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Observations placeholder

Tolstoy, Leo - Confession



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Leo Tolstoy – A Confession

Before occupying myself with my Samara estate, the education of my son, or the writing of a book, I had to know why I was doing it.  As long as I did not know why, I could do nothing and could not live.  Amid the thoughts of estate management which greatly occupied me at that time, the question would suddenly occur ‘Well, you will have 6,000 desytinas of land in Samara and 300 horses, and what then?’ …. And I was quite disconcerted and did not know what to think.

Or when considering plans for the education of my children, I would say to myself ‘What for?’.  Or when considering how the peasants might become prosperous, I would say suddenly to myself, ‘But what does it matter to me?’ Or when thinking of the fame my works would bring me, I would say to myself, ‘Very well, you will be more famous than Gogul or Pushkin or Shakespeare or Moliere, or than all the writers in the world – and what of it?’

And I could find no reply at all.  The questions would not wait; they had to be answered at once, and if I did not answer them it was impossible to live.  But there was no answer.

I felt that what I had been standing on had collapsed and that I had nothing left under my feet.  What I had lived on no longer existed, and there was nothing left.

My life came to a standstill. 

I could breathe, eat , drink and sleep and I could not help doing these things; but there was no life, for there were no wishes the fulfilment of which I could consider reasonable. 

If I desired anything, I knew in advance that whether I satisfied my desire or not, nothing would come of it. 

Had a fairy come and offered to fulfil my desires I should not have known what to ask.  If in moments of intoxication I felt something which, though not a wish, was a habit left by former wishes, in sober moments I knew this to be a delusion and that there was really nothing to wish for.

It had come to this, that I, a healthy, fortunate man, felt I could no longer live; some irresistible power impelled me to rid myself one way or other of life. 

I cannot say I wished to kill myself. 

The power which drew me away from life was stronger, fuller and more widespread than any mere wish.  It was a force similar to the former striving to live, only in a contrary direction. 

All  my strength drew me away from life. 

The thought of self destruction now came to me as naturally as thoughts of how to improve my life had come formerly.

The source of the experience

Tolstoy, Leo

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Reducing desires