The Brothers Karamazov - by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Book V: Pro and Contra
Chapter 4: Rebellion
"I MUST make one confession" Ivan began. "I could never
understand how one can love one's neighbors. It's just one's neighbors, to my
mind, that one can't love, though one might love those at a distance. I once
read somewhere of John the Merciful, a saint, that when a hungry, frozen
beggar came to him, he took him into his bed, held him in his arms, and began
breathing into his mouth, which was putrid and loathsome from some awful
disease. I am convinced that he did that from 'self-laceration,' from the
self-laceration of falsity, for the sake of the charity imposed by duty, as a
penance laid on him. For anyone to love a man, he must be hidden, for as soon
as he shows his face, love is gone."
"Father Zossima has talked of that more than once," observed
Alyosha; "he, too, said that the face of a man often hinders many people
not practised in love, from loving him. But yet there's a great deal of love
in mankind, and almost Christ-like love. I know that myself, Ivan."
"Well, I know nothing of it so far, and can't understand it, and the
innumerable mass of mankind are with me there. The question is, whether
that's due to men's bad qualities or whether it's inherent in their nature.
To my thinking, Christ-like love for men is a miracle impossible on earth. He
was God. But we are not gods. Suppose I, for instance, suffer intensely.
Another can never know how much I suffer, because he is another and not I.
And what's more, a man is rarely ready to admit another's suffering (as
though it were a distinction). Why won't he admit it, do you think? Because I
smell unpleasant, because I have a stupid face, because I once trod on his
foot. Besides, there is suffering and suffering; degrading, humiliating
suffering such as humbles me -- hunger, for instance -- my benefactor will
perhaps allow me; but when you come to higher suffering -- for an idea, for
instance -- he will very rarely admit that, perhaps because my face strikes
him as not at all what he fancies a man should have who suffers for an idea.
And so he deprives me instantly of his favor, and not at all from badness of
heart. Beggars, especially genteel beggars, ought never to show themselves,
but to ask for charity through the newspapers. One can love one's neighbors
in the abstract, or even at a distance, but at close quarters it's almost
impossible. If it were as on the stage, in the ballet, where if beggars come
in, they wear silken rags and tattered lace and beg for alms dancing
gracefully, then one might like looking at them. But even then we should not
love them. But enough of that. I simply wanted to show you my point of view.
I meant to speak of the suffering of mankind generally, but we had better
confine ourselves to the sufferings of the children. That reduces the scope
of my argument to a tenth of what it would be. Still we'd better keep to the
children, though it does weaken my case. But, in the first place, children
can be loved even at close quarters, even when they are dirty, even when they
are ugly (I fancy, though, children never are ugly). The second reason why I
won't speak of grown-up people is that, besides being disgusting and unworthy
of love, they have a compensation -- they've eaten the apple and know good
and evil, and they have become 'like gods.' They go on eating it still. But
the children haven't eaten anything, and are so far innocent. Are you fond of
children, Alyosha? I know you are, and you will understand why I prefer to
speak of them. If they, too, suffer horribly on earth, they must suffer for
their fathers' sins, they must be punished for their fathers, who have eaten
the apple; but that reasoning is of the other world and is incomprehensible
for the heart of man here on earth. The innocent must not suffer for
another's sins, and especially such innocents! You may be surprised at me,
Alyosha, but I am awfully fond of children, too. And observe, cruel people,
the violent, the rapacious, the Karamazovs are sometimes very fond of
children. Children while they are quite little -- up to seven, for instance
-- are so remote from grown-up people they are different creatures, as it
were, of a different species. I knew a criminal in prison who had, in the
course of his career as a burglar, murdered whole families, including several
children. But when he was in prison, he had a strange affection for them. He
spent all his time at his window, watching the children playing in the prison
yard. He trained one little boy to come up to his window and made great
friends with him.... You don't know why I am telling you all this, Alyosha?
My head aches and I am sad."
"You speak with a strange air," observed Alyosha uneasily, "as
though you were not quite yourself."
