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Full text of "The Kingdom of God Is Within You: Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion but as a New Theory of Life"

THE KINGDOM OF GOD 
IS WITHIN YOU 



CHRISTIANITY NOT AS A MYSTIC RELIGION 
BUT AS A NEW THEORY OF LIFE 



TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN OF 

LEO TOLSTOY 

BY 

CONSTANCE GARNETT 



NEW YORK 

CASSELL PUBLISHING COMPANY 

1894 



FORMATTED AND EDITED 

WWW.NONRESISTANCE.ORG 

2006 



11 



CONTENTS 



Chapter Page 

PREFACE v 

INTRODUCTION vi 

1 . THE DOCTRINE OF NON-RESISTANCE TO EVIL BY FORCE HAS BEEN 1 
PROFESSED BY A MINORITY OF MEN FROM THE VERY FOUNDATION 

OF CHRISTIANITY 

2. CRITICISMS OF THE DOCTRINE OF NON-RESISTANCE TO EVIL BY 13 
FORCE ON THE PART OF BELIEVERS AND OF UNBELIEVERS 

3. CHRISTIANITY MISUNDERSTOOD BY BELIEVERS 21 

4. CHRISTIANITY MISUNDERSTOOD BY MEN OF SCIENCE 37 

5. CONTRADICTION BETWEEN OUR LIFE AND OUR CHRISTIAN 48 
CONSCIENCE 

6. ATTITUDE OF MEN OF THE PRESENT DAY TO WAR 58 

7. SIGNIFICANCE OF COMPULSORY SERVICE 72 

8. DOCTRINE OF NON-RESISTANCE TO EVIL BY FORCE MUST 8 1 
INEVITABLY BE ACCEPTED BY MEN OF THE PRESENT DAY 

9. THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPTION OF LIFE WILL 92 
EMANCIPATE MEN FROM THE MISERIES OF OUR PAGAN LIFE 

10. EVIL CANNOT BE SUPPRESSED BY THE PHYSICAL FORCE OF THE 104 
GOVERNMENT - THE MORAL PROGRESS OF HUMANITY IS BROUGHT 
ABOUT NOT ONLY BY INDIVIDUAL RECOGNITION OF THE TRUTH, BUT 
ALSO THROUGH THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A PUBLIC OPINION 

1 1 . THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPTION OF LIFE HAS ALREADY ARISEN IN OUR 1 1 7 
SOCIETY, AND WILL INFALLIBLY PUT AN END TO THE PRESENT 
ORGANIZATION OF OUR LIFE BASED ON FORCE - WHEN THAT WILL BE 

12. CONCLUSION - REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND 124 



in 



"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." 

-John 8:32 

"Do not fear those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; 
but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." 

- Matt. 10:28 

"You have been bought with a price; so do not be the servants of men." 

-I Cor. 7:23 



IV 



PREFACE 

The book I have had the privilege of translating is, undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable studies 
of the social and psychological condition of the modern world that has appeared in Europe for many 
years, and its influence is sure to be lasting and far-reaching. Tolstoy's genius is beyond dispute. The 
verdict of the civilized world has pronounced him as perhaps the greatest novelist of our generation. But 
the philosophical and religious works of his later years have met with a somewhat indifferent reception. 
They have been much talked about, simply because they were his work, but, as Tolstoy himself 
complains, they have never been seriously discussed. I hardly think that he will have to repeat the 
complaint in regard to the present volume. One may disagree with his views, but no one can seriously 
deny the originality, boldness, and depth of the social conception that he develops with such powerful 
logic. The novelist has shown in this book the religious fervor and spiritual insight of the prophet; yet 
one is pleased to recognize that the artist is not wholly lost in the thinker. The subtle intuitive perception 
of the psychological basis of the social position, the analysis of the frame of mind of oppressors and 
oppressed, and of the intoxication of Authority and Servility, as well as the purely descriptive passages 
in the last chapter - these could only have come from the author of War and Peace. 

The book will surely give all classes of readers much to think of, and must call forth much criticism. 
It must be refuted by those who disapprove of its teaching, if they do not want it to have great 
influence. 

One cannot of course anticipate that English people, slow as they are to be influenced by ideas, and 
instinctively distrustful of all that is logical, will take a leap in the dark and attempt to put Tolstoy's 
theory of life into practice. But one may at least be sure that his destructive criticism of the present 
social and political regime will become a powerful force in the work of disintegration and social 
reconstruction that is going on around us. Many earnest thinkers who, like Tolstoy, are struggling to 
find their way out of the contradictions of our social order will hail him as their spiritual guide. The 
individuality of the author is felt in every line of his work, and even the most prejudiced cannot resist 
the fascination of his genuineness, sincerity, and profound earnestness. Whatever comes from a heart 
such as his, swelling with anger and pity at the sufferings of humanity, cannot fail to reach the hearts of 
others. No reader can put down the book without feeling himself better and more truth-loving for 
having read it. 

Many readers may be disappointed with the opening chapters of the book. Tolstoy disdains all 
attempts to captivate the reader. He begins by laying what he considers to be the logical foundation of 
his doctrines, stringing together quotations from little-known theological writers, and he keeps his own 
incisive logic for the later part of the book. 

One word as to the translation. Tolstoy's style in his religious and philosophical works differs 
considerably from that of his novels. He no longer cares about the form of his work, and his style is 
often slipshod, involved, and diffuse. It has been my aim to give a faithful reproduction of the original. 

CONSTANCE GARNETT, January 1894 



My aim has been the same - to give a faithful reproduction of the original - but why perpetuate 
obvious mistakes or doggedly adhere to an antiquated style, particularly in a translation? Please refer to 
the preface of What I Believe for additional remarks. Once again, point out any errors I have made so 
that I can fix them. This transcription is under no copyright protection. It is my gift to you. You may 
freely copy, print, and transmit it, but please do not change or sell it. 

TOM LOCK, February 2006 



INTRODUCTION 

In the year 1884 I wrote a book under the title What I Believe, in which I did in fact make a sincere 
statement of my beliefs. 

In affirming my belief in Christ's teaching, I could not help explaining why I do not believe, and 
consider as mistaken, the Church's doctrine, which is usually called Christianity. 

Among the many points in which this doctrine falls short of the doctrine of Christ I pointed out as 
the principal one the absence of any commandment of non-resistance to evil by force. The perversion of 
Christ's teaching by the teaching of the Church is more clearly apparent in this than in any other point of 
difference. 

I know - as we all do - very little of the practice and the spoken and written doctrine of former times 
on the subject of non-resistance to evil. I knew what had been said on the subject by the fathers of the 
Church - Origen, Tertullian, and others - I knew too of the existence of some so-called sects of 
Mennonites, Herrnhuters, and Quakers, who do not allow a Christian the use of weapons, and do not 
enter military service; but I knew little of what had been done by these so-called sects toward 
expounding the question. 

My book was, as I had anticipated, suppressed by the Russian censorship; but partly owing to my 
literary reputation, partly because the book had excited people's curiosity, it circulated in manuscript 
and in lithographed copies in Russia and through translations abroad, and it evoked, on one side, from 
those who shared my convictions, a series of essays with a great deal of information on the subject, on 
the other side a series of criticisms on the principles laid down in my book. 

A great deal was made clear to me by both hostile and sympathetic criticism, and also by the 
historical events of late years; and I was led to fresh results and conclusions, which I wish now to 
expound. 

