An Unpublished Tolstoy Translation

by Vladimir Tchertkoff

Tolstoy, 1905; photographer unknown; courtesy IISG/WRI

Editor’s Preface: The document that follows, Thoughts on Life, Death, Love, Non-Resistance, Religion, Revolution, Socialism, Communism, etc. is an unpublished English translation of selections from Tolstoy’s diaries between the years 1907-1908. The selection was made by Vladimir Tchertkoff (1854-1936), Tolstoy’s literary agent and the editor-in-chief of his collected works. The date of the selection is not mentioned, although the typescript bears a date of 1934 (see heading below). The translator is also unnamed. There is however an accompanying note by Tchertkoff, “How to translate Tolstoy”, addressed to his secretary Alexander Sirnis, who, together with Charles James Hogarth, was responsible for the translation of The Diaries of Leo Tolstoy: Youth 1847 to 1852, New York: Dutton, 1917.  It is likely that Sirnis was responsible for this translation, and if so, it can be dated to between 1908 and 1918 (the death of Sirnis). This same note also mentions a Mrs. Mayo as providing corrections. Isabella Fyvie Mayo was an author who knew both Tolstoy and Gandhi, and had collaborated previously with Sirnis on several translations. If she was indeed responsible for the editing of the translation, the typescript must date to no later than 1914, the year of her death. In “How to translate Tolstoy” Tchertkoff insists that the translation be as literal as possible and must preserve the style and flavor of Tolstoy’s literary style and vocabulary. The phrasing is often quaint and differs radically from later translations of Tolstoy’s diaries, such as R.F. Christian’s Tolstoy’s Diaries, London: The Athlone Press, 1985.  It is not clear whether Tchertkoff intended Thoughts as a “manifesto” for the flourishing Tolstoyan movement, of which he was a leader, or as an appendix to The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894), in which Tolstoy argued that Christians had not sufficiently recognized that love for everyone also required that evil not be resisted by violence, particularly in the form of war or state sanctioned coercion. The insistence on the notion that God is love and the overriding importance of non-resistance are certainly two key elements of these Thoughts. Although Tchertkoff edited two volumes of Tolstoy’s diaries, The Diaries of Leo Tolstoy: Youth, 1847 to 1852, New York: Dutton, 1917; translated by C.J. Hogarth and A. Sirnis, and The Journal of Leo Tolstoy: First Volume, 1895 to 1899, New York: Knopf, 1917; translated by Rose Strunsky, the document that follows has never been published. It forms part of a larger collection of Tchertkoff and Tolstoy material that was donated in the early 1970s to the War Resisters’ International by the daughter of Ludvig Perno, a Tolstoy scholar and translator, and is part of the WRI archive at the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Further notes on the text and photographs are at the end of the transcript. A pdf scan of the original may be accessed by clicking on this link. Another pdf scan of the Perno acquisition letter can be accessed at this link. Gertjan Cobelens

Thoughts on Life, Death, Love, Non-Resistance, Religion,
Revolution, Socialism, Communism, etc.

  Unpublished Diaries and Notebooks of Leo Tolstoy;
supplied by V. G. Tchertkoff, Box 1234, Moscow, USSR;
no rights reserved.
Copy of this was sent to Russia, 12-11-34.

Tolstoy in the woods at Yasnaya Polyana; photo by Vladimir Tchertkoff; courtesy IISG/WRI

Tolstoy’s Diaries and Notebooks

[No date. GC] How strange it must be to feel oneself alone in the world, separated from everything else. No matter how far he may have strayed from the path, a man would not be able to live if he did not feel his spiritual bond with the world, with God. If he loses the consciousness of this bond, he is unable to live and kills himself. This explains almost all the cases of suicide.

There are only two pathways of life: one, to live for the pleasures of your body, placing these above everything else; the other, to live for your soul, placing spiritual happiness above everything else. On following the first course there are pleasures, but they are brief and the further you proceed along this course, the weaker they grow, terminating in the horror of death and the most dreadful calamity for the bodily pleasures: suffering and death. On following this second course, happiness does not end, but the further you proceed, the bigger it grows and terminates in the greatest happiness – passing away.

The working people, the poor in general, are not kinder, but rather more malignant than the rich; they condemn the latter, envy them. They are to be pitied more in this respect than in respect of their poverty. The rich, on the other hand, are invariably more immoral than the poor; they profit by labour of the poor and live in idleness, and chiefly in this respect they are to be pitied.

Yet it is not Russia that we have to save, but that which is millions of times more important than the imaginary being Russia – your own soul.

The basis of education must be religious teaching. Education without religious teaching (as is the case with us) is not education but invariably the corruption and deadening of higher faculties. An anarchist-revolutionary called. Down in the village he talked to the peasants, saying they should not work for the lords and should take away from them what they (the lords) regarded as their own property. I would like to ask him and his teachers: But, is one allowed to work for a rich peasant, who owns ten horses, on haulage work or is running a brick kiln, etc, or is one not? If this is still permissible, then where is the limit? And if the limit for whom not to work has been established, how shall it be brought about, how shall it be made the order of the community? Will laws be passed that will be brought into effect by force? But then there will again be misappropriation of power.

And this course of reasoning revealed to me suddenly and with perfect clarity, never before experienced by me, the grave delusion about organising other people’s lives.

The motive power of revolutionaries is, chiefly, envy, ambition, and the love of power. And what is the worst of all, these low feelings are hidden under the cloak of an imaginary love and compassion for the masses and, the most amusing thing, the imaginary love of freedom. They enslave themselves to power, the most dreadful form of bondage, out of love for freedom.

Judge others, as you would judge yourself. For it is no one else but yourself. And therefore be as indulgent towards them in their misdeeds, as you have been and are towards yourself. And, as in the case of your own sins, hope for their repentance and improvement.

The emancipation of the people, constitutions, all sorts of liberties, the majesty of the state, patriotism, the best social order; all this is nothing but a cloak under which take refuge envy, love of power, ambition, vanity, idleness, and despair. And the consequences of these good intentions are: the struggle of all against each other, hatred instead of love, and the greater and greater decline of morality.

One of the worst delusions into which people, wishing to improve their conditions, fall is to think that there can be such a social order, such classification of people, in which they will fare better than in any other, such as the continuous struggle between parties and classes of society, from which there results the semblance of an order. All this is nothing but self-deception which introduces a new evil since it takes people further away from the one and only activity necessary for the achievement of a better order of life, from perfecting themselves inwardly.

The most dreadful and most harmful deception to which humanity is subject is the pharisaism, the hypocrisy, which present egotistical activities directed to the achievement of personal aims as a service dedicated to God. This hypocrisy has been denounced from ancient times. But a still more dreadful hypocrisy, particularly rife in modern times, is political hypocrisy. Men, from the czar down to the comrade-worker, assure themselves and others that they are concerned with the welfare of the people, whereas they are concerned with this as much as a hen is concerned with the building of a church. They are actuated by gross egotism only.