"By the way, a Bulgarian I met lately in Moscow," Ivan went on,
seeming not to hear his brother's words, "told me about the crimes
committed by Turks and Circassians in all parts of Bulgaria through fear of a
general rising of the Slavs. They burn villages, murder, outrage women and
children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to the fences, leave them so
till morning, and in the morning they hang them -- all sorts of things you
can't imagine. People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that's a great
injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man,
so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that's all he can do.
He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to
do it. These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, -too; cutting the
unborn child from the mothers womb, and tossing babies up in the air and
catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mothers' eyes.
Doing it before the mothers' eyes was what gave zest to the amusement. Here
is another scene that I thought very interesting. Imagine a trembling mother
with her baby in her arms, a circle of invading Turks around her. They've
planned a diversion: they pet the baby, laugh to make it laugh. They succeed,
the baby laughs. At that moment a Turk points a pistol four inches from the
baby's face. The baby laughs with glee, holds out its little hands to the
pistol, and he pulls the trigger in the baby's face and blows out its brains.
Artistic, wasn't it? By the way, Turks are particularly fond of sweet things,
"Brother, what are you driving at?" asked Alyosha.
"I think if the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he has
created him in his own image and likeness."
"Just as he did God, then?" observed Alyosha.
"'It's wonderful how you can turn words,' as Polonius says in
Hamlet," laughed Ivan. "You turn my words against me. Well, I am
glad. Yours must be a fine God, if man created Him in his image and likeness.
You asked just now what I was driving at. You see, I am fond of collecting
certain facts, and, would you believe, I even copy anecdotes of a certain
sort from newspapers and books, and I've already got a fine collection. The
Turks, of course, have gone into it, but they are foreigners. I have
specimens from home that are even better than the Turks. You know we prefer
beating -- rods and scourges -- that's our national institution. Nailing ears
is unthinkable for us, for we are, after all, Europeans. But the rod and the
scourge we have always with us and they cannot be taken from us. Abroad now
they scarcely do any beating. Manners are more humane, or laws have been
passed, so that they don't dare to flog men now. But they make up for it in
another way just as national as ours. And so national that it would be
practically impossible among us, though I believe we are being inoculated
with it, since the religious movement began in our aristocracy. I have a
charming pamphlet, translated from the French, describing how, quite
recently, five years ago, a murderer, Richard, was executed -- a young man, I
believe, of three and twenty, who repented and was converted to the Christian
faith at the very scaffold. This Richard was an illegitimate child who was
given as a child of six by his parents to some shepherds on the Swiss
mountains. They brought him up to work for them. He grew up like a little
wild beast among them. The shepherds taught him nothing, and scarcely fed or
clothed him, but sent him out at seven to herd the flock in cold and wet, and
no one hesitated or scrupled to treat him so. Quite the contrary, they
thought they had every right, for Richard had been given to them as a
chattel, and they did not even see the necessity of feeding him. Richard
himself describes how in those years, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel, he
longed to eat of the mash given to the pigs, which were fattened for sale.
But they wouldn't even give that, and beat him when he stole from the pigs.
And that was how he spent all his childhood and his youth, till he grew up
and was strong enough to go away and be a thief. The savage began to earn his
living as a day labourer in Geneva. He drank what he earned, he lived like a
brute, and finished by killing and robbing an old man. He was caught, tried,
and condemned to death. They are not sentimentalists there. And in prison he
was immediately surrounded by pastors, members of Christian brotherhoods,
philanthropic ladies, and the like. They taught him to read and write in
prison, and expounded the Gospel to him. They exhorted him, worked upon him,
drummed at him incessantly, till at last he solemnly confessed his crime. He
was converted. He wrote to the court himself that he was a monster, but that
in the end God had vouchsafed him light and shown grace. All Geneva was in
excitement about him -- all philanthropic and religious Geneva. All the
aristocratic and well-bred society of the town rushed to the prison, kissed
Richard and embraced him; 'You are our brother, you have found grace.' And
Richard does nothing but weep with emotion, 'Yes, I've found grace! All my
youth and childhood I was glad of pigs' food, but now even I have found
grace. I am dying in the Lord.' 'Yes, Richard, die in the Lord; you have shed
blood and must die. Though it's not your fault that you knew not the Lord,
when you coveted the pigs' food and were beaten for stealing it (which was
very wrong of you, for stealing is forbidden); but you've shed blood and you
must die.'And on the last day, Richard, perfectly limp, did nothing but cry
and repeat every minute: 'This is my happiest day. I am going to the Lord.'
