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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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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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Post Re: Chapter Three - The Seventh Proof
I like this chapter. The detailed foretelling of Berlioz' death proves that the devil exists, so we can infer that God exists as well.

I like Bulgakov's use of descriptive names. Berlioz, the French Romantic composer. Even if Bulgakov doesn't intend a double meaning for the name, it makes you stop and think. Dickens used descriptive names and was often criticized for it.

Tram-car...is it used here for hauling goods or as a public conveyance? Was the character named after a decadent French composer decapitated by a busload of proletariat?


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Post Re: Chapter Three - The Seventh Proof
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
I am pleased that KindaSkolarly is responding on these earlier chapters of Master and Margarita, as it reminds me to also look again at the discussion. Here, in this satirical ‘proof of the existence of God’, it is interesting to consider this comparison you raise to the Apocalypse. I’m sure that Bulgakov felt that Russia was experiencing a type of apocalypse with the Bolshevik plague of devils. I also think you are on to a good point about the imagery; just as the early Christian church faced severe persecution and so had to limit its public documents to cryptic code, so too the White Russians like Bulgakov knew that honest statements of truth are deadly.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
The old communist anthem The Internationale includes the line “reason in revolt now thunders”, making the central propaganda point that communism is on the side of logic while fascism promotes reactionary obscurity. That claim breaks down when we see that “reason” can be twisted into the “logic” that if we “expropriate the expropriators”, as proposed in the toxic Marxist jargon, then everyone can be rich. No matter that this “reason” ignores the real analysis of wealth creation; when a myth appears attractive to a mass audience on purely emotional grounds of resentment and envy, then saying it is “reasonable” only adds to its allure and power.
This same logic applies to the atheist argument that God does not exist, for which Lenin and Stalin were probably the top practical advocates, by murdering tens of thousands of priests, banning Christmas, and turning cathedrals into stables. Their League of the Militant Godless did not restrict their methods to polite Kantian syllogisms, but involved gross intimidation and suppression of any public expression of religion.
Perhaps Bulgakov’s seventh proof, that the existence of the devil proves the existence of God, really means that when a society allows aggressive lostness to take control, it is handing the keys of the kingdom to Satan, and that belief in God, including respect for tradition and authority, is a valuable bulwark against such insane delinquency.
Harry Marks wrote:
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 ambiguity in Kant’s position on religion is interesting. He was pilloried by the pious as the ‘all-destroyer’ for his observation that the Five Ways of Saint Thomas do not constitute a formal proof of the existence of God. Aquinas said that if we can imagine a perfect being, that being must exist because existence is better than non-existence. On the logical surface that is an absurd argument, and Kant dissected it with the formal observation that existence is not a real predicate. Others have said the spirit of Aquinas is more about resources for contemplation than about logical empirical arguments about what entities exist. There is a political trickery involved in the Enlightenment critique of Thomism. The Enlightenment philosophy of the eighteenth century which gave rise to Marxism was directed more against the stagnant economy produced by monasticism, and instead advocating robust science as the primary route to truth. This mockery of the sacred in the name of reason proved sadly superficial, as it degenerated into a tool in the hands of Stalin to destroy religion.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
I am sure many pious preachers over history have agreed with the devil in this assessment of the wickedness of modern secular philosophy. Piety intrinsically involves humility about the capacity of reason to explain reality, whereas Kantian philosophy opens the path to maximising the role of reason in society. While on the face that seems an admirable objective, the dialectical materialist degeneration of Kant’s pure brilliance led in turn to Hegel, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, as the increasingly grotesque devolutionary mutant product of the original high ideals of a logical society.
Further to your point on Kant’s naïveté, his belief was that our minds structure our reality and experience. This belief, as interpreted in the fetid claws of Lenin and Stalin, became ‘democratic centralism’, the dictatorship of the Bolshevik clique, dressing up mad tyranny as representing the poor, deprived and oppressed workers of the world, consigning millions to the gulag.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
The magical realist novel creates its own satirical laws of nature, including that the devil can appear as an urbane foreigner on the streets of Moscow. It is entirely a parable. If there were real evidence that the devil is a conscious entity who makes accurate predictions then modern knowledge of physics would be somewhat discombobulated. The only proof outside the story here is that the Leninist contempt for religion, which prompts Berlioz to express such disdain about the devil, leads to bad consequences for society.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Yes, Karl Marx presented himself as the prophet of a communist utopia, imagining that equality, if not freedom, could be produced by abolishing private property. There is a strong element of self-fulfilling momentum in such views, which serve as hypotheses to be tested in a petri dish like Russia. Sadly, an inevitable mould rapidly killed that dream.


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Post Re: Chapter Three - The Seventh Proof
I don't feel like I can much improve upon the discussion as far as Kant and Thomas of Aquinas go.

I found it interesting Woiand's seventh proof (or whichever the correct number is...the notes in my book say Bulgakov miscounted either intentionally or by oversight), is due to his perfect prediction of Berlioz' death. So does that mean Woland believes by proving he is the devil, and he must exist, ipso facto God must also exist?



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