All Things Are Lawful, an expanded essay by Alan Lamberg
re: page 268, scene 73, (potential spoiler: watch the movie first)
Or do you think that all things are lawful?
That line references Dostoevsky. He wrote allegorical epics that were world-renowned because people could relate to his characters' angst and their questioning of modern life. That line is integral to a theme based on the Grand Inquisitor story in The Brothers Karamazov. I understand why it was cut from the movie -- it's obscure, so its meaning might be lost. Still, I feel it's important because the meaning behind "all things are lawful" has been misunderstood through the 20th Century. Its misconstrued meaning has influenced western civilization as we know it.
I'm not a well-read person. But from what little I've read, there is a bridge between Dostoevsky, a devout Christian, and Ayn Rand, a secular Objectivist, and the morals these authors have conveyed.
I'm certain that Rand's influences included Existentialism, a way of thinking and understanding the world, originally expounded by Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre supported his treatise with an axiom based on Dostoevsky's text, "If God does not exist, everything would be permitted."*
*[Note: There is an interesting debate among scholars on whether or not Dostoevsky actually said it. One must read the native Russian text to find that, indeed, Dostoevsky wrote it. But, as Volkov (2011) concluded, "nothing in the novel must be taken as an axiom, not even as a hypothesis, for hypotheses tend to devolve into axioms."]
But just because Dostoevsky wrote about characters who challenged spiritual concepts and voiced existential questions, it doesn't mean that Dostoevsky, himself, was an atheist nor an existentialist. The author's character, Ivan Karamazov, a man in crisis, his soul on the brink, spoke the words, "all things are lawful." Ivan's younger brother, Alex, religiously devout and idealistic, countered that if all things are lawful, then there is no sin.
The phrase originated in the Christian New Testament, 1 Corinthians 10:23 - "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify." In layman's terms, "We are free to do all things, but there are some things, none of which are wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good." In the context of Christianity, Paul is instructing the Corinthians on practices so they can be cleansed from sin through a covenant with God. Paul's method was logically Aristotelian; A is not B, "All things ... but not all things..." yet how this logic was interpreted had repercussions that resonate today.
Sartre's Existentialism questioned the validity of Christianity -- and all religions -- on whether or not sin exists. If sin exists, then humans are all flawed from the beginning. Ayn Rand sought to resolve this by arguing that sin does not exist -- that people are perfect from the start -- and we only need unlearn our indoctrinated false-truths. To that end, Rand declared the Objectivist oath: "I swear by my Life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine."
Live by that oath, and you embody the virtue of selfishness. But many people do not understand it. They use it as an excuse to be selfish at the expense of others. This way of life dominated the 20th Century since Atlas Shrugged was published in the late-1950s. Then, the rich and powerful had their "second bible" for cherry-picking their values as they rose to the top and accomplished their self-serving agendas. Of course, the books are not the source for blame. It's what's in our hearts, what we choose to take from the books, what we choose to believe according to the direction of our moral compass.
I believe in an unwritten rule that is logically inferred from this oath -- a rule of reciprocity. If two people act on Rand's oath, serve their own interests first, and find that they can serve each other in equal trade of value, then the ethic of reciprocity is fulfilled.
The way I see it, this is the bridge between the two schools of thought. Where Dostoevsky offers a spiritual perspective, and Rand offers an individualistic one, both are moral, and both are conducive to building up a community, to "edify." Whether you are Paul instructing the Corinthians, or Sartre liberating the secular humans, no matter what gender, color or partisan line, we all have a community to edify.
In Dostoevsky's story, the Karamazov community was broken. The sins of the father seeded the conflict between three brothers. Ivan was horrified by man's capacity for cruelty, yet he desperately held on to hope in his heart. So he dreamed of the Grand Inquisitor condemning Christ. The problem for both Ivan and the Inquisitor was how freedom is bartered for happiness. They believed freedom of heart and mind is burdensome to humankind. Institutions like the Church assume responsibility for the universal happiness of humankind. But they must subjugate them in the name of God.
