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Tolstoy, Leo - Confessions - The failure of science as a religion



Type of Spiritual Experience


Tolstoy and his wife 1910

A description of the experience

I was looking for an explanation to all these questions in all the knowledge acquired by men.
And I was looking long and painfully, not out of idle curiosity; I was not looking lazily, but I was looking for it painfully, stubbornly, days and nights; I was looking like a man who is lost and seeks to save himself does;

And I do not find anything.

I was looking in all the sciences and not only could I find nothing, but I was convinced that all those who sought like me in science did not find anything either. And not only do they find nothing, but they clearly recognized that the same thing, leading me to despair - the absurdity of life - is the only, the incontestable knowledge accessible to man.

Through my life spent in study and also because of my relationship with the world of scholars and scientists, all sciences welcomed me and did not refuse me any of their knowledge, not only through books but through conversations; and so I understood everything that science offered to answer the questions of life.

For a long time I could not believe that science had no answers. For a very long time, in  considering the serious and exact tone with science is explained, I could not believe it did not
deal with the problem of Life, it seemed that somehow I had missed something.

For a long time I bowed before their knowledge and I thought if the answers were not in accordance to my questions, it was not the fault of science but that of my ignorance.

It was not a joking matter for me, but the most serious thing that had happened in my entire  life and whether I liked it or not, I was led to the belief that my questions were legitimate questions,  and it is neither my question any more than I, who is at fault, but science.

My question, one that, at fifty, was driving me to suicide, was simple: it is in the soul of every man, from the stupidest child to the wisest old man; without it, life is impossible, as I have experienced myself.

Here is what it was:

What Will come out of what I do today? what I do  tomorrow? What will come out of my life?

You can still formulate it as follows:

Why Do I live? Why should I do something?

Or otherwise:

Is there a purpose in life that is not destroyed by the death that inevitably awaits me?

The source of the experience

Tolstoy, Leo

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Science as religion

Activities and commonsteps