First I will speak of the information I received on the history of the question of non-resistance to 
evil; then of the views of this question maintained by spiritual critics, that is, by professed believers in 
the Christian religion, and also by temporal ones, that is, those who do not profess the Christian religion; 
and lastly I will speak of the conclusions to which I have been brought by all this in the light of the 
historical events of late years. 

L. TOLSTOY 

YASNAIA POLIANA 

May 14/26, 1893 



VI 



CHAPTER 1 

THE DOCTRINE OF NON-RESISTANCE TO EVIL BY FORCE HAS BEEN PROFESSED BY A 
MINORITY OF MEN FROM THE VERY FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIANITY 

Of the Book What I Believe - The Correspondence Evoked by it - Letters from Quakers - Garrison's Declaration - Adin 
Ballou, his Works, his Catechism - Helchitsky's Net of Faith - The Attitude of the World to Works Elucidating Christ's 
Teaching - Dymond's Book On War - Musser's Non-resistance Asserted - Attitude of the Government in 1818 to Men who 
Refused to Serve in the Army - Hostile Attitude of Governments Generally and of Liberals to Those who Refuse to Assist in 
Acts of State Violence, and their Conscious Efforts to Silence and Suppress these Manifestations of Christian Non-resistance. 



Among the first responses called forth by my book were some letters from American Quakers. In 
these letters, expressing their sympathy with my views on the unlawfulness for a Christian of war and 
the use of force of any kind, the Quakers gave me details of their own so-called sect, which for more 
than two hundred years has actually professed the teaching of Christ on non-resistance to evil by force, 
and does not make use of weapons in self-defense. The Quakers sent me also their pamphlets, journals, 
and books, from which I learned how they had, years ago, established beyond doubt the duty for a 
Christian of fulfilling the command of non-resistance to evil by force, and had exposed the error of the 
Church's teaching in allowing war and capital punishment. 

In a whole series of arguments and texts showing that war - that is, the wounding and killing of men 
- is inconsistent with a religion founded on peace and good will toward men, the Quakers maintain and 
prove that nothing has contributed so much to the obscuring of Christian truth in the eyes of the heathen, 
and has hindered so much the diffusion of Christianity through the world, as the disregard of this 
command by men calling themselves Christians, and the permission of war and violence to Christians. 

"Christ's teaching, which came to be known to men, not by means of violence and the sword," they 
say, "but by means of non-resistance to evil, gentleness, meekness, and peacefulness, can only be 
diffused through the world by the example of peace, harmony, and love among its followers." 

"A Christian, according to the teaching of God himself, can act only peaceably toward all men, and 
therefore there can be no authority able to force the Christian to act in opposition to the teaching of God 
and to the principal virtue of the Christian in his relation with his neighbors." 

"The law of state necessity," they say, "can force only those to change the law of God who, for the 
sake of earthly gains, try to reconcile the irreconcilable; but for a Christian who sincerely believes that 
following Christ's teaching will give him salvation, such considerations of state can have no force." 

Further acquaintance with the labors of the Quakers and their works - with Fox, Penn, and especially 
the work of Dymond (published in 1827) - showed me not only that the impossibility of reconciling 
Christianity with force and war had been recognized long, long ago, but that this irreconcilability had 
been long ago proved so clearly and so indubitably that one could only wonder how this impossible 
reconciliation of Christian teaching with the use of force, which has been, and is still, preached in the 
churches, could have been maintained in spite of it. 

In addition to what I learned from the Quakers I received about the same time, also from America, 
some information on the subject from a source perfectly distinct and previously unknown to me. 

The son of William Lloyd Garrison, the famous champion of the emancipation of the Negroes, wrote 
to me that he had read my book, in which he found ideas similar to those expressed by his father in the 
year 1838, and that, thinking it would be interesting to me to know this, he sent me a declaration or 
proclamation of 'non-resistance' drawn up by his father nearly fifty years ago. 

This declaration came about under the following circumstances. William Lloyd Garrison took part 
in a discussion on the means of suppressing war in the Society for the Establishment of Peace among 

1 



Men, which existed in 1838 in America. He came to the conclusion that the establishment of universal 
peace can only be founded on the open profession of the doctrine of non-resistance to evil by violence 
(Matt. 5:39), in its full significance, as understood by the Quakers, with whom Garrison happened to be 
on friendly relations. Having come to this conclusion, Garrison thereupon composed and laid before the 
society a declaration, which was signed at the time - in 1838 - by many members. 

DECLARATION OF SENTIMENTS ADOPTED BY THE PEACE CONVENTION, Boston, 1838 

"We, the undersigned, regard it as due to ourselves, to the cause that we love, to the country in 
which we live, to publish a declaration expressive of the purposes we aim to accomplish and the 
measures we shall adopt to carry forward the work of peaceful universal reformation. 

"We do not acknowledge allegiance to any human government. We recognize but one King and 
Lawgiver, one Judge and Ruler of mankind. Our country is the world; our countrymen are all mankind. 
We love the land of our nativity only as we love all other lands. The interests and rights of American 
citizens are not dearer to us than those of the whole human race. Hence we can allow no appeal to 
patriotism to revenge any national insult or injury... 

"We conceive that a nation has no right to defend itself against foreign enemies or to punish its 
invaders, and no individual possesses that right in his own case, and the unit cannot be of greater 
importance than the aggregate. If soldiers thronging from abroad with intent to commit rapine and 
destroy life may not be resisted by the people or the magistracy, then ought no resistance to be offered to 
domestic troublers of the public peace or of private security. 

"The dogma that all the governments of the world are approvingly ordained of God, and that the 
powers that be in the United States, in Russia, in Turkey, are in accordance with his will, is no less 
absurd than impious. It makes the impartial Author of our existence unequal and tyrannical. It cannot 
be affirmed that the powers that be in any nation are actuated by the spirit or guided by the example of 
Christ in the treatment of enemies; therefore they cannot be agreeable to the will of God, and therefore 
their overthrow by a spiritual regeneration of their subjects is inevitable. 

"We regard as unchristian and unlawful not only all wars, whether offensive or defensive, but all 
preparations for war; every naval ship, every arsenal, every fortification, we regard as unchristian and 
unlawful; the existence of any kind of standing army, all military chieftains, all monuments 
commemorative of victory over a fallen foe, all trophies won in battle, all celebrations in honor of 
military exploits, all appropriations for defense by arms; we regard as unchristian and unlawful every 
edict of government requiring of its subjects military service. 

"Hence we deem it unlawful to bear arms, and we cannot hold any office that imposes on its 
incumbent the obligation to compel men to do right on pain of imprisonment or death. We therefore 
voluntarily exclude ourselves from every legislative and judicial body, and repudiate all human politics, 
worldly honors, and stations of authority. If we cannot occupy a seat in the legislature or on the bench, 
neither can we elect others to act as our substitutes in any such capacity. It follows that we cannot sue 
any man at law to force him to return anything he may have wrongly taken from us; if he has seized our 
coat, we shall surrender him our cloak also rather than subject him to punishment. 

"We believe that the penal code of the old covenant - an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth - has 
been abrogated by Jesus Christ, and that under the new covenant the forgiveness instead of the 
punishment of enemies has been enjoined on all his disciples in all cases whatsoever. To extort money 
from enemies, cast them into prison, exile or execute them, is obviously not to forgive but to take 
retribution. 

