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destiny and the welfare of all mankind and of all the world consists, you
must, first of all, cease to listen to the voices of your conscience and
of your reason, which present themselves in you and in others like you;
you must cease to believe all that the great teachers of mankind have
said with regard to your conscience and reason, and you must consider all
this as nonsense, and begin all over again. And, in order to understand
every thing from the beginning, you must look through microscopes at the
movements of amoebae, and cells in worms, or, with still greater
composure, believe in every thing that men with a diploma of
infallibility shall say to you about them. And as you gaze at the
movements of these cells, or read about what others have seen, you must
attribute to these cells your own human sensations and calculations as to
what they desire, whither they are directing themselves, how they compare
and discuss, and to what they have become accustomed; and from these
observations (in which there is not a word about an error of thought or
of expression) you must deduce a conclusion by analogy as to what you
are, what is your destiny, wherein lies the welfare of yourself and of
other cells like you. In order to understand yourself, you must study
not only the worms which you see, but microscopic creatures which you can
barely see, and transformations from one set of creatures into others,
which no one has ever beheld, and which you, most assuredly, will never
behold. And the same with art. Where there has been true science, art
has always been its exponent.

Ever since men have been in existence, they have been in the habit of
deducing, from all pursuits, the expressions of various branches of
learning concerning the destiny and the welfare of man, and the
expression of this knowledge has been art in the strict sense of the

Ever since men have existed, there have been those who were peculiarly
sensitive and responsive to the doctrine regarding the destiny and
welfare of man; who have given expression to their own and the popular
conflict, to the delusions which lead them astray from their destinies,
their sufferings in this conflict, their hopes in the triumph of good,
them despair over the triumph of evil, and their raptures in the
consciousness of the approaching bliss of man, on viol and tabret, in
images and words. Always, down to the most recent times, art has served
science and life, - only then was it what has been so highly esteemed of
men. But art, in its capacity of an important human activity,
disappeared simultaneously with the substitution for the genuine science
of destiny and welfare, of the science of any thing you choose to fancy.
Art has existed among all peoples, and will exist until that which among
us is scornfully called religion has come to be considered the only

In our European world, so long as there existed a Church, as the doctrine
of destiny and welfare, and so long as the Church was regarded as the
only true science, art served the Church, and remained true art: but as
soon as art abandoned the Church, and began to serve science, while
science served whatever came to hand, art lost its significance. And
notwithstanding the rights claimed on the score of ancient memories, and
of the clumsy assertion which only proves its loss of its calling, that
art serves art, it has become a trade, providing men with something
agreeable; and as such, it inevitably comes into the category of
choreographic, culinary, hair-dressing, and cosmetic arts, whose
practitioners designate themselves as artists, with the same right as the
poets, printers, and musicians of our day.

Glance backward into the past, and you will see that in the course of
thousands of years, out of milliards of people, only half a score of
Confucius', Buddhas, Solomons, Socrates, Solons, and Homers have been
produced. Evidently, they are rarely met with among men, in spite of the
fact that these men have not been selected from a single caste, but from
mankind at large. Evidently, these true teachers and artists and learned
men, the purveyors of spiritual nourishment, are rare. And it is not
without reason that mankind has valued and still values them so highly.

But it now appears, that all these great factors in the science and art
of the past are no longer of use to us. Nowadays, scientific and
artistic authorities can, in accordance with the law of division of
labor, be turned out by factory methods; and, in one decade, more great
men have been manufactured in art and science, than have ever been born
of such among all nations, since the foundation of the world. Nowadays
there is a guild of learned men and artists, and they prepare, by
perfected methods, all that spiritual food which man requires. And they
have prepared so much of it, that it is no longer necessary to refer to
the elder authorities, who have preceded them, - not only to the ancients,
but to those much nearer to us. All that was the activity of the
theological and metaphysical period, - all that must be wiped out: but the
true, the rational activity began, say, fifty years ago, and in the
course of those fifty years we have made so many great men, that there
are about ten great men to every branch of science. And there have come
to be so many sciences, that, fortunately, it is easy to make them. All
that is required is to add the Greek word "logy" to the name, and force
them to conform to a set rubric, and the science is all complete. They
have created so many sciences, that not only can no one man know them
all, but not a single individual can remember all the titles of all the
existing sciences; the titles alone form a thick lexicon, and new
sciences are manufactured every day. They have been manufactured on the
pattern of that Finnish teacher who taught the landed proprietor's
children Finnish instead of French. Every thing has been excellently
inculcated; but there is one objection, - that no one except ourselves can
understand any thing of it, and all this is reckoned as utterly useless
nonsense. However, there is an explanation even for this. People do not
appreciate the full value of scientific science, because they are under
the influence of the theological period, that profound period when all
the people, both among the Hebrews, and the Chinese, and the Indians, and
the Greeks, understood every thing that their great teachers said to

But, from whatever cause this has come about, the fact remains, that
sciences and arts have always existed among mankind, and, when they
really did exist, they were useful and intelligible to all the people.
But we practise something which we call science and art, but it appears
that what we do is unnecessary and unintelligible to man. And hence,
however beautiful may be the things that we accomplish, we have no right
to call them arts and sciences.


