Last summer’s (third) volume of Kontinent, mouthpiece of Eastern European emigration literature, carried a striking article by Mihajlo Mihajlov, 43, a Yugoslav lecturer in Slavonic literature. Mihajlov is now in jail for the third time for his nonconformist publications, serving a seven-year sentence that began in 1974. The article is entitled “The Mystical Experience of Captivity.” In it Mihajlov describes his experience (also to be found in the Russian writers Solzhenitsyn, Panin, and Abram Terz) that “only he who saves his soul, i.e., remains loyal to the truth, his conscience or his inner voice, and is even willing to die for that end, may actually save both, soul and body, whereas those who compromise with lies and materialism usually lose both.

Mihajlov goes on to speak of some higher power and authority he experienced in prison that will make a person almost invincible if he listens to that inner voice, which he terms the calling of God. Consequently, for him the whole ideological battle and power struggle of today in the last analysis is not a political but a religious battle. The true battle line runs between good and evil. The peak sentence of this part of Mihajlov’s essay runs, “To follow that inner voice, then, means nothing else than to determine our present actions with a view to eternity.” This is the decisive rule for living in captivity—and that includes everybody, even those who enjoy civil liberty but are subject to lack of freedom in other ways, through illness or other adverse conditions.

This is a weighty and much needed challenge for us in the West who are continually tempted to compromise with materialism in its different and sometimes sublime forms. In his prison cell Mihajlov has struck on the “mystery” ...

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