"The history of mankind is crowded with evidences proving that physical coercion is not adapted to 
moral regeneration, and that the sinful dispositions of men can be subdued only by love; that evil can be 
exterminated only by good; that it is not safe to rely upon the strength of an arm to preserve us from 



harm; that there is great security in being gentle, long-suffering, and abundant in mercy; that it is only 
the meek who shall inherit the earth; for those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 

"Hence as a measure of sound policy - of safety to property, life, and liberty - of public quietude 
and private enjoyment - as well as on the ground of allegiance to Him who is King of kings and Lord of 
lords, we cordially adopt the non-resistance principle, being confident that it provides for all possible 
consequences, is armed with omnipotent power, and must ultimately triumph over every assailing force. 

"We advocate no Jacobinical doctrines. The spirit of Jacobinism is the spirit of retaliation, violence, 
and murder. It neither fears God nor regards man. We would be filled with the spirit of Christ. If we 
abide by our fundamental principle of not opposing evil by evil we cannot participate in sedition, 
treason, or violence. We shall submit to every ordinance and every requirement of government, except 
such as are contrary to the commands of the Gospel, and in no case resist the operation of law, except by 
meekly submitting to the penalty of disobedience. 

"But while we shall adhere to the doctrine of non-resistance and passive submission to enemies, we 
purpose, in a moral and spiritual sense, to assail iniquity in high places and in low places, to apply our 
principles to all existing evil, political, legal, and ecclesiastical institutions, and to hasten the time when 
the kingdoms of this world will have become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. It appears to us a 
self-evident truth that whatever the Gospel is designed to destroy at any period of the world, being 
contrary to it, ought now to be abandoned. If, then, the time is predicted when swords shall be beaten 
into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, and men shall not learn the art of war any more, it 
follows that all who manufacture, sell, or wield these deadly weapons do thus array themselves against 
the peaceful dominion of the Son of God on earth. 

"Having thus stated our principles, we proceed to specify the measures we propose to adopt in 
carrying our object into effect. 

"We expect to prevail through the Foolishness of Preaching. We shall endeavor to promulgate our 
views among all persons, to whatever nation, sect, or grade of society they may belong. Hence we shall 
organize public lectures, circulate tracts and publications, form societies, and petition every governing 
body. It will be our leading object to devise ways and means for effecting a radical change in the views, 
feelings, and practices of society respecting the sinfulness of war and the treatment of enemies. 

"In entering upon the great work before us, we are not unmindful that in its prosecution we may be 
called to test our sincerity even as in a fiery ordeal. It may subject us to insult, outrage, suffering, yes, 
even death itself. We anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and calumny. 
Tumults may arise against us. The proud and pharisaical, the ambitious and tyrannical, principalities 
and powers, may combine to crush us. They treated the Messiah in the same manner, whose example 
we are humbly striving to imitate. We shall not be afraid of their terror. Our confidence is in the Lord 
Almighty and not in man. Having withdrawn from human protection, what can sustain us but that faith 
which overcomes the world? We shall not think it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try us, but 
rejoice inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ's sufferings. 

"Wherefore we commit the keeping of our souls to God. For every one that forsakes houses, or 
brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for Christ's sake, shall receive a 
hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 

"Firmly relying upon the certain and universal triumph of the sentiments contained in this 
declaration, however formidable may be the opposition arrayed against them, we hereby affix our 
signatures to it; commending it to the reason and conscience of mankind, and resolving, in the strength 
of the Lord God, to calmly and meekly abide the issue." 

Immediately after this declaration a Society for Non-resistance was founded by Garrison, and a 
journal called the Non-Resistant, in which the doctrine of non-resistance was advocated in its full 
significance and in all its consequences, as it had been expounded in the declaration. Further 



information as to the ultimate destiny of the society and the journal I gained from the excellent 
biography of W. L. Garrison, the work of his son. 

The society and the journal did not exist for long. The greater number of Garrison's fellow-workers 
in the movement for the liberation of the slaves, fearing that the too radical programme of the journal, 
the Non-Resistant, might keep people away from the practical work of Negro emancipation, gave up the 
profession of the principle of non-resistance as it had been expressed in the declaration, and both society 
and journal ceased to exist. 

This declaration of Garrison's gave so powerful and eloquent an expression of a confession of faith 
of such importance to men, that one would have thought it must have produced a strong impression on 
people, and have become known throughout the world and the subject of discussion on every side. But 
nothing of the kind occurred. Not only was it unknown in Europe, but also even the Americans, who 
have such a high opinion of Garrison, hardly knew of the declaration. 

Another champion of non-resistance has been overlooked in the same way - the American Adin 
Ballou, who lately died, after spending fifty years in preaching this doctrine. How great the ignorance is 
of everything relating to the question of non-resistance may be seen from the fact that Garrison the son, 
who has written an excellent biography of his father in four great volumes, in answer to my inquiry 
whether there are existing now societies for non-resistance, and adherents of the doctrine, told me that as 
far as he knew that society had broken up, and that there were no adherents of that doctrine, while at the 
very time when he was writing to me there was living, at Hopedale in Massachusetts, Adin Ballou, who 
had taken part in the labors of Garrison the father, and had devoted fifty years of his life to advocating, 
both orally and in print, the doctrine of non-resistance. Later on I received a letter from Wilson, a pupil 
and colleague of Ballou' s, and entered into correspondence with Ballou himself. I wrote to Ballou, and 
he answered me and sent me his works. Here is the summary of some extracts from them: 

"Jesus Christ is my Lord and teacher," says Ballou in one of his satirical essays exposing the 
inconsistency of Christians who allowed a right of self-defense and of warfare. "I have promised, 
leaving all else, to follow him, through good and through evil, to death itself. But I am a citizen of the 
democratic republic of the United States; and in allegiance to it I have sworn to defend the Constitution 
of my country, if need be, with my life. Christ requires me to do to others what I would want them to do 
to me. The Constitution of the United States requires of me to do to two million slaves (at that time 
there were slaves; now one might venture to substitute the word 'laborers') the very opposite of what I 
would want them to do to me - that is, to help to keep them in their present condition of slavery. And, 
in spite of this, I continue to elect or be elected, I propose to vote, I am even ready to be appointed to 
any office under government. That will not hinder me from being a Christian. I shall still profess 
Christianity, and shall find no difficulty in carrying out my covenant with Christ and with the 
government. 

"Jesus Christ forbids me to resist evil-doers, and to take from them an eye for an eye, a tooth for a 
tooth, bloodshed for bloodshed, and life for life. 

"My government demands from me quite the opposite, and bases a system of self-defense on 
gallows, musket, and sword, to be used against its foreign and domestic foes. And the land is filled 
accordingly with gibbets, prisons, arsenals, ships of war, and soldiers. 

"In the maintenance and use of these expensive appliances for murder, we can very suitably exercise 
to the full the virtues of forgiveness to those who injure us, love toward our enemies, blessings to those 
who curse us, and doing good to those who hate us. 

"For this we have a succession of Christian priests to pray for us and beseech the blessing of Heaven 
on the holy work of slaughter. 

"I see all this (i.e., the contradiction between profession and practice), and I continue to profess 
religion and take part in government, and pride myself on being at the same time a devout Christian and 
a devoted servant of the government. I do not want to agree with these senseless notions of non- 
resistance. I cannot renounce my authority and leave only immoral men in control of the government. 

