On Life and Essays on Religion

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Read Books, 2008 - Religion - 452 pages
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ON LIFE AND ESSAYS ON RELIGION BY LEO TOLST6Y Translated with an Introduction by AYLMER MAUDE D. P. R. 1. cc. No. OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS LONDON HUMPHREY MILFORD LEO TOLSTOY Born, Yasnaya Polyana, Tula August 28 old style September 9, n. s., 1828 Died, Astap6vo, Riazdn November 9 old style November 22, n. s., 1910 I 0n Life was first published in 1887, and the essays between 1894. and 1909. In The Worlds Classics Mr. Aylmer Maudes translation was first published in 1934. 7.-00 PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN CONTENTS INTRODUCTION BY AYLMER MAUDE . vii ON LIFE. 1887 i RELIGION AND MORALITY. 1894 . . 168 REASON AND RELIGION. 1894 . . 199 HOW TO READ THE GOSPELS. 1896 . 205 PREFACE TO THE CHRISTIAN TEACHING 1 . 1898 . . . . . .209 A REPLY TO THE SYNODS EDICT OF EXCOM MUNICATION. 1901 . . . .214 WHAT IS RELIGION 1902 . . .226 AN APPEAL TO THE CLERGY. 1302 . . 282 THE RESTORATION OF HELL. 1903 . . 309 CHURCH AND STATE. 1904 . . .331 THE TEACHING OF JESUS. 1909 . . 347 INDEX 410 INTRODUCTION ON LIFE is Tolst6ys statement of the conclusions he had reached by 1887 after ten years devoted to thought and study on religion. No one acquainted with his life and works can reasonably doubt - that he was one of the frankest and sincerest men who ever lived, but if further evidence on that point were needed, this work would supply it, considering the circumstances under which it was written. By a careful study of the Church creeds Tolstoy had reached the conclusion that they consist of meaningless verbiage and incredible statements which afford no real guidance for life. An even more intense and prolonged study of the Gospels convinced him that the understanding of life held by Jesus was reasonable, andaffords the best possible guidance for life. But it seemed to him that the Church, by declaring the sixty-six books in the Bible to be all equally inspired by God, had reduced them to one dead level, so that the precepts of Jesus are presented as no more divine than the legends of the Old Testament, or the record of the cruel deeds of a jealous Jehovah. More than that, he was convinced that the essential teaching of Jesus has been twisted to link it up with the Jewish Scriptures, and with records interspersed with miracles to attract the belief of an evil and adulterous generation seeking after a sign, and has been misinterpreted in order to secure authority for a Church which when persecuting its rivals has not scrupled to slay thousands of human beings. He therefore defines the Church as power in the hands of certain men. At the very peak of literary success he devoted viii INTRODUCTION ten years of his life to this study of religion, and to clarify his conclusions wrote the works contained in this and another volume, well knowing that their publication would be prohibited, and that even if clandestinely circulated they would call down on him the ridicule of the advanced section of Russian society, then for the most part under the influence of the materialistic philosophy which, following on the success of Darwins teaching, expected ere long to be able to explain man by mechanics and demon strate the senselessness of all religion. To them the fact that the author of War and Peace seriously occupied himself with religion seemed almost to indicate that he had taken leave of his senses. On the other hand the Orthodox Russo-Greek Church, under the guidance of Pobedon6stsev, the lay Headof the Most Holy Synod, actively persecuted dis senters, suppressed books it disapproved of, and though, after some hesitation, it refrained from physically molesting Tolstoy, he knew that he was exposing himself and his friends to danger and incurring the grave displeasure of the authorities of Church and State. He also incurred the dis approval and hostility of his wife, to whom the favour of the powers-that-be was of much concern...

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Tolstoy's life was defined by moral and artistic seeking and by conflict with himself and his surroundings. Of the old nobility, he began by living the usual, dissipated life of a man of his class; however, his inner compulsion for moral self-justification led him in a different direction. In 1851 he became a soldier in the Caucasus and began to publish even while stationed there (Childhood [1852] and other works). Even more significant were his experiences during the Crimean War: the siege of Sevastopol provided the background for his sketches of human behavior in battle in the Sevastopol Stories (1855--56). After the war, Tolstoy mixed for a time with St. Petersburg literary society, traveled extensively abroad, and married Sophia Bers. The couple were happy for a long time, with Countess Tolstoy participating actively in her husband's literary and other endeavors. The center of Tolstoy's life became family, which he celebrated in the final section of War and Peace (1869). In this great novel, he unfolded the stories of several families in Russia during the Napoleonic period and explored the nature of historical causation and of freedom and necessity. A different note emerged in Anna Karenina (1876). Here, too, Tolstoy focused on families but this time emphasized an individual's conflict with society's norms. A period of inner crisis, depression, and thoughts of suicide culminated in Tolstoy's 1879 conversion to a rationalistic form of Christianity in which moral behavior was supremely important. Confession (1882) describes this profound transition. Tolstoy now began to proselytize his new-found faith through fiction, essays, and personal contacts. Between 1880 and 1883, he wrote three major works on religion. A supreme polemicist, he participated in debates on a large number of political and social issues, generally at odds with the government. His advocacy of nonresistance to evil attracted many followers and later had a profound influence on Mahatma Gandhi and, through him, Martin Luther King, Jr. (see Vol. 4). Tolstoy's stature as a writer and public figure was enormous both within Russia and abroad, greater than that of any other Russian writer. When the Orthodox Church excommunicated him in 1901, a cartoon depicted him as disproportionately larger than his ecclesiastical judges. Tolstoy's final years were filled with inner torment: Living as he did on a luxurious estate, he felt himself to be a betrayer of his own teachings. He also suffered from disputes with his wife over the disposition of his property, which she wished to safeguard for their children. In 1910, desperately unhappy, the aged writer left his home at Yasnaya Polyana. He did not get far; he caught pneumonia and died of heart failure at a railway station, an event that was headline news throughout the world. In the course of Tolstoy's career, his art evolved significantly, but it possessed a certain underlying unity. From the beginning, he concentrated on the inner life of human beings, though the manner of his analysis changed. The body of his writing is enormous, encompassing both fiction and a vast amount of theoretical and polemical material. Besides his three great novels---War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and Resurrection (1899)---he wrote many superb shorter works. Among these, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) stands out as a literary masterpiece and fine philosophical text, while the short novel Hadji Murat (1904), set in the Caucasus and Russia during the reign of Nicholas I, is a gem of narration and plot construction. Tolstoy has been translated extensively. The Louise and Aylmer Maude and Constance Garnett translations are institutions (for many works, the only versions available) and are used by different publishers, sometimes in modernized versions. New translations by Rosemary Edmonds, David Magarshack, and Ann Dunigan are also justifiably popular.

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