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

witness that

                   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 hand.

    "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 Prisoner."

    "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 quo?"

    "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


    "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'?"

asked Alyosha.

    "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

unanswerable problems.

    "'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


    "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


    "And you with him, you too?" cried Alyosha, mournfully.

    Ivan laughed.

    "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 smile.

    "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, 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


    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,


    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


    "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 ever!"

    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.