4 



The Constitution says the government has the right to declare war, and I assent to this and support it, and 
swear that I will support it. And I do not for that cease to be a Christian. War, too, is a Christian duty. 
Isn't it a Christian duty to kill hundreds of thousands of one's fellow-men, to outrage women, to raze 
and burn towns, and to practice every possible cruelty? It is time to dismiss all these false 
sentimentalities. It is the truest means of forgiving injuries and loving enemies. If we only do it in the 
spirit of love, nothing can be more Christian than such murder." 

In another pamphlet, entitled How many Men are Necessary to Change a Crime into a Virtue? he 
says, "One man may not kill. If he kills a fellow-creature, he is a murderer. If two, ten, or a hundred 
men do so, they, too, are murderers. But a government or a nation may kill as many men as it chooses, 
and that will not be murder, but a great and noble action. Only gather the people together on a large 
scale, and a battle of ten thousand men becomes an innocent action. But precisely how many people 
must there be to make it so? That is the question. One man cannot plunder and pillage, but a whole 
nation can. But precisely how many are needed to make it permissible? Why is it that one man, ten, a 
hundred, may not break the law of God, but a great number may?" 

And here is a version of Ballou's catechism composed for his flock: 

CATECHISM OF NON-RESISTANCE 

Q. From where is the word 'non-resistance' derived? 

A. From the command, "Do not resist evil." (Matt. 5:39) 

Q. What does this word express? 

A. It expresses a lofty Christian virtue enjoined on us by Christ. 

Q. Ought the word 'non-resistance' to be taken in its widest sense - that is to say, as intending that 
we should not offer any resistance of any kind to evil? 

A. No, it ought to be taken in the exact sense of our Savior's teaching - that is, not repaying evil for 
evil. We ought to oppose evil by every righteous means in our power, but not by evil. 

Q. What is there to show that Christ enjoined non-resistance in that sense? 

A. It is shown by the words he uttered at the same time. He said, "You have heard, it was said of 
old, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist evil. But if someone 
strikes you on the right cheek, turn him the other also; and if one will go to law with you to take your 
coat from you, give him your cloak also." 

Q. Of whom was he speaking in the words, "You have heard, it was said of old"? 

A. Of the patriarchs and the prophets, contained in the Old Testament, which the Hebrews 
ordinarily call the Law and the Prophets. 

Q. What utterances did Christ refer to in the words, "It was said of old"? 

A. The utterances of Noah, Moses, and the other prophets, in which they admit the right of doing 
bodily harm to those who inflict harm, so as to punish and prevent evil deeds. 

Q. Quote such utterances. 

A. "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." (Gen. 9:6) 

"He who strikes a man, so that he dies, shall be surely put to death... And if any mischief follows, 
then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for 
burning, wound for wound, and stripe for stripe." (Ex. 21:12,23-25) 

"He who kills any man shall surely be put to death. And if a man causes a blemish in his neighbor, 
as he has done, so shall it be done to him: breach for breach, eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." (Lev. 
24:17,19-20) 

"Then the judges shall make diligent inquisition; and if the witness proves to be a false witness, and 
has testified falsely against his brother, then shall you do to him as he had thought to have done to his 
brother... And your eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for 
hand, and foot for foot." (Deut. 19: 18,21) 



Noah, Moses, and the Prophets taught that he who kills, maims, or injures his neighbors does evil. 
To resist such evil, and to prevent it, the evil-doer must be punished with death, maiming, or some 
physical injury. Wrong must be opposed by wrong, murder by murder, injury by injury, and evil by 
evil. Thus taught Noah, Moses, and the Prophets. But Christ rejects all this. "I say to you," as it is 
written in the Gospel, "do not resist evil," do not oppose injury with injury, but rather bear repeated 
injury from the evil-doer. What was permitted is forbidden. When we understand what kind of 
resistance they taught, we know exactly what resistance Christ forbade. 

Q. Then the ancients allowed the resistance of injury by injury? 

A. Yes. But Jesus forbids it. The Christian has in no case the right to put to death his neighbor who 
has done him evil, or to do him injury in return. 

Q. May he kill or maim him in self-defense? 

A. No. 

Q. May he go with a complaint to the judge that he who has wronged him may be punished? 

A. No. What he does through others, he is in reality doing himself. 

Q. Can he fight in conflict with foreign enemies or disturbers of the peace? 

A. Certainly not. He cannot take any part in war or in preparations for war. He cannot make use of 
a deadly weapon. He cannot oppose injury to injury, whether he is alone or with others, either in person 
or through other people. 

Q. Can he voluntarily vote or furnish soldiers for the government? 

A. He can do nothing of that kind if he wishes to be faithful to Christ's law. 

Q. Can he voluntarily give money to aid a government resting on military force, capital punishment, 
and violence in general? 

A. No, unless the money is destined for some special object, right in itself, and good both in aim 
and means. 

Q. Can he pay taxes to such a government? 

A. No. He ought not voluntarily to pay taxes, but he ought not to resist the collecting of taxes. A 
tax is levied by the government, and is exacted independently of the will of the subject. It is impossible 
to resist it without having recourse to violence of some kind. Since the Christian cannot employ 
violence, he is obliged to offer his property at once to the loss by violence inflicted on it by the 
authorities. 

Q. Can a Christian give a vote at elections, or take part in government or law business? 

A. No. Participation in election, government, or law business is participation in government by 
force. 

Q. Wherein lies the chief significance of the doctrine of non-resistance? 

A. In the fact that it alone allows of the possibility of eradicating evil from one's own heart, and 
also from one's neighbor's. This doctrine forbids doing that whereby evil has endured for ages and 
multiplied in the world. He who attacks another and injures him, kindles in the other a feeling of hatred, 
the root of every evil. To injure another because he has injured us, even with the aim of overcoming 
evil, is doubling the harm for him and for oneself; it is begetting, or at least setting free and inciting, that 
evil spirit which we should wish to drive out. Satan can never be driven out by Satan. Error can never 
be corrected by error, and evil cannot be vanquished by evil. 

True non-resistance is the only real resistance to evil. It is crushing the serpent's head. It destroys 
and in the end extirpates the evil feeling. 

Q. But if that is the true meaning of the rule of non-resistance, can it always be put into practice? 

A. It can be put into practice like every virtue enjoined by the law of God. A virtue cannot be 
practiced in all circumstances without self-sacrifice, privation, suffering, and in extreme cases loss of 
life itself. But he who esteems life more than fulfilling the will of God is already dead to the only true 
life. Trying to save his life he loses it. Besides, generally speaking, where non-resistance costs the 
sacrifice of a single life or of some material welfare, resistance costs a thousand such sacrifices. 



Non-resistance is Salvation; Resistance is Ruin. 

It is incomparably less dangerous to act justly than unjustly, to submit to injuries than to resist them 
with violence, less dangerous even in one's relations to the present life. If all men refused to resist evil 
by evil our world would be happy. 

