The Kingdom Of God Is Within You
June 17, 2004 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Dear Leo, Dear Mohandas "The longer I live -- especially now when I clearly feel the approach of death -- the more I feel moved to express what I feel more strongly than anything else... the doctrine of the law of love unperverted by sophistries. Love... the highest and indeed the only law of life". The Kingdom of God Is Within You (full text available) is Leo Tolstoy's tractatus of "Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion but as a New Theory of Life", a primer of (among other things) the doctrine of non-violence. Among the many fans of the 1894 book was an imprisoned Hindu barrister, a "half-naked fakir" if you want, a certain Mohandas K. Gandhi who was fascinated by "the independent thinking, profound morality, and the truthfulness" of the book. So he ended up writing fan letters to the great Russian man: who warmly wrote back to his young Indian "friend and brother". The old wise Christian anarchist literary giant and the shy, insecure young man who sparked a revolution: to paraphrase another wise, badly-dressed , pacifist old man, "Generations to come, it may be, will scarcely believe that such men ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."
posted by matteo (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
more here on the Christian theological aspects of the "Kingdom of God" issue.
Tolstoy's title comes from Luke 17:21, "the kingdom of God is within you"

And in the (noncanonical, of course) Gospel of Thomas,

Jesus said: If your leaders say to you "Look! The Kingdom is in the sky!" Then the birds will
be there before you are. If they say that the Kingdom is in the sea, then the fish will be there
before you are. Rather, the Kingdom is within you and it is outside of you.


They asked him: When is the Kingdom coming? He replied: It is not coming in an easily observable manner. People will not be saying, "Look, it's over here" or "Look, it's over there." Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is already spread out on the earth, and people aren't aware of it."

posted by matteo at 8:15 AM on June 17, 2004

Tolstoy's house in Yasnaya Poliana, also here, here, and here

Tolstoy's favorite bench and his grave here

(the house was looted by the Nazis in 1941, it has been restored to its former beauty)
posted by matteo at 9:17 AM on June 17, 2004

i sometimes wonder how different things would be if palestine had someone of this moral stature advocating nonviolence in their struggle with israel. i think it would be sharon's worst nightmare.
posted by Shike at 10:10 AM on June 17, 2004

This post just warms a nofundy's heart.

If only the Southern Baptist Convention would wake up and pay attention.

Religion as it is meant to be practiced. Amen.
posted by nofundy at 10:26 AM on June 17, 2004

Great post, matteo. Thanks.
posted by homunculus at 10:50 AM on June 17, 2004

odd, i just started re-reading "The Death of Ivan Ilyitch"

..."Ivan Ilyitch made new acquaintances, formed new ties, took up a new line, and adopted a rather different attitude. He took up an attitude of somewhat dignified aloofness towards the provincial authorities, while he picked out the best circle among the legal gentleman and wealthy gentry living in the town, and adopted a tone of slight dissatisfaction with the government, moderate liberalism, and lofty civic virtue."

-From: Chapter two, "The Death of Ivan Iylitch"
posted by clavdivs at 11:37 AM on June 17, 2004

it's a very elegant translation -- which one is it, Garnett's?
posted by matteo at 1:14 PM on June 17, 2004

Easily the heaviest post ever on Metafilter. Clavdivs' mention of "Ivan Iylitch" makes it complete. These are the questions, texts and declarations that separate the men from the boys in spiritual matters. All other "spiritual" issues are sissy stuff. Matteo has got guts to wade into this. Real guts.
posted by Faze at 7:22 PM on June 17, 2004

Absolutely gorgeous set of links and a fine post, matteo. Thank you.