"But you only furnish a different definition of arts and sciences, which
is stricter, and is incompatible with science," I shall be told in answer
to this; "nevertheless, scientific and artistic activity does still
exist. There are the Galileos, Brunos, Homers, Michael Angelos,
Beethovens, and all the lesser learned men and artists, who have
consecrated their entire lives to the service of science and art, and who
were, and will remain, the benefactors of mankind."

Generally this is what people say, striving to forget that new principle
of the division of labor, on the basis of which science and art now
occupy their privileged position, and on whose basis we are now enabled
to decide without grounds, but by a given standard: Is there, or is there
not, any foundation for that activity which calls itself science and art,
to so magnify itself?

When the Egyptian or the Grecian priests produced their mysteries, which
were unintelligible to any one, and stated concerning these mysteries
that all science and all art were contained in them, I could not verify
the reality of their science on the basis of the benefit procured by them
to the people, because science, according to their assertions, was
supernatural. But now we all possess a very simple and clear definition
of the activity of art and science, which excludes every thing
supernatural: science and art promise to carry out the mental activity of
mankind, for the welfare of society, or of all the human race.

The definition of scientific science and art is entirely correct; but,
unfortunately, the activity of the present arts and sciences does not
come under this head. Some of them are directly injurious, others are
useless, others still are worthless, - good only for the wealthy. They do
not fulfil that which, by their own definition, they have undertaken to
accomplish; and hence they have as little right to regard themselves as
men of art and science, as a corrupt priesthood, which does not fulfil
the obligations which it has assumed, has the right to regard itself as
the bearer of divine truth.

And it can be understood why the makers of the present arts and sciences
have not fulfilled, and cannot fulfil, their vocation. They do not
fulfil it, because out of their obligations they have erected a right.

Scientific and artistic activity, in its real sense, is only fruitful
when it knows no rights, but recognizes only obligations. Only because
it is its property to be always thus, does mankind so highly prize this
activity. If men really were called to the service of others through
artistic work, they would see in that work only obligation, and they
would fulfil it with toil, with privations, and with self-abnegation.

The thinker or the artist will never sit calmly on Olympian heights, as
we have become accustomed to represent them to ourselves. The thinker or
the artist should suffer in company with the people, in order that he may
find salvation or consolation. Besides this, he will suffer because he
is always and eternally in turmoil and agitation: he might decide and say
that that which would confer welfare on men, would free them from
suffering, would afford them consolation; but he has not said so, and has
not presented it as he should have done; he has not decided, and he has
not spoken; and to-morrow, possibly, it will be too late, - he will die.
And therefore suffering and self-sacrifice will always be the lot of the
thinker and the artist.

Not of this description will be the thinker and artist who is reared in
an establishment where, apparently, they manufacture the learned man or
the artist (but in point of fact, they manufacture destroyers of science
and of art), who receives a diploma and a certificate, who would be glad
not to think and not to express that which is imposed on his soul, but
who cannot avoid doing that to which two irresistible forces draw him, - an
inward prompting, and the demand of men.

There will be no sleek, plump, self-satisfied thinkers and artists.
Spiritual activity, and its expression, which are actually necessary to
others, are the most burdensome of all man's avocations; a cross, as the
Gospels phrase it. And the sole indubitable sign of the presence of a
vocation is self-devotion, the sacrifice of self for the manifestation of
the power that is imposed upon man for the benefit of others.

It is possible to study out how many beetles there are in the world, to
view the spots on the sun, to write romances and operas, without
suffering; but it is impossible, without self-sacrifice, to instruct
people in their true happiness, which consists solely in renunciation of
self and the service of others, and to give strong expression to this
doctrine, without self-sacrifice.

Christ did not die on the cross in vain; not in vain does the sacrifice
of suffering conquer all things.

But our art and science are provided with certificates and diplomas; and
the only anxiety of all men is, how to still better guarantee them, i.e.,
how to render the service of the people impracticable for them.

True art and true science possess two unmistakable marks: the first, an
inward mark, which is this, that the servitor of art and science will
fulfil his vocation, not for profit but with self-sacrifice; and the
second, an external sign, - his productions will be intelligible to all
the people whose welfare he has in view.

