The great Russian writer and thinker who contributed a lot to the Russian literature and history is more famous as a writer, his philosophical views and works that reflect his ideas of God, soul, knowledge, love, the meaning of life, etc. are much less known.
The continuing quest for the meaning of life, the moral ideal, the covert general regularities of existence as well as his spiritual and social criticism run through all his creative work. Since the 1870-ies he pays more and more attention to the subjects of death, sin, penance, and moral revival.
His extraordinary way of thinking was in most cases incomprehensible to the Russian society of those days.
He was excommunicated and committed to anathema, his friends and acquaintances turned away from him. In 1910, at the age of 81, Lev Tolstoy left home and died on the way to the station “Astapovo”.
Why was the end of his life so sad and where was he going after leaving home? Perhaps, some of his letters will throw light upon it.
Here is what he wrote about the Church:
“The world was doing what it wished to do and was letting the Church keep pace with it providing as good explanations of the meaning of life as it could possibly think of. The world was setting its own mode of life which was entirely different form the teaching of Christ, and the Church was inventing allegories which would suggest that people who violated the law of Christ lived in keeping with it. As a result, the world started living the life which was worse than that of pagans, and the Church came to approve of it. Moreover, it claimed that such life was what the teaching of Christ consists in”.
Yasnaya Polyana, March, 1909
The Russian woman who married the Muslim E. Vekilov, wrote to Tolstoy that her sons wanted to convert to Islam, and asked for his advice. This is what the writer answered her:
“As far as the preference of Mohammedanism to Orthodoxy is concerned…, I can fully sympathize with such conversion. To say this might be strange for me who values the Christian ideals and the teaching of Christ in their pure sense more that anything else, I do not doubt that Islam in its outer form stands higher than the Orthodox Church. Therefore, if a person is given only two choices: to adhere to the Orthodox Church or Islam, any sensible person will not hesitate about his choice, and anyone will prefer Islam with its acceptance of one tenet, single God and His Prophet instead such complex and incomprehensible things in theology as the Trinity, redemption, sacraments, the saints and their images, and complicated services…”
Yasnaya Polyana, March, 15th, 1909
We can adduce another letter of his which explains his world outlook which formed as a result of his long painful search for the truth.
“I would be very glad if you were of the same faith with me. Just try to understand what my life is. Any success in life- wealth, honour, glory- I don’t have these. My friends, even my family are turning away from me.
Some- liberals and aesthetes- consider me to be mad or weak- minded like Gogol; others- revolutionaries and radicals- consider me to be a mystic and a man who talks too much; the officials consider me to be a malicious revolutionary; the Orthodox consider me to be a devil.
I confess that it is hard for me… And therefore, please, regard me as a kind Mohammedan (Muslim), and all will be fine”.
Yasnaya Polyana, April, 1884