Ivan's Grand Inquisitor speaks of the three powers that were offered to Christ by the devil. Christ declined the powers because his message was of an "answering love," promoting a true freedom of the human spirit. After Christ's ascension, the institution that crucified him (the Roman Empire) eventually became the Church. But the sword of Caesar, Ivan argues, was powered by the devil. Even the cross, offered up as an edifice in solace, when co-opted by the powers it's a subjugating sword.
The gift of miracle became the power of sorcery. It is said that Christ performed a miracle of turning stones into loaves, made fish plentiful, and turned water into wine. The devil revealed that humans will follow whomever feeds them. Christ's message was not about feeding the human, but actually about feeding the soul.
Mystery became mystification. The devil tempted Christ by suggesting that He cast Himself to fall from a cliff and allow God to catch him, thus captivating the flock with divine proof that He is the son of God. But Christ knew better because He would have forsaken God's mission for Him, and that the people need to not be mystified by magic.
Authority became tyranny. The devil spirit said that only Christ with his divine power could have created a kingdom on earth to attract and rule over all people. But Christ knew that there is something greater than a kingdom on earth, and that He would rather they be with God in a kingdom of heaven. Even the greatest kingdom on earth, whether it be a church or a nation, will always be separate from God.
In my story, this screenplay, the cabal of war profiteers believe that "all things are lawful," so they are willing to serve their own interests at the expense of others. They are achieving their ends through the means of certain powers, not unlike the temptations that Dostoevsky described through Ivan's dream of the Grand Inquisitor condemning Christ. Christ rejected the temptations offered by the "terrible spirit of self-destruction and annihilation." Christ rejected evil, but the Grand Inquisitor and his Church embraced an institutionally empowered evil, enslaving humanity in a cage that transcends all sovereign boundaries across our world.
Lucien faces a cabal that is evil because they are using ancient powers to enjoy their kingdom on earth at the expense of its people. He sees what is harming those whom he loves in his community. And our nation is his community. Here, Lucien has taken a moral stand for the common good. He heeds a calling to "strike down that which straddles atop a beast; to remove those who suppress a noble foundation." He is everyman, without sin, born into a sinful world. This everyman, in transcending the illusion of sin and the self-imposed limitations of humanity, becomes ubermensch, a superman. That is the lesson that I want to impart -- that anyone can rise and become the light of this world.
Get the book and read further topics.
Look for "Separate from Humanity" re: Scene 83, exploring why this non-heroic ubermensch goes to the extreme in killing the cabal. Right or wrong?
And a little bit on blending western, Judeo-Christian-Islamic perspective with eastern Vajrayana Buddhism. Wrathful deities and unusual definition of sin.
Cortesi, D. E. (2000, November). Dostoevsky didn't say it. Retrieved from http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article42.html
Lamberg, Alan. (2005). Dostoyevsky's "The Grand Inquisitor", an audio play and multimedia analysis. http://fyodor.seelenadel.net
Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York, Random House (1957).
Sartre, J.P. "Existentialism Is a Humanism," (based on a lecture given in Paris, October, 1945,) translated by Philip Mairet (London: Methuen, 1948), republished in Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre. ed. Walter Kaufmann (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1956; republished by Meridian Publishing Company, 1989), HTML Markup by Andy Blunden, 1998, Last modified 2005. Accessed June 2013. http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre.htm
Volkov, A.I. The Secular Web. Internet Infidels, Inc. "Dostoevsky Did Say It: A Response to David E. Cortesi." Last modified 2011. Accessed June, 2013. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/andrei_volkov/dostoevsky.html
The Holy Bible: International Standard Version Release 2.1 The ISV Foundation. 2012. Accessed June, 2013. http://biblehub.com/isv/1_corinthians/10.htm
New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA. Accessed June, 2013. http://biblehub.com/nasb/1_corinthians/10.htm