Saturday, 3 March 2012
Dostoyevsky – The Devils.
The book begins with Like vii 32-36:
“And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled,nd went an told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devild was healed.” (Dostoyevsky, 1953, p.0).
A story that is often used by Rene Girard as an example for the scapegoat mechanism as opposed to Christ’s forgiveness: “If it is by the spirit of god that I cast out demons, the soon there will be no more demons or expulsions for the kingdom of violence and expuslion will rapidly be destroyed. (…) Instead of casting it out he (Jesus) is himself cast out, thereby revealing to men the mystery of expulsion” (Girard, 1986, p.190).
Dostoyevsky’s characters in the Devil try to ‘cast out the demons’ by accepting their own suffering and make themselves suffer as much as possible. Stavrogin, for example:
“’I want to forgive myself. That is my chief purpose, my only purpose!’ Stavrogin said suddenly, with gloomy rapture in his eyes. ‘I know that only then will the apparition vanish. That is why I seek boundless suffering. Seek it myself.’ (…)
‘If you believe,’ Tikhon exclaimed rapturously, ‘that you can forgive yourself and obtain forgiveness for yourself in this world through suffering, if you set that purpose before you with faith, then you believe in everything already. Why, then, did you say that you did not believe in God?’
Stavrogin made no answer.
‘God will forgive you for your unbelief, for you respect the Holy Spirit without knowing him.’” (Dostoyevsky, 1953, p.703).
There is another stream of thought in the book, most prominently declared by Shatov: he suffers as well, but only to prove his free will over God:
“’What deters people from committing suicicide in your opinion?’ I asked. (…) ‘I-I’m afraid I don’t know much yet. Two prejudices deter them. Two things. Two only. One a very little one, and the other a very big one. But the little one is also big.’
‘What is the little one?’
‘Well, an what is the second reason, the big one?’
‘The next world!’
‘You mean punishment?’
‘Makes no difference. The next world – just the next world.’” (Dostoyevsky, 1953, p.125).
“’He who conquers pain and fear will himself be a god. And that other God will not be.’
‘So, according to you, the other God does exist, after all?’
‘He doesn’t exist, but He is. There’s no pain in a stone, but there is pain in the fear of a stone.’” (Dostoyevsky, 1953, p.126).
“’If there is a God, then it is always His will, and I can do nothing against His will If there isn’t, then it is my will, and I am bound to express my self-will.’
‘Self-will? And why are you bound?’
‘Because all will has become mine. Is there no man on this planet who, having finished with God and believing in hs own will, will have enough courage to express his self-will in its most important point? It’s like a beggar who has inherited a fortune and is afraid of it and does not date to go near his bag of gold, thinking himself too weak to own it. I want to express my self-will. I may be the only one, but I’m going to do it.’
‘I’m bound to shoot myself, because the most important point of my self-will is to kill myself.’
‘But you’re not the only one to kill yourself. There are lots of suicides.’
‘Those have a motive. I’m the only one to do it without any motive, but simply of my free will.’” (Dostoyevsky, 1953, p.613).
At the end of the book both character, Stavrogin and Shatov, commit suicide. The latter to declare his free will over god, and the other to finally suffer enough, to overcome his guilt.
Both do not manage to overcome the scapegoat meachnism: one simply tries to suffer for his already committed sins. Thus he can’t reveal the scapegoat mechanism – since he is guilty. Only an innocent vicim canreveal the mechanism. Shatov, on the other hand commits suicide to prove his free wil. He is so self interested in his ‘perfect free will’, that he doesn’t care, what other think of him. To prove that he signs a letter saying he was responsible for a murder. Being completely egocentric, no one will ever know of his innocent suicide (his innocence is perversely only know to the murderers)and thus his disinterest in other people makes him fail to reveal the scapegoat mechanism.
The both are close to unvealing the scapegoat mechanism, and there are passages in the book, that indicate that they found it.
“’Perhaps I haven’t been fair to them! We are all to blame, we are all to blame and – if only we were all convinced of that!’” (Dostoyevsky, 1953, p.580).
But the tragedy of the book is, that none of the characters finally reveals it. “My desires are never storng enough. They cannot guide me.” (Dostoyevsky, 1953, p.666).