How we cite our quotes:
In solitude and when fatigued, one is after all inclined to take oneself for a prophet. When all is said and done, that’s really what I am, having taken refuge in a desert of stones, fogs, and stagnant waters – an empty prophet for shabby times, Elijah without a messiah, choked with fever and alcohol, my back up against this moldy door, my finger raised toward a threatening sky, showering imprecations on lawless men who cannot endure any judgment (5.22).
In van Eyck’s painting, John the Baptist appears twice. In one panel, he has his finger pointed toward the divine figure. Jean-Baptiste can be seen as a perversion of John the Baptist, a man with no God to serve, a man who takes the place of God himself.
Ah, mon cher, for anyone who is alone, without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful. Hence one must choose a master, God being out of style (6.14).
Jean-Baptiste has presented a solution to this problem – himself! He’ll tell people what to do; he’ll be everyone’s master. But who is Jean-Baptiste’s God? Who is telling him what to do? He’s judging himself, but he can effectively become his own master? Probably not. It looks like that’s your job.
This is why, très cher, after having solemnly paid my respects to freedom, I decided on the sly that it had to be handed over without delay to anyone who comes along. And every time I can, I preach in my church of Mexico City, I invite the good people to submit to authority and humbly to solicit the comforts of slavery, even if I have to present it as true freedom (6.17).
This goes back to Jean-Baptiste’s earlier discussion in Chapter Three about "slavery with a smile." Have slaves, he says, but let them think that they are free men. He is doing the same thing in his profession as a judge-penitent, and he claims to have just done the same thing with you.