I was reading The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky recently (for the second time actually) and particularly my favourite part, where Ivan tells his “poem” about The Great Inquisitor to Alyosha, when I found out how innately some thoughts of that brilliant author correlate with some of my thoughts; and I decided to share some of them with you.
Dostoevsky writes (1879, ch. 5):
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.
Many people don’t understand what freedom actually is. It is not freedom to act as you like or do what you want regardless of consequences. That would be, in fact, the opposite of freedom. Freedom is a responsibility to yourself, to others and to the God. Therefore it may be a heavy burden that not everyone is able to bear at any times. Only very strong person, who has developed in course of endless time such qualities as compassion, devotion, detachment, forgiveness and equanimity in face of any kind of adversities is capable of being free. Such person is inevitably highly spiritual by nature. Unfortunately most people don’t posses those qualities. Especially in this day and age. Therefore they seek to reject their freedom, as it feels as a heavy burden for them.
“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.” (Dostoevsky, 1879, ch.5)
But what freedom innately is ? I reckon this is entirely spiritual category. To my mind, freedom is a state of being of a living-entity, when there is no fear of giving love and receiving love, for truly be in love (regardless if it is about another person or entire Universe) one must become thoroughly open. And this is exactly what scares that much, since when you are open, you become vulnerable as there are no more walls between you and other world. This require being on a high step of spiritual evolution; for that ego must be overcome to a great extent, which is by no means an easy task…
Thereby I infer that freedom is love. Where freedom or love is, there is no fear.
The truth is that a living-entity grounded in this reality is able to achieve perfection, which is absolute freedom and love in a single moment; but the only thing that deters it from that is itself. God is always ready to accept us, waiting when we are ready to accept him, as a father always waits for his child, wherever he or she may be.
During the conversation, The Great Inquisitor tells Him: “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” (Dostoevsky, 1879, ch.5). Those words substantiate what I said above – we are offered everything we need from the very beginning, but we are so foolish and ignorant that we rather reject it and continue to seek so called “happiness” in this world. However, courage, vigilance and devotion are required in order to be on the right way – qualities, so many of us lack…
Ironically enough, words of The Great Inquisitor find their expression in so many ways in our lives. Whether it is in a personal relationships, when one offers another respect, equality and freedom and the other runs away, frightened by that gift; or on the more global scale, when the majority of a nation readily rejects their rights and freedom, kneeling before some foolish tyrant, in exchange of “bread” and promised greatness.
I’m concluding with another citation from immortal work of Dostoevsky (1879, ch. 5):
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.