PART 2 OF 2
POLITICIAN (to the Prince). Have you finished?
PRINCE. Yes, I have.
POLITICIAN. I must tell you that your solution of the question seems to me absolutely incomprehensible. You seemingly argue about something, try to prove and to explain something, desire to convince us of something, and yet what you say is all a series of arbitrary and mutually disconnected statements. You say, for instance: "If we have been sent here, this was done at someone's behest and for some purpose." This seems to be your main idea. But what is it? Where did you learn that we have been sent here for a definite purpose? Who told you this? That we exist here on the earth -- this is an indisputable fact; but that our existence is some sort of ambassadorship -- this you have no ground whatever for asserting. When, for example, I was in my younger days an ambassador, I knew this for certain, as I also knew by whom and for what I was sent -- firstly, because I had incontestable documents stating it; secondly, because I had a personal audience of the late Emperor, Alexander II, and received in person instructions from his Imperial Majesty; and, thirdly, because every quarter I was paid ten thousand roubles in sterling gold. Now, if instead of all that some stranger had come up to me in the street and said that I was made an ambassador to be sent to some place, for some purpose or other -- well, I should at once have looked round to see if I could find a policeman who would protect me from a maniac, capable, perhaps, even of committing an assault on my person. As regards the present case, you will admit that you have no incontestable documents from your supposed Lord, that you have had no personal audience with Him and that no salary is being paid to you. And you call yourself an ambassador! Why, not only yourself, but even everybody in existence you have declared to be either an ambassador or a husbandman. Have you any right to make such statements? Or any ground? No, I refuse to understand it. It seems to me a kind of rhetorical improvisation tres mal inspiree d'ailleurs.
LADY. Again pretending ignorance! How bad of you! You understand only too well that the Prince did not think of refuting your atheism, but simply stated the commonly accepted Christian opinion that we all depend on God and are obliged to serve Him.
POLITICIAN. No, I cannot understand a service without a salary. And if it proves that the salary here is one and the same for everybody -- death, well then, I present my compliments....
LADY. But you will die in any case, and nobody will ask for your consent.
POLITICIAN. It is precisely this very "in any case" that proves that life is not service, and that if no consent of mine is required for my death, just as for my birth, then I prefer to see in death and life what there is actually in them, that is a natural necessity, and not some imaginary service to some unknown master. So my conclusion is this: live, while you live, and endeavour to live in the best and most intelligent manner; and the condition of good and intelligent life is peaceful culture. However, I am of the opinion that even on the basis of the Christian doctrine the sham solution of the problem, suggested by the Prince, will not stand the slightest criticism. But let the others, more competent than myself, speak of this.
GENERAL. Of course, it is not a solution at all. It is merely a verbal way of getting round the question. Just as if I took a map and, having surrounded with my pencilled battalions an enemy's pencilled fortress, imagined then that I actually took the actual fortress. Things of this kind did really happen, you know, as the popular soldiers' song tells: --
Of this month scarce three days were spent
When devil-driven forth we went
To occupy the hill-tops.
Came Princes, Counts, to see us chaps,
What time surveyors made great maps
On sheets of fair white paper.
On paper, hills are smooth, no doubt,
For all the ravines they'd left out!
'Twas these we had to walk on!
And the result of that is also known: --
At last we to the summit got
And counted up our little lot;
Of all our regiments there were not
A couple of battalions!
PRINCE. No, it is beyond me. And is this all you can answer to what I have been saying here?
GENERAL. In what you have been saying here one thing seemed to me particularly obscure -- your remarks about mushrooms, that these live for their own enjoyment. My impression has always been that they live for the enjoyment of those who like to eat mushrooms with cream or in mushroom-pies. Now, if your Kingdom of God on earth leaves death as it is, it follows then that men, quite independently of their will, live, and will live, in your Kingdom of God just like mushrooms -- and not those jolly imaginary mushrooms, but the actual ones which are cooked in a pan. The end of man in this our earthly Kingdom of God will be also to be eaten up by death.
LADY. The Prince didn't say so.
GENERAL. Neither so, nor otherwise. But what is the reason of such a reticence concerning the most important point?
MR. Z. Before we raise this question, I would like to learn the source of this parable in which you, Prince, expressed your view. Or is it entirely your own production?
PRINCE. My own production? Why, it is taken from the Gospels!