'Yes,' cry the pastors and the judges and philanthropic ladies. 'This is the
happiest day of your life, for you are going to the Lord!' They all walk or
drive to the scaffold in procession behind the prison van. At the scaffold
they call to Richard: 'Die, brother, die in the Lord, for even thou hast
found grace!' And so, covered with his brothers' kisses, Richard is dragged
on to the scaffold, and led to the guillotine. And they chopped off his head
in brotherly fashion, because he had found grace. Yes, that's characteristic.
That pamphlet is translated into Russian by some Russian philanthropists of
aristocratic rank and evangelical aspirations, and has been distributed
gratis for the enlightenment of the people. The case of Richard is
interesting because it's national. Though to us it's absurd to cut off a
man's head, because he has become our brother and has found grace, yet we
have our own speciality, which is all but worse. Our historical pastime is
the direct satisfaction of inflicting pain. There are lines in Nekrassov
describing how a peasant lashes a horse on the eyes, 'on its meek eyes,'
everyone must have seen it. It's peculiarly Russian. He describes how a
feeble little nag has foundered under too heavy a load and cannot move. The
peasant beats it, beats it savagely, beats it at last not knowing what he is
doing in the intoxication of cruelty, thrashes it mercilessly over and over
again. 'However weak you are, you must pull, if you die for it.' The nag
strains, and then he begins lashing the poor defenceless creature on its
weeping, on its 'meek eyes.' The frantic beast tugs and draws the load,
trembling all over, gasping for breath, moving sideways, with a sort of
unnatural spasmodic action -- it's awful in Nekrassov. But that only a horse,
and God has horses to be beaten. So the Tatars have taught us, and they left
us the knout as a remembrance of it. But men, too, can be beaten. A
well-educated, cultured gentleman and his wife beat their own child with a
birch-rod, a girl of seven. I have an exact account of it. The papa was glad
that the birch was covered with twigs. 'It stings more,' said he, and so be
began stinging his daughter. I know for a fact there are people who at every
blow are worked up to sensuality, to literal sensuality, which increases
progressively at every blow they inflict. They beat for a minute, for five
minutes, for ten minutes, more often and more savagely. The child screams. At
last the child cannot scream, it gasps, 'Daddy daddy!' By some diabolical
unseemly chance the case was brought into court. A counsel is engaged. The
Russian people have long called a barrister 'a conscience for hire.' The
counsel protests in his client's defence. 'It's such a simple thing,' he
says, 'an everyday domestic event. A father corrects his child. To our shame
be it said, it is brought into court.' The jury, convinced by him, give a favorable
verdict. The public roars with delight that the torturer is acquitted. Ah,
pity I wasn't there! I would have proposed to raise a subscription in his
honour! Charming pictures.
"But I've still better things about children. I've collected a great,
great deal about Russian children, Alyosha. There was a little girl of five
who was hated by her father and mother, 'most worthy and respectable people,
of good education and breeding.' You see, I must repeat again, it is a
peculiar characteristic of many people, this love of torturing children, and
children only. To all other types of humanity these torturers behave mildly and
benevolently, like cultivated and humane Europeans; but they are very fond of
tormenting children, even fond of children themselves in that sense. it's
just their defencelessness that tempts the tormentor, just the angelic
confidence of the child who has no refuge and no appeal, that sets his vile
blood on fire. In every man, of course, a demon lies hidden -- the demon of
rage, the demon of lustful heat at the screams of the tortured victim, the
demon of lawlessness let off the chain, the demon of diseases that follow on
vice, gout, kidney disease, and so on.