In order not to do evil unto your neighbour, to love him, it is necessary to train yourself not to abuse him or speak evil of him; and in order to achieve that it is necessary to get into the habit of not thinking evil of him. That is possible. And only then will it be possible not to do evil unto man – to love him.

The poor enjoy more happiness than the rich, because the gratification of needs – acquisition of clothes when you did not have any; of food, after you have been hungry for a day; of a house, when you had no shelter – affords incomparably more pleasure than the gratification of the fancies of the rich.

I do not say that the state is good, or that it is bad, or that we must or must not be engaged in politics. All I say is that before occupying ourselves in politics, we must occupy ourselves with our own life, with our own soul, and that the most sagacious political measures in a state with a hundred million inhabitants will have much less effect than the moral and religious improvement of a single man out of those hundred million.

There are three suppositions: (1) that spirit, consciousness, and reason originate from matter and depend on it. (2) That matter originates from spirit and depends on it. (3) That spirit and matter are inalienably united and one does not influence the other.

In the first instance, to the question where did matter, which forms my body, come from, I must answer: from the previously existing matter. And that? From that existing previously to it. And that? … And I must admit the existence of a matter totally incomprehensible to me, which came into being on its own accord.

In the second instance, to the question: Where did spirit come from? My reply is that I repudiate the question. Spirit, consciousness, reason did not originate from anywhere; it is; it really is; is to such an extent that without it there is nothing. Therefore, in the first instance the origin of me is outside me in the infinity and it is imperfect and incomprehensible; in the second, it is within me and fully comprehensible.

The third supposition drops out of its own accord, for two sources of life, of which one is completely incomprehensible, cannot be equal.

The harm caused by medical science consists in people being occupied more with their bodies than with their souls. Life is shaped in such a way that millions of young, strong, healthy children perish, their lives are thrown away, whereas old, useless, harmful people are nursed with great care, training thereby people, even the masses (and this is the chief thing) to pay more attention to their bodies than to their souls.

Had there been no medical science at all, this temptation – anxiety about one’s body – would be absent; people would think more about their souls, and their condition would, in general, be much happier… Illness would then make people think about death and not about a chemist’s shop.

And should people lead a more spiritual life, there would be no automatic pistols, wars, hungry children, and mothers resorting to abortion.

Some say: “There is no spiritual entity, all emanates from the body.” Naturally, how could people think otherwise, if they live for the sake of their bodies, are concerned with their bodies only, never struggle with them? A child lives for its body, but it does not explain it or find excuses; but woe to the grown-up who continues to live like a child and uses elaborate arguments to justify himself. Only he who struggles with his body, knows what is a body, and knows that there is that which struggles with the body and is stronger than the body.

Freedom, equality can be realized only through love, and not through violence. When it is attempted to be realized through violence, it is the greatest evil.

The whole aim of the present-day civilisation is to minimise labour and to increase the pleasures of idleness (the Jewish civilisation, idleness, the condition of paradise). Whereas the chief welfare of man – his material welfare – should insist in increasing the pleasantness of labour. Under the present civilisation man and his pleasures are made a sacrifice to gain. Steam instead of horses, sowing seeds by machine instead of by hand, bicycle and motorcar instead of feet, etc.

Even more and more do I suffer, almost physically, from inequality: from the wealth and excesses of our life amidst poverty; and I am powerless to reduce this inequality. This is the secret tragedy of my life.

What great words: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and the rest shall be added to you”. This means: if you will seek for the rest in all its possible forms, as all are seeking, you will certainly not find it, and you will not only fail to find the Kingdom of God, but will move further away from it. And the reverse: seek the Kingdom of God, and you shall find all the rest. This is the only way to achieve the rest. How I would like to convince mankind of this.

Motion, outside of me as well as within me, is the process of unveiling for me that eternal being, outside-of-time and outside-of-space, which is and which I am incapable of embracing but towards the realisation of which I am moving. In this unveiling of myself and the world I can take part in a two-fold manner: passive, unconscious, submitting myself to the flow, believing in the reality of the changing world, and active, conscious, acknowledging myself to be a spiritual being, more and more unveiling itself and merging in the All. (Not clearly expressed, but comprehensible to me, and I hope to express it more clearly one day.)

It was only just recently that I was rejoicing over the fact that I felt keen and vitally the necessity, naturalness and joyfulness of the loving communion with all people, but now I have realised that this feeling has been a derived one, that the fundamental feeling is the consciousness of the loving communion not with people but with the source of all, with God. This latter feeling includes the former one. Felt this vividly for several days: every instant felt His proximity and lived in His sight, fulfilling His will. Now it has grown blunt, but am making efforts to revive it and hope to be successful.

[6 pages are missing here, numbered 9-14. GC]

Tolstoy, 1905; photographer unknown; courtesy IISG/WRI

(45) One is trying to awaken in self love towards a person – and cannot. The only way to achieve this would be to arouse in self love towards God, that is, to call forth the consciousness of unity with God. This may not lead to actual loving of that other person, but will certainly free self from the unloving, unkind feeling towards that person. I recall at the moment the veterinary surgeon, my jokes about him and I feel ashamed of myself. (How useful it is to write this Diary, to hold intercourse with one’s own soul, as Marcus Aurelius used to say.)

[48] The belle letters. According to my old habit I expect something from outside: somebody pleasant on the way here, or some good news in a letter. I am waiting, and yet I know very well that nothing good can come to me from outside. I cannot think of any person or any message that could afford me real happiness. What then can afford me happiness? What can I wish for? Only for one thing: only for that which I myself can give to myself, that I should approach ever nearer and nearer to God, and merge in Him. Am in a bad temper at the moment: What happiness can I afford to myself under such circumstances? Even now can I afford to myself happiness, and a great one indeed: I must overcome this disposition, make use of it in order to learn how to maintain communion with God even in spite of that disposition.

[50] Intelligence arises from humbleness; stupidity from self-conceit. However powerful mental capacities one may possess, if he is humble he will never be satisfied; he will always be searching; a self-conceited person thinks he knows all there is to know and makes no headway in depth.

[54] Was reading Kropotkin’s work on communism. Well written and with good purpose, but remarkable as regards its inner contradiction: in order to put an end to some people using violence over the others it is necessary to commit violence. The point is, how to cure people from egotism and from using violence? According to his programme, in order to achieve this aim it is necessary to commit new violence.

