A Little Hiram (Franz Kafka Revisited)

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post, a little Kafka. I am going to redo it today to make it a little easier for the average Holdeman to understand. I hope it isn’t too forthright, but I am going to use the name of the recently expelled minister Robert Koehn and the name of one of the ministers who was there to land the final blow on the poor unfortunate Robert’s head. Now granted, I was not there, nor do I know any of the people involved, but have been given several accounts of the affair which are all in agreement on these points…Brother Robert had been on repentance for two years, had sought release, and had no idea how to obtain it. When the ministers came to see him he hoped that after two years on repentance he would be allowed to be set free and perhaps even preach again, seeing as how the flock is without a shepherd. However, he was destined to be disappointed. If these facts are not exactly accurate regarding Robert, don’t worry about it. There are any number of any other names you can insert which would work just as well.

Someone must have been telling lies about Robert K., for without having done anything wrong, he was arrested one morning.” Thus begins Hiram’s enigmatic novel The Trial. The trial never takes place; K. is never free nor incarcerated; the ministers never tell him the nature of the charges against him; he is supposed to know them, and his ignorance is further proof of his culpability. When he tries to get information from the church, he is accused of impatience or impertinence; when he tries to ignore the ministers or simply wait for their next move, he is blamed for indifference or obduracy. In one of the final scenes K. is talking to one of the ministers on the counseling committee, and the minister, after another of K.’s efforts to gain some certainty about his fate, tries to explain K.’s situation by telling him the following parable:

“Before the church stands a doorkeeper, Tom Hamlin, on guard. To Tom Hamlin, there comes a man from the country who begs admittance to the church. But Hamlin says he cannot admit the man at the moment. The man, on reflection, asks if he will be allowed then to enter later. ’It is possible,” answers the Hamlin, “but not at this moment.” Since the door leading into the church stands open as usual, and Hamlin steps to one side, the man bends down to peer through the entrance. When Hamlin sees that, he laughs and says “If you are so strongly tempted, try to get in without my permission. But note that I am powerful, and I am only the lowest doorkeeper. From hall to hall, keepers stand at every door, one more powerful than the other. Even the third of these has an aspect that I cannot bear to look at.”

The man is given a stool and permitted to sit down at the side of the door, and there he sits for many years. Again and again he tries to get admission or at least a definitive answer, but he is always told that he cannot enter yet. At long last his life is drawing to a close.

Before he dies, all that he has experienced during the whole of his sojourn condenses in his mind into one question, which he has never yet put to Brother Hamlin. He beckons Hamlin, since he can no longer raise his stiffening body. Hamlin has to bend far down to hear him, since the difference in size has increased very much to the man’s disadvantage. ”What do you want now?” asks Hamlin, “you are insatiable.” ”Everyone strives to enter the church,” answers the man, “how does it come about then, that in all these years, no one has come seeking admittance but me?” Hamlin perceives that the man is at the end of his strength, and that his hearing is failing, so he bellows in his ear, “No one but you could gain admittance through this door, since the door was intended only for you. I am now going to shut it.”

“So, the Hamlin deluded the man,” says K. immediately. But the minister convincingly and carefully proves to him that the Hamlin cannot be blamed, that he even went far beyond his duty to help the man. K. is perplexed, but cannot dismiss the cogency of the minister’s long interpretation. ”You have studied the story more exactly, and for a longer time,” he concedes.

“So you think that the man was not deluded?  Don’t misunderstand me” warns the minister, and proceeds to show that there is another interpretation which shows that the deluded person is really Tom Hamlin. And so convincing is this second exegesis that in the end K. is forced to agree again: ”This is well argued, and I am inclined to agree that Tom Hamlin is deluded.” But again the minister immediately finds fault with K.’s agreement, for to doubt the Tom Hamlin’s integrity is to doubt the church itself. ”I don’t agree with that point of view,” says K. shaking his head, “for if one accepts it one must accept as true everything that the Tom Hamlin says.” ”But you yourself have sufficiently proved how impossible it is to do that.” “No” says the minister, “it is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary.” ”A melancholy conclusion,” says K. ”It turns lying into a universal principle.”

