The concept of the erotic, as defined by Andre Lorde in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” is proposed as the solution to the problems of free will in Dostoyevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor. In this essay, I will analyze the story of the Grand Inquisitor and Jesus to critique the false authority the Catholic Church provides, naming a shared community of faith and love as justification for allowing free will to exist without a hierarchal power that attempts to provide security. The Church’s concern for the collective will is suppressing to the singular will, but the social relationships that erotic power relies on constructs a community that is both attentive to the needs of the individual and the public.
Ivan, a young man battling with skepticism and doubt, tells the story of the Inquisitor acting against God because sees the wickedness of human nature. To the Inquisitor, God does not perform in the best interest of humanity because free will is problematic and as a result sees humans as better off under a church that lacks real authority than making decisions on their own. The Inquisitor claims that Christ did wrong in allowing humanity choice, and should have instead chose power to give individuals security instead of freedom. The same people who did not want to follow Jesus would still be condemned, but instead of the crippling burden of moral and emotional freedom, they would have happiness and security in following the Church. If Christ had performed the miracles and given the populace a clear authority to worship, “It [would have] save[d] them the great anxiety...in making a free decision.” (Dostoyevsky) Thus, proven divine, people would not have a choice but to love Christ without question.
However, because Christ denied the three temptations, the collective had free choice to follow the Church. There was doubt about the validity of religion, and it led to great moral skepticism for those who were too “weak” to believe in the faith. The Inquisitor laments that Jesus did not give in, “Thou wouldst have satisfied the universal and everlasting craving of humanity-to find someone to worship,” (Dostoyevsky) and so the Inquisitor has taken upon himself the heavy burden of correcting Christ’s mistakes. The inquisitor then goes further to say humanity wishes to worship together, “This craving for community of worship is the chief misery …of all humanity from the beginning of time.” (Dostoyevsky) The Catholic Church then became an absolute authority that satisfied the cravings of humanity for something to believe in.
The Grand Inquisitor believes the solution to the problem of free will is an absolute faith to the glory of God through the Church. This faith is enforced through violence and coercion, as Ivan describes the days “When fires were lighted every day to the glory of God…the wicked heretics were burned.” (Dostoyevsky) There is a community in coming together to watch the “unbelieving” burn, and a fear in not wanting to become...