Yesterday had a very good conversation with Nikolaieff. He began by saying to me: “You talk horrible things: you acknowledge property, you acknowledge the sacred right of property in the results [product] of man’s labour.” I retorted that neither do I recognize the right nor its sanctity. True, it is natural for man to wish that he should take advantage of the results [product] of his labour without hindrance, and that it is natural to respect this attitude in another. But there is here no “right”.  The communists say that everything belongs to all, whilst the non-communists say that there is a right of property and that it is sacred. My opinion is that for a Christian there can be neither communism nor the right of property. The fundamental principle of Christianity is complete freedom excluding the possibility of violence of man over man, and does away with [excludes] both communism and the right of property.

I make a pair of boots and wish to give them to my son. A communist steps in and requests these boots to be left for the common use. If I do not wish to give them, he will use violence against me. Likewise, the person believing in the state will use violence against the one wishing to take the boots away from me. But a Christian – although he knows and respects people’s nature according to which each one wishes to make use of the results of his own labour as he pleases – does not consider anyone to have the right to substantiate this wish by [right for anyone to materialize his wish by means of] violence; neither does he regard any one as having the right to take away from a person the results of his labour in the name of communism. Property, as well as communism, are the outcome of coercion, and this being in the sphere of violence, is shunned by the Christian.

[67] It seems impossible to love a bad man. And, as a matter of fact, it is impossible. However. Love one must and one can, not the man but the crushed, stifled God in him; love that God and help to set him free. This is not only possible, but joyous.

The real, earnest life is only that which follows consciously the higher law. Life, which is actuated by carnal desires, passions, and argumentations is only a prelude to life, a preparation to it – it is a dream.

No one calls you to alter or improve the existing order of things, but the whole life-force which is implanted in you calls you to the alteration and improvement of your inner, spiritual life, to ever greater and greater manifestation of God in you.

[70] Our education of human beings is very similar to the cultivation of fruits, apples, etc., in which the palatable envelope of the seed is almost everything, in which, if it were possible, there would be no seed at all. People are educated in such a way that they should have as little soul as possible – that they should have nothing but body.

[71] Have not written for a long while. During this time was in depressed state of mind for a day on account of the police worrying the peasants [Two policemen were sent to Yasnaya Polyana by the Governor of Toula at Countess Tolstoy’s request to watch the manorial estate during the troubled times following the revolution of 1905. Vladimir Tchertkoff].

Aunt Tania and Mikhail Sergeievitch and the two little Tania’s are here [relatives of Tolstoy family. VT]. There was an unexpected and unpleasant outbreak of abuse on account of my letter in which I was explaining that I had no property. [Tolstoy’s letter to the press in 1907, explaining publicly, in reply to numerous letters addressed to him and requesting from him monetary assistance, that over thirty years ago he renounced all his property and is therefore capable of affording such assistance less than anyone else. VT] I felt offended but, remarkably enough, it was just what was necessary for me; surrendering people’s good opinion about me. I have made good progress in this respect. I experience more and more a peculiar kind of ecstasy, joy of existence. Yes, it is only necessary to free oneself, in the way I am now getting free, from the temptations of wrath, lust, wealth, to a certain extent of sensuousness and particularly of fame, and all of a sudden the inner light begins to grow.

[75] This is the first day of my spiritual reawakening; have risen to the former rung of the ladder or, perhaps, even a little higher. It was yet dark this morning when I woke up and began thinking. It was so marvellously good (for myself) that I felt exalted; but made no record thereof, and when later I was reproducing it in my mind it was all by a long way not the same – not as it shone to me in the first instance.

This is what is was: Life appears to be now one thing, now another – now bodily welfare, now grief, now illness, now a burden, now joy, but the whole life is nothing but “resurrection”, i.e. increase of love, the rising of love out of the sepulchre of body. And this is endless joy.

And further: Ever more and more does one regard all that which one loves as one’s own self; one loves all and therefore not in words but in deed become God.

I felt this in the early morning in a peculiar way, which embraced and transmuted my whole being into a state of joy. Now I am reading, writing, but cannot reproduce the exalted feeling of joy and tenderness.

To write down further: How strange that people do not understand that the only legitimate basis of repudiating the existing order of society is a completely new, different order, not based on violence. But we cannot even imagine such a completely new order of life and cannot know it. One can repudiate violence, and that not as a means, but as a wrong action. But to repudiate any order of life without repudiating violence is insanity.

[75 sic] One of the commonest delusions is to attribute to yourself those changes which incessantly take place in the material and spiritual life of separate individuals, as well as of congregations and communities. “I have cured, I have taught, I have arranged”, whereas all this has been performed by the perpetual change of everything in time. One can change or move only oneself. (Rather indefinite!)

[76] (This is very important.) That evil should not be resisted by violence is not a prescription – it is the law of life, revealed to us and of which we are conscious, valid for every separate individual and for the whole of mankind, even for all creatures.

This law is being fulfilled uninterruptedly. Wolves die out, rabbits increase. The fulfilling of this law, as of every other law, is the ideal to which all the creatures tend unconsciously and of their own accord – and towards which every separate human being must strive.

This law appears to be fallacious only when it is interpreted as one necessitating full realisation, and not as it should be understood as a constant, unceasing, unconscious or conscious striving towards its realisation. Ikonnikoff, Koudrin, Kourtish [All these refused military service on religious grounds. VT] fulfill the law of non-resistance consciously; Nikolas together with Stolipin [Nikolas II. – Emperor of Russia; Stolipin – Minister of the Interior, who was assassinated by the revolutionaries in 1911.VT] and the revolutionaries – the enemies of non-resistance – co-operate unconsciously in the realisation of the law by annihilating themselves.

[77] It is not a matter of everybody being equal in the possession of material goods, but of living for love. One can be rich and yet love the poor or be equal in the possession of material goods and be hateful.

[78] I know that these clear and simple truths about life, which I now write down, will probably be defined by the learned readers of the future as mysticism or by some other name, which would enable them, without understanding these truths, to remain in their calm and self-satisfied ignorance. If the brain is occupied with scientific knowledge, there is no room in it for religious-ethical knowledge. This explains the irreligiousness of our upper classes. Manual labour leaves the brain free, whereas mental work does not.

[79] The most tragic fact about our Christianity is that it is introduced and disseminated among the poor and feeble by the powerful and rich – by those same whose existence is condemned by Christianity.

[81] Is it natural for youth to wish what I am wishing: the salvation of my soul, to get nearer to God? It is clear to me that there is nothing else to desire, because I am on the verge of my death. But they, poor things, imagine that there are many things worthy of desire besides this, besides that which is the one thing needful.

[84] The absence of religion produces – on account of the absence of the one activity natural to man, i.e. inwardly perfecting himself – the necessity of imposing this activity upon others, produces the insanity of preaching to others, condemning others, and being concerned not with the order of one’s own inner world, but of the external material work.

