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2010/11 Group Reads - Archives > The Brothers Karamazov - Part II, Book Six

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

To get the ball rolling here:

This book provides an interesting contrast to the ideas expressed in the Grand Inquisitor. Dostoevsky tests the idea that to attain paradise, we must only recognize that we have already attained it in our lives here on earth. Agree? Disagree? Comments?


message 2: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 08, 2010 02:26PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Here is an extract citing the chapter Trouble in Paradise from Dostoevsky's The Idiot which has some bearing on TBK and the idealism of attaining paradise:-

http://www.jstor.org/pss/3189149

I was interested in the mention of The Crystal Palace as an 'ideal' structure. This was the revolutionary glass building made to house the Great Exhibition of 1851:-

http://www.victorianstation.com/palac...

(I have now posted some further thoughts on the above in the Resources thread so as not to be accused of being off-topic in this one.)


message 3: by Adelle (new)

Adelle MadgeUK wrote:Crystal Palace

..."


Nice. Put me in mind of the conservatory in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Ca.

http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&am...


message 4: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Kate Mc. wrote: "To get the ball rolling here:

This book provides an interesting contrast to the ideas expressed in the Grand Inquisitor. Dostoevsky tests the idea that to attain paradise, we must only recognize that we have already attained it in our lives here on earth. Agree? Disagree? Comments?..."


I think it's a bit more tricksy. If I'm reading Dostoyevsky correctly, yes, we must recognize that paradise is here...but paradise would not, will not, be here for us until we have struggled and suffered...we must suffer spritually before we can connect with God, and we must connect with God before we can recognize that paradise (*joy) is here for us.

*Happiness, I think, is something most of us can claim from time to time. Joy, such as Father Zosimma seemed to feel, is something much rarer.


message 5: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Odds and Ends.

Early in (a) I was absolutely shocked at Zosimma's mother.

In the same paragraph, Zosimma tells of how aghast everyone was at Markel:

"It was the beginning of Lent, and Markel would not fast, he was rude and laughed at it. 'That's all silly and there is no God,' he said, horrifying my mother , the servants, and me too. For though I was only nine, I was aghast at hearing such words."

And then in the very next sentence, still in the same paragraph, Zosimma reveals information that initially seems to have NOTHING to do with Markel's statement of unbelief.

"We had four servants, all serfs. I remember my mother selling one of the four, the cook, who was lame and elderly, for sixty paper roubles, and hiring a free servant to take her place" (263).

I had to wonder why Dostoyevsky included this information.

Perhaps, Markel, having hung out with the free-thinker, might have come to believe that the way serfs in Russia were treated was wrong, inhumane. Perhaps this is an echo of Ivan?? Like Ivan acknowledging God, but rejecting God's authority, perhaps this is Markel, obviously acknowledging his mother, but rejecting her authority, her ways, her selling the old, lame, elderly cook being an affront to Markel. Selling the old cook, who probably fed Marekl when he was a small boy, who likely slipped him a treat or two, and laughed and loved him when he spent time warming himself in the kitchen during the long, cold winter... and for paper roubles, no less, seems neither humantarian nor very Christian. What kind of a person would sell an old servant? Perhaps not the kind of person Markel wanted to be.

Markel, perhaps thinking, if this is your world and if this is the way the less fortunate are treated in your world, (Ivan: that goes for you, too, God!), then I reject it.


message 6: by Adelle (last edited Dec 08, 2010 09:20PM) (new)

Adelle from (b)

"I bless the rising sun each day, and, as before, my heart sings to meet it. But now I love even more its setting, its long slanting rays and the soft gentle memories that come with them..." (268).

You'll remember also, from early in the book, "He remembered one still summer evening, an open window, the slanting rays of the setting sun (he remembered this most vividly of all)..."(27).

I haven't an exact quote, but in "Dostoyevsky in 90 Minutes," I remember reading---it was well-written---of how Dostoyevsky, after the hours of waiting for execution, heard the repreve and at that very moment the sun came out from behind the clouds and filled his world with light...and that the light/the sun scenes in Dostoyevsky usually have significance.

Later, when Zosimma awakens the morning after he beat his orderly, yet before he undergoes the re-thinking that impels him to call off his active participation in the duel:

"...I went to the window==opened it, it looked out upon the garden. I saw the sun rising" (273).

