Review: The Kingdom of God Is Within You by Leo Tolstoy

658The Kingdom of God Is Within You
Leo Tolstoy
 Dover Publications September 8, 2006 (first published 1894)
Pages 352
ISBN-13: 9780486451381

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Recommendation: 5/5
Reviewer: Kevin

Summary
Tolstoy in his own words: (selected passages)

“Not to speak of all the other contradictions between modern life and the conscience, the permanently armed conditions of Europe together with its profession of Christianity is alone enough to drive any man to despair, to doubt of the sanity of mankind, and to terminate an existence in this senseless and brutal world. This contradiction, which is a quintessence of all the other contradictions, is so terrible that to live and to take part in it is only possible if one does not think of it-if one is able to forget it.”

“They (Governments) pretend to support temperance societies, while they are living principally on the drunkenness of the people; and pretend to encourage education, when their whole strength is based on ignorance; and to support constitutional freedom, when their strength rests on the absence of freedom; and to be anxious for the improvement of the condition of the working classes, when their very existence depends on their oppression; and to support Christianity, when Christianity destroys all government.”

“People often think the question of non-resistance to evil by force is a theoretical one, which can be neglected. Yet this question is presented by life itself to all men, and calls for some answer from every thinking man. Ever since Christianity has been outwardly professed, this question is for men in their social life like the question which presently itself to the traveler when the road on which he has been journeying divides into two branches. He must go on and cannot say: I will not think about it, but will go on just as I did before. There was one road, now there are two, and he must make his choice. In the same way since Christ’s teaching has been known by men they cannot say: I will live as before and will not decide the question of resistance or non-resistance to evil by force. At every new struggle that arises one must inevitably decide; am I, or am I not, to resist by force what I regard as evil.”

About ‘circle of violence’:
This circle is made up of four methods of working upon men, joined together like the links of a chain ring.

The first and the oldest method is intimidation. This consists in representing the existing state organization-whatever it may be, free republic or the most savage despotism-as something sacred and immutable and therefore following any efforts to alter it with the cruelest punishments.

The second method is corruption. It consists in plundering the industrious working people of their wealth by means of taxes and distributing it in satisfying the greed of officials, who are bound in return to support and keep up the oppression of the people.

The third method is what I can only describe as hypnotizing people. This consists in checking the moral development of men, and by various suggestions keeping them back in the ideal of life, outgrown by mankind at large, on which the power of governments rests.

The fourth method consists in selecting from all the men who have been stupified and enslaved by the three former methods a certain number, exposing them to special and intensified means of stupefaction and brutalization, and so making them into a passive intrument for carrying out all the cruelties and brutalities needed by the government. By this method, the circle of violence is completed.”

“What importance, one might think, can one attach to such an incident as some dozens of crazy fellows, as people will call them, refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the government, refusing to pay taxes, to take part in law proceedings or in military service?

These people are punished and exiled to a distance, and life goes on it its old way. One might think there was no importance in such incidents; but yet, it is just those incidents, more than anything else, that will undermine the power of the state and prepare the way for the freedom of men. These are the individual bees, which are beginning to separate from the swarm, and are flying near it, waiting until the whole swarm can no longer be prevented from starting off after them. And the governments know this, and fear such incidents more than all the socialists, communists, and anarchists, and their plots and dynamite bombs.”

About futility of army:
“The same generals and officers and soldiers, and cannons and fortressesm =, and reviews and maneuvers, but no war breaks out. One year, ten, twenty years pass by. And it becomes less and less possible to rely on the army for the pacification of riots, and more and more evident, consequently, that generals, and officers, and soldiers are only figures in solemn processions-objects of amusement for governments-a sort of immense-and far too expensive-corps de ballet.”

“The time must come when the men of our modern world who fill offices based upon violence will find themselves in the position of the emperor in Andersen’s tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” when the child seeing the emperor undressed, cried in all simplicity, “Look, he is naked!”. And then all the rest, who had seen him and said nothing, could not help recognizing it too.”

“Not without good reason was Christ’s only harsh and threatening reproof directed against hypocrites and hypocrisy. It is not theft nor robbery nor murder nor fornication, but falsehood, the special falsehood of hypocrisy, which corrupts men, brutalizes them and makes them vindictive, destroys all distinction between right and wrong in their conscience, deprives them of what is the true meaning of real human life, and debars them from all progress towards perfection.”

MY THOUGHTS
The book one may want to keep next to the Holy Bible at home. A book that one may not just ‘read’ but absorb, assimilate and learn to the core till he transforms himself into a wholly new being. Amazing read; probably the book to deserve the first place in my library.

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