[85] Successful revolutions take place only through religion, when people think only about themselves, their own lives, and do not define the change of the common life.

[86] Without religion, i.e. without an established relation to the infinite spiritual, man is but a tailless monkey capable of making phonographs, balloons, bombs, etc.

[87] Religion is the relation between man and God. An idolater possesses it, whereas a most learned man does not possess it. And the idolater stands infinitely higher.

[86, sic] Contemporary people, particularly the learned ones, not only do not possess any religion, but they do not even know what religion is. Worse than that: they think they do, assuming that religion consists in talking and arbitrary discussions about indefinite subjects such as soul, God, etc. These people resemble the valet of an eminent mathematician, who, on seeing his master writing with chalk letters and figures on the blackboard, decided with his chums that the professor’s occupation was to draw lines of signs and figures on a blackboard.

[87, sic] To pass over from an outlived religion to a new one – to a new relation with God – is not a trifle, but a difficult task.

[88] Falsehood is necessary for pride, for wealth, for power. Meekness and the consciousness of one’s human dignity – are one and the same thing. And that is compatible neither with love of power, nor with wealth.

[89] Life’s activity expresses itself in love. Man is incapable of increasing love in himself, because love is the essence of life itself. He can only move the obstacles to his manifestation of love. And this constitutes man’s life, and on this should he concentrate his efforts.

From Tolstoy’s Diary of 1908

Tolstoy, 1908; photographer unknown; courtesy IISG/WRI

[97] For the first time became conscious of my spirituality with an unusual new clarity. I do not feel well, I feel weak, and I visualise so simply, clearly, and without effort the deliverance from my body, not death, but deliverance from the body; the indestructibility of that which is my real “I” became so wonderfully clear. It, that “I”, is the only really existing thing, and if it exists, it cannot perish as can that which, like the body, has no real existence. And I felt so steady and happy. The illusory and perishable nature of my body, which is a mere appearance, became so wonderfully clear.

[93 sic] If the meaning of life is perfecting oneself, then it is clear that it cannot be the perfecting of one’s soul (the soul is divine and therefore perfect), but it would consist in removing that which hinders the manifestation of the soul – the sins.

[97 sic] It would have been a much more revolting injustice if, as the learned people think, man were unable to know the meaning of life and his guidance in it without having the leisure necessary for studying complicated and difficult sciences – it would have been a much more revolting injustice than if one man had millions and the other had no boots. On acknowledging that life is that which is within you, you study and improve the self, which is accessible and known to you; but on acknowledging that life is that which makes up the universe, you study and improve the life of the universe which is inaccessible and unknown to you.

[98] Religious and scientific activities are incompatible. To be engaged in one means neglecting the other.

[99] I found the joy of and the key to life at the end of my days and am, therefore, not in the position to make use of this knowledge myself. And consequently I must, nay it is my duty, to hand it on to mankind. For the first time keenly felt this obligation. I was going to Sonia [Tolstoy’s wife. VT] in order to say something unkind about Andrew [Tolstoy’s son. VT] and on my way bethought myself: What for? And on returning experienced new joy. I had never before known in earnest the joyfulness of a tête-à-tête communion with God. And what a joy it is.

[101] Was reading Shaw. He is remarkable in his vulgarity. He is not only void of thought transcending the vulgarity of a city mob, but he does not even understand a single great thought of the past thinkers. All his originality consists in being capable of expressing most commonplace trivial things in a most elegantly perverted new style, as if it were something new, originating from himself. His chief characteristic is an astounding self-confidence, which is equal only to his complete philosophic ignorance.

People express the consciousness of their spirituality in the most unexpected and queer manner. It is expressed first of all in the conception of God, then – immortality of the soul after death, then – resurrection, and even in the affirmation of the eternal nature of matter. In all these manners of expression the effect is taken for the cause. Man knows within himself a being independent of both time and space and attributes this condition to God; or again, he deduces from his consciousness the immortality of the soul, or resurrection, or eternal matter.

[102] Christianity is not, as some think it is, disobedience to the government, but obedience to God.

[104] Memory unites one with the past – love with the present. Decline of the union with the past (memory) increases union with the present. It is impossible to be in the possession of both. One grows at the expense of the other. Complete annihilation of memory is a complete union (in the present) through love, death. I am losing my memory and more, and I am conscious of what I acquire. And it is so good!

[103 sic] People talk about immortality, about future life; they say that it is necessary to know about this for the sake of the present life. What nonsense! You are given the possibility of enjoying the ever increasing welfare here, now. What else do you want? Only he who does not know how to find it and does not want it will talk about future life. And, as a matter of fact, what do we mean by future life? The idea of future is related to time. And time is the condition of consciousness in this life. To talk about future life after the termination of this life is like talking about what form a piece of ice would acquire after it had melted away or after the water of which it was composed, turned into vapour. Besides, why should I trouble myself about life in the future when all my spiritual life is only in the present? My life is in what I love, and I love mankind and God. And neither of these will perish with my death. Death is only the cessation of the separateness of my consciousness.

[105] Was thinking in the night, as if anew, about the meaning of life. And it comes to the same thing, viz. that one can and must do that which his spiritual consciousness demands from him. Not that one has to do it before someone, but one is inevitably spurred to this by the fact that this is the only one activity, which affords one real welfare. And should one question: “What for?” – there is an answer: “Ein Narr kan mehr fragen als tausend Weisen antworten”. (“A fool can ask more questions than a thousand wise men can answer”. A German saying. VT) What for? It is not my business, and neither do I need, nor am I allowed to know this. And in addition, there are no organs with which to comprehend this.

[106] A dog is puzzled by the phonograph, but it is not puzzled by the human voice; or by the manifestation of life in us, or by an elephant, or horse, or a fly, since it knows that there are other beings separated from others in the same way as itself. A fly or a louse knows this about another fly or louse, but does not know this about man. And man does not know this about the globe. And the globe does not know this about… etc.

[116] For me, a human being, the whole world is a visual phenomenon; I see everything, and touch, listen to, or smell only when I distrust my sight. For a dog the whole world is a smell, and to check that which smells, it looks. When a dog barks, it sees an object without having yet smelt it, in the same way as I search with my eyes for the object, which emits a smell.

[116 sic] In knowledge it is not the quantity that is important, not even its exactness (there is no exact knowledge and there never will be), but the intelligent connection between different parts of it, so that it should illuminate the world from all sides. It is similar to what takes place in buildings. It may be a magnificent building – such as the Winter Palace – or a wigwam, they will both be intelligent building if they form on all sides a protection from the elements and make a habitable dwelling place. But the most magnificent three walls without the fourth or without a roof do not make a building and are inferior to a wigwam. It is the same with modern scientific knowledge as compared with the knowledge of an illiterate peasant. This truth must be taken for the basis of education. Knowledge must expand harmoniously.