MR. Z. Oh, no, no, you are surely wrong! You won't find this parable in any of the Gospels.
LADY. Good gracious! What are you trying to confuse the Prince for? You know that there is a parable about husbandmen in the Gospels; surely you do.
MR. Z. There is something resembling it in the external story, but entirely different in the actual events and their meaning, which is immediately thereafter pointed out.
LADY. Oh, no, surely not! I think it is exactly the same parable. Oh, you are trying to be too clever, I notice -- I don't trust a single word of yours.
MR. Z. There is no need for it: the book is in my pocket. (Here Mr. Z got out a small pocket edition of the Gospels and began turning over the pages.) The parable of the husbandman can be found given by three evangelists: Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but all of them state it in very much the same form. It will, therefore, be sufficient to quote it from the more elaborate Gospel of St. Luke. It is in Chapter XX., in which the last sermon of Christ to the people is given. The drama was nearing its end, and it is now narrated (end of Chapter XIX. and beginning of Chapter XX.) how the enemies of Christ -- the party of chief priests and scribes made an open and decisive attack on Him, demanding publicly that He should state His authority and explain by what right and in virtue of what power He was acting. But I think I had better read it to you. (Reads) "And He taught daily in the Temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy Him. And could not find what they might do; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him. And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as He taught the people in the Temple, and preached the Gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon Him with the elders. And spake unto Him, saying: Tell us, by what authority doest Thou these things? or who is He that gave Thee this authority? And He answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John, was it from Heaven or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From Heaven, He will say, Why then believed ye Him not? But and if we say, Of men, all the people will stone us; for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was: And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things...."
LADY. And why do you read all this? It was quite right of Christ not to answer when he was worried by these men. But what has it to do with the husbandmen?
MR. Z. A little patience: it all leads to the same thing. Besides, you are mistaken when you say that Christ did not answer. He answered most definitely -- and even doubly: quoted such a witness of His authority as the questioners dared not reject, and next proved that they themselves had no proper authority or right over Him, as they acted only out of fear of the people, afraid for their lives, adapting themselves to the opinions of the mob. But real authority is that which does not follow others, but itself leads them forward. Fearing and obeying the people, these men revealed that the real authority had deserted them and belonged to the people. It is to these latter that Christ now addresses Himself in order to accuse them of resisting Him. In this accusation of the unworthy leaders of the Jewish nation for their resistance to the Messiah -- there lies all the story of the gospel parable of the husbandmen, as you will presently see for yourself. (Reads): " Then began He to speak to the people this parable: A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant, and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What, therefore, shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. And He beheld them and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And the chief priests and the scribes that same hour sought to lay hands on Him; for they feared the people: for they perceived that He had spoken this parable against them." About whom, then, and about what, I ask you, was the parable of the vineyard told?
PRINCE. I can't understand what it is you are driving at. The Judean chief priests and scribes felt offended because they were, and knew themselves to be, the representatives of those wicked lay people of which the parable spoke.
MR. Z. But of what was it they were accused in the parable?
PRINCE. Of not carrying out the true teaching.
POLITICIAN. I think the whole thing is clear enough. The scoundrels lived like mushrooms for their own enjoyment, smoked tobacco, drank spirits, ate slaughtered meat, and even treated their god to it: besides which, they got married, took the chair in the courts, and engaged in warfare.
LADY. Do you really think that it suits your age and position to indulge in such sneering outbursts? Don't listen to him, Prince. We both want to speak seriously. Now tell me this: after all, according to the parable, the husbandmen were destroyed because they had killed the lord's son and heir -- and this is the main point in the Gospel. Why, then, do you omit it?
PRINCE. I leave it out for the simple reason that it refers to the personal fate of Christ, which, naturally, has its own importance and interest, but is, after all, inessential to that which is one and the same for everybody.
LADY. Which is ...?
PRINCE. The carrying out of the Gospel teaching, by means of which the Kingdom of God and His justice are attained.
LADY. Just one second: I feel everything is now mixed up in my head.... What is it we are talking about? Ah! (To Mr. Z.) You have the Gospel in your hand, so you will perhaps tell us what follows the parable in that particular chapter.
