Thursday, December 11, 2014

More On Brothers Karamazov & Scripture

So, the other day I posted something about the Brothers Karamazov being scripture for me. There are many insights into the nature of scripture that we can glean out of that reflection.

Brothers K is ostensibly a work of fiction. But anyone who knows anything bout Dostoevsky's life knows it is heavily based on fact. The murder that stands at the center of the book is a reflection upon the murder of Dostoevsky's own father. Additionally, many of the characters and anecdotes in the book happened in real life. In truth, many of Dostoevsky's books include anecdotes from his own life.

Additionally, many of the characters in the story are based on real people, primarily upon Dostoevsky himself. There was a time in Dostoevsky's life when he believed very much as Ivan Karmazov does, and other times when he believed as Alyosha does. These two men are in fact Dostoevsky himself at various stages of his life, and represent real internal struggles that take place within him. Finally, some of the more sublime passages are written immediately following one of Dostoevsky's temporal love epileptic fits. Temporal lobe epilepsy creates very powerful religious experiences, and we get a first-hand account of what those experiences are like in the book, though the book does not make it clear that this is what is going on.

The simple fact of the matter is that the book is a powerful reflection on the human condition and it's contact with God. The question of what part is 'fact' and what part 'fiction' is a murky one. For within the fiction there is a reflection upon factual experience, and much of the historical fact upon which it is based is only the occasion for the exploration of deeper and more significant truths about the universe, human life, and God in general.

In other words, the book seeks something like a revelatory experience, and is built around such experiences. The final question of whether it is true is a question of whether it really puts one in contact with spiritual realities and spiritual truths. The historical foundation for the story matters, because one can ask whether these experiences are something that can be attained within actual history. We know for a fact that the experiences were so attained, the question that comes before the religious person is whether they can be trusted.

Scripture is grounded in history but it is more than history. It is an account of an encounter with the Foundation of History within its very flow. Examining the relationship between experience, historical facts, and the story as given is how we get to the heart of the entire scope of truth and experience, both sensory and affective. Thinking about how this works in Brothers Karamazov is useful to understanding how it works in, say, the Biblical record. It seems to me that God is really contacted in this book, and that God really reached out through the events around which the book is based. But to expect a reflection upon that encounter to be little more than a straightforward reporting of one's sensory experiences alone seems foolish, to me.

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