Fyodor Dostoevsky ends The Brother Karamazov with the young Kolya exclaiming praise for Alyosha Karamazov: “And eternally so, all our lives hand in hand! Hurrah for Karamazov!” Dostoevsky’s grand vision sees the Russian Orthodox Church as transforming the world with the presentation of the true Christ, in contrast to the Catholic and Protestant versions of Christ. It is in this vision that Dostoevsky subtlety reveals his conception of flourishing which is comprised of active love towards humanity, forgiveness, the confession of sin, and belief in God. In Dostoevsky’s conception of flourishing Christ serve as the foundation for active love. Christ brings an essential universal connection between all things and the ethic of love that correspond with this sense of universal connection. Here Dostoevsky’s asserts his own way of thinking about the ethic of love; the reason all things are connected is because God interconnects them. Consequently, the individual who does not view community or interconnection with any importance focuses on self-interest and self-preservation. While the individual who is able to comprehend God’s perspective on universal connection values and practice active love towards humanity.
“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” – Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, verse 14
In this essay I hope to illustrate how belief in the true Christ (Russian Orthodox), immortality, and belief in an afterlife play an important role in Dostoevsky’s conception of flourishing. Broadly, I argue that the Alyosha’s mysticism, particularly his hesychastic ideals , his undulating transformation (between faith and doubt) through the refusal of various temptations (particularly Ivan’s poem The Grand Inquisitor ) and his conversations with the school-boys, illustrate Dostoevsky’s broader narrative of the emergence of a new Russian Orthodox Church that will save humanity by seeding it’s flourishing. To illustrate this I begin by highlighting the similarities between Ivan’s characterization of Christ in The Grand Inquisitor and the narrator’s characterization of Alyosha at the beginning of the novel. Then, I explain how Christ serves as a foundational element in active love; by introducing the concept of active love to the world. Then I illustrate how active love indirectly produces flourishing through community (and Dostoevky’s hopes globally); specifically, how active love is introduced to Skotoprigonyevsk through Zosima, and to Zoisma through his elder brother Markel. Finally, I illustrate how this gift is passed on to Alyosha through his conversation with the school children, and illustrate the connection between the epigraph John 12:24 and the school children at the end of novel.
Ivan’s characterization of Christ in The Grand Inquisitor parallels Alyosha’s characterization and inherent mysticism at the beginning of the novel. In Book 1, Chapter 4, the narrator describes Alyosha as the “hero” of the novel. Alyosha’s characterization includes elements of mysticism; most apparent, his desire to experience spiritual clarity not through rationality but through entering the monastery. The narrator continues to characterize as Christ-like, empathetic, wise, and loving. While these qualities may appear typical and somewhat commonplace, the narrator notes something peculiar about Alyosha:
“In his childhood and youth he was not very effusive, not even very talkative, not from mistrust, not from shyness or sullen unsociability, but even quite the contrary from something different, from some inner preoccupation” (The Third Son, Alyosha 19).
Furthermore, upon reuniting with his father, Fyodor initially finds Alyosha’s reticent behavior and perceived shyness suspicious. Yet, within two weeks of meeting Alyosha, Fyodor becomes enthralled by his son: “having come to love him sincerely and deeply, more than such a man had, of course, ever managed to love anyone else” (The Third Son, Alyosha 19) While it may seem that this love is nothing more than another illustration of Fyodor’s fickle behavior motivated by his alcoholism, the narrator denounces this idea by explaining how “everyone loved this young man wherever he appeared, and it was so even in his earliest childhood” (The Third Son, Alyosha 19). In a similar manner, Jesus in Ivan’s poem does not speak. Ivan further portray Christ in a similar manner to the narrator’s portrayal of Alyosha “people are drawn to him by an invincible force, they flock to him, surround him, follow him” (The Grand Inquisitor 249).
Both Jesus and Alyosha have the same ideological (and literal) response to Ivan’s The Grand Inquisitor; they both attempt to passively (mysteriously) address Ivan’s skepticism in regards to flourishing, active love, and faith by illustrating that the human depravity and innocent suffering can coexist with God. The Inquisitor sets about questioning Christ about why he refused the three temptations by Satan. He illustrates that because Christ forced men to be free he has forced them to live with asceticism instead of material well-being, free faith and individual responsibility instead of ecclesiastic absolution; he has left them isolated instead of safe within a universal church state. Ivan and the Grand Inquisitor respectively conclude that rather than allowing individuals to make their own decision and suffer, humanity would be better suited living under a fraudulent religious authority. However, Ivan ends his parable with what appears to reveal aspects of spiritualism and active love in his character: “But suddenly he approaches the old man in silence and gently kisses him on his bloodless, ninety-year-old lips […] ‘The kiss burns in his heart, but the old man hold to his former idea’” (The Grand Inquisitor 262). Ivan’s peculiar ending seems to most explicitly illustrate the ongoing struggle within him between doubt and faith, but it is in Alyosha’s mysticism which illuminates the role faith plays in human flourishing. Through his engagement in mysticism, even during his youth, Alyosha again mimics the actions of Christ by kissing Ivan: “’The formula, ‘everything is permitted,’ I will not renounce and what then? Will you renounce me for that? Will you?’ Alyosha stood up, went over to him in silence, and gently kissed him on the lips” (The Grand Inquisitor 263). Alyosha’s kisses just like Christ’s are examples of Dostoevsky’s insistence on the role of mystery in religion, faith, and attaining active love and flourishing. Perhaps, Dosteoveky is attempting to contrast mystery to the second temptation of Christ? Rather than confirm the faith of individuals by witnessing a miracle, faith must be inspired through self-reflection on mystery. This self-reflection is central tenet to hesychasm 
Eudaimonia or ‘Human Flourishing’
In the conception of flourishing, active love is the process of birth of rebirth of human flourishing. To illustrate this, I turn to the scene where Madame Khokhlakova comes to Zosima searching for answers about life after death and immortality. Briefly, I just wanted to note that within this scene Dostoevsky again hints at the similarities between Alyosha and Christ. Nevertheless, Madame begins describing how when she was a child her faith – while “mechanical” – felt more concrete and realized. Briefly, Madame Khokhlakova’s reflection on her childhood illustrates an important aspect about active love, faith, and flourishing; mainly that childhood or innocence does not necessarily guarantee flourishing in Dosteoveky’s conception. This is illustrated further in Ivan’s argument in Rebellion which contends that because God allows the suffering of innocent children, He does not exist. Madame Khokhlakova’s reflection about how her faith being habitual as a child allows us to get a more accurate definition of active love. Active love is not simply loving your neighbor or loving humanity, it is a much broader and ambiguous imperative. As she explains to Zosima her struggles with immortality and death, his reply exemplifies active love: “’Don’t worry about my opinion,’ the elder answered. ‘I believe completely in the genuineness of your anguish’” (A Lady of Little Faith p.56). Zosima response may appear showy and exaggerated, but this is active love. It requires the individual’s love for the other to be both unconditional and multidimensional; in that they must love the individual regardless of any philosophical or metaphysical beliefs. Essentially, the individual adopts a mystic state-of-being and this allows the individual to conceive the universal connection Christ conceives.