MR. Z. (turning over the pages). It is also stated there that it is necessary that those things which be Caesar's should be rendered to Caesar; that the dead will be raised, because God is not a God of the dead, but of the living, and there is further given a proof that Christ is not David's son, but the Son of God. Then the last two verses are against the hypocrisy and vanity of the Scribes.
LADY. You see, Prince, this is also a Gospel teaching; that the State should be recognised in lay matters, that we should believe in the resurrection of the dead, and that Christ is not an ordinary man, but God's Son.
PRINCE. It is impossible to conclude anything from a single chapter, composed no one knows when or by whom.
LADY. Oh, no! This I know even without looking up the matter in books, that not only in a single chapter, but in all the four Gospels, a great deal is said both about resurrection and about Christ's divinity -- particularly in St. John's Gospel, which is even read at funeral services.
MR. Z. As to the uncertainty of the origin of the Gospels, it is now recognised, even by the liberal German critics, that all the four Gospels were composed in the time of the Apostles, that is, in the first century.
POLITICIAN. Why, even the thirteenth edition of "La Vie de Jesus'' I have noticed contains a retraction of what had originally been said about the fourth gospel.
MR. Z. One must not lag behind one's teachers. But the principal difficulty, Prince, is that whatever our four Gospels may be, whenever and by whomsoever they were composed, there is no other gospel extant more trustworthy and more in agreement with your teaching than this.
GENERAL. Who told you it does not exist? Why, there is the fifth one, which contains nothing of Christ but the teaching -- about slaughtered meat and military service.
LADY. And you also? You should be ashamed of yourself. Remember that the more you and your civil ally tease the Prince, the more support I shall give him myself. I am sure, Prince, that you want to look upon Christianity from its best side, and that your gospel, though not the same as ours, is similar to the books composed in times gone by: something like "L' Esprit de M. de Montesquieu," "L'Esprit de Fenelon," etc. In the same way, you or your teachers wanted to compose "L'esprit de l'Evangile." It is only a great pity that nobody of your persuasion has done it in a small book, which could be called "The Spirit of Christianity according to the teaching of so-and-so." You should have some sort of a catechism, so that we simple folk should not lose the thread in all your variations. One moment we are told that the whole thing is in the Sermon on the Mount; another moment that we must first of all labour in the sweat of our brow in agricultural work -- though the Gospel does not say this anywhere. Genesis does, however, in the part where it also speaks of giving birth in pains -- this, however, not being a commandment, but only a grievous necessity. Then we are told that we must give everything we have to the poor, and the next moment that we must not give anything to anybody, since money is evil, and it is bad to do evil to others, save to ourselves and our family; whilst for the rest we must work. Then again we are told to do nothing but contemplate. Yet again, that the mission of women is to give birth to as many healthy children as possible, and then suddenly that nothing of the kind is necessary. Then that we must not eat meat -- this is the first stage, and why the first nobody can tell. We must give up now spirits and smoking, now pancakes. Last comes the objection to military service -- that all evil is due to it, and that the first duty of a Christian is to refuse doing it; and whoever has not been officially recruited is, of course, holy as he is. Perhaps I am talking nonsense, but this is not my fault -- it is absolutely impossible for me to make head or tail of all this.
PRINCE. I also think that we require a sensible summary of the true teaching -- I believe it is being prepared now.
LADY. Before it is prepared, tell me briefly what is, in your opinion, the essence of the Gospel.
PRINCE. Surely it is clear enough: it is the great principle of the non-resistance of evil by force.
POLITICIAN. And how do you deduce from this the smoking?
PRINCE. What smoking?
POLITICIAN. Oh, dear me! I ask what connection is there between the principle of the non-resistance of evil and the rules of abstinence from tobacco, wine, meat, and amorous indulgence?
PRINCE. It seems the connection is obvious: all these vicious habits stupefy the man -- stifle in him the demands of his intelligence and conscience. This is why soldiers generally go to war in a state of drunkenness.
MR. Z. Particularly to an unsuccessful war. But we may leave this alone. The rule of not resisting evil has its own importance apart from the question whether it justifies ascetic life or does not. According to you, if we do not resist evil by force, evil will immediately disappear. It follows that evil exists only by our resistance or by those measures which we take against it, but has no real power of its own. Properly speaking, there is no evil existing at all, and it appears only owing to our erroneous belief that it does exist and that we begin to act in accordance with the presumption. Isn't it so?
