"The Seventh Proof" - Ch. 3 from "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov
"The Seventh Proof"
Picking up from the first post on The Master and Margarita, one can see the full satire and irony on display as the story gets wilder and wilder, yet the two atheists characters cannot see what is in front of their own face. Rather, they remain blind as the Devil jokes with them and prods them with his antics. Interestingly, this actually makes a lot of sense. One of the most interesting things I took from Hannah Arendt as I was working on my master's thesis was the idea of ideological possession and blindness. When someone is so gripped by an idea that there is no amount of evidence that can sway them to change their mind, they have been fully taken over by ideology. Here we have these Marxists-Leninists who have been so indoctrinated with atheism that even if the Devil himself came to them they wouldn't reconsider their atheism.
Chapter two consisted of the Devil telling the story of the Passion of Jesus from Pontius Pilate's point of view to the two men. The story, though, is a bit ... off. In the Devil's account, there are many inaccurate details from the real Gospels and Jesus is presented as some type of philosopher who intrigues Pilate because of his unbearable headaches. Chapter three picks up when the Devil finishes the account and we return back to the scene in Moscow with the two men, Berlioz and Homeless. 1
Again, the two men don't believe in God, Jesus, or the Devil and so they see this man as a very odd fellow they are talking with, a specialized professor and historian. Berlioz says to the Professor that all the details are inaccurate to the Gospels. To this the Devil retorts that what does it matter if not of it is true anyway. "'Your story is extremely interesting, Professor, though it does not coincide at all with the Gospel stories.' 'Good heavens,' the professor responded, smiling condescendingly, 'you of all people should know that precisely nothing of what is written in the gospels ever actually took place, and if we start referring to the Gospels as a historical source...' he smiled once more, and Berlioz stopped short, because this was literally the same thing he had been saying to Homeless as they walked down Bronnaya towards the Patriarch's Ponds." 2
To this Berlioz responds that no one can confirm either of these accounts. Here, in hilarious way, the Devil says that, well, there is one person who can ... referencing himself. "... I was personally present at it all. I was on Pontius Pilate's balcony, and in the garden when he talked with Kaifa, and on the platform, only secretly, incognito, so to speak, and therefore I beg you - not a word to anyone, total secrecy, shh..." Again, the men don't know what to make of this except to think the man is a bit crazy. And so Berlioz decides that it's best if he just humors the man and goes along with everything that he is claiming. 3 At this point, things begin to reach a fever pitch. They ask the Professor where he is staying, and he says "in your house."
"'...where are you going to live?' 'In your apartment,' the madman suddenly said brashly, and winked. 'I ... I am very glad ...' Berlioz began muttering, 'but, really, you won't be comfortable at my place ... and they have wonderful rooms at the Metropol, it's a first-class hotel...'" Then the Devil asks Homeless if he believes in the Devil, or if that isn't real either. Homeless says he doesn't believe. At this point, Berlioz is so uncomfortable with this "crazy man," that he excuses himself to go call the authorities and report him. 4 As he scurries away to the telephone, Berlioz has that demonic apparition again that he had earlier in the park before the Professor showed up, yet this time it is more real. He still chooses to ignore it because he needs to report this man, and so continues on into a train station to dial the phone. There in the station he becomes a little spooked and confused which causes him to slip and fall down onto the tracks. He tries to get up but falls again and freezes as a train is coming right for him. 5
"The woman driver tore at the electric brake, the car dug its nose into the ground, then instantly jumped up, and glass flew from the windows with a crash and a jingle. Here someone in Berlioz's brain cried desperately: 'Can it be? ...' Once more, and for the last time, the moon flashed, but now breaking to pieces, and then it became dark. The tram-car went over Berlioz, and a round dark object was thrown up the cobbled slope below the fence of the Patriarch's walk. Having rolled back down this slope, it went bouncing along the cobblestones of the street. It was the severed head of Berlioz." 6
1 - Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and Margarita. (New York. Penguin Books, 2016). Pg. 15 - 38
2 - 39
3 - 40
4 - 41
5 - 42
6 - 43