Q. But so long as only a few act thus, what will happen to them? 

A. If only one man acted thus, and all the rest agreed to crucify him, would it not be nobler for him 
to die in the glory of non-resisting love, praying for his enemies, than to live to wear the crown of 
Caesar stained with the blood of the slain? However, one man, or a thousand men, firmly resolved not 
to oppose evil by evil are far more free from danger by violence than those who resort to violence, 
whether among civilized or savage neighbors. The robber, the murderer, and the cheat will leave them 
in peace, sooner than those who oppose them with arms, and those who take up the sword shall perish 
by the sword, but those who seek after peace, and behave kindly and harmlessly, forgiving and 
forgetting injuries, for the most part enjoy peace, or, if they die, they die blessed. In this way, if all kept 
the ordinance of non-resistance, there would obviously be no evil or crime. If the majority acted thus 
they would establish the rule of love and good will even over evil-doers, never opposing evil with evil, 
and never resorting to force. If there were a moderately large minority of such men, they would exercise 
such a salutary moral influence on society that every cruel punishment would be abolished, and violence 
and feud would be replaced by peace and love. Even if there were only a small minority of them, they 
would rarely experience anything worse than the world's contempt, and in the meantime the world, 
though unconscious of it, and not grateful for it, would be continually becoming wiser and better for 
their unseen action on it. And if in the worst case some members of the minority were persecuted to 
death, in dying for the truth they would have left behind them their doctrine, sanctified by the blood of 
their martyrdom. Peace, then, to all who seek peace, and may overruling love be the imperishable 
heritage of every soul who obeys willingly Christ's word, "Do not resist evil. 

"AdinBallou" 

For fifty years Ballou wrote and published books dealing principally with the question of non- 
resistance to evil by force. In these works, which are distinguished by the clearness of their thought and 
eloquence of exposition, the question is looked at from every possible side, and the binding nature of 
this command on every Christian who acknowledges the Bible as the revelation of God is firmly 
established. All the ordinary objections to the doctrine of non-resistance from the Old and New 
Testaments are brought forward, such as the expulsion of the moneychangers from the Temple, and so 
on, and arguments follow in disproof of them all. The practical reasonableness of this rule of conduct is 
shown independently of Scripture, and all the objections ordinarily made against its practicability are 
stated and refuted. Thus one chapter in a book of his considers non-resistance in exceptional cases, and 
he owns in this connection that if there were cases in which the rule of non-resistance were impossible to 
apply, it would prove that the law was not universally authoritative. Quoting these cases, he shows that 
it is precisely in them that the application of the rule is both necessary and reasonable. There is no 
aspect of the question, either on his side or on his opponents', which he has not followed up in his 
writings. I mention all this to show the unmistakable interest that such works ought to have for men 
who make a profession of Christianity, and because one would have thought Ballou' s work would have 
been well known, and the ideas expressed by him would have been either accepted or refuted; but such 
has not been the case. 

The work of Garrison, the father, in his foundation of the Society of Non-resistants and his 
Declaration, even more than my correspondence with the Quakers, convinced me of the fact that the 
departure of the ruling form of Christianity from the law of Christ on non-resistance by force is an error 
that has long been observed and pointed out, and that men have labored, and are still laboring, to correct. 
Ballou' s work confirmed me still more in this view. But the fate of Garrison, still more that of Ballou, 
in being completely unrecognized in spite of fifty years of obstinate and persistent work in the same 

7 



direction, confirmed me in the idea that there exists a kind of tacit but steadfast conspiracy of silence 
about all such efforts. 

Ballou died in August 1890, and there was an obituary notice of him in an American journal of 
Christian views (Religio-philosophical Journal, August 23). In this laudatory notice it is recorded that 
Ballou was the spiritual director of a parish, that he delivered from eight to nine thousand sermons, 
married one thousand couples, and wrote about five hundred articles; but there is not a single word said 
of the object to which he devoted his life; even the word 'non-resistance' is not mentioned. Precisely as 
it was with all the preaching of the Quakers for two hundred years, and, too, with the efforts of Garrison 
the father, the foundation of his society and journal, and his Declaration, so it is with the life work of 
Ballou. It seems just as though it did not exist and never had existed. 

We have an astounding example of the obscurity of works that aim at expounding the doctrine of 
non-resistance to evil by force, and at confuting those who do not recognize this commandment, in the 
book of the Czech Helchitsky, which has only lately been noticed and has not hitherto been printed. 

Soon after the appearance of my book in German, I received a letter from Prague, from a professor 
of the university there, informing me of the existence of a work, never yet printed, by Helchitsky, a 
Czech of the fifteenth century, entitled The Net of Faith. In this work, the professor told me, Helchitsky 
expressed precisely the same view as to true and false Christianity as I had expressed in my book What I 
Believe. The professor wrote to me that Helchitsky' s work was to be published for the first time in the 
Czech language in the Journal of The Petersburg Academy of Science. Since I could not obtain the book 
itself, I tried to make myself acquainted with what was known of Helchitsky, and I gained the following 
information from a German book sent me by the Prague professor and from Pypin's history of Czech 
literature. This was Pypin's account: 

"The Net of Faith is Christ's teaching, which ought to draw man up out of the dark depths of the sea 
of worldliness and his own iniquity. True faith consists in believing God's Word; but now a time has 
come when men mistake the true faith for heresy, and therefore it is for the reason to point out what the 
true faith consists in, if anyone does not know this. It is hidden in darkness from men, and they do not 
recognize the true law of Christ. 

"To make this law plain, Helchitsky points to the primitive organization of Christian society - the 
organization that, he says, is now regarded in the Roman Church as an abominable heresy. This 
primitive Church was his special ideal of social organization, founded on equality, liberty, and fraternity. 
Christianity, in Helchitsky' s view, still preserves these elements, and it is only necessary for society to 
return to its pure doctrine to render unnecessary every other form of social order in which kings and 
popes are essential; the law of love would alone be sufficient in every case. 

"Historically, Helchitsky attributes the degeneration of Christianity to the times of Constantine the 
Great, whom the Pope Sylvester admitted into the Christian Church with all his heathen morals and life. 
Constantine, in his turn, endowed the Pope with worldly riches and power. From that time forward 
these two ruling powers were constantly aiding one another to strive for nothing but outward glory. 
Divines and ecclesiastical dignitaries began to concern themselves only about subduing the whole world 
to their authority, incited men against one another to murder and plunder, and in creed and life reduced 
Christianity to a nullity. Helchitsky denies completely the right to make war and to inflict the 
punishment of death; every soldier, even the ' knight,' is only a violent evil-doer - a murderer." 

The same account is given by the German book, with the addition of a few biographical details and 
some extracts from Helchitsky' s writings. 

Having learned the drift of Helchitsky' s teaching in this way, I awaited all the more impatiently the 
appearance of The Net of Faith in the journal of the Academy. But One year passed, then two and three, 
and still the book did not appear. It was only in 1888 that I learned that the Printing of the book, which 
had been begun, was stopped. I obtained the proofs of what had been printed and read them through. It 
is a marvelous book from every point of view. 



Its general tenor is given with perfect accuracy by Pypin. Helchitsky's fundamental idea is that 
Christianity, by allying itself with temporal power in the days of Constantine, and by continuing to 
develop in such conditions, has become completely distorted, and has ceased to be Christian altogether. 
Helchitsky gave the title The Net of Faith to his book, taking as his motto the verse of the Gospel about 
the calling of the disciples to be fishers of men; and, developing this metaphor, he says, "Christ, by 
means of his disciples, would have caught all the world in his net of faith, but the greater fish broke the 
net and escaped out of it, and all the rest have slipped through the holes made by the greater fish, so that 
the net has remained quite empty. The greater fish who broke the net are the rulers, emperors, popes, 
kings, who have not renounced power, and instead of true Christianity have put on what is simply a 
mask of it." Helchitsky teaches precisely what has been and is taught in these days by the non-resistant 
Mennonites and Quakers, and in former times by the Bogomilites, Paulicians, and many others. He 
teaches that Christianity, expecting from its adherents gentleness, meekness, peacefulness, forgiveness 
of injuries, turning the other cheek when one is struck, and love for enemies, is inconsistent with the use 
of force, which is an indispensable condition of authority. 