PRINCE. No doubt it is.
MR. Z. But if there is no evil existing in reality how will you explain the startling failure of Christ's cause in history? From your point of view, it has, of course, proved an utter failure, so that no good results can be credited to it, whilst the harm done has undoubtedly far exceeded its good effects.
PRINCE. How is that?
MR. Z. A strange question to ask, to be sure! Well, if you do not understand it we will examine it in a methodical manner. You agree that Christ preached true good in a more clear, powerful, and consistent way than anybody else, didn't He?
PRINCE. Yes, He did.
MR. Z. And the true good is not to resist evil by force, that is to resist imaginary evil, as there is no real evil existing.
MR. Z. Christ not only preached, but carried out to the last end the demands of this good by suffering without any resistance the torments of crucifixion. Christ, according to you, died and did not rise. Very well. Thousands of His followers suffered the same. Very well again. But now, what has been the result of it all?
PRINCE. Would you like to see all these martyrs, as a reward of their deeds, crowned by angels with brilliant wreaths and reclining somewhere under the trees in Elysian gardens?
MR. Z. Oh no, there is no need to take it that way. Of course we all, including yourself, I hope, wish all that is best and most pleasant to our neighbours, both living and dead. But the question is not of our wishes, but of what has actually resulted from the preaching and sacrifice of Christ and His followers.
PRINCE. Resulted for whom? For themselves?
MR. Z. What resulted for themselves everybody knows: a painful death. But moral heroes as they were, they willingly accepted it, not in order to get brilliant wreaths for themselves, but to secure true benefit for others, the whole of mankind. Now I ask you, what are the benefits earned by mankind through their martyrdom? In the words of an old saying, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." In point of fact, it is quite true. But your contention is that the Church has been nothing but the distortion and ruin of true Christianity, which was, as a result, entirely forgotten by mankind, so that it became necessary to restore everything from the very beginning without any guarantee for any greater success; in other words, quite hopelessly.
PRINCE. Why hopelessly?
MR. Z. Because you have admitted yourself that Christ and the first generations of Christians gave all their thoughts and sacrificed their lives for their cause, and if, this notwithstanding, nothing resulted from their efforts, what grounds have you then for hoping for any other result? There is only one indubitable and permanent end to all such practice of good, the same for those who initiated it, and for those who distorted and ruined it, and for those who have been restoring it. They all, according to you, died in the past, die in the present, will die in the future. And from the practice of good, the preaching of truth, nothing but death ever came, comes, or promises to come. Well, what is the meaning of it all? Isn't it strange: the non-existent evil always triumphs and the good always falls through to nothingness?
LADY. Do not evil people die as well?
MR. Z. Very much so. But the point is that the power of evil is only confirmed by the reign of death, whereas the power of good would, on the contrary, be disproved. Indeed, evil is obviously more powerful than good, and if the obvious is the only thing real, then you cannot but admit that the world is the work of the evil power. How some people, whilst recognising only the obvious reality, and therefore admitting the predominance of evil over good, maintain at the same time that evil does not exist, and that consequently there is no need for fighting it -- this passes my understanding, and I expect the Prince to help me in this difficulty.
POLITICIAN. You had better give us first your own method of getting out of it.
MR. Z. It is quite simple. Evil really exists, and it finds its expression not only in the deficiency of good, but in the positive resistance and predominance of the lower qualities over the higher ones in all the spheres of Being. There is an individual evil -- when the lower side of men, the animal and bestial passions, resist the better impulses of the soul, overpowering them, in the great majority of people. There is a social evil, when the human crowd, individually enslaved by evil, resists the salutary efforts of the few better men and eventually overpowers them. There is, lastly, a physical evil in man, when the baser material constituents of his body resist the living and enlightening power which binds them up together in a beautiful form of organism -- resist and break the form, destroying the real basis of the higher life. This is the extreme evil, called death. And had we been compelled to recognise the victory of this extreme physical evil as final and absolute, then no imaginary victories of good in the individual and social spheres could be considered real successes. Let us, indeed, imagine that a good man, say Socrates, not only triumphed over his inner forces -- the bad passions -- but also succeeded in convincing and reforming his social foes, in reconstructing the Hellenic "politeia." Now what would be the use of this ephemeral and superficial victory over evil if it is allowed finally to triumph in the deepest strata of Being over the very foundations of life? Because, both for the reformer and for the reformed there is but one end: death. By what logic would it be possible to appraise highly the moral victories of Socrates' good over the moral microbes of bad passions within him and over the social microbes of the Athenian agora, if the real victors would after all be the much worse, baser, and coarser microbes of physical decomposition? Here no moral verbiage will protect you against utter pessimism and despair.
