THE GRAND INQUISITOR

In his final book, a murder mystery named The Brothers Karamazov, the great Russian author, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, included a story within the novel called The Grand Inquisitor. That particular chapter in this complex and marvelous book deals with the mythical reappearance of Christ during the Spanish Inquisition. Christ is labeled a heretic and is finally brought to judgment before the old, haughty, cynical Grand Inquisitor. The dialogue between the men is compelling, for the Inquisitor realizes he is not dealing with an imposter. It is a learned and emotional review of the old man's justification for correcting Christ's unthinkable, unforgivable sin of having given man freedom of choice, an intolerable burden he cannot carry. The Inquisitor, out of deeper concern for Mankind, is replacing the curse of freedom with the intellectual and spiritual balms of miracle, mystery, and authority. By revering the mystery, believing and accepting the miracles, and following the dictates and directives of the Church, men can live their lives without the heavy load of accepting responsibility for their own actions. The wrathful Inquisitor asks Christ how he dare appear again on earth to repeat his errors. In the end, knowing full well what he is doing, the Inquisitor finds Christ guilty of blasphemy and condemns him to death. Then he returns to his lifelong work of correcting Christ's mistakes.

It is incredibly dramatic, totally different from watching the efforts of a Special Prosecutor seeking to impeach the President of the United States for the high crime of purported adultery with a 21 year old female, and for committing a legalistic social lie. A little more than a century after Dostoyevsky's death, Mankind today has no time for anything except the humdrum, the sensational, and the irresponsible, and our Prosecutor is as zealously applying himself to those as Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor did to miracle, mystery, and authority.

But the grace, drama, and artistry have gone out of the novel. This is raw and shallow stuff. In fact, the word common applies. We have the example of an intelligent and able man, a consummate politician who likes and is popular with all classes of people, a man twice elected to the exalted office of President of the United States, showing his primate origins. There is nothing classic about it, and all attempts by our media and posturing politicians of both sides to elevate it to the stature of an impeachable offense are hokum. Our President either did or did not trifle with a young, apparently willing girl. The old adage, "Where there is so much smoke, there is probably fire," seems to apply. If he did nothing, we owe Mr. Clinton an apology. It there is more to the matter than he has admitted, the President has earned the title of an earlier Dostoyevsky book, The Idiot.

My last two sentences are far more than the entire Lewinsky incident merits, and I shall write no more conjecture. But the important issues raised by the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov were not those of a simple murder mystery. Neither is the significance of our Special Prosecutor's efforts to unearth the truth from the president's embroglio, a did he or didn't he! Its true import is whether or not Americans will permit our country to be torn apart over a purely private matter that has nothing to do with government or its policies.

The power of the Special Prosecutor, first devised by Democrats to investigate what appeared to be criminal conduct in the Watergate burglary under President Nixon's administration, has been expanded to look into personal conduct of a non-criminal nature. As the Grand Inquisitor was judge and jury in Dostoyevsky's novel, so the imperious casting of our Prosecutor's net is resulting in an unyielding quest to ferret out crystalline truth from highly subjective events. We have drifted beyond the demarcation line of justifiable public policy to what is merely salacious bad taste.

In summary, the concept of The Grand Inquisitor is alive and well, and has spanned the gap from the Spanish Inquisition to modern day America. But today, instead of addressing the most profound philosophical and religious tenets, it has descended into a bathos of bawdy humor, innuendo, and public morals-keeping. Can we really insist mankind is making progress in its evolutionary journey toward a better world?


Sam Orr sorr@metrolink.net
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)