"This poor child of five was subjected to every possible torture by
those cultivated parents. They beat her, thrashed her, kicked her for no
reason till her body was one bruise. Then, they went to greater refinements
of cruelty -- shut her up all night in the cold and frost in a privy, and
because she didn't ask to be taken up at night (as though a child of five
sleeping its angelic, sound sleep could be trained to wake and ask), they
smeared her face and filled her mouth with excrement, and it was her mother,
her mother did this. And that mother could sleep, hearing the poor child's
groans! Can you understand why a little creature, who can't even understand
what's done to her, should beat her little aching heart with her tiny fist in
the dark and the cold, and weep her meek unresentful tears to dear, kind God
to protect her? Do you understand that, friend and brother, you pious and
humble novice? Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted?
Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth, for he could not
have known good and evil. Why should he know that diabolical good and evil
when it costs so much? Why, the whole world of knowledge is not worth that
child's prayer to dear, kind God'! I say nothing of the sufferings of
grown-up people, they have eaten the apple, damn them, and the devil take
them all! But these little ones! I am making you suffer, Alyosha, you are not
yourself. I'll leave off if you like."
"Nevermind. I want to suffer too," muttered Alyosha.
"One picture, only one more, because it's so curious, so characteristic,
and I have only just read it in some collection of Russian antiquities. I've
forgotten the name. I must look it up. It was in the darkest days of serfdom
at the beginning of the century, and long live the Liberator of the People!
There was in those days a general of aristocratic connections, the owner of
great estates, one of those men -- somewhat exceptional, I believe, even then
-- who, retiring from the service into a life of leisure, are convinced that
they've earned absolute power over the lives of their subjects. There were
such men then. So our general, settled on his property of two thousand souls,
lives in pomp, and domineers over his poor neighbors as though they were
dependents and buffoons. He has kennels of hundreds of hounds and nearly a
hundred dog-boys -- all mounted, and in uniform. One day a serf-boy, a little
child of eight, threw a stone in play and hurt the paw of the general's favorite
hound. 'Why is my favorite dog lame?' He is told that the boy threw a stone
that hurt the dog's paw. 'So you did it.' The general looked the child up and
down. 'Take him.' He was taken -- taken from his mother and kept shut up all
night. Early that morning the general comes out on horseback, with the
hounds, his dependents, dog-boys, and huntsmen, all mounted around him in
full hunting parade. The servants are summoned for their edification, and in
front of them all stands the mother of the child. The child is brought from
the lock-up. It's a gloomy, cold, foggy, autumn day, a capital day for
hunting. The general orders the child to be undressed; the child is stripped
naked. He shivers, numb with terror, not daring to cry.... 'Make him run,'
commands the general. 'Run! run!' shout the dog-boys. The boy runs.... 'At
him!' yells the general, and he sets the whole pack of hounds on the child.
The hounds catch him, and tear him to pieces before his mother's eyes!... I
believe the general was afterwards declared incapable of administering his
estates. Well -- what did he deserve? To be shot? To be shot for the
satisfaction of our moral feelings? Speak, Alyosha!
"To be shot," murmured Alyosha, lifting his eyes to Ivan with a
pale, twisted smile.
"Bravo!" cried Ivan delighted. "If even you say so... You're a
pretty monk! So there is a little devil sitting in your heart, Alyosha
"What I said was absurd, but-"
"That's just the point, that 'but'!" cried Ivan. "Let me tell
you, novice, that the absurd is only too necessary on earth. The world stands
on absurdities, and perhaps nothing would have come to pass in it without
them. We know what we know!"
"What do you know?"
"I understand nothing," Ivan went on, as though in delirium.
"I don't want to understand anything now. I want to stick to the fact. I
made up my mind long ago not to understand. If I try to understand anything,
I shall be false to the fact, and I have determined to stick to the
"Why are you trying me?" Alyosha cried, with sudden distress.