If it were known that after death our position would be worse, life in view of death would be terrible. And if it were known for certain that death would improve our position, we would neglect this life.

[117] “Before Abraham was – I am” – every individual can say this and must do so. Everybody is conscious of his life without its beginning. And if it has no beginning, it has no end.  The law of life is beautifully illustrated by five fingers in a mitten; separate them, with the idea of increasing the warmth of each finger, and they will all be cold; and the more completely they are separated the colder they will be. But remove the partitions, bring them together, and they will all feel comfortable.

[118] “The whole life is a material process, a development and a correlation of beings.”  Very well, but what does the separateness of beings mean? If there is nothing else but matter, this matter ought to be all and inseparable. What then does it mean that certain combinations of matter know themselves as separate from all other combinations?

Does a formation of this separateness take place or does it not? And what is this consciousness of separateness? And this marvelous phenomenon is overlooked; its existence is taken for granted without a proof. But the whole thing rests upon this, and no explanation will yield anything, if this remains unproved.

[122] Something new and unusual happened to me today. I do not know whether it is good or bad – probably good, because all that was, is, or will be, is nothing but good. It happened that I woke up with a slight headache and in a peculiar manner forgot everything: forgot what time it was, what I was writing, where I was going. Side by side there was this peculiar sensitiveness to goodness: Saw a boy sleeping on the ground – felt pity; saw women working – felt intensely ashamed; tramps, and I was not annoyed, but felt pity. So it was not at all for the worse, but for the better.

Read in places my work, “The Law of Violence and the Law of Love”, and liked it and finished it. Felt uneasily grieved and distressed on account of the news about 20 peasants being hanged. Started dictating into the stenograph, but had to give it up. “Lord, the beginning of life, Thou, invisible, incomprehensible, but which is, it is childish to say: ‘I thank Thee’, but I am unable to express otherwise the tender joy of existence.” Cannot go any further.

Then a nightingale under the window – felt tenderly joyous. Only now remembered that this morning, on my stroll before breakfast, forgot to pray. Have forgotten everything – remarkable! Just now am reading my letter to Anatoliy Feodorovitch and cannot remember who he is

[124] How nice it is that I understand today, “vaut mieux tarde que jamais”, [Better late than never. VT] or this German saying, “A fool can ask more questions than a thousand wise men can answer.” But people like Serge or Sonia [His son and wife. VT] and their name is legion, disagree with me not because (as it appears to me at first) they refute, or think that they refute my arguments, but because all this does not interest them; they do not know and cannot know all that religion.

[124 sic] When manifesting the divinity of our souls, we cannot possibly know what consequence results from each manifestation: what from a kind word to a fool who abused you, and what from a complete system of philosophy.

And so for the oppressed, for the great majority of the working people, resistance to evil, submission to violence and participation in it, is a crude superstition similar to fasting, worshipping, and all sorts of self-inflicted tortures. But what to do then? This question only exists for the non-religious people. Religious people know what to do; to go on establishing the Kingdom of God within themselves and not think about others. The misfortune of the non-religious people consists in teaching others.

[125] I know that I shall not see the consequence of this appeal of mine but also I know, and know more certainly than that death exists, that such consequences there will be. Not in the sense that this or other arrangements of life, which I have thought out and the realisation of which I desire to see, will take effect, but in this, that the insanity and evil with which the people of the Christian world live, will cease. This will take place inevitably and for certain, I know it more certainly than there is death.

Of that which constitutes the real and essential progress of life – the liberation of the God of Love – one never is nor can be conscious. It is like sleep, one is unable to know the actual falling asleep. One can wish to fall asleep and, upon reflecting the fact, know that one has been asleep, but one is incapable of being conscious of the process of the realisation of one’s wish, as, for instance, one is conscious in the case of bodily desires.

[127] The highest moral law is only a law and possessed of significance when no other law can be recognized as higher or more obligatory.

[135] Nothing makes one so certain about one’s essence being indestructible and outside-of-time; nothing contributes so much towards calm acceptance of death, as the thought that on dying one does not enter a new state, but merely returns to that bodiless, formless state outside-of-time and outside-of-space in which it was and from which it comes into this life. (Good.) It would even not be right to say: “in which it was”, but returns to the same state, which is as natural to it, as the one in which it finds itself now.

[133] Intuition is the study of one’s spiritual being; knowledge – of everything external. One is always detrimental to the other. The more there is of one, the less of the other. Memory and the effort of thought stand in a similar interdependence: The more there is of one, the less of the other. The receptacle is limited, and on account of its being one and the same for both, they are almost invariably mixed up and one is taken for the other, whereas just the contrary is the fact; the more there is of memory, the less there is of the effort of thought, and vice versa. About a man with good memory it is said that he is clever; about one of original thought who remembers little, it is said that he is dull.

[134] Intuition is the study of the spiritual essence, knowledge – the study of the carnal, the material. Intuition gives the consciousness of the ideal of perfection and one’s relation to it. From it follows the attainment of moral perfection. Knowledge is the knowing of the material world, always unattainable on account of the infinity of time and space conditioning it, and consequently nothing follows from it.

[138] For a long time have not felt myself so unwell as yesterday. Weakness and depression. But, thank God, it is not so bad. There were 120 children from the Railway School. Very pleasant. Worked a little on “Executions”, read Figner [Vera Figner, a woman revolutionary executed in 1884. Tolstoy was reading biographical notes about her. VT] with disgust. This morning an elderly tramp of 82 visited; a youth of 18 called, meek and calm; then two students – one a man of letters, the other – a revolutionary. The revolutionary asked me a straight question: “If I could, at the execution of 20, become the executioner and, by hanging one, save 19 – would I hang that one?” Evidently this question was of importance to him and my opinion about it worried him. When I told him that one must carry on, i.e. refraining from doing evil, he rejoined: “But will it not happen that the person refraining from evil, will, in spite of the suffering around him, walk about with his head high up thinking to himself: ‘What a fine fellow I am’”. I told him that each one of us has so many transgressions against him that it would be impossible to feel sinless on account of not having committed the sin of compromise. Yes, this serving of mankind, this ‘doing good to others’ is a great evil; must single this out for writing about it. And all the evil of government, and all the evil of revolutionaries, and all the evil of education, and the economic evil – all turn on this.

[139] The scientists study the legs of the beetle, the brain of Mendeleieff, the distance to the stars, hoping that something might result from this. But this hope is just as vain as the hope of the schoolboy (a very common type), who replies to a teacher whatever occurs to him, hoping that it might pass.

[140] I bear the whole weight of a wealthy life, benefiting from none of its blessings.

