"Generally, again, I ask your permission to drop the subject," Pyotr Alexandrovich repeated, "and instead let me tell you another anecdote, gentlemen, about Ivan Fyodorovich himself, a most typical and interesting one. No more than five days ago, at a local gathering, predominantly of ladies, he solemnly announced in the discussion that there is decidedly nothing in the whole world that would make men love their fellow men; that there exists no law of nature that man should love mankind, and that if there is and has been any love on earth up to now, it has come not from natural law but solely from people's belief in their immortality. Ivan Fyodorovich added parenthetically that that is what all natural law consists of, so that were mankind's belief in its immortality to be destroyed, not only love but also any living power to continue the life of the world would at once dry up in it. Not only that, but then nothing would be immoral any longer, everything would be permitted, even anthropophagy. And even that is not all: he ended with the assertion that for every separate person, like ourselves for instance, who believes neither in God nor in his own immortality, the moral law of nature ought to change immediately into the exact opposite of the former religious law, and that egoism, even to the point of evildoing, should not only be permitted to man but should be acknowledged as the necessary, the most reasonable, and all but the noblest result of his situation. From this paradox, gentlemen, you may deduce what else our dear eccentric and paradoxalist Ivan Fyodorovich may be pleased to proclaim, and perhaps still intends to proclaim."
"Allow me," Dmitri Fyodorovich suddenly cried unexpectedly, "to be sure I've heard correctly: 'Evildoing should not only be permitted but even should be acknowledged as the most necessary and most intelligent solution for the situation of every godless person'! Is that it, or not?"
"Exactly that," said Father Paissy. "I'll remember."
Having said which, Dmitri Fyodorovich fell silent as unexpectedly as he had unexpectedly flown into the conversation. They all looked at him with curiosity.
"Can it be that you really hold this conviction about the consequences of the exhaustion of men's faith in the immortality of their souls?" the elder suddenly asked Ivan Fyodorovich.
"Yes, it was my contention. There is no virtue if there is no immortality."
"You are blessed if you believe so, or else most unhappy!"
"Why unhappy?" Ivan Fyodorovich smiled.
"Because in all likelihood you yourself do not believe either in the immortality of your soul or even in what you have written about the Church and the Church question."
"Maybe you're right . . .! But still, I wasn't quite joking either . . ." Ivan Fyodorovich suddenly and strangely confessed---by the way, with a quick blush.
"You weren't quite joking, that is true. This idea is not yet resolved in your heart and torments it. But a martyr, too, sometimes likes to toy with his despair, also from despair, as it were. For the time being you, too, are toying, out of despair, with your magazine articles and drawing-room discussions, without believing in your own dialectics and smirking at them with your heart aching inside you ... The question is not resolved in you, and there lies your great grief, for it urgently demands resolution..."
"But can it be resolved in myself? Resolved in a positive way?" Ivan Fyodorovich continued asking strangely, still looking at the elder with a certain inexplicable smile.
"Even if it cannot be resolved in a positive way, it will never be resolved in the negative way either---you yourself know this property of your heart, and therein lies the whole of its torment. But thank the Creator that he has given you a lofty heart, capable of being tormented by such a torment, 'to set your mind on things that are above, for our true homeland is in heaven. May God grant that your heart's decision overtake you still on earth, and may God bless your path!"
The elder raised his hand and was about to give his blessing to Ivan Fyodorovich from where he sat. But the latter suddenly rose from his chair, went over to him, received his blessing, and, having kissed his hand, returned silently to his place. He looked firm and serious. This action, as well as the whole preceding conversation with the elder, so unexpected from Ivan Fyodorovich, somehow struck everyone with its mysteriousness and even a certain solemnity, so that for a moment they all fell silent, and Alyosha looked almost frightened. But Miusov suddenly heaved his shoulders, and at the same moment Fyodor Pavlovich jumped up from his chair.
"Divine and most holy elder!" he cried, pointing at Ivan Fyodorovich, "this is my son, the flesh of my flesh, my own dear flesh! This is my most respectful Karl Moor, so to speak, and this son, the one who just came in, Dmitri Fyodorovich, against whom I am seeking justice from you, is the most disrespectful Franz Moor, both from Schiller's Robbers, and I, I myself in that case am the regierender Graf von Moor! Judge and save us! It's not just your prayers we need, but your prophecies!"
"Speak without foolery, and do not begin by insulting your relations," the elder replied in a weak, exhausted voice. He was clearly getting more and more tired and was visibly losing his strength.
—Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, p. 57