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2003/05/02

‘Hast Thou the right to reveal to us one of the mysteries of the 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 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?’
                          —Ivan reciting his poem to Alyosha about the Grand Inquisitor, a ninety-year-old fifteenth century Spanish cardinal of Seville who interviews a silent, visiting Jesus Christ whom he has imprisoned and threatens to burn at the stake in the morning. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, trans. Constance Garnett, The Brothers Karamazov, Modern Library, 1950, pp. 297, 298.
posted by TT 9:32 AM

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