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Chapter Three - The Seventh Proof 
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Post Chapter Three - The Seventh Proof
In Chapter One, the editor, the poet and Satan discussed the five proofs of the existence of God by Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the sixth proof by the atheist philosopher Immanuel Kant.

How an atheist can prove the existence of God is an interesting question that we may need to leave for greater minds to solve. The seventh proof comes at the end of this chapter, which is full of a growing foreboding dread, as the foolish Russians mock the name of the devil and insist he does not exist.

They look into Satan’s eyes, and see the left one is green and totally insane while the right one is empty, black and dead. Such small details appear throughout this book drawing the reader into the vivid fertile imagination of the story.

As good communists, they decide this mad incognito German, as they wrongly take him to be, must be locked up, and the editor Berlioz embarks on this task, setting off to ring the police.

The devil has a disturbing ability to predict the future, for example telling Berlioz he will stay in Berlioz’ apartment. The devil and the poet continue to debate how to prove the devil exists, the seventh proof, which is not of the divinity but his adversary. The devil assures them it will soon be very clear to them. Berlioz races off to arrange the arrest, but sadly slips on some oil, exactly as was predicted in chapter one down to the smallest detail.


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Harry Marks, Interbane
Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:49 am
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Post Re: Chapter Three - The Seventh Proof
Robert Tulip wrote:
In Chapter One, the editor, the poet and Satan discussed the five proofs of the existence of God by Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the sixth proof by the atheist philosopher Immanuel Kant.

How an atheist can prove the existence of God is an interesting question that we may need to leave for greater minds to solve.
I have two candidate interpretations, but I am quickly approaching a point at which I am giving up on making sense of the storyline. It reminds me, in some ways, of the Book of Revelation: full of evocative imagery, but never clearly either an allegory for something specific or a hallucinatory free association.

The first candidate interpretation is that Bulgakov wants us to think of analysis as some kind of primal sin. The devil gets to keep the soul of anyone with enough hubris to subject faith to the acid of reason.

Kant himself seems to have thought there was no particular problem: the anthropological content of faith contains and expresses the same conclusion that reason leads us to. I must admit I am highly sympathetic to that view myself. But, living in a society in which reason had become just another instrument of deception and domination, Bulgakov may have felt that the primacy of simple faith was far more important than anything reason could summon up.

The second option I am considering is that the devil made up Kant's condemnation to Hell. The fact that the devil is privy to supernaturally gained knowledge does not mean he is obligated to tell the truth, and in fact that would be the opposite of what we expect. Since much of the chapter, and the next few chapters (I am on Ch. 6 at the moment) seem to be hallucinatory madness, it may be that Bulgakov is pointing pointedly at the simplicity of Kant with his quaint notions that reality structures our views of it through ordinary mental processes, and that wonderful ends (such as the elevation of the proletariat) cannot justify actions which are wrong.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The devil has a disturbing ability to predict the future, for example telling Berlioz he will stay in Berlioz’ apartment. The devil and the poet continue to debate how to prove the devil exists, the seventh proof, which is not of the divinity but his adversary. The devil assures them it will soon be very clear to them. Berlioz races off to arrange the arrest, but sadly slips on some oil, exactly as was predicted in chapter one down to the smallest detail.

Bulgakov cannot possibly expect us to take seriously the notion that such forecasts are the proof of anything outside the story, since they are just a story of such proofs and thus inherently untrustworthy. I suspect this business of proof by prophecy is a subtle dig at Marx's confidence that he knew how history would evolve. (And then the State will wither away. . . ) If we hear bizarre claims such as the inevitability of revolution and then the prediction comes true, we are inclined to give respect to the predictor without due consideration to who is doing the forecasting and to what extent it was actually inevitable.



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Robert Tulip
Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:44 am
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