Originally published March 30, 2004.
Understanding the world is difficult at best. However, knowing how the world works is a task that can be readily recognized. The ability to grasp and admit both functions, is seldom achieved by most souls. Those who accomplish a rare and accurate comprehension of the human condition, appreciate the social conflict that permeates civilized life. Society is an invention to effect dominance. The Grand Inquisitor exacts compliance, for that is his function. Not that it is essential, but because it is ingrained and instinctive.
In The Brothers Karamazov, Fydor Dostoevsky has Ivan Karamazov use his intuition to deliver a psychological view of his internal struggle. "My poem is called 'The Grand Inquisitor'- an absurd thing, but I want you to hear it." His encounter bears witness to duel aspects of mankind. On the one hand God is needed, even if He is denied; and if His presence is in dispute, humankind will invent His omnipotence in the form of a civil structure.
Enter the Cardinal Grand Inquisitor:
"But you did not know that as soon as man rejects miracles, he will at once reject God as well, for man seeks not so much God as miracles. And since man himself cannot bear to be left without miracles, he will go and create new miracles for himself, his own miracles this time, and will bow down to the miracles of quacks, or women's magic, though he be rebellious, heretical, and godless a hundred times over."
"You did not come down again [from the cross] because, again, you did not want to enslave man by a miracle and thirsted for faith that is free, not miraculous...But here, too, you overestimated mankind, for, of course they are slaves, although they were created rebels." "I swear, man is created weaker and baser than you thought him!"
The refuge of the Church required an obedience to the Cardinal. The primacy of the Holy See demanded submission to Catholicism, not to God. Organization took precedence over belief. Inquisition as an ecclesiastic tribunal to establish membership in good standing could be valid. However, persecution by authorities to force compliance, as the measure of adherence to their system of earthly order; is abhorrent.
The intellectual Karamazov son, Ivan, explains that faith is not easy to understand. The poem also explains that free will is the single greatest burden placed upon any individual. Freedom, according to Ivan's poem, is intolerable. "The tragic nihilism of the Grand Inquisitor is, in turn, parodied by Ivan's devil, the "true" devil. The Grand Inquisitor's secret is that he does not believe in God, but he is a victim of a terrible love for mankind. His indictment of Christ is that Christ himself does not love man and does not understand him; Christ, in refusing to display his powers through miracle, excludes from the State-as-Church most of humanity. Father Zossima is the mystic, and his mysticism has the psychological power of ridding the peasant (most of humanity) of his burden of freedom; the Grand Inquisitor is the mystic-turned-political figure, the organizer and savior of mankind. Both Zossima and the Grand Inquisitor are altruistic, ruled by love of man".
Basically the modern day parallel, conforms to a parable that has haunted mankind from his inception. The record is real, even when the homily is ridiculed. The political role of the Christendom Church invested authoritarian reign within bishops, in matters of religious rite. Princes and kings accepted canon law as a prerequisite for their own salvation. Civil governments acknowledged influence from Popes and his cardinals because they validated their legitimacy. Public policy was often confirmed by papal sanctification.
As miracles became optional and mystics were relegated to visions that conformed with public policy, the State gradually assumed the supremacy that was once the province of the Church. The excesses of the Grand Inquisitor became the creed of administration by the temporal regime. Their doctrine was taught as the achievement of the common good. Judgment for defining and attaining that criterion rested in the politic that kept the ruling structure in place. Canon law for the holy faithful was cast aside as civic decree transformed into the religion of the State. No longer was belief required to guide behavior; man made codes, regulations and laws determined the appropriate conduct.
Freedom to reject this formula remains as testimony that the work of achieving altruism necessitates the torments of the Grand Inquisitor. Penalties and methods of discipline have become the sacraments of salvation. Redemption, no longer needed - now requires - only uniformity to consummate the religious dogma of contemporary society.
What lesson can be learned, when Ivan says:
"Why, it's all nonsense, Alyosha (his father). 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?"
The popular culture has adopted the Karamazov ethic and the planet has become the dependency of the Grand Inquisitor. The rejection of God, as a condition to serve man, is the work of the devil. Altruism is torture that accentuates agony. Our human nature is condemned to the anguish of permanent suffering, without the eternal relief from atonement. The State is not a vessel for redemption. No government will offer salvation. And no system of administration can or will be a substitute for submission before the living divine creator.
Faith in God obligates distrust and opposition to profane temporal torturers, who promote a forced punishment, as the reward for authentic fidelity. Love for your fellow man, does not necessitate worship of a secular beast. The miracle of life is not a product of a public program. Miracles are the results of revelation. Our nature is designed to embrace faith, not to fear it or renounce its importance. The Grand Inquisitor brotherhood is doomed, when believers deny the lies and revolt against their rule. You have the freedom - show your faith.