TOLSTOY ABOUT LIFE
By Roza Riaikkenen
Published in the Australian Theosophical Society Newsletter N92 August 2007
What is actually my life? Leo Tolstoy, a world renowned author in his mature age, asked himself such a question when he understood that he could not live and write any further without clearly and honestly answering it.
Indeed, any individual is living and putting all of his or her powers and time into that which they understand as their life. Everything people do and everything they refrain from, everything they understand as important and everything they can live without, and finally everything they pass on to the next generation depends on their understanding of their life.
From the very beginning of his search for the answer, Tolstoy acknowledged in his work About Life that: “Every individual is living only for the purpose of living well, for the purpose of their own good. For the individual, to live means to desire and to reach the best condition of wellbeing.” But what is in reality good for a man, while all his pleasures are transient and the most precious for him thing – his personality – is exposed to suffering and death? Only the life outside his personality is permanent; but, for most people, this “outside life” isn’t as important to him as his own personal life, or maybe not important at all.
“So, the only life a man feels as his life and for the sake of which he is acting, appears to be something illusory and impossible; and only life outside his personality, which he doesn’t love, feel or know, is the real life.”
Tolstoy was deeply convinced, that while the “Pharisees”, or religious professionals, are talking about the transience of the earthly life and the better life somewhere after the death, in case you fulfil certain religious rituals, the majority of people don’t trust them. This lack of trust is due to the fact that often priests and “religious professionals” of all types don’t reject the earthly pleasures for themselves, and are fighting for pleasures and power. And also, if the life man is living now is meaningless, what could be the meaning of the afterlife?
Conventional science tells us that human life is corresponding to the functioning of the body cells. Science investigates the processes of cells’ functioning, but can say nothing about the real life of human beings with their desire for good.
“And you have to live. Human life is a series of actions from getting up to going to bed; every day a man has to unceasingly choose his actions from a hundred of possible actions.” How can he choose when he doesn’t know what is good for him?
Tolstoy thoroughly searched for a well-founded answer. He studied Greek and Hebrew to be able to read the works of the classical philosophers and the Cabbala. He found definitions of life in the works by Confucius and Lao Tzu, by the Brahmins, Budda, Greek Stoics, Jewish sages and Jesus Christ. He decided that the Christ’s definition was in conformity with the other definitions and embraced all of them: “Life is love of god and of your neighbour, giving people the good.”
Tolstoy came to his understanding of the concept of “God “through his revelation that consciousness is the source and essence of human life. He understood that human life is not just animal existence from birth to death. This is only the manifestation of life, its physical form. Real life doesn’t start from the physical birth and doesn’t end with physical death. It is rather endless development of consciousness through different forms of its existence, which are changing from one to another in conformity with the level, needs and abilities of consciousness’ development. “No matter how long man searched in time for the point where his life had come into existence, he would never find this point”. This means that the life of consciousness exists outside the limits of time.
In Tolstoy’s philosophy, God can be understood as infinite timeless consciousness which is the source and essence of any life. When human beings reveal this consciousness in themselves, then they reveal God in themselves. This consciousness, God, is in reality indivisible. “In his consciousness, man doesn’t see where and how he comes to existence. Instead he realises his amalgamation with all the other conscious beings...”
As the division into personalities is conditional and in fact illusory, so it’s understandable that the personal good is an illusory concept. If we wish good for our personality, then we expect all the other personalities to wish good for us even more than for them. This is impossible to receive because, according to this logic, every personality will also wish good primarily for itself. It appears that good is impossible while people understand themselves as separate personalities and wish good only for their personalities.
Another situation appears when people realise the unity and merging of their consciousness with that of other beings. In this case a person can turn his or her wish for good towards the others and to understand the others’ good as even more important than the person’s own wellbeing. In this case the person can hope that all the other people will come to the same understanding and do the same thing, and this will be really good for everyone and for humanity altogether. To turn your wishes for good towards others means that you actually love them and recognize the God in them. This love gives the good, according to Jesus Christ. With this love, human life regains its meaning.
This logic is simple and understandable, and humanity knows many examples of people who turned this understanding of life into the practice of their daily experience. Leo Tolstoy hoped that very soon the majority of humanity would awaken from its unconscious animal condition and come to their real human state. Then all the life on the earth will change for the better.
Tolstoy was writing his books more than a century ago, but we can see even now that the predicted awakening dragged on at least into this century. For all of this time, people were blindly and harshly fighting with each other and with the very planet for their personal illusory good. And this fighting continues. Why didn’t they listen to Tolstoy’s ideas and didn’t meet his expectations? The writer gave us some clues to the answer to this question.
When a person’s consciousness awakens from its animal condition to the human state, only then this person starts asking the question about life. In this case he or she cannot already return to their former understanding of life. This understanding undergoes destruction, which is like the destruction of the seed when the seedling appears and starts sprouting, forming the new plant.
Through their attention, people often hold their consciousness tied to the flesh of their “seed”. They fear and don’t want it to be destroyed because they are under the influence of their self-preservation instinct. Therefore, they try at least not to see the revelations of the forerunners. If they are unable not to notice them, then they treat the forerunners as outcasts or mad people, and sometimes even punish them as criminals.
Tolstoy also couldn’t avoid such fate despite being a
well-established and world renowned author. He was rejected by the Russian
Orthodox Church. The most mature works of his last years remained unnoticed by
the majority of the public. For many decades, even in
Tolstoy explored his ideology in different aspects of relationships between a human being and religion, science, society, and finally, showed us then the way out of the condition of consciousness from which we are suffering now, to the condition which would provide good to everyone. Being true to himself, Tolstoy demonstrated in his daily life an example of practicing what he preached: minimum of material desires, self-serving and endless service to the main purpose – to love: “Love cannot be in the future, love is only one’s action now, in the present.”