The Grand Inquisitor – Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Know, then, that now, precisely now, these people are more certain than ever before that they are completely free, and at the same time they themselves have brought us their freedom and obediently laid it at our feet. It is our doing, but is it what you wanted? This sort of freedom?
This is a chapter from one of my favorite novels, The Brothers Karamazov. Some friends already know about my unconditional love for Dostoyevsky’s work. Anything I say is extremely subjective and ultimately forgettable. Anyway, it is preferable to read the entire novel so as to not only enjoy that gem, but to basically understand the characters’ particular views.
Ah. The Lord and the inquisitor.
‘Everything,’ they say, ‘has been handed over by you to the pope, therefore everything now belongs to the pope, and you may as well not come at all now, or at least don’t interfere with us for the time being.’
Even when read separately, this section stands out for its lyrical force and, essentially, for the depth and intensity of its philosophical meditations concerning religion and human nature. Themes that—as someone who is always struggling in this small fragment of the world filled with fragile, ambivalent impressions—have been haunting one reader for many years now.
We corrected your deed and based it on miracle, mystery, and authority. And mankind rejoiced that they were once more led like sheep, and that at last such a terrible gift, which had brought them so much suffering, had been taken from their hearts.
Assumptions, everywhere. Confusion. Always the doubts. Always the fear. Ivan speaks. Alyosha, stunned.
He comes for the chosen ones. The ones that will inherit the kingdom of God. The ones that amidst all the possible and impossible notions and mysteries that humanity cannot unveil, were chosen before they were even born. He was always aware of their identities. Their acts, their benevolence, their purity of heart. He always knew. They were created to be saved. As for the rest of us, we are left wondering if fate can take a turn. If simple mortals can bend the rules of eternity and challenge the decisions of an omniscient being by behaving like devoted Christians—that would be one case, since the concept of paradise and its constant truth is deeply connected to geography. Illusions of a mind that wonders if the unchosen ones can still create a path towards salvation.
Many efforts have been made to reconcile the arguments of such delicate nature. And yet…
We have a game. A war. The last battle between predestination and freedom, before the hunting begins.
You want to go into the world, and you are going empty-handed, with some promise of freedom, which they in their simplicity and innate lawlessness cannot even comprehend, which they dread and fear—for nothing has ever been more insufferable for man and for human society than freedom!

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

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