POLITICIAN. We have heard this before. What is your remedy against despair?
MR. Z. Our remedy is one: actual resurrection. We know that the struggle between good and evil is not confined only to soul or society, but is carried on in the deeper spheres of the physical world. We already have recorded in the past one victory of the good power of life -- the personal resurrection of One, and we are looking forward to future victories of the congregate resurrection of all. Here even evil is given its reason or the final explanation of its existence in that it serves to enhance the triumph, realisation, and power of good: if death is more powerful than mortal life, resurrection to external life is even more powerful than both of them. The Kingdom of God is the kingdom of life triumphing through resurrection -- in which life there lies the real, actual, and final good. In this rests all the power and work of Christ, in this His real love to us and ours to Him; whereas all the other things are only the condition, the path, the preliminary steps. Without the faith in the accomplished resurrection of One, and without cherishing the future resurrection of all men, all talk of some Kingdom of God remains nothing but words, whilst in reality one finds only the Kingdom of Death.
PRINCE. Why that?
MR. Z. Why, because you not only admit with everybody else the fact of death as such, that is that men generally died, die, and will die, but you raise this fact to the position of an absolute law, which does not in your opinion permit of a single exception. But what should we call the world in which death forever has the force of an absolute law but the Kingdom of Death? And what is your Kingdom of God on Earth but an arbitrary and purposeless euphemism for the Kingdom of Death?
POLITICIAN. I also think it is purposeless, because it is wrong to replace a known quantity by an unknown one. Nobody has seen God and nobody knows what His Kingdom may be. But we have all seen the death of men and animals, and we also know that nobody in the world can escape this supreme power of death. What is the good then of replacing this certain "a" by some unknown "x"? Nothing but confusion and temptation for the "little ones" will ever result from such a substitution.
PRINCE. I don't quite understand what it is that we are talking about. Death is, of course, a very interesting phenomenon. One may perhaps call it even a law, in the sense of a phenomenon which is universal amongst earthly beings and unavoidable for any one of them. One may also speak of the absoluteness of this "law," as until now no exception has been authentically recorded. But what material vital importance can all this have for the true Christian teaching which speaks to us, through our conscience, only one thing: that is, what we must and what we must not do here and now? It is also obvious that the voice of conscience can refer only to what is in our power to do or not to do. For this reason conscience not only remains silent about death, but cannot be anything else. With all its vastness for our human, worldly feelings and desires, death is not controlled by our will, and cannot therefore have for us any moral significance. In this relation -- and, properly speaking, it is of course the only important one -- death is a fact of indifference similar, say, to bad weather. Because I recognise the unavoidable periodical existence of bad weather, and have to suffer from it to a greater or smaller extent, does it follow that for this reason I should, instead of speaking of the Kingdom of God, speak of the kingdom of bad weather?
MR. Z. No, you should not; firstly, because it reigns only in St. Petersburg, and we both come here to the Mediterranean and laugh at it; and, secondly, your comparison is faulty, because even in bad weather you are able to praise God and feel yourself in His Kingdom, whilst the dead, as you know from the Bible, do not praise God. I agree for these reasons with his Excellency that it is more appropriate to call this world the Kingdom of Death than the Kingdom of God.
LADY. Why are you arguing all the time about titles? It is so uninteresting. Titles, surely, matter very little. You had better tell me, Prince, what you actually understand by the Kingdom of God and His Truth.
PRINCE. By this I understand the state of men when they act only in accordance with their inner conscience and thus carry out the will of God, which prescribes them nothing but pure good.
MR. Z. The voice of conscience, however, speaks of performing what is due only now and here. Isn't this the view you hold?
PRINCE. You are quite correct.
MR. Z. But does your conscience remain silent about those wicked deeds which you may have committed in your youth in relation to people long since dead?
PRINCE. In such cases the meaning of such reminders would be to warn me against repeating similar deeds now.
