The Brothers Karamazov

by: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Important Quotations Explained

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“Very different is the monastic way. Obedience, fasting, and prayer are laughed at, yet they alone constitute the way to real and true freedom: I cut away my superfluous and unnecessary needs, through obedience I humble and chasten my vain and proud will, and thereby, with God’s help, attain freedom of spirit, and with that, spiritual rejoicing!”

Zosima makes this speech when analyzing the nature of the Russian monk in Book VI, Chapter 3. It illustrates the scope of the contrast between Zosima’s views and Ivan’s. Where Ivan’s Grand Inquisitor looks at the problem of free will with resentment and loathing, Zosima considers free will a cause for rejoicing. The Grand Inquisitor says that men should have been given bread and leadership, while Zosima says that they should reject material security—through obedience, fasting, and prayer—in order to obtain “real and true freedom.” For Zosima, real and true freedom is crucial to the nature of goodness because it gives meaning to the choice to embrace faith. If a person has no choice but to believe in God, then faith is meaningless—only through the medium of free will can faith be more than a default position. Zosima thus wholly rejects the Grand Inquisitor’s—and Ivan’s—notion of the weakness of human nature, holding out hope that, through spiritual freedom, mankind can be redeemed.