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Observations placeholder

Tolstoy, Leo - Confessions - We reap what we sow



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Leo Tolstoy – Confessions

I remembered how  beliefs of faith seemed absurd when they were explained by people who lived contrary to them.  I understood why I had then rejected these beliefs and why I had found them absurd, but now they seemed full of reason.

I realized my error and how it happened.

I had lost my way, not to be judged wrongly, but it hurts to admit to this.

I realized that the truth was hidden from me, not so much by the error of my thoughts, but that of my own life, that served only to satisfy my desires, to follow my Epicurean inclinations.  I understood that the question of what my life had become and the answer:
evil - were perfectly correct.

I understood this truth, found later in the Gospel, that Men preferred Darkness to Light when their actions were bad. He who does evil deeds hates the Light and does not walk in the Light nor denounce his own actions.

I realized that to understand the meaning of life, one had to accept that life was not absurd or bad, and that understanding came later.

I understood why I had ignored for so long a truth so obvious, and that if I wanted to think and talk about life and humanity, I had to consider humanity in general and not the few parasites of life. This truth has always been obvious as 2 and 2 make 4; but I did not acknowledge it, since to recognise that 2 and 2 makes 4, I should also have to acknowledge that I was not a good man.

Now it was an absolute necessity for me to be good, just as much as to recognize that 2 + 2 = 4, because I loved good men.

From that moment everything became clear to me.

What! if the executioner who spends his life torturing and cutting heads, if a drunk, crazy and confined for life in a dark and gloomy shed whose misery he imagines will be ended by death, if such people wonder what life is, they will obviously not be any other answer than this: "Life is a great evil" and this response of the mad or the executioner would be correct – but only for them.

Am I like that crazy?  And we all, rich men and idle, are we crazy too?  And I realized that we are really mad: me, surely I was one.

The bird’s purpose is to fly, collect food, build nests; and, when I see a bird busy with this task, I experience pleasure.

The goat, hare, wolves exist to feed, multiply, raise their families, and when they do that, I'm sure they are happy and their life is reasonable.

What should the man do?

He must like animals, worry about the material needs of life, with the difference that his actions do not just affect him, but the influence of his work extends to his fellow beings. Thus if he works taking care of this, I firmly believe that he is happy and his life is reasonable.

What had I done all my life - for thirty years?

Not only had I not done anything for the others, but I had produced nothing to support myself. I lived as a parasite, and on asking myself why I lived, I received in response: nothing. If the purpose of Human life is participation in common life, how so I, who was busy for thirty years to destroy myself and others, how could I get another answer than my life was a nonsense and bad?

This was really bad.

The source of the experience

Tolstoy, Leo

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Science as religion

Activities and commonsteps



Reducing desires
Squash the big I am