MR. Z. Well, it is not exactly so, but we need not argue about it. I would only like to indicate another more incontestable limit of conscience. The moralists have for a long time been comparing the voice of conscience with that genius or demon which accompanied Socrates, warning him against things he should not do, but never giving a positive indication as to what he should do. Precisely the same may be said of conscience.
PRINCE. How is that? Does not conscience suggest to me, say, that I should help my neighbour in case of need or danger?
MR. Z. I am very glad to hear this from you. But if you examine such cases thoroughly you will see that the role of conscience even here remains purely negative: it demands from you only that you should not remain inactive or indifferent in face of your neighbour's need, but as to what and how you should do, this your conscience does not disclose.
PRINCE. Naturally so, because it depends on the circumstances of the case, on my own position, and that of the neighbour whom I must help.
MR. Z. Just so. But weighing and appraising these circumstances is not a matter for conscience, but for your reason.
PRINCE. How can you separate reason from conscience?
MR. Z. You need not separate them, but you must distinguish them. Because just in reality it sometimes happens that reason and conscience become not only separated but even opposed to each other. Should they be one and the same thing, how would it then be possible for reason to be used for acts not only foreign to morality, but positively immoral? And, you know, this does happen. Why, even help can be offered in a way that is approved by reason but is inimical to moral consciousness. For instance, I may give food and drink and show other consideration to a needy man in order only to make him an accomplice in a fraud I am preparing, or any other wicked act.
PRINCE. Well, it is, of course, so elementary. But what conclusion do you deduce from it?
MR. Z. The conclusion that if the voice of conscience, however important it may be for the purpose of warning and reproving you, does not at the same time give you any positive and practically definite instructions for your conduct; and if, further, our good will requires reason as a subsidiary instrument, whereas its services prove rather doubtful as it is equally ready of serving two masters, namely, good and evil, it follows from the above that for carrying out the will of God and attaining to the Kingdom of God, a third thing is necessary besides conscience and reason.
PRINCE. What is it, then?
MR. Z. Briefly it is the inspiration of good, or the direct and positive action of the good power itself on us and within us. With this help from above, both reason and conscience become trustworthy assistants of good, and morality itself, instead of the always doubtful "good conduct," is transformed into a real life in the good -- into an organic growth and development of the whole man -- of his internal and external self, of personality and of society, of nation and of mankind -- in order to attain to the vital unity of the risen past with the realising future in that external present of the Kingdom of God which will be, though on the earth, the new Earth, joined in love with the new Heaven.
PRINCE. I have nothing to say against such poetical metaphors, but do not exactly see why men, performing the will of God according to the commandments laid down in the Gospel, are not actuated by what you call "the inspiration of good."
MR. Z. They are not; not only because I do not see in their actions any signs of such an inspiration, of those free and sweeping impulses of love (God does not measure out the spirit He gives to man); nor only because I do not see that joyous and compliant peace arising from possessing those gifts, if even only primary ones, do I fail to see in you the religious inspiration, but because, properly speaking, you yourself recognise its uselessness for you. If good is confined only to carrying out the "rule," there is no room left here for inspiration. Is there? A "rule" is given once and for all, is definite and the same for everybody. He who gave that rule has been dead long since, and, according to you, has never risen to life, so that He has not for us any personal vital existence. Whilst at the same time you see the absolute, primary good, not as a father of light and life, who could breathe light and life straight into you, but as a prudent lord, who sent you, his hirelings, to do the work in his vineyard, while he himself lives somewhere abroad and sends his men to you to bring him his rent.
PRINCE. We did not invent that image arbitrarily.
MR. Z. No, you did not, but you do arbitrarily see in it the highest standard of relations between man and Deity, arbitrarily casting out of the Gospel that which is the most essential part of it: the reference to the son and heir, in which the true standard of relations between man and God is given. You say: the lord, the duties towards the lord, the will of the lord. But I will tell this much: so long as your lord only imposes duties on you and demands from you compliance with his will, I do not see how you can prove to me that he is a true lord and not an impostor.
PRINCE. This is very funny, really! But what if I know in my conscience and reason that the lord's demands express the purest good?
MR. Z. Pardon me, I am not speaking about this. I do not deny that the lord demands good from you. But how does it follow that he is good himself?
PRINCE. What else could he be?