Stay in love.
posted by loquacious at 12:55 AM on June 18, 2004

for those willing to read more on the topic of the Tolstoy/Gandhi friendship:
Tolstoy and Gandhi, Men of Peace: A Biography by Martin Green

those who'd like to peek into Tolstoy's own dark night of the soul, should definitely check out his Confession. the entire text is available online hereand here

it is kind of sobering to see that the men who had already writtend War and Peace and Anna Karenina, at age 51 would look back on his life, afraid that it had all been meaningless, a failure.

pistis, elpis, agape
posted by matteo at 4:11 AM on June 18, 2004

posted by paladin at 5:58 AM on June 18, 2004

A more accurate translation, I've been told, is "The kingdom of god is among you" or "between" you. Better, I think.
posted by ChasFile at 7:45 AM on June 18, 2004

I'm not sure of the translation matteo, I have a copy in paperback but that is boxed away. The edition I am reading is one of mail order editions from the 40's i guess. Walter J. Black company, the volume can double as a door stop and had one of those mimeographed newsletters....'stayed tuned next week for the complete works of Poe'... It has to many abridgements, except the Ilylitch. But the editors spell his name Tolstoi.

credit were credit is due. Fine post Matteo.
posted by clavdivs at 8:40 AM on June 18, 2004

Great links, matteo. Of course, it's not incidental that Tolstoy became such a powerful advocate of political non-violence when he became a vegetarian.
posted by soyjoy at 10:20 AM on June 18, 2004

I'm not sure of the translation

it does sound like Garnett -- she translated most of the great Russians into English and even if many criticize some of her work she'd be worthy of a post herself, I think. and maybe I'll be the one to do that, later in the summer, who knows. she's even a character in play -- well, a farce -- by Albert Innaurato -- poor dr. Garnett.

btw clavdivs my Russian is close to nonexistent but I admit I have read most of my Russians in Franch translations, because of the old-style idea of the two cultures being so close in the 19th century that French translations beat all the others, English included (even if, on paper, I believe English should be the better language to translate Russian literary works). one exception -- I read Ivan Ilyich in Garnett's English. life is strange

and thanks, everybody, by the way

posted by matteo at 8:32 PM on June 18, 2004

strains of DIY religion and petrarch's secretum :D
S. Augustine. What have you to say, O man of little strength? Of what are you dreaming? For what are you looking? Remember you not you are mortal?

Petrarch. Yes, I remember it right well, and a shudder comes upon me every time that remembrance rises in my breast.

S. Augustine. May you, indeed, remember as you say, and take heed for yourself. You will spare me much trouble by so doing. For there can be no doubt that to recollect one's misery and to practice frequent meditation on death is the surest aid in scorning the Seductions of this world, and in ordering the soul amid its stoles and tempests, if only such meditation be not superficial, but sink into the bones and marrow of the heart.
fwiw, here're summore :D
"The mere accumulation of knowledge and the acquisition of wisdom does not make a god," answered the other rather impatiently. "Look!" A shadowy hand pointed toward the great blazing gems which were the stars.

Kull looked and saw that they were changing swiftly. A constant weaving, an incessant changing of design and pattern was taking place.

"The 'everlasting' stars change in their own time, as swiftly as the races of men rise and fade. Even as we watch, upon those that are planets, beings are rising from the slime of the primeval, are climbing up the long slow roads to culture and wisdom, and are being destroyed with their dying worlds. All life and a part of life. To them it seems billions of years; to us, but a moment. All life." - Robert E. Howard, The Striking of the Gong

We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a "sub-creator" and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbor, while materialistic "progress" leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil. - J.R.R. Tolkien

[t]he heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens—at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle…. God is more than god, not less: Christ is more than Balder, not less. We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. We must not be nervous about "parallels" and "pagan Christs": they ought to be there—it would be a stumbling block if they weren't. We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. If God chooses to be mythopoeic—and is not the sky itself a myth—shall we refuse to be mythopathic? - C.S. Lewis

I believe, you seem myself only in such a way, because you direct your view too much toward the exterior of the things. You cannot state anything over the reality, if you describe only the visible surface of the things, which everyone has before eyes. The reality is behind denDingen, and one can speak only in pictures of it. You cannot pack it, as you pack a cat with the tail. If such a speech seems to you mysteriously, you understood not yet much from the reality. - Hans Bemmann, The Stone and The Flute [translated from the German :]
and, finally!
Jesus said, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]"
posted by kliuless at 11:30 AM on June 19, 2004

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