"And all at once the whole truth in its full light appeared to me" (273-74).


message 7: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Adelle wrote: If I'm reading Dostoyevsky correctly, yes, we must recognize that paradise is here...but paradise would not, will not, be here for us until we have struggled and suffered...we must suffer spritually before we can connect with God, and we must connect with God before we can recognize that paradise (*joy) is here for us.


Do any of you remember our discussions in Paradise Lost about heaven being found in our own minds?

'The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..'

I do not think that this is dependent upon a God, it is dependent upon our psyche, whether or not we try and/or are capable of finding an inner peace. Some people seem to do this naturally, some strive for it by methods such as transcendental meditation, others through prayer.

Patrice wrote: I have this feeling, and it could well be wrong,but I still feel it, that Dostoyevsky is holding God accountable and guilty just as he holds people accountable and guilty.

Again, these were thoughts which some attributed to Milton.

Such thoughts seem to be universal and timeless. The sun too has been a universal and timeless symbol of life because without it there would be no life on earth. Belief in sun gods preceded belief in the Abrahamic god.


message 8: by Adelle (new)

Adelle MadgeUK wrote:..."

Hi, Madge, I've just enough time, I think to address Patrice's Post 8...mostly.

But here on Post 9, I didn't read PL, so I haven't that point of reference. (You people apparently had a great discussion.)

But regarding, "heaven in our own minds." Respect your position, but from reading BK, Dos would seem to hold that Heaven can only be attained and recognized thru a connection with God.

Feel free to disagree or follow up. But from w/in BK...


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Adelle wrote: "MadgeUK wrote:..."

Hi, Madge, I've just enough time, I think to address Patrice's Post 8...mostly.

But here on Post 9, I didn't read PL, so I haven't that point of reference. (You people ap..."


Yes, I would agree. To Dostoevsky heaven can only be attained through God and God's love. He seems to see this as a process where embracing God makes Man a part of the godhead, and whose task it then is to be another source of light and love in the world as he shares that joy.

This weirdly begins to sound like Kaballah and other mystic aspects of religion. Was Dostoevsky infuenced by the mystics? Madge?


message 10: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Patrice wrote: " I have this feeling, and it could well be wrong,but I still feel it, that Dostoyevsky is holding God accountable and guilty just as he holds people accountable and guilty. If Ivan is complicit in his father's murder because he knew but did nothing to stop it. Then wasn't God in the same position when Cain killed Abel? When every injustice is committed in the world? This concept of communal guilt, I don't see how God could be exempt. It's what Ivan has been saying, supposedly in the voice of "the atheist" but how can it possibly be that Dostoyevsky doesn't feel the same way, at least to some degree?
.."


I see it differently.

It seems to me, that from Dostoyevsky's position, God is blameless. I may be mistaken, but I think that's the whole crux of his GI chapter. The GI and Ivan (Ok, pretty much the same person/same position) God is rejected because He hasn't stepped in to do away with hunger, war, etc. --- even though He has the power to do so.

Dos's position is that God CANNOT step in to do away with hunger, war, disease, disbelief, etc., because in doing so, He would undermine man's freedom of choice...which is the pretty much the whole point in th Man Project. Man's most awesome human attribute is his power to freely choose between good and evil...and the mayham that results here on earth from such choices is of little importance when compared to the power of free will. This is what Dostoyevski is arguing.

From Dos. position, God is not guilty at all. Dostoyevsky would point out that you are comparing two totally unsimilar actions/or non-actions.

Ivan is guilty because a part of him wanted his father dead. And argued for the symbolic death of God (parricide).



God, and remember, Madge, Kate, et al, I'm arguing here for Dostoyevky, so I'm not wandering too far off the religious trail. God doesn't want to bring us death. He wants to bring us Life (And that you might have Life Eternal.)

Ivan argued, and influenced other minds (specifically that of Smerdyakov), that there were no rules...sorry, I'm in rush...but whatever it was exactly that Ivan said.

