Father
Paissy did once say something rather the same as you... but of course
it's not the same, not a bit the same," Alyosha hastily corrected
"A precious admission, in spite
of your 'not a bit the same.' I ask you why your Jesuits and Inquisitors
have united simply for vile material gain? Why can there not be among
them one martyr oppressed by great sorrow and loving humanity? You
see, only suppose that there was one such man among all those who
desire nothing but filthy material gain-if there's only one like my
old Inquisitor, who had himself eaten roots in the desert and made
frenzied efforts to subdue his flesh to make himself free and perfect.
But yet all his life he loved humanity, and suddenly his eyes were
opened, and he saw that it is no great moral blessedness to attain
perfection and freedom, if at the same time one gains the conviction
that millions of God's creatures have been created as a mockery, that
they will never be capable of using their freedom, that these poor
rebels can never turn into giants to complete the tower, that it was
not for such geese that the great idealist dreamt his dream of harmony.
Seeing all that he turned back and joined- the clever people. Surely
that could have happened?"
"Joined whom, what clever people?"
cried Alyosha, completely carried away. "They have no such great
cleverness and no mysteries and secrets.... Perhaps nothing but Atheism,
that's all their secret. Your Inquisitor does not believe in God,
that's his secret!"
"What if it is so! At last you have
guessed it. It's perfectly true, it's true that that's the whole secret,
but isn't that suffering, at least for a man like that, who has wasted
his whole life in the desert and yet could not shake off his incurable
love of humanity? In his old age he reached the clear conviction that
nothing but the advice of the great dread spirit could build up any
tolerable sort of life for the feeble, unruly, 'incomplete, empirical
creatures created in jest.' And so, convinced of this, he sees that
he must follow the counsel of the wise spirit, the dread spirit of
death and destruction, and therefore accept lying and deception, and
lead men consciously to death and destruction, and yet deceive them
all the way so that they may not notice where they are being led,
that the poor blind creatures may at least on the way think themselves
happy. And note, the deception is in the name of Him in Whose ideal
the old man had so fervently believed all his life long. Is not that
tragic? And if only one such stood at the head of the whole army 'filled
with the lust of power only for the sake of filthy gain'- would not
one such be enough to make a tragedy? More than that, one such standing
at the head is enough to create the actual leading idea of the Roman
Church with all its armies and Jesuits, its highest idea. I tell you
frankly that I firmly believe that there has always been such a man
among those who stood at the head of the movement. Who knows, there
may have been some such even among the Roman Popes. Who knows, perhaps
the spirit of that accursed old man who loves mankind so obstinately
in his own way, is to be found even now in a whole multitude of such
old men, existing not by chance but by agreement, as a secret league
formed long ago for the guarding of the mystery, to guard it from
the weak and the unhappy, so as to make them happy. No doubt it is
so, and so it must be indeed. I fancy that even among the Masons there's
something of the same mystery at the bottom, and that that's why the
Catholics so detest the Masons as their rivals breaking up the unity
of the idea, while it is so essential that there should be one flock
and one shepherd.... But from the way I defend my idea I might be
an author impatient of your criticism. Enough of it."
"You are perhaps a Mason yourself!"
broke suddenly from Alyosha. "You don't believe in God,"
he added, speaking this time very sorrowfully. He fancied besides
that his brother was looking at him ironically. "How does your
poem end?" he asked, suddenly looking down.
"Or was it the end?"
"I meant to end it like this. When
the Inquisitor ceased speaking he waited some time for his Prisoner
to answer him. His silence weighed down upon him. He saw that the
Prisoner had listened intently all the time, looking gently in his
face and evidently not wishing to reply. The old man longed for him
to say something, however bitter and terrible. But He suddenly approached
the old man in silence and softly kissed him on his bloodless aged
lips. That was all his answer. The old man shuddered. His lips moved.
He went to the door, opened it, and said to Him: 'Go, and come no
more... come not at all, never, never!' And he let Him out into the
dark alleys of the town. The Prisoner went away."
"And the old man?"
"The kiss glows in his heart, but
the old man adheres to his idea."
"And you with him, you too?"
cried Alyosha, mournfully.
"Why, it's all nonsense, Alyosha.