[143] The day before yesterday received a letter reproaching me for my wealth and hypocrisy and the oppression of peasants, and, shame to me, it hurt me. The whole of today felt sad and ashamed. Just now had a ride on horseback and it struck me how desirable and joyous it would be to escape as a tramp, feeling grateful to and loving all. But I am weak. I cannot live constantly for my spiritual “I”. And whilst I am not living for it, I am held. But I am discontented with and ashamed of myself, and that at least is good. If only I could shun feeling proud of this!

[146] It is a bad thing, when moral goodness is made the means of attaining an external condition or situation. The chief calamities from which mankind suffers: religious deception, the deception of the State, and the revolution – originate from this.

[157] Not to punish, not to resist evil by violence, to possess no wealth – all these things appear to be heroic things, demands which cannot be fulfilled, whereas they are the simplest precepts indicating what people should cease doing in order not to be injurious to themselves. To abstain from swearing, drinking, meat-eating also appeared an heroic deed. Now we understand that we were following simple practical advice how not to be injurious to ourselves. It is the same with punishment, violence, and wealth.

[152 sic] About non-resistance: Those who, on acknowledging some kind of morality, think that it is, nevertheless, impossible to accept the law of non-resistance, resemble in all respects the man who admits that the square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides, or other similar mathematical inferences, and yet would say that acknowledgement of a straight line as the shortest distance between two points is a paradox and an exaggeration. They are similar because as there can be no geometry without the proposition that a straight line… etc., so also there can be no morality without the presupposition of love, which includes non-resistance. Every moral teaching is founded on love.

[158] Had there been no spirit confined in the body, there would be no life. We have no right whatever to speak either about spirit or body separately. We do not know and cannot know either one or the other in isolation, and yet we are incapable of understanding our lives without separating them, since we are aware that our whole life is a perpetual waning of the body and evolving of the spirit. At death, annihilation of the body and illumination of the spirit and its disappearance take place. One can suffer only in body. For the spirit there is no suffering. The weaker one’s spiritual life, the stronger the suffering. What a grave mistake therefore to live for the body and not for the spirit.

[162] I am receiving letters from youths, smashing all my life conception to fragments. First the light-minded self-confidence annoyed me; then I wanted to show them their stupidity; now it almost does not interest me. Or rather it does interest me while I am trying to find if there is any just approach in their criticism, and then leave it. When in my own family no arguments, no intimacy, not even love can make people stop from asserting that 3 x 2 = 5, how then can I expect to convince distant strangers, such as yesterday’s socialists or the angry Christian peasant? Yes, the words of Francis of Assisi as to when we achieve perfect happiness are great. Many of my followers take only that side of Christianity which repudiates evil. Real Christianity does not get angry with the anti-Christian actions of people, but only tries not to be anti-Christian itself, i.e. not to be angry.

[164] What wonderful joy that cannot be compared to anything else – and I experience it – is that of loving everybody, of loving all, of feeling in oneself this love, or to be more correct, of feeling oneself to be that love. And everything that we, in our perverseness, call evil, disappears, and everybody becomes intimate and one’s own… But I shouldn’t write about it, it will only disturb this feeling.

Yes, great joy. And he, who has experienced it, will not compare it to or wish, any other joy: and will spare nothing, will do everything within his power to gain it. And in order to gain it only one small but, owing to the pervertedness of our world, difficult thing is necessary: to train oneself to abstain from hatred, contempt, disrespect, and indifference towards any person. And this is possible. I have done so little in this respect, and have already, as if in advance, received unmerited reward. I am feeling it now; or rather I felt it when I was just having a walk, this great joy – love to all – with particular strength. How I wish I could retain it or at least experience it occasionally. And that’s enough.

[164 sic] Letters requesting aid that “thirst of knowledge” [sic] be satisfied! This is nothing but the grossest avarice and vanity – to get more comfortably on to your brother’s neck.

[165] Yesterday and today I thought, and it became perfectly clear, that one of the chief, if not the chief, states of consciousness from which follow higher moral conditions, is the consciousness or one’s spirituality [spiritual] and divine origin, in consequence of which, to the extent one is conscious to this, one can neither use cunning, nor dissemble, nor be afraid of anything, nor – the chief thing – not to love any one [refrain from loving anyone]. As a practical rule I apply this knowledge to myself in this way: as soon as you are in fear, indignant with something, desire something, do not love somebody, particularly if you are afraid of something – reflect on who you are, understand that you are a free all-powerful being – and it all passes away. It becomes clear that if you are afraid of something, wish for something and cannot achieve it, the obstacle is in you. And as soon as you understand this, you are at once free and omnipotent. All dissatisfaction is nothing but leaving the true pathway – you are knocking against the wall, pulling in the direction you should not go. But as soon as you remind yourself, get on to the right pathway – you are again with all, with the Whole, with God. Good.

[166] Health not bad, except [from] heart-burn. Today, since this morning, felt depressed. Ashamed of myself, ashamed of everything. I like it [this state of mind]. Started working on the “Circle of Reading”, but did very little. Was sitting, placing the cards for patience and, not exactly thinking, but waiting for God (I am unable to express it otherwise) to pass through me. And, as it seems, my expectations were realised. I do not know that I shall be able to express what I experienced but, for me, for my soul, it was of great importance.

Attention was diverted by reading the Diary and writing down thoughts for the “Circle of Reading”, and although I did not forget the thought itself, the vividness with which it came to me, was lost. Still, I am writing it down.

Yes, that’s it. All roads, except one – perfecting oneself, augmenting one’s spiritual power, freeing oneself from the body, moving towards God – are illusions for man. This activity – the one reasonable activity of life – takes place only in the instantaneous present. The past does not exist; but, as with all relations with the world, is but material for perfection. And never make the future an object of your life. (It was mainly this that I so vividly understood today). The future – the visualisation of that which is to be – should not exist for a man leading a rational life. There is only the present in which I can perform life’s task proper to me. What results will follow from such activity is not revealed to me; it is not revealed what will result for the world or what for my soul. (People think they can know it and rely on it; but this is the chief cause of the evil of their lives).

According to our view, leading a good life should not be coupled with any considerations of purpose. And how good it is. Only then is the joy of goodness real when nothing is gained by it. The thought occurred that by a good life the soul is being prepared for another and a better life beyond the grave. But this is not so. Nothing will be. Everything is. If one leads a good life now, one gets all the welfare one can wish for. And what freedom and strength, when one’s whole life is in the present only! Have written it down, but is altogether inadequate. It does not possess the smallest fraction of that vividness and joy which it had when it first came to me.