God, on the other hand, gave us the 10 commandments, and advocates us following them and advocates our "spreading the good word" to others so that others, too, will follow these rules. He doesn't force us, but he strongly suggests...and, oh yes, threatens eternal hellfire if we don't follow them....but we don't have to follow them. (Also, of course, forgiveness is available.)

Cain slew Able. But God has no responsibility for that. Had God stepped in, Cain's free choice would have gone right out the window. (mmm, no Biblical record of 10 commandments back then....still, I would assume there was some sort of no murder rule that had God's backing.)

Communal guilt. God has none. He stands outside the equation. (I need to expand this.)

From Dos, Ivan is guilty; God is not.

Patrice, I have to leave. I will come back and solidify this post later.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Adelle wrote: "remember, Madge, Kate, et al, I'm arguing here for Dostoyevky, so I'm not wandering too far off the religious trail."

Legitimate discussion and necessary to BK. My objections are when the book conversation diverges off into arguing personal religious philosophies or uses this discussion as a jumping off point to broader issues (whether religious, social, political). I think people are doing a great job of keeping this focused. At least we seem to be able to pull ourselves back on track. :)


message 12: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Yes I agree with you, Kate and Adelle, that this was Dostoevsky's position, but was answering Kate's first post here and was 'disagreeing':). I disagree with the religious p.o.v. in any case and I disagree profoundly with Dostoevsky and all that Adelle posted at #12.

It is difficult for me to discuss these beliefs, which I understand intellectually but which I utterly reject. I reject them in the same way that some of you reject socialism. The difference being, I suppose, that I do not believe socialism to be revealed truth, or any sort of truth, just a political philosophy amongst many others.


And yes Kate, Dostoevsky studied mysticism and dabbled in Spiritualism (without believing in it). I posted something about this on the Resources thread. I doubt he would have subscribed to Jewish mysticism though because he was very anti-semitic. He believed in the 'mystic nature of the Russian people' (whatever that means!) and of the Saints.


message 13: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 10, 2010 06:26AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Patrice wrote: The Book of Job is mentioned a few times, I think that is the basis of the book. God gives and God takes away, and it's not for us to judge, just to praise Him. And I suppose that in the end, whether you're a believer or not, it's the truth of this world.


Why, if you are not a believer? What truth?

Re Job, Frank's biography of Dostoevsky says:-

'When Dostoevsky was reading the Book of Job, he wrote to his wife that it put him into such a state of "unhealthy rapture" that he almost cried. "It's a strange thing, Anya, this book is one of the first in my life which made an impression on me; I was then still almost a child." There is an allusion to this revelatory experience of the young boy in TBK where Zosima recalls being struck by a reading of the book of Job at the age of eight and feeling that "for the first time in my life I consciously received the seed of God's word in my heart". This seed was one day to flower into the magnificent growth of Ivan Karamazov's passionate protest against God's injustice and the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor but it also grew into Alyosha's submission to the awesomeness of the infinite before which Job too had once bowed his head and into Zosima's teaching of the necessity for an ultimate faith in the goodness of God's mysterious wisdom. It is Dostoevsky's genuis as a writer to have been able to feel (and to express) these extremes of rejection and acceptance. While the tension of this polarity may have developed out of the ambivalence of Dostoevsky's psychodynamic relationship with his father, what is more important is to is to see how early it was transposed and projected into the religious symbolism of the eternal problem of theodicy.'

I think that, although Dostoevsky poses contradictions, he nevertheless sends out a clear message that you are to submit and believe or go mad and be damned.

Frank's autobiography throws a lot of light on Dostoevsky's childhood when his mother read strange gothic novels to him which made him 'rave deliriously about them in my sleep'. His father read him Karamazin'e History of the Russian State, an epic which lauded 'enlightened despotism' and the 'importance of the autocratic power in maintaining Russian unity'. Karamazin also warned his countrymen against following the European path as this had led to subversion and social chaos.' Dostoevsky read this book continuously as a youth.

Karamazin seems to have a lot to answer for:).


message 14: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments That's OK for me without the God bit!:D. Though there are some philosophers who would query whether we are here or whether we just exist in our imaginations. John probably knows all about that:).

D's fascination with Job convinces me all the more that he was a miserable old so-and-so! (Do you have those programmes on TV called 'Grumpy Old Men' and Grumpy Old Women'?)


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