MR. Z. 'Tis strange to hear it. I, on the contrary, always thought that the goodness of anybody is proved not by what he wants other people to do, but by his own acts. If this is not clear to you from the standpoint of logic, I will quote you a historical example. The Moscow Tsar, Ivan the Terrible, demanded in his well-known letter to Prince Andreas Kurbsky that the Prince should show the greatest goodness, the loftiest moral heroism, by refusing to resist force and meekly accepting the death of a martyr for the cause of truth. This lord's will was a will of good as far as its demands from the other man was concerned. However, it did not prove in the least that the lord who demanded that good was good himself. It is evident that though martyrdom for the cause of truth is of the highest moral value, this does not say anything for Ivan the Terrible, as he in that case was not a martyr, but a torturer.
PRINCE. Perhaps. But what do you want to prove by this?
MR. Z. Simply that until you show me the goodness of your lord in his own deeds and not in verbal precepts to his employees, I shall stick to my opinion that your distant lord, demanding good from others but doing no good himself, imposing duties but showing no love, never appearing before your eyes but living incognito somewhere abroad, is no one else but the god of this age ...
GENERAL. Here it is, this damned incognito!
LADY. Oh, do please say no more of this. How frightful -- the Devil must be with us! (Crosses herself?)
PRINCE. One might have anticipated that all the time!
MR. Z. I have no doubt, Prince, that you are genuinely erring when you take the clever impostor for real God. The cleverness of the impostor is a mitigating circumstance which greatly reduces your own guilt. I myself could not see through it at once. But now I have no doubts of any kind, so you will understand with what feeling I must look at what I consider a deceptive and seductive mask of good.
LADY. Oh, how can you say this. It hurts one's feelings.
PRINCE. I can assure you, madam, it has not hurt mine. The question raised here is a general one, and it presents some considerable interest. It is only strange that my opponent seems to imagine that it can be addressed only to me, and not to him as well. You demand of me that I show you the personal good deeds of my lord that would prove him to be a power of good and not of evil. Very well. But can you show any good deed of your lord which I should be unable to ascribe to mine?
GENERAL. You have already heard of one such deed, by which all the rest stand.
PRINCE. What is it?
MR. Z. The real victory over evil in the real resurrection. Only this, I repeat, opens the real Kingdom of God, whereas without it you have only the kingdom of death and sin and their creator, the Devil. The resurrection, and not in its metaphorical, but in its literal meaning -- here is the testimony of the true God.
PRINCE. Well, if you are pleased to believe in such mythology! But I ask you for facts, which could be proved, and not for your beliefs.
MR. Z. Not so high up, Prince, not so high. We both start from the same belief, or, if you like, mythology, with this difference -- that I consistently carry it through to its logical end; whilst you, violating logic, arbitrarily stop at the first stage. After all, you do recognise the power of good and its coming triumph over evil, don't you?
PRINCE. Most emphatically!
MR. Z. But what is it: a fact or a belief?
PRINCE. A reasonable belief.
MR. Z. Let us see if it is so. Reason, as we have been taught at school, amongst other things demands that nothing should be accepted without sufficient grounds. Now tell me what sufficient grounds have you, whilst admitting the power that good has in the moral development and perfection of man and mankind, not to admit that power against death?
PRINCE. In my opinion it is for you to answer why you attribute to good some power beyond the limits of the moral sphere.
MR. Z. Oh, I can answer that. If I believe in good and its own power, whilst assuming in the very notion of good its essential and absolute superiority, then I am bound by logic to recognise that power as unlimited, and nothing can prevent me from believing in the truth of resurrection, which is historically testified. However, had you frankly told me from the beginning that Christian faith does not concern you, that the subject of it is only mythology for you, then I should naturally have refrained from that animosity to your ideas which I have been unable to conceal from you. For "fallacy and error are not debited as frauds," and to bear ill-will to people because of their mistaken theoretical notions would disclose one's possession of too feeble a mind, too weak a faith, and too wretched a heart. But everybody really religious, and thereby freed from these extremes of stupidity, cowardice, and heartlessness, must look with real good will at a straightforward, frank, in a word, honest opponent and denier of religious truths. It is so rare to meet such a one in our time, and it is even difficult for me to describe to you how greatly I am pleased when I see an open enemy of Christianity. In nearly everyone of them I am inclined to see a future St. Paul, whilst in some of the zealots of Christianity there seem to be looming Judas, the traitor himself. But you, Prince, have now stated your opinion so frankly that I positively refuse to include you amongst the innumerable Judases and little Judases of our time. I can even foresee the moment when I shall feel towards you the same kind disposition of humour which I experience when meeting out-and-out atheists and infidels.
