THE GRAND INQUISITOR
By Feodor Dostoevsky
(Translation by H.P. Blavatsky)
In the twilight he arrived, in that quiet time when the tofu-burgers and bean sprouts are not quite digested, the zinfandel is not quite chilled and it is not quite time to light the bonfires about the capitalists, reactionaries, talk radio hosts and assorted other wreckers in a magnificent auto-da-fe ad majorem Barack gloriam, by the order of the all powerful Comrade Community Organizer.
He came silently and unannounced; yet all recognized Him! The population rushed towards Him as if propelled by some irresistible force; it surrounded, thronged, and pressed around, it followed Him. The Love of Freedom burned in His heart, and warm rays of Courage, Wisdom and Integrity beamed forth from His eyes, and poured down their waves upon the swarming multitudes gathered 'round, making their hearts vibrate with returning love.
The crowd wept for joy, and kissed the ground upon which He trod. Children cast flowers along His path. Upon the steps of the Capitol he paused, beholding a man begging favor of a Comrade Member of the People's Congress. “But my children must eat,” lamented the man, whose clothing, now dirty, worn and shapeless, revealed him to be a disgraced wrecker. Perhaps once a banker, or an executive. Certainly a capitalist, but only a lowly one. How else had he escaped the fires? As the Comrade Member turned away, unmoved by the supplicant's meager offering, He stepped forward and raised the man to his feet.
“I will give you work,” said He quietly, yet the words silenced the crowd and echoed abut the vastness of the Mall. “Go,” He said. “Gather your family, and your neighbors, and their neighbors. I have work for you all.”
The crowd is violently excited. A terrible commotion rages among them, the populace shouts and loudly weeps, when suddenly, before the Capitol door, appears the Comrade Community Organizer himself.
He is a tall, elegant man of scarce two-score years, with a kindly, smiling face, and deeply set eyes, from the cavity of which glitter two fiery sparks. He has laid aside the glorious tailored suit in which he had appeared before the
people at the auto da-fe of the enemies of the State, and is now clad in his tastefully torn and stained designer jeans and T-shirt. His obsequious assistants and slaves of the 'Community Cadre' follow at a distance. He pauses before the crowd and observes. He has seen all. Slowly raising his finger, he commands his minions to arrest Him.
Such is his power over the well-disciplined, submissive and now trembling people, that the thick crowds immediately give way, and scattering before the Cadre, amid dead silence and without one breath of protest, allow them to lay their sacrilegious hands upon the stranger and lead Him away. That same populace, like one man, now bows its head to the ground before the Organizer, who smiles upon them indulgently and moves languidly onward. The guards conduct their prisoner to the ancient building of the People's Congress; pushing Him into a narrow, gloomy, vaulted prison-cell, a long forgotten, long unused crypt. They lock Him in and retire.
The day wanes, and night-a dark, hot breathless mid-Atlantic night - creeps on and settles upon the city with His name. The air smells of laurels and cherry blossoms. In the Stygian darkness of the crypt the iron door of the cell is thrown open, and the Community Organizer, holding a dark lantern, slowly stalks into the dungeon. He is alone, and, as the heavy door closes behind him, he pauses at the threshold, and, for a minute or two, silently and gloomily scrutinizes the Face before him. At last approaching with measured steps, he sets his lantern down upon the table and addresses Him in these words:
"It is you! You!” Receiving no reply, he rapidly continues: “Answer not; be silent! And what could you say? I know all too well! You have no right to add one syllable to what you uttered before. Why should you now impede us in our work? I know not; I care not. Tomorrow I will condemn and burn you at the stake, as the most wicked of all wreckers. The same people who today kissed your feet, tomorrow, at one bend of my finger, will rush to add fuel to your funeral pyre.
“Behold them, your 'free' people!” adds the elegant man with sombre irony. “Yes! it has cost us dearly.” continues the Organizer, sternly looking at his victim. “But we have at last accomplished our task, in your name. For two hundred long years we have toiled and suffered owing to that 'freedom.” But now we have prevailed and our work is done, and well and strongly it is done. Dare you doubt that it is so very strong? Know then, that now, and only now, your people feel fully sure and satisfied of their freedom; and that only since they have, of their own free will, delivered that freedom unto our hands by placing it submissively at our feet.
"It was you, in your arrogance, who set us this task,” goes on the Organizer. “In your triumph you rejected the crown your dutiful subjects offered you, and cursed them to the terror whence we, and we alone have rescued them. Do you recall the great honor – nay, the sacred duty – you declined? In the waning days of your rebellion, when all looked to you for guidance and security and entrusted to you their hopes and dreams? Do you recall how they put that trust and love into words and deeds and offered to submit to you, body and soul, as their ruler? And you betrayed them, rejecting their offer. Decide then for yourself,” proceeded the Organizer, “which of you was correct, those who offered, or you who declined?
“Consider then, the curse of this 'freedom' you imposed upon those who placed in you their trust. Did you bless them with this 'freedom'? No, you cursed them. 'Be free,' you declared, and spoke their doom, for you did not know the true meaning of your words: 'Go forth and feed thy selves.' You ignored that, in all history none have succeeded in that task. Did you not know that the day would come when all would understand that freedom and sufficient food cannot be had together, as humanity will never be able to fairly divide the two amongst themselves. And, in the depths of their despair, your 'free' people shouted unto the heavens 'Feed us!' And we fed them; and they worship us.” They regard us as gods, and feel grateful to those who have consented to lead them and bear their burden of freedom by ruling over them.