[168] Yesterday played cards until 12 o’clock. Felt ashamed and wicked. Thought people might say: “There is a good teacher – playing whist for hours on end!” But then thought more appropriately: that is just what is good for me. Real meekness is necessary for a virtuous life. Conventionally a general must behave like a general, an ambassador – as an ambassador, a teacher – as a teacher. That is wrong. A human being must behave as a human being. And it is needful for a human being first of all to be meek, to be willing to be humiliated. This does not mean that one must play cards, when one can do something else and be useful to others; it simply means that one should not be afraid of people’s condemnation, but on the contrary, be able to bear it in a good manner [in good part] – Sans Sourciller. [Without a wink. VT]

[176] Recollections about the past and conjectures about the future make up what we call consciousness of personality. Should man cease to recollect and conjecture, time will cease to exist for him and with it also his personality. There will remain only love, all that surrounds him in the world, all the diverse [phenomena] separated from him and from each other. And man will feel immovable amidst the moving world around him. (Man’s personality constitutes a part of that moving world.) Man will feel that the world moves in front of him like the earth in front of the sun, he himself being stationary; and as the sun illuminates the earth, he, merging in God, illuminates this world moving in front of him, and around him. If man could only rid himself of recollections about the past and conjectures about the future, rid himself of time, he would get rid of the delusion that the world around him is stationary and that he moves. The world moves in order that he may have knowledge of it.

[178] It is a great mistake to think that all inventions, which increase man’s control over nature – in agriculture, in mining and applied chemistry – and the possibility of an increased influence of men over each other through roads of communication, press, telegraph, telephone, phonograph, contribute towards human welfare [well-being]. The control over nature and the increased facilities for men’s influencing each other will only then contribute towards the welfare [well-being] of men when guided by love, by wishing good to others, and it will be an evil when they are guided by egotism, by wishing good to themselves alone. Metals wrought from the earth may be used either for the conveniences of life or for guns; increase in the fertility of the soil may mean either a greater guarantee of nutrition for the people or it may be the cause of an increased distribution and consumption of opium, spirits, etc.; the means for communicating thoughts may spread either good or evil influences. And therefore in an immoral community, such as our pseudo-Christian community, all inventions increasing man’s control over nature and improving the means of communication, not only fail to contribute towards man’s welfare, but are a positive and self-evident evil.

[235] Absence of religion is the cause of not perfecting oneself inwardly and not ridding oneself of the insanity of preaching to others, of condemning others and of arranging other people’s lives.

[236] A striking instance of distortion of mind is to be seen in the denial of the existence of the soul, by the so-called learned, whereas the untutored mind acknowledges it.

[239] Believe in the arguments about life eternal, and you will neither believe nor live happily, but, on the contrary, will suffer. Do not believe in the future life, but regard this one as eternal, and you will be tranquil and live happily and lovingly.

[257] The virtuous life of a nation is possible only according to the goodness of the people constituting it. Revolution merely calls forth the trinity – pride, envy, and anger. Improvement becomes possible with the improvement of the people, with their non-participation in the evil of power.

[263] Self-denial is necessary in all matters. It is necessary also in the matter of belief. It is necessary to sacrifice one’s favourite Russian, favourite Indian, and favourite Buddhist traditions.

[272] Only old men and children, free from sexual passion, live the true life. The others, with the sexual passion, are merely breeding animals. That is the reason why lascivious old men and children are so repugnant. And yet people think that sexual life is the source of all poetry.

[273] Just as all the water will trickle out of the bucket if there is even a single hole in it, so will the happiness of life ooze out of the soul, if there is animosity towards even a single person.

[317] It is impossible not to have exceptional attachments, but there is the temptation of not only justifying this, but of regarding it as a virtue.

[319] That life is an effort (moral) is clear from the fact that in sleep one can make no moral effort and consequently commits most immoral acts. In sleep there is no moral effort. Life without a moral effort is a dream.

[320] It often happens that within the man who possesses the strongest spirit, there are also the strongest passions.

[325] Do not believe that to transgress chastity may be necessary for one’s health. In the first place it is not true – transgression of chastity is much more threatening to one’s health than preservation of it; and secondly – and chiefly – both health and the moral law are two incommensurable conditions of life. To become immoral for the sake of one’s health is similar to breaking up one’s house and burning it for the sake of getting warm.

[327] Those who regard themselves as being religious, are not religious; learned, are not learned; kind, are not kind; refined, are not refined.

[328] Simplicity is the condition and hallmark of truth.

[335] One is surprised at the determined judgments of unthinking stupid people. But could it be otherwise? He who thinks knows how complicated every thought assertion is, and often how doubtful.

[337] It is impossible to instill into or transmit to another, one’s religious view of life. Everyone has his own. If everyone did not have his own – everyone is different – no one would have anything to live for. One can only give another material for forming his life-view; but everyone will pick out himself what is necessary for him.

[341] I am constantly receiving letters containing doubts and refutations of “non-resistance”. How remarkable! No one doubts the commandments “Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not lie”, etc. And yet, all those unusual instances, which are invented for disproving non-resistance, are applicable only to other interdictions and directions. Why is it? Because the commandment of non-resistance is the commandment of all commandments. And the non-fulfillment of this commandment permits the non-fulfillment of all others. Formerly I used to say that I had lived eighty years, but never had seen those instances about which people write; but in the course of these eighty years I had not passed a single day or hour without seeing the dreadful evil resulting from the non-fulfillment of this commandment.

[344] What shall we do then? First of all do nothing for the sake of changing other people’s lives, but change your own life as much as possible on the basis of the teaching of love and truth.

[352] My life is the manifestation of God. The more I manifest God, the more I experience wellbeing (freedom, consciousness of goodness). Wellbeing is not an aim, but the sign of the fulfillment of one’s destiny. How well it would be to remember that the only object of life is to free one’s self from the darkness (evil), which hides God – not my happiness, my success, or people’s approval of my actions.

[353] Formerly I used to think that reason was the chief characteristic of the human soul. That was a mistake, and I dimly felt it. Reason is merely a tool for the deliverance and manifestation of the essence of the soul – love. (Very important. VT).

[374] How disgusting are the eloquent declarations about love and the praising of it, such as Paul’s and in the history of Krishna. But love – a relation to men which is above justice – before demanding the sacrifice of self-renouncement, demands that no evil be done to those one loves, i.e. to all. Evil is doing to others what one does not wish to be done to one’s self, i.e. violence. And therefore the first and the lowest, but nevertheless most clearly defined manifestation of love, is abstaining from violence, and abstaining from it under all circumstances, i.e. NON-RESISTANCE. (Very, very important. VT).

[376] There are two kinds of people: some use their reason to learn the laws of life in order to follow them; others used their reason, or rather intellect, to justify the position in which they find themselves. Both the rich and the poor, the dissatisfied, act in this respect similarly [alike]. The first, in justifying their position, invent means to retain it – they boast and fear. The second, in justifying their position, invent means to change it – these envy and hate.

