Tolstoy, Leo - Confessions - Of Life and Death
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Leo Tolstoy – Confessions
While I was looking for the answer to the question of life, I felt the same feelings as a man who when lost in the forest, is led to a clearing, climbs a tree and clearly sees the unlimited space, but not a single house or refuge. He goes once more into the thickness of the wood, in the darkness; but, again, no trace of a refuge!
I was wandering in the forest of human knowledge, among glimmerings of mathematics and experimental sciences, which, could not provide me any shelter. I wandered amid the darkness of theoretical knowledge, always darker as I plunged myself further, until I was finally convinced that there was and there could not be an escape.
By studying science, I understood that I was simply diverting my eyes from the issue. Despite all the attraction and clarity of horizons that opened before me, despite everything, the charm there is to dive into the infinity of knowledge, I realised with even greater clarity that this knowledge was useless to me, completely unnecessary for the solution to the problem I pursued…………….
By delving into the forest of human knowledge, I received an overwhelming number of very specific answers to questions I had not asked:
on the chemical composition of the stars, the movement of the sun towards the constellation of Hercules, on the evolution of species and man on infinitely small forms; but my question:
"What is the meaning of life?" I received in reply in this field of science:
"You are what is called life; you're an accidental aggregation of molecules. There transformation of these particles and their mutual influence is called life. This aggregation takes some time, and the interaction of these parts will cease: and what you call life also cease, as also all the questions you ask yourself “ …..
It is obvious that such a response is not one, given my question. I need to know the meaning of my life. All they do is explain it is a small part of the infinite, instead of giving it meaning.
I do not want to mention all those compromises between theoretical and experimental sciences, which form all the baggage of half-science called legal, political, historic….. The irregularity is the same: the development, infinite perfection can have neither purpose nor direction and no answer to my question.
In true philosophy – and not in the philosophy that Schopenhauer called philosophical contemplation, which only serves to classify all phenomena and give them new names -
- where the philosopher does not lose sight of the essential question, the answer is always the same response whether it comes from Socrates, Schopenhauer, Soloman or the Buddha.
"We will get closer to the truth as we move away from life, "says Socrates preparing to die.
"Why are we, who love truth, rushing through Life. To get rid of the body and all the evil that comes from the life of the body. Why not rejoice when Death comes to us?”
"The wise man seeks death all his life. This is why of death he is not scared. "
"Vanity of vanities”, - says Solomon – “vanity of vanities, all is vanity! What advantage does man think he draws from all the work he does under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation comes; but the earth remains firm and what has been is what will be; what has been done is what will be done, and there's nothing new under the sun”.
………. “Behold, I have grown and increased in wisdom above all who were before me in Jerusalem, and my heart has seen much wisdom and science; and I applied my heart to know wisdom, and
to know the errors and folly; but I knew that this was as a torment of mind; because where there is plenty of science go grief in abundance; and he who increases knowledge increases the pain”.
……………….. Thus my forays into science, not only did not get rid of my despair, but still increased it.