“'Be free,' you commanded, and sentenced them to the horror of self-reliance, to decide for themselves who to follow, what to believe. Man seeks to bow before that only which is recognized by the greater majority, if not by all his fellow-men, as having a right to be worshipped. For the chief concern of these miserable creatures is not to find and worship the idol of their own choice, but to discover that which all others will believe in, and consent to bow down to in a mass. It is that instinctive need of having a worship in common that is the chief suffering of every man, the chief concern of mankind from the beginning of times. But he alone will prove capable of silencing and quieting their consciences, that one shall succeed in possessing himself of the freedom of men.
“The mystery of human being does not solely rest in the desire to live, but in the problem--for what should one live at all? Have you again forgotten that to man rest and even death are preferable to a free choice between the knowledge of Good and Evil? Nothing seems more seductive in his eyes than freedom of conscience, and nothing proves more painful.
"Meantime, every chance of success was offered you. There are three Powers, three unique Forces upon earth, capable of conquering forever by charming the conscience of these weak rebels-men--for their own good; and these Forces are: Miracle, Mystery and Authority. You rejected all the three, and thus were the first to set them an example. Is human nature calculated to reject miracle, and trust, during the most terrible moments in life, when the most momentous, painful and perplexing problems struggle within man's soul, to the free decisions of his heart for the true solution? You thirsted for free and uninfluenced love, and refused the passionate adoration of the slave before his betters. You judged men too highly here, again, for though rebels they be, they are born to be slaves and nothing more. Behold, and judge of them once more, now that two centuries have elapsed since that moment. Man is weaker and lower than you have ever imagined him to be!
"By valuing him so highly you have acted as if there were no love for him in Thine heart, for you have demanded of him more than he could ever give. Had you esteemed him less, less would you have demanded of him, and that would have been more like love, for his burden would have been made thereby lighter. Man is weak and cowardly. Suffused with idiotic tears, they will confess that you, who set them free, undoubtedly did so only to mock them.
"And thus, after all you has suffered for mankind and its freedom, the present fate of men may be summed up in three words: Unrest, Confusion, Misery! Such is the fruit of this 'freedom' you purchased so dearly with the lives of others, and which you esteem as the greatest of all earthly gifts. Gift? Perhaps, to you and your kind, with your pale skins and fine educations and great wealth, built upon the subservience of others. Perhaps it was a gift to you few, you elect who were equipped to bear such a burden And why should the weakest be held guilty for not being able to endure what only the strongest have endured? Why should a soul incapable of bearing such terrible gifts be punished for its weakness? Did you really serve the "elect" alone? If so, then the mystery will remain forever mysterious to our finite minds. And if a mystery, then were we right to proclaim it as one, and preach it, teaching them that neither their freely given love to you nor freedom of conscience were essential, but only that incomprehensible mystery which they must blindly obey even against the dictates of their conscience. Thus did we. We corrected and improved your teaching and based it upon "Miracle, Mystery, and Authority." And men rejoiced at finding themselves led once more like a herd of cattle, and at finding their hearts at last delivered of the terrible burden laid upon them by you, which caused them so much suffering.
"You could have accepted the crown yourself; why did you reject the offer? By accepting the crown you would have realized every aspiration of man for himself on earth; man would have found a constant object for worship; one to deliver his conscience up to, and one that should unite all together into one common and harmonious ant-hill; for an innate necessity for universal union constitutes the third and final affliction of mankind. Humanity as a whole has ever aspired to unite itself universally. We offer that union, and the people crawl up to us in full submission, and lick the soles of our feet, and sprinkle them with tears of blood and beg to drink from the golden cup of 'hope and change'. Under our rule and sway all will be happy, and will neither rebel nor destroy each other as they did while under your banner of 'freedom'. We will take good care to prove to them that they will become absolutely free only when they have abjured their freedom in our favor and submit to us absolutely. Receiving their bread from us, they will clearly see that we take the bread from them, the bread made by their own hands, but to give it back to them in equal shares. Until that day, they will never be happy. We will give them that quiet, humble happiness, which alone benefits such weak, foolish creatures as they are. Their intellects will weaken, their eyes become as easily accessible to tears as those of children and women; but we will teach them an easy transition from grief and tears to laughter, childish joy and mirthful song.
“We will make them work like slaves, but during their recreation hours they shall have an innocent child-like life, full of play and merry laughter. We will even permit them sin, for, weak and helpless, they will feel the more love for us for permitting them to indulge in it. They will believe us and accept our mediation with rapture, as it will deliver them from their greatest anxiety and torture--that of having to decide freely for themselves. Tomorrow you shall see that obedient flock; at one simple motion of my hand it will rush to add burning coals to the stake at which I will burn you for having dared to come and trouble us in our work. For, if there ever was one who deserved more than any of the others our cleansing fires - it is you! Tomorrow I will burn you."
Having unburdened his heart, the Organizer waits for some time to hear his prisoner speak. His silence weighs upon him. He has seen that his captive has been attentively listening to him all the time, with His eyes fixed penetratingly and softly on the face of His jailer, and evidently bent upon not replying to him. The elegant man longs to hear His voice, to hear Him reply; better words of bitterness and scorn than His silence. And then He rose; slowly and silently approaching the Organizer, He bends towards him and softly whispered in his ears. The Community Organizer shudders. There is a convulsive twitch at the corner of his mouth. He goes to the door, opens it, and addressing Him, “Go,” he says. “Go, and return no more. Do not come again; never, never!” and turns Him out into the dark night.