POLITICIAN. Now that we have safely come to the conclusion that neither those atheists and infidels, nor such "true " Christians as our Prince, represent the Anti-Christ, it is time for you to show us his real portrait.
MR. Z. You want rather too much, your Excellency. Are you satisfied, for instance, with a single one of all the innumerable portraits of Christ which, you will admit, have sometimes been made even by artists of genius? Personally, I don't know of a single satisfactory portrait. I believe such is even impossible, for Christ is an individual, unique in His own kind and in the personification of His essence -- good. To paint it, a genius will not suffice. The same, moreover, has to be said about Anti-Christ: he is also an individual, singular in completeness and finish, a personification of evil. It is impossible to show his portrait. In Church literature we find only his passport with a description of his general and some special marks ...
LADY. No; we do not want his portrait, God save us! You had better explain why he himself is wanted, what his mission is, and when he will come.
MR. Z. Well, in this respect I can satisfy you even better than you expect. Some few years ago a fellow-student from the Church Academy, later made a monk, on his death-bed bequeathed to me a manuscript which he valued very much, but did not wish, or was not able, to publish. It was entitled, "A Short Story of the Anti-Christ." Though dressed in the form of fiction, as an imaginary forecast of the historical future, this paper, in my opinion, gives all that could be said on this subject in accordance with the Bible, with Church tradition, and the dictates of sound sense.
POLITICIAN. Is it the work of our old friend Monk Barsanophius?
MR. Z. No; this one's name was even more exquisite: Pansophius, he was called.
POLITICIAN. Pan Sophius? Was he a Pole?
MR. Z. Not in the least. A son of a Russian parson. If you will permit me to go upstairs to my room I will fetch the manuscript and then read it to you.
LADY. Make haste, make haste! See that you don't get lost!
(While Mr. Z. was out, the company left their seats and walked in the garden?)
POLITICIAN. I wonder what it may be: is it my eyesight that is getting weak, or is something taking place in nature? I notice that in no season, in no place, does one see those bright clear days which formerly used to be met with in every climate. Take to-day: there is not a single cloud, and we are far from the sea, and yet everything seems to be tinged with something subtle and imperceptible, which, though small, destroys the full clearness of things. Do you notice this, General?
GENERAL. It is many a year since I began to notice it.
LADY. Last year I also began to notice, and not only in the air, but in the soul as well, that even there the "full clearness," as you style it, is no longer to be found. All is seized with some uneasiness and some ill-omened presentiment. I am sure, Prince, you feel it too.
PRINCE. No; I haven't noticed anything particular: the air seems to be as usual.
GENERAL. You are still too young to notice the difference, for you have nothing to compare with. But when one remembers the 'fifties one begins to feel it.
PRINCE. I think the explanation first suggested was the correct one: it is a matter of weak eyesight.
POLITICIAN. It is hardly open to argument that we are ever growing older. But neither is the earth getting younger, so that our mutual fatigue now begins to show itself.
GENERAL. I think it is even more likely that the Devil, with his tail, is spreading fog over the world. Another sign of the Anti-Christ!
LADY (pointing to Mr. Z., who was coming down from the terrace). We shall learn something about this presently.
(All took their seats, and Mr. Z. began to read his manuscript.)
1. A Russian proverb. (Translator.)
2. A Russian proverb. (Translator.)
3. The Politician obviously refers here to the public subscription opened in commemoration of the "suicide" Henry, in which one French officer stated that he subscribes in the hope of seeing a new St. Bartholomew massacre; another officer wrote that he was looking forward to an early execution of all Protestants, Freemasons, and Jews, whilst an abbe confessed that he lived by anticipation of that glorious time when the skin stripped off the Huguenots, the Masons, and the Jews will be used for making cheap carpets, and when he will, as a good Christian, always tread such a carpet with his feet. These statements, amongst tens of thousands of others in a similar vein, were published in the paper, La Libre Parole. (Author.)
4. Quotation from Tolstoy. (Translator.)