Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

Bethink Yourselves! »

By graf Leo Tolstoy

But this is not what is said and felt by any man who understands the destination of his life–i.e. by any religious man. Such a man is guided in his activity not by the presumed consequences of his action, but by the consciousness of the destination of his life. A factory workman goes to his factory and in it accomplishes the work which is allotted him without considering what will be the consequences of his labor. In the same way a soldier acts, carrying out the will of his commanders. So acts a religious man in fulfilling the work prescribed to him by God, without arguing as to what precisely will come of that work. Therefore for a religious man there is no question as to whether many or few men act as he does, or of what may happen to him if he does that which he should do. He knows that besides life and death nothing can happen, and that life and death are in the hands of God whom he obeys.

A religious man acts thus and not otherwise, not because he desires to act thus, nor because it is advantageous to himself or to other men, but because, believing that his life is in the hands of God, he cannot act otherwise.

In this lies the distinction of the activity of religious men; and therefore it is that the salvation of men from the calamities which they inflict upon themselves can be realized only in that degree in which they are guided in their lives, not by advantage nor arguments, but by religious consciousness.


“But how about the enemies that attack us?”

“Love your enemies, and ye will have none,” is said in the teaching of the Twelve Apostles. This answer is not merely words, as those may imagine who are accustomed to think that the recommendation of love to one’s enemies is something hyperbolical, and signifies not that which expressed, but something else. This answer is the indication of a very clear and definite activity, and of its consequences.

To love one’s enemies–the Japanese, the Chinese, those yellow people toward whom benighted men are now endeavoring to excite our hatred–to love them means not to kill them for the purpose of having the right of poisoning them with opium, as did the English; not to kill them in order to seize their land, as was done by the French, the Russians, and the Germans; not to bury them alive in punishment for injuring roads, not to tie them together by their hair, not to drown them in their river Amur, as did the Russians.

“A disciple is not above his master.... It is enough for a disciple that he be as his master.”

To love the yellow people, whom we call our foes, means, not to teach them under the name of Christianity absurd superstitions about the fall of man, redemption, resurrection, etc., not to teach them the art of deceiving and killing others, but to teach them justice, unselfishness, compassion, love–and that not by words, but by the example of our own good life. And what have we been doing to them, and are still doing?

If we did indeed love our enemies, if even now we began to love our enemies, the Japanese, we would have no enemy.

Therefore, however strange it may appear to those occupied with military plans, preparations, diplomatic considerations, administrative, financial, economical measures, revolutionary, socialistic propaganda, and various unnecessary sciences, by which they think to save mankind from its calamities, the deliverance of man, not only from the calamities of war, but also from all the calamities which men inflict upon themselves, will take place not through emperors or kings instituting peace alliances, not through those who would dethrone emperors, kings, or restrain them by constitutions, or substitute republics for monarchies, not by peace conferences, not by the realization of socialistic programmes, not by victories or defeats on land or sea, not by libraries or universities, nor by those futile mental exercises which are now called science; but only by there being more and more of those simple men who, like the Dukhobors, Drojjin, Olkhovik, in Russia, the Nazarenes in Austria, Condatier in France, Tervey in Holland, and others, having placed as their object not external alterations of life, but the closest fulfilment in themselves of the will of Him who has sent them into life, will direct all their powers to this realization. Only such people realizing the Kingdom of God in themselves, in their souls, will establish, without directly aiming at this purpose, that external Kingdom of God which every human soul is longing for.

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