No matter what people have fixed upon as their vocation and their
welfare, science will be the doctrine of this vocation and welfare, and
art will be the expression of that doctrine. That which is called
science and art, among us, is the product of idle minds and feelings,
which have for their object to tickle similar idle minds and feelings.
Our arts and sciences are incomprehensible, and say nothing to the
people, for they have not the welfare of the common people in view.

Ever since the life of men has been known to us, we find, always and
everywhere, the reigning doctrine falsely designating itself as science,
not manifesting itself to the common people, but obscuring for them the
meaning of life. Thus it was among the Greeks the sophists, then among
the Christians the mystics, gnostics, scholastics, among the Hebrews the
Talmudists and Cabalists, and so on everywhere, down to our own times.

How fortunate it is for us that we live in so peculiar an age, when that
mental activity which calls itself science, not only does not err, but
finds itself, as we are assured, in a remarkably flourishing condition!
Does not this peculiar good fortune arise from the fact that man can not
and will not see his own hideousness? Why is there nothing left of those
sciences, and sophists, and Cabalists, and Talmudists, but words, while
we are so exceptionally happy? Surely the signs are identical. There is
the same self-satisfaction and blind confidence that we, precisely we,
and only we, are on the right path, and that the real thing is only
beginning with us. There is the same expectation that we shall discover
something remarkable; and that chief sign which leads us astray convicts
us of our error: all our wisdom remains with us, and the common people do
not understand, and do not accept, and do not need it.

Our position is a very difficult one, but why not look at it squarely?

It is time to recover our senses, and to scrutinize ourselves. Surely we
are nothing else than the scribes and Pharisees, who sit in Moses' seat,
and who have taken the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and will neither go
in ourselves, nor permit others to go in. Surely we, the high priests of
science and art, are ourselves worthless deceivers, possessing much less
right to our position than the most crafty and depraved priests. Surely
we have no justification for our privileged position. The priests had a
right to their position: they declared that they taught the people life
and salvation. But we have taken their place, and we do not instruct the
people in life, - we even admit that such instruction is unnecessary, - but
we educate our children in the same Talmudic-Greek and Latin grammar, in
order that they may be able to pursue the same life of parasites which we
lead ourselves. We say, "There used to be castes, but there are none
among us." But what does it mean, that some people and their children
toil, while other people and their children do not toil?

Bring hither an Indian ignorant of our language, and show him European
life, and our life, for several generations, and he will recognize the
same leading, well-defined castes - of laborers and non-laborers - as there
are in his own country. And as in his land, so in ours, the right of
refusing to labor is conferred by a peculiar consecration, which we call
science and art, or, in general terms, culture. It is this culture, and
all the distortions of sense connected with it, which have brought us to
that marvellous madness, in consequence of which we do not see that which
is so clear and indubitable.


Then, what is to be done? What are we to do?

This question, which includes within itself both an admission that our
life is evil and wrong, and in connection with this, - as though it were
an exercise for it, - that it is impossible, nevertheless, to change it,
this question I have heard, and I continue to hear, on all sides. I have
described my own sufferings, my own gropings, and my own solution of this
question. I am the same kind of a man as everybody else; and if I am in
any wise distinguished from the average man of our circle, it is chiefly
in this respect, that I, more than the average man, have served and
winked at the false doctrine of our world; I have received more
approbation from men professing the prevailing doctrine: and therefore,
more than others, have I become depraved, and wandered from the path. And
therefore I think that the solution of the problem, which I have found in
my own case, will be applicable to all sincere people who are propounding
the same question to themselves.

First of all, in answer to the question, "What is to be done?" I told
myself: "I must lie neither to other people nor to myself. I must not
fear the truth, whithersoever it may lead me."

We all know what it means to lie to other people, but we are not afraid
to lie to ourselves; yet the very worst downright lie, to other people,
is not to be compared in its consequences with the lie to ourselves, upon
which we base our whole life.

