THE GRAND INQUISITOR
[The Theosophist, Vol. III, No. 2, November, 1881, p. 38]
[In the November and December, 1881, issues of The Theosophist, H.P.B. published all English translation—apparently made by herself—of certain passages from the famous work of Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, namely from chapter 5 of Book V. She introduced this translation with the following two separate Notes:]
Dedicated by the Translator to sceptics who clamour so loudly both in print and private letters: “Show us the wonder-working ‘Brothers,’ let them come out publicly and—we will believe in them!”
This is an extract from Dostoyevsky’s celebrated novel The Brothers Karamazov—the last publication from the pen of the great Russian novelist, who died a few months ago, and just as the concluding chapters appeared in print. Dostoyevsky now begins to be recognized as one of the ablest and profoundest among the Russian writers. His characters are invariably typical portraits, drawn from various classes of Russian society, strikingly lifelike and realistic to the- highest degree. The extract translated constitutes a great satire on modern theology generally and the Roman Catholic religion in particular. The idea is that Christ revisits earth, coming to Spain at the period of the Inquisition, and is at once arrested as a heretic by the Grand Inquisitor. One of the three brothers of the story, Ivan, a rank materialist and an atheist of the new school, is supposed to
throw this conception into the form of a poem, which he describes to Alyosha (the youngest of the brothers), a young Christian mystic brought up by a “saint” in a monastery . . .
[It appears that the suggestion to translate this passage from Dostoyevsky came from H.P.B.’s superiors. In a letter received by A. P. Sinnett at Simla, in August, 1881, from Master K.H. (The Mahatma Letters, pp. 204-07), occurs the following sentence:
“The suggestion to translate the Grand Inquisitor is mine; for its author, on whom the hand of Death was already pressing when writing it, gave the most forcible and true description of the Society of Jesus that was ever given before. There is a mighty lesson contained in it for many and even you may profit by it.” –– Compiler.]