"Will you say what you mean at last?"
"Of course, I will; that's what I've been leading up to. You are dear to
me, I don't want to let you go, and I won't give you up to your
Ivan for a minute was silent, his face became all at once very sad.
"Listen! I took the case of children only to make my case clearer. Of
the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to
its centre, I will say nothing. I have narrowed my subject on purpose. I am a
bug, and I recognise in all humility that I cannot understand why the world
is arranged as it is. Men are themselves to blame, I suppose; they were given
paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, though they knew
they would become unhappy, so there is no need to pity them. With my pitiful,
earthly, Euclidian understanding, all I know is that there is suffering and
that there are none guilty; that cause follows effect, simply and directly;
that everything flows and finds its level -- but that's only Euclidian
nonsense, I know that, and I can't consent to live by it! What comfort is it
to me that there are none guilty and that cause follows effect simply and
directly, and that I know it? -- I must have justice, or I will destroy
myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on
earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it,
and if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without
me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven't suffered simply that I, my crimes
and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody
else. I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the
victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone
suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world
are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the
children, and what am I to do about them? That's a question I can't answer.
For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I've
only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably
clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have
children to do with it, tell me, please? It's beyond all comprehension why
they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they,
too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future? I
understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in
retribution, too; but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if
it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their fathers'
crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension.
Some jester will say, perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have
sinned, but you see he didn't grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at
eight years old. Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course,
what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in heaven and earth
blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries
aloud: 'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.' When the mother
embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud
with tears, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' then, of course, the crown of knowledge
will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that
I can't accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my
own measures. You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live
to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with
the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child's torturer, 'Thou art
just, O Lord!' but I don't want to cry aloud then. While there is still time,
I hasten to protect myself, and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether.
It's not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the
breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its
unexpiated tears to 'dear, kind God'! It's not worth it, because those tears
are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But
how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being
avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for
oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been
tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I
want to embrace. I don't want more suffering. And if the sufferings of
children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for
truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price. I don't want
the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare
not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her
forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother's heart.
But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she
dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if
that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in
the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could
forgive? I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I
would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with
my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong.
Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay
so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and
if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And
that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most
respectfully return him the ticket."
"That's rebellion," murmered Alyosha, looking down.
"Rebellion? I am sorry you call it that," said Ivan earnestly.
"One can hardly live in rebellion, and I want to live. Tell me yourself,
I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human
destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and
rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death
only one tiny creature -- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for
instance -- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you
consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the
"No, I wouldn't consent," said Alyosha softly.
"And can you admit the idea that men for whom you are building it would
agree to accept their happiness on the foundation of the unexpiated blood of
a little victim? And accepting it would remain happy for ever?"
"No, I can't admit it. Brother," said Alyosha suddenly, with
flashing eyes, "you said just now, is there a being in the whole world
who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? But there is a Being
and He can forgive everything, all and for all, because He gave His innocent
blood for all and everything. You have forgotten Him, and on Him is built the
edifice, and it is to Him they cry aloud, 'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways
"Ah! the One without sin and His blood! No, I have not forgotten Him; on
the contrary I've been wondering all the time how it was you did not bring
Him in before, for usually all arguments on your side put Him in the
foreground. 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 Alyosha.
"My poem is called The Grand Inquisitor; it's a ridiculous thing, but I
want to tell it to you.
The Brothers Karamazov - by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Book V: Pro and Contra
Chapter 5: The Grand Inquisitor
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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'?"
"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
"'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.'"*
* I have spoken.
Ivan stopped. He was carried away as he talked, and spoke with excitement;
when he had finished, he suddenly smiled.
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 rush.
"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 teaching?"
"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 himself.
"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
"The strength of the Karamazovs -- the strength of the Karamazov
"To sink into debauchery, to stifle your soul with corruption,
"Possibly even that... only perhaps till I am thirty I shall escape it,
"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
Ivan scowled, and all at once turned strangely pale.
"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, now go."
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
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.