This is the lie of which we must not be guilty if we are to be in a
position to answer the question: "What is to be done?" And, in fact, how
am I to answer the question, "What is to be done?" when every thing that
I do, when my whole life, is founded on a lie, and when I carefully
parade this lie as the truth before others and before myself? Not to
lie, in this sense, means not to fear the truth, not to devise
subterfuges, and not to accept the subterfuges devised by others for the
purpose of hiding from myself the deductions of my reason and my
conscience; not to fear to part company with all those who surround me,
and to remain alone in company with reason and conscience; not to fear
that position to which the truth shall lead me, being firmly convinced
that that position to which truth and conscience shall conduct me,
however singular it may be, cannot be worse than the one which is founded
on a lie. Not to lie, in our position of privileged persons of mental
labor, means, not to be afraid to reckon one's self up wrongly. It is
possible that you are already so deeply indebted that you cannot take
stock of yourself; but to whatever extent this may be the case, however
long may be the account, however far you have strayed from the path, it
is still better than to continue therein. A lie to other people is not
alone unprofitable; every matter is settled more directly and more
speedily by the truth than by a lie. A lie to others only entangles
matters, and delays the settlement; but a lie to one's self, set forth as
the truth, ruins a man's whole life. If a man, having entered on the
wrong path, assumes that it is the true one, then every step that he
takes on that path removes him farther from his goal. If a man who has
long been travelling on this false path divines for himself, or is
informed by some one, that his course is a mistaken one, but grows
alarmed at the idea that he has wandered very far astray and tries to
convince himself that he may, possibly, still strike into the right road,
then he never will get into it. If a man quails before the truth, and,
on perceiving it, does not accept it, but does accept a lie for the
truth, then he never will learn what he ought to do. We, the not only
wealthy, but privileged and so-called cultivated persons, have advanced
so far on the wrong road, that a great deal of determination, or a very
great deal of suffering on the wrong road, is required, in order to bring
us to our senses and to the acknowledgment of the lie in which we are
living. I have perceived the lie of our lives, thanks to the sufferings
which the false path entailed upon me, and, having recognized the
falseness of this path on which I stood, I have had the boldness to go at
first in thought only - whither reason and conscience led me, without
reflecting where they would bring me out. And I have been rewarded for
this boldness.

All the complicated, broken, tangled, and incoherent phenomena of life
surrounding me, have suddenly become clear; and my position in the midst
of these phenomena, which was formerly strange and burdensome, has
become, all at once, natural, and easy to bear.

In this new position, my activity was defined with perfect accuracy; not
at all as it had previously presented itself to me, but as a new and much
more peaceful, loving, and joyous activity. The very thing which had
formerly terrified me, now began to attract me. Hence I think, that the
man who will honestly put to himself the question, "What is to be done?"
and, replying to this query, will not lie to himself, but will go whither
his reason leads, has already solved the problem.

There is only one thing that can hinder him in his search for an
issue, - an erroneously lofty idea of himself and of his position. This
was the case with me; and then another, arising from the first answer to
the question: "What is to be done?" consisted for me in this, that it was
necessary for me to repent, in the full sense of that word, - i.e., to
entirely alter my conception of my position and my activity; to confess
the hurtfulness and emptiness of my activity, instead of its utility and
gravity; to confess my own ignorance instead of culture; to confess my
immorality and harshness in the place of my kindness and morality;
instead of my elevation, to acknowledge my lowliness. I say, that in
addition to not lying to myself, I had to repent, because, although the
one flows from the other, a false conception of my lofty importance had
so grown up with me, that, until I sincerely repented and cut myself free
from that false estimate which I had formed of myself, I did not perceive
the greater part of the lie of which I had been guilty to myself. Only
when I had repented, that is to say, when I had ceased to look upon
myself as a regular man, and had begun to regard myself as a man exactly
like every one else, - only then did my path become clear before me.
Before that time I had not been able to answer the question: "What is to
be done?" because I had stated the question itself wrongly.

As long as I did not repent, I put the question thus: "What sphere of
activity should I choose, I, the man who has received the education and
the talents which have fallen to my shame? How, in this fashion, make
recompense with that education and those talents, for what I have taken,
and for what I still take, from the people?" This question was wrong,
because it contained a false representation, to the effect that I was not
a man just like them, but a peculiar man called to serve the people with
those talents and with that education which I had won by the efforts of
forty years.

I propounded the query to myself; but, in reality, I had answered it in
advance, in that I had in advance defined the sort of activity which was
agreeable to me, and by which I was called upon to serve the people. I
had, in fact, asked myself: "In what manner could I, so very fine a
writer, who had acquired so much learning and talents, make use of them
for the benefit of the people?"

But the question should have been put as it would have stood for a
learned rabbi who had gone through the course of the Talmud, and had
learned by heart the number of letters in all the holy books, and all the
fine points of his art. The question for me, as for the rabbi, should
stand thus: "What am I, who have spent, owing to the misfortune of my
surroundings, the year's best fitted for study in the acquisition of
grammar, geography, judicial science, poetry, novels and romances, the
French language, pianoforte playing, philosophical theories, and military
exercises, instead of inuring myself to labor; what am I, who have passed
the best years of my life in idle occupations which are corrupting to the
soul, - what am I to do in defiance of these unfortunate conditions of the
past, in order that I may requite those people who during the whole time
have fed and clothed, yes, and who even now continue to feed and clothe
me?" Had the question then stood as it stands before me now, after I
have repented, - "What am I, so corrupt a man, to do?" the answer would
have been easy: "To strive, first of all, to support myself honestly;
that is, to learn not to live upon others; and while I am learning, and

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