BLTC Press Titles

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

A dilemma

by Leonid Andreyev



The story which follows is an analytical tragedy, and its hero, despite other differences, is related to the types given us by Dostoyeffski in Crime and Punishment, and by Bourget in The Disciple. These intellectual heroes, products of the Nineteenth Century, are bound to be with us during the period of our unrest. It is the story of the fanaticism of Reason; yet Reason per se is the soberest of things.

Dr. Kerzhentseff, the victim of the Dilemma, is a type of "Superman." Can it be that Zarathustra had dreamt of him in that dream in which he saw his face distorted in a mirror held up by a child ? A too great consciousness of the power of his thought is at the bottom of the tragedy. He wished to make his mentality serve as a bridge where


by to cross a thousand doubts, but the structure gave way, plunging him into those very waters which he so defiantly attempted to cross in confident security.

Sane or insane? is Dr. Kerzhentseffs dilemma, and this dilemma is not one but many, like a hydra-headed monster, the glance of whose multiple eyes is sufficient to stare one out of one's mental countenance. For madness can be so delicate a thing that it may become a difficult problem to distinguish it from the normal state. That a fine line sometimes separates the two, as imperceptible as the merging of day with night, is the chief idea delineated with mastery by Andreiyeff; and that the modern tendency to self-analysis, that fatal soul-surgery, is conducive of this unfortunate condition is also demonstrated with artistic skill.

Dr. Kerzhentseffs crime is committed in the name of Culture, and the retribution is worthy of Culture, being full of subtle questionings and refined tortures. He placed his fate in the custody of Thought. How clear, how beautiful, how powerful it seemed! But no one may look on God's countenance and live. For the ways of Reason are labyrinthine, its clearness are abysses, its eyes gaze on ageless canyons blinding with sunlight and maddening, and its outlook is on time and space. Men's minds snap in trying to see too clearly. And though the world had never thought more clearly than now, never was it more confused. Everywhere is unrest. Men are groping, women are in revolt, children commit suicide. Our souls are sick.

Like Hamlet, our hero is "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;" like him, too, he feigns insanity to carry out his subtle schemings, yet here is the vital difference: in spite of his modernity, Dr. Kerzhentseff harks back to the primitive for the motive of his murder. Practically he seeks revenge, while Shakespeare's hero is unquestionably the more noble (and more lovable), for he seeks justice itself. But that is another hairsplitting distinction.

Dr. Kerzhentseff's forceful logic confounds not only himself, but the experts, who inevitably are bound to disagree as to the prisoner's mental status, and the big question to the end remains unanswered. As it is, the experts themselves are on trial, and who will judge the experts ? Aside from the fact that they are not immune from mind's direful malady and from the pitfalls of heredity, they must face a severe indictment, drawn up by the Russian author, involving the validity of their expertness. Those who have watched the battle of alienists in a recent interesting case in the New York courts can only too willingly concur in the unreliability of so-called expert judgment, which is divided against itself. How are we to believe a Janus-faced expertness?

Incidentally, from a New Jersey town comes an amazing story about a condemned murderer whose execution has been ordered delayed until he recover from mental ills from which he is suffering. Here is an opportunity that no social satirist should



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