[376] Real life consists in transferring the bodily self, which is mingled with the spiritual, ever more and more into the purely spiritual, that which is the source of life, not of mine only, but of all life. To the extent it has been transferred, there will be no change (and therefore no fear) at death. The sign of a greater or lesser transference of one’s “self” from the bodily into the spiritual is love. Love is a sign. (Good.)

[377] Only those who verily believe in the spiritual life, can conquer evil by non-resistance.

[379] Breadth of thought and the richness of its contents exclude the possibility of its abundance. Deep thinkers – such as Kant – are seldom witty or possess abundance of knowledge. And vice versa.

[380] People ask: What is death? But we experience it unceasingly,  as life is death. I feel this with particular clearness. […] personal desires, recollections – all this gradually perishes, and my personal “self” is substituted by a universal, spiritual “self”, by God. Complete substitution of one “self” by the other is complete death. Sleep and the state of being awake are instances of this: transition from sleep without dreams to sleep with dreams and the transition from sleep with dreams to a state of being awake, are exact similes of birth, life and death.

Such is death from old age. But what about sudden death? The same, only the process is accelerated. Again the same similarity with sleep. One wakes up gradually when one has slept enough, and suddenly, when one is awakened. It is better to have slept enough, to die of old age, than to wake up before time, to die prematurely.

[387] The meaning of non-resistance according to Booka [A.A. Arkhangelesky, 1857-1906, a friend of Tolstoy wrote a book on “goodness”. Tolstoy was referring to this book. VT] is in this – that the commandment of non-resistance, defining a place for the struggle with evil, resolves the question of eternal contradiction between the external world and the spiritual world of concord and love into one Kingdom of God (John 1.51.)

[391] Not love, as according to Krishna and Paul, is necessary; but abstaining from doing evil to men, allowing no circumstances under which evil would be permissible.

[393] Egotism is either a great delusion and the source of great evil, or a great truth and the source of welfare. It is a source of evil, when it refers to the personality, and the source of wellbeing, when it refers to that spiritual entity, the manifestation of which constitutes the life of man.

[396] Life is the manifestation of the immaterial, the eternal in the material and temporal.

[399] Death is annihilation, decomposition of certain compounds. Spirit is not a compound but a simple entity, and is therefore not liable either to death or birth. Eternity before life, eternity after. So-called existence being but a momentary peeping out at things.

[402] What a remarkable immoral, anti-Christian and foolish teaching is the doctrine of redemption by Christ of the sins of mankind. God is so cruel as to demand retaliation and so foolish as not to be able to invent anything else except the execution of his son. Would it not have been better if he did what comes natural to every kind person – simply forgive mankind?

Astounding. Evidently, the more foolish a doctrine, the wider it spreads, and the more tenaciously people cling to it.

[…] Am reading Swami Vivekananda. Very clever, wordy and empty. He wishes to justify beliefs in objective beings… Sheer babble! There is only one thing and only one thing is certain: my life and my ability and necessity to decide how to spend it. This, and only this, is the basis of all religion and all philosophy.

[413] Wanted to revise a prayer from the “Circle of Reading” and was terrified by its coldness. There is no such prayer. It is emotion that is required and not a deliberation according to paragraphs.

[417] “Non-resistance to evil! How impracticable, how wild this is”, say people now. But this non-resistance is not something new, it is merely a refutation of that deception into which people have been led, namely that rational beings can, without repudiating their reason, destroy evil by increasing it, can regard the fits of their lower animal nature as the law of their life. It is terrible.

[422] I believe Thou art, and that Thou art in me and in all that is living. I feel myself separated from Thee, but my life is in Thee and am therefore striving though love to unite with Thee and all that lives, all that comes from Thee. Am longing for this union and therefore struggling with that which separates me from Thee: with the passions of my body, with idleness, sensuality and […] with unkindness. Am struggling with the temptations of pride, gain, retaliation; am struggling with the […]

Reference: IISG/WRI Archive Box 496: Folder 9.
For a pdf of the original please click here.
For a pdf of the Perno acquisition letter please click here.

A NOTE ON THE TEXT: The original typescript is 45 pages, pp. 1-8; 15-53. It is impossible, however, to determine the length of the original, as pages 9-14 are missing, and the last page ends in mid-sentence. We have preserved the original underlining. Comments in parentheses () are by Tolstoy; comments in square brackets [] are by Tchertkoff, including bracketed numbers. Although the Thoughts are not attributed to specific diary entries, it is possible to trace some of these. By comparing Thoughts with R. F. Christian’s Tolstoy’s Diaries Volume II, 1895-1910, London: The Athlone Press, 1985, we can confirm twelve matches:

  • entry 54 on p. 16 matches with diary entry 22 August 1907;
  • entry 59 on p. 17 matches with 8 August 1907;
  • entry 67 on p. 17 matches with 15 September 1907;
  • entry 71 on p. 19 matches with 10 October 1907;
  • entry 76 on p. 21 matches with 20 October 1907;
  • entry 78 on p. 22 matches with 8 November 1907;
  • entry 101 on p. 27 matches with 31 January 1908;
  • entry 122 on p. 31/32 matches with 12 May 1908;
  • entry 138 on p. 35 matches with 21 May 1908;
  • entry 143 on p. 37 matches with 3 June 1908;
  • entry 168 on p. 43 matches with 15 November 1908;
  • entry 272 on p. 46 matches with 17 March 1907.

In the same WRI archive box 496 there is also a heavily edited and difficult to read earlier version of Thoughts. From this manuscript (not reproduced here) we were able to confirm that pages 1-8 of our transcript are derived from Tolstoy’s diary entries of 14 January 1907, 16 January 1907 and 2 February 1907.

A NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPHS: The photographs reproduced in the article are from the Charles William Daniel Company Archive, Box 157-172, folder 164; International Institute Social History (IISG), Amsterdam, Netherlands. Three of the photographs were included in Free Age Press Series of Tolstoy Portraits. “Tolstoy in the woods” dates from 1905 and is by Tchertkoff.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Vladimir Tchertkoff  (variously spelled Chertkov, Tchertkof, or Tchertkoff) was the general editor of the Russian Collected Works of Leo Tolstoy, and one of Tolstoy’s most prominent followers. After the 1917 Revolution Tchertkoff founded the United Council of Religious Communities and Groups, which administered the Russian conscientious objection program. His Wikipedia page provides further biographical detail, and valuable links for further research. See also his correspondence with Gandhi, which we posted here, and can be accessed at this link. With kind permission of IISG, and especially Christine Schweitzer, director WRI.

Gertjan Cobelens is our Pacifism Editor, and in charge of our War Resisters’ International research project. Further documents in the project can be accessed at the WRI Project category page.

“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi