LEV SHESTOV \ Speculation and Revelation


Leo Tolstoy by Yury Selivestrov

YASNAYA  POLYANA  and  ASTAPOVO

 On the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Death of Leo Tolstoy



Published in Sovremenniye zapiski, no.61 (1936)





     Yasnaya Polyana and Astapovo - in other words, how Tolstoy lived and died. This is a gigantic theme, and it would be a totally unjustifiable presumption not merely to expect in a few pages to exhaust, but even only to indicate with any fullness, what Yasnaya Polyana and Astapovo mean to all of us who were brought up on Tolstoy. But it cannot be helped: Tolstoy is himself a giant. Not only in Russian literature but in the literature of the whole world there are only a few writers who can be compared with him in hugeness of stature. If, under these circumstances, I nevertheless undertake to discuss this theme, it is not to portray Tolstoy's life, work, and death, but only to recall this extraordinary man who lived in our midst, the struggles with which his soul was filled, and the traces that these struggles left in his works.

     Yasnaya Polyana for us is, as it were, organically connected with War and Peace, although, in essence, almost everything that Tolstoy wrote, beginning with "Childhood and Adolescence" up to "The Death of Ivan Ilych," "The Kreutzer Sonata," "Master and Servant," and all his religious-philosophical works, was written at Yasnaya Polyana. But in one respect War and Peace occupies a special place among all the other works of Tolstoy. Even now, when you read War and Peace once again - after how many times before! - you recall involuntarily Pushkin's words about Mozart: "Like a kind of cherub he brought us some heavenly songs." Indeed, even more: sometimes one wishes to repeat about Tolstoy what Saint Bonaventura's teacher said about his disciple: "It seems that in his soul Adam did not sin." Tolstoy is a cherub who brought us, who knew only dull, earthly songs, a few heavenly songs; he, like Bonaventura, is a doctor seraphicus. His soul was not touched by the sin of our primal ancestor. He hears and understands the solemn "very good" with which the Creator responded when He looked at the world created by Him, just as the first man heard and understood it before he allowed himself to be enticed by the fruits of the forbidden tree.

     The terrors, the most stupendous terrors of life, do not frighten Tolstoy: he finds in himself the strength to overcome every calamity, to answer every question. The battle at Borodino, the premature and agonized death of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, the bestial punishment inflicted by the French on the Russians suspected of arson, and all the other things of a similar nature that always accompany war and that are also encountered at every step under the so-called normal conditions of human existence - all this does not confuse Tolstoy but, on the contrary, so to speak, awakens new creative powers in him. And this is not because he felt these horrors less and hated them less than other people. On the contrary, he experienced them as no one else; every page of War and Peace bears witness to this. I shall quote only one small example of how Tolstoy approached the so-called accursed questions of our life and under what intensive searching the thoughts most precious to him and most valuable for us were born.

     Pierre Bezukhov, together with other Russians suspected of arson, Was condemned to die at the hands of a firing squad by a French court-martial. Not all of them were shot, but only five, in order to show an example of strictness; the rest, among them Pierre, were spared. But they were spared only at the last minute; Pierre had to be present at the shooting of his comrades who had been taken prisoner and to await his turn. And here are the words in which Tolstoy renders what Pierre felt:
From the moment when Pierre saw that fearful murder committed by men who did not wish to do it, it seemed as if the spring in his soul by which everything was held together and given the semblance of life had been pulled out - and everything collapsed into a heap of meaningless refuse. Although he was not clearly aware of it, faith in the beneficent ordering of the world, in the soul of men and his own soul, and in God was destroyed in him. This condition had been experienced previously by Pierre but never as strongly as now. Previously, when doubts of this kind had come to Pierre, these doubts had as their source his own fault. And in the deepest recesses of his soul Pierre then felt that salvation from that despair and those doubts lay in himself. But now he felt that it was not his fault that the world had collapsed before his eyes and that only meaningless ruins were left. He felt that it was not in his power to return to faith in life.
Tolstoy did not much care for Shakespeare and, as is known, mocked him. But in these words he repeated, without suspecting it, Shakespeare's deepest, most cherished thought. Hamlet, when the ghost which appeared to him finally convinced him that his father had perished at the hand of his own brother, now his mother's husband, exclaims: "The time is out of joint; 0 cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right." Also for Hamlet - more precisely, for Shakespeare - the world suddenly "collapsed" before his eyes, and Shakespeare felt that it is not given to him to recover faith in life through his own powers. What, then, is to be done, what is to be done? The question "What is to be done?" stood importunately before Tolstoy throughout the course of his whole earthly life, and by this question, only by it, was his entire creativity determined and directed. For Tolstoy - even in his youth - the activity of writing was never simply literature, that is to say, what is sometimes called art for art's sake. Tolstoy's writings were always, the result and the expression of the most strained, almost insane struggle with a fearful and ruthless enemy, whose power and presence he came to feel under the mask of the allurements of life. He might have said of himself, like Lermontov, who was in many respects so close and kindred to him:
I knew the power of only one thought,
One flaming passion alone:
It lived in me like a worm,
Gnawed and consumed my soul.
With my tears and melancholy
I nursed this passion in the darkness of night.
This passion, this everlasting, inescapable melancholy taught him to pose questions where there were no questions at all, and taught him something else still: to pose questions where and when we are most profoundly convinced with our entire being that no questions whatever may any longer be posed, for there are no answers whatever and never will be. One can say bluntly that the heavenly songs brought to us by the cherub Tolstoy, that is, all his marvelous artistic works - and not War and Peace, but the works of the last years of his life: "The Death of Ivan Ilych"; "The Kreutzer Sonata"; and the story "Master and Servant," that has not been surpassed by anyone; as well as the fragments of unfinished works, "Notes of a Madman," "Father Sergius," etc. that were published posthumously - were born out of this titanic and desperate struggle with the omnipresent opponent whom it is impossible not only to conquer but even to see. In this lies the enigma and - if the application of such a word to Tolstoy and his like is appropriate - also the key to Tolstoy's creativity. Behind the heavenly songs a tremendous struggle, one that knows of no end, is hidden.

     Perhaps here again it is appropriate to recall Lermontov and the words of his "Poem on the Merchant Kalashnikov." On a clear, gay morning the people gathered to witness a play, a cheerful pastime - a fistfight at the Moscow River. In olden times the Muscovites were great lovers of such fights. But where all - even one of the participants in the struggle - awaited and sought a cheerful entertainment, something quite different was in store for them and took place. The merchant Kalashnikov turns to his opponent with the following speech:
You have uttered the simple truth:
For one of us the requiem will be sung,
And not later than tomorrow, toward the noon hour
Not as a joke, not to make people laugh
Have I come out toward you now, son of an infidel,
I have come out for the terrible, the final struggle.
Tolstoy sensed in life the presence of a fearful, repulsive, and immeasurably powerful opponent and entered into a final and terrible struggle with him. In this, to speak the language of Belinsky, lay pathos; in this must be seen the source of the inspiration with which everything written by Tolstoy is animated. Plotinus, the last great philosopher of antiquity, the divine descendent of the divine Plato, almost two thousand years before Tolstoy and Lermontov defined the task of philosophy, which he consciously identified with what is called in Holy Scripture "the one thing necessary," as follows: a great and final struggle awaits the human soul. Tolstoy might have taken these words as the motto of all his activity as a writer. Had I sufficient space at my disposal, I could tell in detail the story of the great and final struggle that began long before War and Peace and ended at Astapovo. Now I can only indicate one moment of this struggle, sketched by Tolstoy with the inimitable mastery that was his.

     We recall that the shooting of the Russian prisoners of war made an overwhelming, annihilating impression on Pierre Bezukhov. There is no longer any hope whatever, everything is destroyed, everything lost, the world has collapsed. Neither in himself nor outside himself, nowhere is there any longer any deliverance. And now, in the night of the same day that Pierre arrived with such pitiless clarity and assurance at the conviction that the whole world, all of life, is only a mad, senseless, repulsive phantasmagoria; in that night when - it seemed - he finally and forever lost every hope, every belief, something happened to him that I cannot designate by any word other than miracle. I again quote a short passage from War and Peace. After his conversation with Platon Karataev, whom Pierre met for the first time in the shed designated for the prisoners after the shooting of the Russians, he, like the rest of his comrades, lay down to sleep. "Outside," Tolstoy relates, "somewhere in the distance weeping and crying were heard, but in the shed it was quiet and warm. Pierre could not for a long time fall asleep and he lay with open eyes in the darkness listening to the measured snoring of Platon who lay beside him, and he felt that the world that had previously been destroyed was now rising with new beauty, on some new and unshakeable foundations, in his soul."

     If we compare and attentively consider what happened with Pierre in the course of this one single day, indeed in the course of a few hours of this one single day, we will be struck in an unprecedented fashion: from uttermost despair, from total, final unbelief in the world of men and in God, he arrives at a firm, strong, unshakable belief in the world and its Creator. In reading this chapter - and many others - of War and Peace, it seems at times that Adam not only did not sin in Tolstoy's soul but that he never touched the fruits of the forbidden tree at all, that there is not and has not been any sin in the world, that the world is not at all in a bad way; or, if you wish to express this in a way that corresponds more to the manner of speaking and thinking customary to all of us, that we mortal and weak human beings have enough strength to build up again with our own power the worlds that have been destroyed before our eyes. Man is all-powerful; he needs only to wish it and he can obtain anything he pleases. He destroys worlds and he builds them up again. He finds firm, unshakable principles on which the beauty and splendor of the worlds created by him rest and will rest for all eternity. The epilogue to War and Peace or, more correctly, not the epilogue to the book that had been written but the solemn apotheosis of man as the sovereign master of being, reveals to us the colossal task that Tolstoy set himself; he could not be composed so long as he had not instilled in himself and in others the idea that our life and our world are beautiful.

     War and Peace is thus not a theodicy, that is, a justification of God before man, but a justification of man before himself. It was this that gave many people cause to compare War and Peace with Homer's Odyssey and Iliad: man regards the world with shining, joyous eyes, and nothing, no terrors of life, can confuse and disturb him. Those who said this were, to a considerable degree, right. War and Peace, in the mood that permeates it, does in fact remind us of Homer's immortal poems: life on earth is justified, and it is justified by man who himself created this life and who accepts it joyously. No one after Homer, in the course of thousands of years, dared to proclaim to man with such certainty and with such clear calmness the eternal harmony lying at the very ground of being. The project of War and Peace as well as the execution of the plan - are truly magnificent and almost unique in the history of human thought.

     Nevertheless, Tolstoy is not Homer, and War and Peace, as well as the work following it, Anna Karenina, which was to be its continuation, are not the Iliad and the Odyssey. Before Homer's eyes the world, apparently, never collapsed, and he did not need again to create out of ruins a unitary and harmonious whole. His world was not created by him, nor were the beauty and harmony of the world. All this came from a god - even though a pagan one - from a demiurge, but nevertheless from a god, from gods, whom Homer, perhaps "naively" but confidently, considered omnipotent. Tolstoy did not have such na´vetÚ and such confidence. He tells us of Pierre: "He felt that it was not in his power to return to faith in life." Is there then in the world a power, a force that could give back faith to a person before whose eyes the world had collapsed, who had seen with his own eyes what Pierre in Tolstoy's novel saw? In War and Peace, as well as in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy drives this question off into that realm in which it appears to lose its meaning, its importance, and its urgency - into the realm of the unconscious or, as it is now customary to express it, the subconscious.

     The exemplary families, Pierre Bezukhov's and Nikolai Rostov's and, later, that of Levin in Anna Karenina, must persuade everyone that such questions are idle. Levin "dug into the earth like a plow," and of Rostov, Tolstoy says, "For a long time after his death a pious memory of him was preserved among the people." In the face of such artless, unsophisticated families, the menacing and tiresome questions crawling out of the realm of the unconscious that has been assigned to them are to be qualified as illicit, criminal mutiny and rebellion, to which one must no longer respond with rational arguments but with physical force, with that force which does not stop even before fratricide. Pierre who, having returned from Petersburg, tells with horror and indignation about the orders introduced into Russia by Arakcheev, receives from Rostov the resolute answer, "I cannot prove it to you. You say that everything among us is rotten; I do not see this. Even if Arakcheev ordered me to proceed against you (that is, against Pierre and his Petersburg friends) with a squadron and to cut you down, I would not reflect even for a second but would proceed." These are the unshakable foundations on which the world created by Tolstoy in the period of War and Peace and this world's beauty rested. This it was that gave Tolstoy the possibility of overcoming doubt and returning to that faith which Pierre lost after being a witness of the bestial and abominable punishment of the prisoners. With the openness and honesty that never left him, Tolstoy tells of this in the epilogue to his marvelous epic poem, not glancing at the future and not thinking where these confessions could lead him. Or, perhaps, he told of this precisely because in the deepest and most hidden recesses of his soul he had a premonition of what such a confession carries with it. Can a faith that calls for fratricide and devoutly guards the memory of those who purchase the harmony of earthly existence at the cost of fratricide long hold out in a person? And is there still harmony where fratricide becomes an inevitability? Pierre, when the world collapsed before his eyes, felt that it is not given to him to return to faith through his own power. Rostov feels otherwise: faith will be maintained only through his power, but his power, that of a mortal man, rests only on physical force. And it is true: the power of Arakcheev, as also the power of Rostov, is based only on the superiority of force. Take away from Arakcheev and Rostov their squadrons - how long can that world endure in which they are lords and masters? But people will object: could the world really endure even for a moment if the unity of being were not maintained through the power of physical compulsion? And, consequently, does not the coercive principle, embodied in Rostov, by virtue of the fact that it alone can assure the proportion, order, and harmony of being, not really demand and deserve a devout attitude toward itself? It, it alone, is worthy of being the object of our reverential respect.

     When Tolstoy was finishing War and Peace, he apparently could not and would not think otherwise. But he really did not need to tell about what he thought; there was no necessity for it and no one compelled him to do it. Nevertheless, he said it - and he said it with such deliberate, provocative harshness - as if he wished to prepare the reader for what he was fated to proclaim fifteen years later in his A Confession. A Confession appeared at the apogee, the flowering, of Tolstoy's creativity, when in Russia and, to a certain degree, in Europe as well people began to listen devoutly to every word of Tolstoy. The opinion exists that Tolstoy's passage from artistic to religious-philosophical creation is connected with the decline of his talent - an enticing but erroneous opinion. Not to speak of the fact that even his religious-philosophical writings, which may be regarded as models of literary prose, bear witness to his talent, the artistic works of the last period of his life, even if he had never written anything else besides them, could have given him worldwide literary fame. I noted earlier that his "Master and Servant" is a masterpiece of world literature. It would thus be more correct to say that Tolstoy renounced artistic creation only because the unrest that seized him and the disquietude that permeated all of his inner being made him see everything that previously seemed to him important and significant - and, above all, his literary gift - as superfluous and paltry. Apparently, we have to do here with the same thing that took place in the soul of Gogol when he threw the second volume of his Dead Souls into the fire.

     Tolstoy's book A Confession (by the way, also a masterpiece of literary creativity) leaves no doubt of this point. To the greatest bewilderment and horror of those who knew, valued, and loved the works of the author of War and Peace, Tolstoy smashes before the eyes of all the marvelous instrument on which he had with such inimitable artistry for many years played his hymns to the world and its Creator. "Everything that I said," he declares in a voice trembling with agitation and restrained feeling, "was falsehood and pretence. I knew nothing, I believed in nothing, but I wanted to obtain fame and wealth and pretended to be an omniscient teacher." This, in a few words, is the content of A Confession. Unfortunately, it is not possible for me to dwell in greater detail here on what Tolstoy's A Confession discloses to us. It is, as it were, an answer to the words of Rostov quoted above: "I cannot prove it, but if you do not submit, I will cut you down, even though you are my brother." The justification of the world and its Creator which rest on readiness to cut down now appears to Tolstoy as a repulsive blasphemy. And so, like a madman, he rushes to Holy Scripture, to the gospel, and there seeks deliverance from the nightmare that chokes him.

     Tolstoy himself writes, "I would speak untruth if I were to say that I have arrived where I have arrived by way of reason." However, alongside this we also read in him other confessions: "I would be prepared," he says, "now to accept every faith, if only it did not demand of me a direct negation of reason, which would be a falsehood." Whence did this limitation come and what does it mean? Who whispered to Tolstoy, who suggested to him, that only a faith that does not dispute with reason is acceptable to us? And why is a faith that does not subject itself to reason a falsehood? For us now, twenty-five years after Tolstoy's death, this question has the same enormous importance that it had for Tolstoy himself. And if we possessed Tolstoy's sincerity and courage, we would also now have to repeat these provocative words with the same persistence and the same passion every day, indeed every hour.

     When we go toward faith, more correctly, when we try to go toward faith - Holy Scripture's only source of truth - we all prudently take along with us those criteria of truth that our reason has worked out. So it was in the West - the greatest thinkers of Europe, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Schelling, Fichte, Hegel acted in this fashion - and so it was also in Russia. Vladimir Solovyov, the author of the Crisis of West European Philosophy who always unmasks rationalism, openly confessed that religion must seek and find its justification in reason: there are many religions, he says, repeating Leibniz's thought, and so where, if not from reason, shall we learn which religion is the true one? And the thought does not occur to any of us that, in seeking support and defense for faith in reason, we thereby betray faith, yield to the greatest temptation (of which it is said: "Blessed is he who is not tempted because of me"), for every defense is a defense by means of compulsion and is supported by that on which Arakcheev and his loyal subject Rostov were supported: on "I will cut you down."

     Tolstoy sarcastically mocked official Christianity with full reason, by telling how a young grenadier who chased a beggar away triumphantly replied to the latter's question whether he has not read the gospel: "And have you read the military rules?" But the grenadier was actually right, too: the military rules do not require a renunciation of reason, while the gospel does. Especially those pages of the gospel that always attracted Tolstoy so irresistibly. Tolstoy repeats with rapture and delight the words of Christ: "But I say unto you, Resist not evil." But how are these words to be justified before reason? Not only the synodic teachers but Vladimir Solovyov himself had to admit that you can in no way justify the gospel commandment "Resist not evil" through reason, and, since what is not justified through reason will nowhere else find justification for itself, you will, whether you wish it or not, have to remove these words from Holy Scripture and replace them with the corresponding words from the military rules: "Cut down!" In his book The Justification of the Good, Solovyov unhesitatingly justifies war and even sings of it hymnically.

     But Tolstoy also, despite the fact that he strains with all his soul toward the enigmatic "Resist not," can in no way come to the position that it is possible to accept this commandment even in case it should be rejected by reason. "Religion," he writes in the year 1902, "is the established relationship of man to eternal life and God that agrees with reason and present-day knowledge." But what remains of Scripture if one begins to bring it into agreement with our reason and our knowledge? It is natural that, when Tolstoy began to bring Scripture into agreement with our reason and our knowledge, it found itself moved to the second level, more precisely, it was transformed into salt that has lost its flavor. "The teaching of Christ," he writes in his book What I Believe In, "has the simplest, clearest, most practical meaning for the life of every person. This meaning can be expressed in the following way: Christ taught men not to commit stupidities."

     Reason, of course, triumphs when it hears such a thing: it has received its full tribute. But in reality philosophers, moralists and - to put it simply - clever people taught the same thing even before Christ. Why, then, recall Scripture? Tolstoy himself soon felt this and expressed it in his own way with enormous force in his theological writings, especially in his Critique of Dogmatic Theology, which, in its deliberate blasphemy, does not stand behind Voltaire's writings. Reason has done its work: of Scripture not even a trace is left. And with each year Tolstoy takes up arms against Scripture with ever greater bitterness. What enrages him most of all in Scripture, as it does all of us educated people, is exactly that which constitutes its soul: faith. And precisely because the faith of Scripture passes our reason as well as our science by, without paying any attention to them and utterly without taking account of them. In a posthumous play of Tolstoy's we read the following conversation between the hero Nikolai Ivanovitch (Tolstoy himself) and a village priest:
Priest: Reason can deceive, everyone has his own reason.

Nikolai Ivanovitch: This is a terrible blasphemy. God gave us one instrument for cognizing truth, the only thing that can unite us. But we do not believe in it.

Priest: Indeed, how can one believe in it when there are differences of opinion?

Nikolai Ivanovitch: But where are there differences of opinion? That two times two is four, and that you ought not do to another what you do not wish for yourself, and that everything has its cause, and more of the like - this all of us recognize, because it agrees with our reason. But that God revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai or that the Buddha vanished on a ray of the sun, or that Mohammed flew up to heaven - on these and similar matters we are all apart.
If and insofar as we wish to be honest, we must all repeat what Tolstoy says. We are all convinced that two times two is four, that there is no effect without a cause, but the assertion that God revealed Himself to Moses at Sinai awakens in us all the wrath and repugnance of which we are capable. Our reason and our knowledge forbid us not only to accept such a thing but even seriously to consider it. For if two times two is four, if there is no effect without a cause, then there can be no doubt whatever that God never revealed Himself to anyone, either to Moses at Sinai or to anyone else. And do not attempt to dispute this. To everything that you might say, an answer has long been prepared: this is what all people always and everywhere have believed in, what all people always and everywhere must believe in, under threat of being brought before the tribunal of reason which knows how to deal in its own way with the disobedient. As Rostov said: "I cannot prove it to you... But if Arakcheev ordered me to proceed against you with a squadron and cut you down, I would not stop to reflect even for a second." Reason, just like Rostov, "cannot prove," but it can cut down all who, despite the law of causality, despite two times two is four and other similar truths, dare to assert that God revealed Himself to Moses at Sinai, that God in general revealed Himself, and that there is a revealed truth. Rational proofs, in the final reckoning, all come down to Rostov's "cutting down," and the very meaning of the concept of "proof' is exhausted by the Rostovian "cutting down." The philosophers are not embarrassed by this and are not even willing to see here anything problematic. It seems to them completely natural that truth should be under the protection of force: blessed be the alliance of the sword and the lyre.

     In Tolstoy, however, something different came about. Enigmatically, when he turned toward Scripture, although he secured the protection of reason and took it along with him for safety and guidance, as all of us do, he did not forget to take along still another insight which people usually do not have and which Pierre expressed in the words: "He felt that it was not in his power to return to faith in life." In whose power, then? In that of the sword? Of physical, compelling force? In the power of reason with its truths that two times two is four, that there is no effect without a cause, etc., that is to say, again in the power of Arakcheev's squadrons and the Rostovian "cutting down?" Not only Tolstoy's philosophical but also his belletristic works of the last period of his life give us an answer to this question. With that magnificent, disarming in consistency which has always marked the elect of mankind, he shakes off, as if with a single shrug of the shoulder, the burden of reason along with its proofs and truths placed upon him by the centuries. In Scripture he discovers as its essence and permanent content the commandment: "Resist not evil." And he understands the kind of responsibility he takes upon himself when he so interprets Scripture. "I could not for a long time get used to the thought," Tolstoy writes, "that after eighteen hundred years in which millions of people confessed the law of Christ, after thousands of people who devoted their lives to the study of law, I should now have discovered Christ's law as something new. But strange as this is, it was nevertheless so. I was again alone with my heart and with the mysterious book before me."