And with this, their dialogue ends on the same exhausted, ambiguous note that pervades all of K.’s attempts to reach an understanding. Every time he thinks he has succeeded in putting the bewildering sequences of events in order, he is shown that it is not the “right” order. The minister’s last words are “The Church makes no claims upon you. It receives you when you come, and it relinquishes you when you go.” Hiram’s Robert K., like Dostoevski’s Prince Myshkin, lives in a world where the TRules of the Church can be turned around and reveal that the contrary to them is written on the other side. Behind Myshkin the doors of an insane asylum close forever, and K. is eventually killed by several  envoys of the Church.

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3 Responses to A Little Hiram (Franz Kafka Revisited)

  1. Hiram says:

    There are a couple of things to learn from this story…One, There is nothing new under the sun. The tactics that so many have endured are nothing new. Kafka, a man born in Austria in 1883, understood these things well. Consider these words from an online biography: “Virtually unknown during his lifetime, the works of Kafka have since been recognized as symbolizing modern man’s anxiety-ridden and grotesque alienation in an unintelligible, hostile, or indifferent world.” Now I find this troubling. I think most would agree that the story he tells in the post I have written describes a scenario that is very familiar. Being called in, or arrested, when to your knowledge you have done nothing wrong. Being held in detention for years, sometimes, wondering if you will ever be allowed full access to the sanctuary. But what does the line from the biography tell us? Kafka’s words have been recognized as symbolizing modern man’s anxiety-ridden and grotesque alienation in an UNINTELLIGIBLE, HOSTILE OR INDIFFERENT WORLD. I should think that the true church would be a place of complete refuge. In this place one should be able to fellowship in peace and security with the brethren. As long as a man or woman is loving the Lord, the church should be a place of growth. If their love has gone cold, would it not be nice if the church could be a place of healing and restoration? I find it sad that the church has become a place where people are ridden with fear and insecurity, doubts about their salvation, and of paying obeisance to the ministry. You may not want to believe that this is true, but if you will think carefully, you will know of people who were “out of the church” for years, waiting to be let back in,or if still in the church, facing unending visits with the ministers, never knowing for sure what is being asked, and it could go on for years, or it could suddenly end, with no apparent reason and no visible change. Someone just capriciously starts the work and then ends the work. Or doesn’t end it, whichever it turns out to be. This is the anxiety-ridden life of alienation in an unintelligible, hostile, and indifferent world. I challenge you to imagine a world where there is peace, love, trust and security, where you can question, grow and love and be loved without fear.

    truth justice mercy and love,

    • Adopted Heart says:

      This whole story is so real to what happened in my life. I never did get a true honest answer about what had happened to me even though the minister that bared my door is now benched for the 4th time, the first 3 of those for exactly what I had said had happened to me, He lied about his people to make the congregation side with him, and each time he was benched, he apologised and it was washed over again. He would stand up there and exagerate or tell untruths about cases to make the congregation take his side and never go against his opinion and put people out. yet he has never been exed for lying and has exed others of lesser charges and that of lying. I tried for many years to find resolution and finally with a broken heart, left my friends and family so that I could heal from the losses suffered and the seperation from my children and loved ones and grieve the things I had lost thru it all. I simply could not lie to regain membership and say what had happened to me was right, honest and truthful.

  2. There are some people like you, adopted heart, who cannot perjure themselves in front of God in order to have their life returned to them. The sad thing is when we see how many people can do it. Once people lie in front of God to be returned to good standing with men, something in them changes. They have essentially committed blasphemy, as the scriptures define blasphemy as giving to Satan the work that was actually done by God. Read the ninth chapter of John to see how people feared being put out of the synagogue. This very same situation exists today. Do not anger the rulers or you will be put out. Read the third chapter of Mark to find out the definition of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Jesus had been healing people on the Sabbath. He was charged by the Pharisees of having an unclean spirit and casting out Satan by the power of Satan. Now we know that he was doing his works by the power of God. Then in verses 28-30 he says this to them: ” Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.” We can see here that the Pharisees were trying to accuse Jesus and say that the works he did were of Satan when they were actually of God. Adopted heart, I can see that this is the thing you were facing, you were being asked to give Satan credit for the works that God was doing in your heart. Had you done so you would have been committing blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. You were not able to do this. That’s good of course, but we have to be honest about the men who were asking you to do this. Where do they stand in regard to blasphemy and how often does this happen?

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