It's only a senseless poem of a senseless student, who could never
write two lines of verse. Why do you take it so seriously? Surely
you don't suppose I am going straight off to the Jesuits, to join
the men who are correcting His work? Good Lord, it's no business of
mine. I told you, all I want is to live on to thirty, and then...
dash the cup to the ground!"
"But the little sticky leaves, and
the precious tombs, and the blue sky, and the woman you love! How
will you live, how will you love them?" Alyosha cried sorrowfully.
"With such a hell in your heart and your head, how can you? No,
that's just what you are going away for, to join them... if not, you
will kill yourself, you can't endure it!"
"There is a strength to endure everything,"
Ivan said with a cold smile.
"The strength of the Karamazovs-
the strength of the Karamazov baseness."
"To sink into debauchery, to stifle
your soul with corruption, yes?"
"Possibly even that... only perhaps
till I am thirty I shall escape it, and then-"
"How will you escape it? By what
will you escape it? That's impossible with your ideas."
"In the Karamazov way, again."
"'Everything is lawful,' you mean?
Everything is lawful, is that it?"
Ivan scowled, and all at once turned
"Ah, you've caught up yesterday's
phrase, which so offended Muisov- and which Dmitri pounced upon so
naively and paraphrased!" he smiled queerly. "Yes, if you
like, 'everything is lawful' since the word has been said, I won't
deny it. And Mitya's version isn't bad."
Alyosha looked at him in silence.
"I thought that going away from
here I have you at least," Ivan said suddenly, with unexpected
feeling; "but now I see that there is no place for me even in
your heart, my dear hermit. The formula, 'all is lawful,' I won't
renounce- will you renounce me for that, yes?"
Alyosha got up, went to him and softly
kissed him on the lips.
"That's plagiarism," cried
Ivan, highly delighted. "You stole that from my poem. Thank you
though. Get up, Alyosha, it's time we were going, both of us."
They went out, but stopped when they
reached the entrance of the restaurant.
"Listen, Alyosha," Ivan began
in a resolute voice, "if I am really able to care for the sticky
little leaves I shall only love them, remembering you. It's enough
for me that you are somewhere here, and I shan't lose my desire for
life yet. Is that enough for you? Take it as a declaration of love
if you like. And now you go to the right and I to the left. And it's
enough, do you hear, enough. I mean even if I don't go away to-morrow
(I think I certainly shall go) and we meet again, don't say a word
more on these subjects. I beg that particularly. And about Dmitri
too, I ask you specially, never speak to me again," he added,
with sudden irritation; "it's all exhausted, it has all been
said over and over again, hasn't it? And I'll make you one promise
in return for it. When at thirty, I want to 'dash the cup to the ground,'
wherever I may be I'll come to have one more talk with you, even though
it were from America, you may be sure of that. I'll come on purpose.
It will be very interesting to have a look at you, to see what you'll
be by that time. It's rather a solemn promise, you see. And we really
may be parting for seven years or ten. Come, go now to your Pater
Seraphicus, he is dying. If he dies without you, you will be angry
with me for having kept you. Good-bye, kiss me once more; that's right,
Ivan turned suddenly and went his way
without looking back. It was just as Dmitri had left Alyosha the day
before, though the parting had been very different. The strange resemblance
flashed like an arrow through Alyosha's mind in the distress and dejection
of that moment. He waited a little, looking after his brother. He
suddenly noticed that Ivan swayed as he walked and that his right
shoulder looked lower than his left. He had never noticed it before.
But all at once he turned too, and almost ran to the monastery. It
was nearly dark, and he felt almost frightened; something new was
growing up in him for which he could not account. The wind had risen
again as on the previous evening, and the ancient pines murmured gloomily
about him when he entered the hermitage copse. He almost ran. "Pater
Seraphicus -- he got that name from somewhere- where from?" Alyosha
wondered. "Ivan, poor Ivan, and when shall I see you again?...
Here is the hermitage. Yes, yes, that he is, Pater Seraphicus, he
will save me- from him and for ever!"
Several times afterwards he wondered
how he could, on leaving Ivan, so completely forget his brother Dmitri,
though he had that morning, only a few hours before, so firmly resolved
to find him and not to give up doing so, even should he be unable
to return to the monastery that night.||