     And, indeed, for our reason with its "two times two is four" and "everything has a cause," the commandment "Resist not evil" is just as much madness as the idea that God revealed Himself to Moses at Sinai. Even more: only that God who revealed Himself to Moses at Sinai could proclaim: "Resist not evil." The "natural" God, the God born out of our reason, knows something different: evil must be resisted, evil must be "cut down." In his polemic against Tolstoy Solovyov established this superbly, with the most convincing arguments. Indeed, for this there was no need of a Solovyov; any clever seminarian could have done it no worse than he. For a seminarian knows for certain that a God who reveals Himself to a man at Sinai is not in agreement either with our reason or with our knowledge. But Tolstoy had already forgotten about erudition as well as about rational arguments. He, who had so prized all of this, flees, as if from a plague, from reason without looking back. Again I can refer only to Tolstoy's last works - especially "Master and Servant" and the unfinished "Father Sergius." Both of these stories turned out to be prophetic, and, at the same time, both reveal to us the mysterious, invisible sources of Tolstoy's inspirations.

     In Holy Scripture (Matthew 21:28-30) the parable is told of the two sons: the one said "I go" and did not go, while the other said "I will not go" and did go. Tolstoy responded to the call of Scripture: "I will not go." So, at least, it seems, if one takes his philosophical-theological works. Tolstoy always held, as it were, to the side of reason with its "cutting down" and renounced "faith," which does not have any compelling means of persuasion at its disposal, which is not defended by anything and does not wish to defend itself. It must be assumed that, to a significant degree, it was this that brought him while he was still living a fame that rarely, perhaps never, was allotted to a writer. Nevertheless, his whole life and even his writings - if one takes them in their totality - tell us something different. Nothing was so hated by him as the Rostovian "cutting down," in other words, as "demonstrated truths." His whole spiritual being strained toward undemonstrated truth, toward nonresistance. Demonstrated truths were that repulsive enemy, that "son of an infidel," against whom he entered into a final and terrible struggle. I repeat once more: he who always insisted "I will not go" did go. In his commentary on the Letter to the Romans, written even before his break with the pope, Luther writes that at times the most terrible curses and blasphemies sound sweeter in God's ears than the most solemn hallelujahs. These words may be applied preeminently to Tolstoy. He, who had so frenziedly mocked "faith," several days before his death without any need, without any "reason," without "sufficient ground," flees, himself not knowing where - until he arrives at Astapovo.

     Why did Tolstoy flee? To explain this is not possible and it is also not possible to demonstrate that such a flight can be justified, so long as justifications are drawn from reason. But if one recalls Scripture, in which it is related that God revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai, then we may perhaps do without justifications and feel that in Astapovo the great struggle whose major arena was Yasnaya Polyana came to a conclusion: the struggle between the idolized "cutting down" and the divine "Resist not," between the compelling truth of reason (two times two is four, there is no effect without a cause, etc.) and the free truth of revelation about man created in the image and likeness of God. I shall quote one short passage from Tolstoy's book on faith that shows with special clarity the inner connection between Yasnaya Polyana and Astapovo:
They (the Christians) can pray to Christ-God, but they cannot do the works of Christ, because these works flow out of a faith based on a completely different doctrine than that which they recognize. They cannot sacrifice an only son, as Abraham did, whereas Abraham could not even begin to reflect whether he should or should not offer his son as a sacrifice to God, that God who alone gives meaning and blessing to his life.
So Tolstoy spoke, so he thought - and this drove him to Astapovo. So that what is written in Scripture might be fulfilled: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go."


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