Grand Inquisitors

Sead Alić


We live in a time of growing discrepancies between the proclaimed political ideas/affiliations and reality. The systems of media seduction and manipulation allow for ‘manufacturing consent’ in contemporary citizens, the consumers of mass media products. This leads to new forms of establishing hierarchies, which repeat some of the old behaviour patterns. Truth is unwelcome. Communities of people interconnected through their interests develop various forms of substitutes for truth and the ways of bypassing truth and making it irrelevant. In this paper, the fact that illusions overpower ideas (as noted by Feuerbach) is illustrated by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor from The Brothers Karamazov. “Why shouldst Thou now return, to impede us in our work,” the Grand Inquisitor inquires of God Himself, who has ‘descended from heaven’ in order to see His children. The encounter is marked by the Grand Inquisitor’s threat that God Himself will be tried and burned at the stake as a heretic. Dostoyevsky sets up a marvellous literary backdrop for the examination of the fundamental issues of faith, attitudes towards miracles, the Inquisition, but also the Reformation, which is turning 500 this very year. This text examines the relationship between faith and freedom, hierarchies and followers, the media system of mediation and the results of the mediation, the relationship between an idea and its lived reality. The paper draws a parallel between the time The Brothers Karamazov was written (mid 19th century) and the current turmoil, and seeks to find/suggest the answers to the eternal questions that Dostoyevsky rose/read from the history of the human quest for freedom. It is a philosophical and literary analysis, an exploration of philosophical ideas in a literary work. Dostoyevsky lends himself well to this kind of analysis, since some of his observations are marked with intellectual objections to such an extent that an entire closed philosophical system could be constructed with minimal effort. The additional motive for the exploration of the idea of the Grand Inquisitor is the increasing authoritarianism of the political leaders of countries both big and small, superpowers and banana states alike. Dostoyevsky has plenty to say to them, and this paper attempts to bring to life the great writer’s political and libertarian ideas, and transfer them to a time that has plenty to learn from him.


Dostoevsky; hierarchy; education; hypocrisy; god; Great inquisitor; Jesus;

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