The Christian, according to Helchitsky's reasoning, not only cannot be a ruler or a soldier; he cannot 
take any part in government or in trade, or even be a landowner; he can only be an artisan or a 
husbandman. 

This book is one of the few works attacking official Christianity that has escaped being burned. All 
such so-called heretical works were burned at the stake, together with their authors, so that there are few 
ancient works exposing the errors of official Christianity. The book has a special interest for this reason 
alone. But apart from its interest from every point of view, it is one of the most remarkable products of 
thought for its depth of aim, for the astounding strength and beauty of the national language in which it 
is written, and for its antiquity. And yet for more than four centuries it has remained imprinted, and is 
still unknown, except to a few learned specialists. 

One would have thought that all such works, whether of the Quakers, of Garrison, of Ballou, or of 
Helchitsky, asserting and proving as they do, on the principles of the Gospel, that our modern world 
takes a false view of Christ's teaching, would have awakened interest, excitement, talk, and discussion 
among spiritual teachers and their flocks alike. 

Works of this kind, dealing with the very essence of Christian doctrine, ought, one would have 
thought, to have been examined and accepted as true, or refuted and rejected. But nothing of the kind 
has occurred, and the same fate has been repeated with all those works. Men of the most diverse views, 
believers, and, what is surprising, unbelieving liberals also, as though by agreement, all preserve the 
same persistent silence about them, and all that has been done by people to explain the true meaning of 
Christ's doctrine remains either ignored or forgotten. 

But it is still more astonishing that two other books, of which I heard on the appearance of my book, 
should be so little known. I mean Dymond's book On War, published for the first time in London in 
1824, and Daniel Musser's book on non-resistance, written in 1864. It is particularly astonishing that 
these books should be unknown, because, apart from their intrinsic merits, both books treat not so much 
of the theory as of the practical application of the theory to life, of the attitude of Christianity to military 
service, which is especially important and interesting now in these days of universal conscription. 

People will ask, perhaps, "How ought a subject to behave who believes that war is inconsistent with 
his religion while the government demands from him that he should enter military service?" 

This question is, I think, a most vital one, and the answer to it is especially important in these days of 
universal conscription. All - or at least the great majority of the people - are Christians, and all men are 
called upon for military service. How ought a man, as a Christian, to meet this demand? This is the gist 
of Dymond's answer: 

"His duty is humbly but steadfastly to refuse to serve." 

There are some people, who, without any definite reasoning about it, conclude straightway that the 
responsibility of government measures rests entirely on those who resolve on them, or that the 



governments and sovereigns decide the question of what is good or bad for their subjects, and the duty 
of the subjects is merely to obey. I think that arguments of this kind only obscure men's consciences. I 
cannot take part in the councils of government, and therefore I am not responsible for its misdeeds. 
Indeed, but we are responsible for our own misdeeds. And the misdeeds of our rulers become our own, 
if we, knowing that they are misdeeds, assist in carrying them out. Those who suppose that they are 
bound to obey the government, and that the responsibility for the misdeeds they commit is transferred 
from them to their rulers, deceive themselves. They say, "We give our acts up to the will of others, and 
our acts cannot be good or bad; there is no merit in what is good nor responsibility for what is evil in our 
actions, since they are not done of our own will." 

It is remarkable that the very same thing is said in the instructions to soldiers that they make them 
learn - that is, that the officer is alone responsible for the consequences of his command. But this is not 
right. A man cannot get rid of the responsibility for his own actions. And that is clear from the 
following example. If your officer commands you to kill your neighbor's child, to kill your father or 
your mother, would you obey? If you would not obey, the whole argument falls to the ground, for if you 
can disobey the governors in one case, where do you draw the line up to which you can obey them? 
There is no line other than that laid down by Christianity, and that line is both reasonable and 
practicable. 

And therefore we consider it the duty of every man who thinks war inconsistent with Christianity, 
meekly but firmly to refuse to serve in the army. And let those whose lot it is to act thus, remember that 
the fulfillment of a great duty rests with them. The destiny of humanity in the world depends, so far as it 
depends on men at all, on their fidelity to their religion. Let them confess their conviction, and stand up 
for it, and not in words alone, but in sufferings too, if need be. If you believe that Christ forbade 
murder, pay no heed to the arguments or to the commands of those who call on you to bear a hand in it. 
By such a steadfast refusal to make use of force, you call down on yourselves the blessing promised to 
those "who hear these sayings and do them," and the time will come when the world will recognize you 
as having aided in the reformation of mankind. 

Musser's book is called Non-Resistance Asserted, or Kingdom of Christ and Kingdoms of this World 
Separated. This book is devoted to the same question, and was written when the American Government 
was exacting military service from its citizens at the time of the Civil War. And it has, too, a value for 
all time, dealing with the question how, in such circumstances, people should and can refuse to enter 
military service. Here is the tenor of the author's introductory remarks: "It is well known that there are 
many persons in the United States who refuse to fight on grounds of conscience. They are called the 
'defenseless,' or 'non-resistant' Christians. These Christians refuse to defend their country, to bear 
arms, or at the call of government to make war on its enemies. Until lately this religious scruple seemed 
a valid excuse to the government, and those who urged it were let off service. But at the beginning of 
our Civil War public opinion was agitated on this subject. It was natural that persons who considered it 
their duty to bear all the hardships and dangers of war in defense of their country should feel resentment 
against those persons who had for long shared with them the advantages of the protection of the 
government, and who now in time of need and danger would not share in bearing the labors and dangers 
of its defense. It was even natural that they should declare the attitude of such men monstrous, 
irrational, and suspicious." 

A host of orators and writers, our author tells us, arose to oppose this attitude, and tried to prove the 
sinfulness of non-resistance, both from Scripture and on common-sense grounds. And this was perfectly 
natural, and in many cases the authors were right - right, that is, in regard to persons who did not 
renounce the benefits they received from the government and tried to avoid the hardships of military 
service, but not right in regard to the principle of non-resistance itself. Above all, our author proves the 
binding nature of the rule of non-resistance for a Christian, pointing out that this command is perfectly 
clear, and is enjoined upon every Christian by Christ without possibility of misinterpretation. "Consider 
yourselves whether it is righteous to obey man more than God," said Peter and John. And this is 

10 



precisely what ought to be the attitude of every man who wishes to be Christian to the claim on him for 
military service, when Christ has said, "Do not resist evil by force." As for the question of the principle 
itself, the author regards that as decided. As to the second question, whether people have the right to 
refuse to serve in the army who have not refused the benefits conferred by a government resting on 
force, the author considers it in detail, and arrives at the conclusion that a Christian following the law of 
Christ, since he does not go to war, ought not either to take advantage of any of the institutions of 
government, courts of law, or elections, and that in his private concerns he must not have recourse to the 
authorities, the police, or the law. Further on in the book he considers the relation of the Old Testament 
to the New, the value of government for those who are Christians, and makes some observations on the 
doctrine of non-resistance and the attacks made on it. The author concludes his book by saying, 
"Christians do not need government, and therefore they cannot either obey it in what is contrary to 
Christ's teaching nor, still less, take part in it." Christ took his disciples out of the world, he says. They 
do not expect worldly blessings and worldly happiness, but they expect eternal life. The Spirit in whom 
they live makes them contented and happy in every position. If the world tolerates them, they are 
always happy. If the world will not leave them in peace, they will go elsewhere, since they are pilgrims 
on the earth and they have no fixed place of habitation. They believe that "the dead may bury their 
dead." One thing only is needful for them, "to follow their Master." 

