The whole legend of the Grand Inquisitor is one great and long speech by the old man. But this speech is nothing else than an analysis of the admonitions and warnings already mentioned, an attempt to show that Christ by not listening to them made an irreparable mistake. These admonitions and warnings are the three temptations which Christ had to endure in the desert, as the inquisitor himself in his speech clearly reveals. As the books say, he tempted You.
But Christ rejected the spirit's suggestions because He considered them to be temptations. Christ understood the admonitions and warnings of the spirit of the desert not as signs originating in being itself and thus worthy of consideration, but as coming from a deceitful mind and thus to be rejected even without any deeper reflection. And really, Christ does not analyze the devil's suggestions.
He does not even criticize them. He simply rejects them, saying three sayings having an eternal meaning: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God"; "You must not tempt the Lord your God"; "You will worship the Lord your God and Him alone will you serve.
In the presence of the tempter, Christ acts as the Lord of being. He views the essence of being and sees the lie of the spirit of the desert.
For this reason, He brushes him off, like dust from His sandals. But the inquisitor regards all this in a different way. He regards the desert spirit's suggestions to Christ, not as temptations, not as lies, but as the most profound truth which has ever been uttered in the world. For this reason, he begins to analyze this "truth. But the inquisitor devotes to them the whole of his long speech. But is that so? Could anything truer be said than what he offered to you in three questions and what you rejected and what the books call "temptations"?
I tell you, if there has ever been on earth a real miracle, never seen again, a miracle like a storm, it took place on that day, on the day of the three temptations. The statement of those three questions was itself the miracle. Not only the fate of Christ but of the whole world depended upon Christ's attitude towards them. As at no other time in history, that day mankind was at the crossroads: to follow the way of Christ or that of the spirit of the desert. Without any hesitation, Christ chose in accordance with his divine essence and rejected the temptations.
However, this did not abolish them.
The way once sketched out by the spirit of the desert remained ever alive and enticing. Even more, this way slowly infected the concrete everyday existence of mankind, slowly spread, turning mankind away from the path of Christ, and now, after fifteen centuries the inquisitor is able to announce to Christ that he has "corrected" His teaching, that he has heeded the temptations and made them the basis of this "corrected" life.
The tempting by the spirit of the desert is not only a specific event which once affected the person of the historical Christ; the spirit's scheme is also an essential force at work in history, an essential aspect of history. It is always a living option which constantly tempts mankind. The spirit's appearance in a desert of Palestine was only its total concentrating in the presence of the God-man. He, like sin and death, was destroyed in his essence.
However, he remains and acts in his concrete manifestations. Mankind in its history must experience what Christ experienced in the desert.
For this reason the inquisitor asserts that if it were possible that these three questions had disappeared without a trace from all books, if it were necessary to think them up again and replace them in those books, then it would be hardly possible to find anything which "in its force, power, and profundity" would bear even a distant resemblance to the question posed by the "great and wise" spirit, even if for this task we were to gather "all the wise ones of the earth, rulers, priests, scientists, philosophers, and poets.
By means of them, the most secret fate of man was stated.
In them, that side of human nature from which Christ turned away, that side upon which He did not build His teaching and so — in the eyes of the inquisitor — was defeated, reveals itself. Since he faces Christ as the "corrector" of His teaching, as the judge of His allegedly unwise behavior, the inquisitor is an apologist for the three temptations.
Thus in his speech he undertakes to analyze the temptations. That speech is very systematic. He explains the temptations one after another, points out the importance for man of each one, and sketches out what would have taken place if Christ had heeded the spirit of the desert. His whole speech is a subtle and profound explanation of the temptations. But it is at the same time the content of the legend. Everything that Ivan relates before the inquisitor's speech, interjects in its course, or adds once he has finished is significant but not really essential.
All of that belongs to the framework of the legend, to its setting, throws light upon one or another of the legend's thoughts, provides a sharper background, but does not alter its meaning. The essence and meaning of the legend lies in the speech of the inquisitor. But this speech, as was said, consists of an explanation of the temptations. Thus, the legend of the Grand Inquisitor becomes an interpretation of these temptations. It is molded around these temptations as its essential content. The three temptations are the bases of the legend, the contents of the legend, for which all the external clarifying circumstances are shaped.
The matter of the legend is not the psychological fact that Ivan wishes to justify his attitude towards God and the world; this is only its motive. It is not the moral censure of Catholicism; this is only an illustration. It is instead the metaphysical meaning of the question posed by the "great and wise spirit of the desert.
But in themselves, what are these three questions or three temptations? The inquisitor himself answers this: "In truth, in those three questions the whole subsequent history of mankind is brought together into one whole, and foretold.
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One that took some time to work. The Grand Inquisitor , by Fyodor Dostoevsky was one of the first to spring to mind. You can read the whole thing online in twenty minutes. Why did it have such an impact me, reading it there in that messy dorm room at the start of my sophomore year? The Grand Inquisitor is basically telling Jesus off. He says that Jesus messed everything up, and now he and the Church have fixed it. Freedom is a burden, it makes them unhappy.
People want to believe that they are free, but to actually to have as little freedom as possible. In a bizarre twist, the Inquisitor and others in the church are cast as the selfless caring saints precisely because they lie to the masses. Add to Cart. Add to Wish List. The Absolute Book.
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