Even putting aside the question as to the principle laid down in these two books as to the Christian's 
duty in his attitude to war, one cannot help perceiving the practical importance and the urgent need of 
deciding the question. 

There are people, hundreds of thousands of Quakers, Mennonites, all our Douhobortsi, Molokani, 
and others who do not belong to any definite sect, who consider that the use of force - and, 
consequently, military service - is inconsistent with Christianity. Consequently there are every year 
among us in Russia some men called upon for military service who refuse to serve on the ground of their 
religious convictions. Does the government let them off then? No. Does it compel them to go, and in 
case of disobedience punish them? No. This was how the government treated them in 1818. Here is an 
extract from the diary of Nicholas Myravyov of Kars, which was not passed by the censor, and is not 
known in Russia: 

" Tiflis, October 2, 1818 . In the morning the commandant told me that five peasants belonging to a 
landowner in the Tamboff government had lately been sent to Georgia. These men had been sent for 
soldiers, but they would not serve; they had been flogged several times and made to run the gauntlet, but 
they would submit readily to the crudest tortures, and even to death, rather than serve. 'Let us go,' they 
said, 'and leave us alone; we will not hurt anyone; all men are equal, and the Czar is a man like us; why 
should we pay him tribute; why should I expose my life to danger to kill in battle some man who has 
done me no harm? You can cut us to pieces and we will not be soldiers. He who has compassion on us 
will give us charity, but as for the government rations, we have not had them and we do not want to have 
them.' These were the words of those peasants, who declare that there are numbers like them in Russia. 
They brought them four times before the Committee of Government Ministers, and at last decided to lay 
the matter before the Czar, who gave orders that they should be taken to Georgia for correction, and 
commanded the commander-in-chief to send him a report every month of their gradual success in 
bringing these peasants to a better mind." 

How the correction ended is not known, as the whole episode indeed was unknown, having been 
kept in profound secrecy. 

This was how the government behaved seventy-five years ago - this is how it has behaved in a great 
number of cases, studiously concealed from the people. And this is how the government behaves now, 
except in the case of the German Mennonites, living in the province of Kherson, whose plea against 

11 



military service is considered well grounded. They are made to work off their term of service in labor in 
the forests. 

But in the recent cases of refusal on the part of Mennonites to serve in the army on religious 
grounds, the government authorities have acted in the following manner: 

To begin with, they have recourse to every means of coercion used in our times to 'correct' the 
culprit and bring him to 'a better mind,' and these measures are carried out with the greatest secrecy. I 
know that in the case of one man who declined to serve in 1884 in Moscow, the official correspondence 
on the subject had two months after his refusal accumulated into a big folio, and was kept absolutely 
secret among the Ministry. 

They usually begin by sending the culprit to the priests, and the latter, to their shame be it said, 
always exhort him to obedience. But since the exhortation in Christ's name to forswear Christ is for the 
most part unsuccessful, after he has received the admonitions of the spiritual authorities, they send him 
to the gendarmes, and the latter, finding, as a rule, no political cause for offense in him, dispatch him 
back again, and then he is sent to the learned men, to the doctors, and to the madhouse. During all these 
vicissitudes he is deprived of liberty and has to endure every kind of humiliation and suffering as a 
convicted criminal. (All this has been repeated in four cases.) The doctors let him out of the madhouse, 
and then every kind of secret shift is employed to prevent him from going free - whereby others would 
be encouraged to refuse to serve as he has done - and at the same time to avoid leaving him among the 
soldiers, for fear they too should learn from him that military service is not at all their duty by the law of 
God, as they are assured, but quite contrary to it. 

The most convenient thing for the government would be to kill the non-resistant by flogging him to 
death or some other means, as was done in former days. But to put a man openly to death because he 
believes in the creed we all confess is impossible. To let a man alone who has refused obedience is also 
impossible. And so the government tries either to compel the man by ill-treatment to renounce Christ, 
or in some way or other to get rid of him unobserved, without openly putting him to death, and to hide 
somehow both the action and the man himself from other people. And so, all kinds of shifts, wiles, and 
cruelties are set on foot against him. They either send him to the frontier or provoke him to 
insubordination, and then try him for breach of discipline and shut him up in the prison of the 
disciplinary battalion, where they can ill treat him freely unseen by anyone, or they declare him mad, 
and lock him up in a lunatic asylum. They sent one man in this way to Tashkend - that is, they 
pretended to transfer him to the Tashkend army; another to Omsk; a third they convicted of 
insubordination and shut up in prison; a fourth they sent to a lunatic asylum. 

Everywhere the same story is repeated. Not only the government, but the great majority of liberal, 
advanced people, as they are called, studiously turn away from everything that has been said, written, or 
done, or is being done by men to prove the incompatibility of force in its most awful, gross, and glaring 
form - in the form, that is, of an army of soldiers prepared to murder anyone, whoever it may be - with 
the teachings of Christianity, or even of the humanity that society professes as its creed. 

Consequently, the information I have gained of the attitude of the higher ruling classes, not only in 
Russia but in Europe and America, toward the elucidation of this question has convinced me that there 
exists in these ruling classes a consciously hostile attitude to true Christianity, which is shown pre- 
eminently in their reticence in regard to all manifestations of it. 



12 



CHAPTER 2 

CRITICISMS OF THE DOCTRINE OF NON-RESISTANCE TO EVIL BY FORCE ON THE PART 

OF BELIEVERS AND OF UNBELIEVERS 

Fate of the Book What I Believe - Evasive Character of Religious Criticisms of Principles of my Book - 1st Reply: Use of 
Force not Opposed to Christianity - 2d Reply: Use of Force Necessary to Restrain Evil-doers - 3d Reply: Duty of Using 
Force in Defense of One's Neighbor - 4th Reply: The Breach of the Command of Non-resistance to be Regarded Simply as a 
Weakness - 5th Reply: Reply Evaded by Making Believe that the Question has long been Decided - To Devise such 
Subterfuges and to take Refuge Behind the Authority of the Church, of Antiquity, and of Religion is all that Ecclesiastical 
Critics can do to get out of the Contradiction between Use of Force and Christianity in Theory and in Practice - General 
Attitude of the Ecclesiastical World and of the Authorities to Profession of True Christianity - General Character of Russian 
Free-thinking Critics - Foreign Free-thinking Critics - Mistaken Arguments of these Critics the Result of Misunderstanding 
the True Meaning of Christ's Teaching. 



The impression I gained of a desire to conceal, to hush up, what I had tried to express in my book, 
led me to judge the book itself afresh. 

On its appearance it had, as I had anticipated, been forbidden, and ought therefore by law to have 
been burned. But, at the same time, it was discussed among officials, and circulated in a great number 
of manuscript and lithograph copies, and in translations printed abroad. 

And very quickly after the book, criticisms, both religious and secular in character, made their 
appearance, and these the government tolerated, and even encouraged. Consequently, the refutation of a 
book that no one was supposed to know anything about was even chosen as the subject for theological 
dissertations in the academies. 

The criticisms of my book, Russian and foreign alike, fall under two general divisions - the religious 
criticisms of men who regard themselves as believers, and secular criticisms, that is, those of free- 
thinkers. 

I will begin with the first class. In my book I made it an accusation against the teachers of the 
Church that their teaching is opposed to Christ's commands clearly and definitely expressed in the 
Sermon on the Mount, and opposed in especial to his command in regard to resistance to evil, and that in 
this way they deprive Christ's teaching of all value. The Church authorities accept the teaching of the 
Sermon on the Mount on non-resistance to evil by force as divine revelation; and therefore one would 
have thought that if they felt called upon to write about my book at all, they would have found it 
inevitable before everything else to reply to the principal point of my charge against them, and to say 
plainly, do they or do they not admit the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and the commandment of 
non-resistance to evil as binding on a Christian. And they were bound to answer this question, not after 
the usual fashion (i.e., "that although on the one side one cannot absolutely deny, yet on the other side 
one cannot again fully assent, all the more seeing that," etc., etc.). No; they should have answered the 
question as plainly as it was put in my book - Did Christ really demand from his disciples that they 
should carry out what he taught them in the Sermon on the Mount? And can a Christian, then, or can he 
not, always remaining a Christian, go to law or make any use of the law, or seek his own protection in 
the law? And can the Christian, or can he not, remaining a Christian, take part in the administration of 
government, using compulsion against his neighbors? And - the most important question hanging over 
the heads of all of us in these days of universal military service - can the Christian, or can he not, 
remaining a Christian, against Christ's direct prohibition, promise obedience in future actions directly 
opposed to his teaching? And can he, by taking his share of service in the army, prepare himself to 
murder men, and even actually murder them? 



13 



These questions were put plainly and directly, and seemed to require a plain and direct answer; but 
in all the criticisms of my book there was no such plain and direct answer. No, my book received 
precisely the same treatment as all the attacks upon the teachers of the Church for their defection from 
the Law of Christ of which history from the days of Constantine is full. 

A very great deal was said in connection with my book of my having incorrectly interpreted this and 
other passages of the Gospel, of my being in error in not recognizing the Trinity, the redemption, and the 
immortality of the soul. A very great deal was said, but not a word about the one thing that for every 
Christian is the most essential question in life - how to reconcile the duty of forgiveness, meekness, 
patience, and love for all, neighbors and enemies alike, which is so clearly expressed in the words of our 
teacher, and in the heart of each of us - how to reconcile this duty with the obligation of using force in 
war upon men of our own or a foreign people. 

All that are worth calling answers to this question can be brought under the following five headings. 
I have tried to bring together in this connection all I could, not only from the criticisms on my book, but 
from what has been written in past times on this theme. 

The first and crudest form of reply consists in the bold assertion that the use of force is not opposed 
by the teaching of Christ; that it is permitted, and even enjoined, on the Christian by the Old and New 
Testaments. 

Assertions of this kind proceed, for the most part, from men who have attained the highest ranks in 
the governing or ecclesiastical hierarchy, and who are consequently perfectly assured that no one will 
dare to contradict their assertion, and that if anyone does contradict it they will hear nothing of the 
contradiction. These men have, for the most part, through the intoxication of power, so lost the right 
idea of what that Christianity is in the name of which they hold their position that what is Christian in 
Christianity presents itself to them as heresy, while everything in the Old and New Testaments that can 
be distorted into an anti-Christian and heathen meaning they regard as the foundation of Christianity. In 
support of their assertion that Christianity is not opposed to the use of force, these men usually, with the 
greatest audacity, bring together all the most obscure passages from the Old and New Testaments, 
interpreting them in the most unchristian way - the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira, of Simon the 
Sorcerer, etc. They quote all those sayings of Christ's that can possibly be interpreted as justification of 
cruelty: the expulsion from the Temple; "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for this 
city," etc., etc. According to these people's notions, a Christian government is not in the least bound to 
be guided by the spirit of peace, forgiveness of injuries, and love for enemies. 

To refute such an assertion is useless, because the very people who make this assertion refute 
themselves, or, rather, renounce Christ, inventing a Christianity and a Christ of their own in the place of 
him in whose name the Church itself exists, as well as their office in it. If all men were to learn that the 
Church professes to believe in a Christ of punishment and warfare, not of forgiveness, no one would 
believe in the Church and it could not prove to anyone what it is trying to prove. 

The second, somewhat less gross, form of argument consists in declaring that, though Christ did 
indeed preach that we should turn the left cheek, and give the cloak also, and this is the highest moral 
duty, yet that there are wicked men in the world, and if these wicked men were not restrained by force, 
the whole world and all good men would come to ruin through them. This argument I found for the first 
time in John Chrysostom, and I show how he is mistaken in my book What I Believe. 

This argument is ill grounded, because if we allow ourselves to regard any men as intrinsically 
wicked men, then in the first place we annul, by so doing, the whole idea of the Christian teaching, 
according to which we are all equals and brothers, as sons of one Father in heaven. Secondly, it is ill 
founded, because even if to use force against wicked men had been permitted by God, since it is 
impossible to find a perfect and unfailing distinction by which one could positively know the wicked 
from the good, so it would come to all individual men and societies of men mutually regarding each 
other as wicked men, as is the case now. Thirdly, even if it were possible to distinguish the wicked from 
the good unfailingly, even then it would be impossible to kill or injure or shut up in prison these wicked 

14 



men, because there would be no one in a Christian society to carry out such punishment, since every 
Christian, as a Christian, has been commanded to use no force against the wicked. 

The third kind of answer, still more subtle than the preceding, consists in asserting that though the 
command of non-resistance to evil by force is binding on the Christian when the evil is directed against 
himself personally, it ceases to be binding when the evil is directed against his neighbors, and that then 
the Christian is not only not bound to fulfill the commandment, but is even bound to act in opposition to 
it in defense of his neighbors, and to use force against transgressors by force. This assertion is an 
absolute assumption, and one cannot find in all Christ's teaching any confirmation of such an argument. 
Such an argument is not only a limitation, but also a direct contradiction and negation of the 
commandment. If every man has the right to have recourse to force in face of a danger threatening 
another, the question of the use of force is reduced to a question of the definition of danger for another. 
If my private judgment is to decide the question of what is danger for another, there is no occasion for 
the use of force that could not be justified on the ground of danger threatening some other man. They 
killed and burned witches, they killed aristocrats and Girondists, and they killed their enemies, because 
those who were in authority regarded them as dangerous for the people. 

If this important limitation, which fundamentally undermines the whole value of the commandment, 
had entered into Christ's meaning, there must have been mention of it somewhere. This restriction is 
made nowhere in our Savior's life or preaching. On the contrary, warning is given precisely against this 
treacherous and scandalous restriction that nullifies the commandment. The error and impossibility of 
such a limitation is shown in the Gospel with special clearness in the account of the judgment of 
Caiaphas, who makes precisely this distinction. He acknowledged that it was wrong to punish the 
innocent Jesus, but he saw in him a source of danger not for himself, but for the whole people, and 
therefore he said, "It is better for one man to die, than for the whole people to perish." And the 
erroneousness of such a limitation is still more clearly expressed in the words spoken to Peter when he 
tried to resist by force evil directed against Jesus (Matt. 26:52). Peter was not defending himself, but his 
beloved and heavenly Master. And Christ at once reproved him for this, saying, that he who takes up 
the sword shall perish by the sword. 

Besides, apologies for violence used against one's neighbor in defense of another neighbor from 
greater violence are always untrustworthy, because when force is used against one who has not yet 
carried out his evil intent, I can never know which would be greater - the evil of my act of violence or of 
the act I want to prevent. We kill the criminal that society may be rid of him, and we never know 
whether the criminal of today would not have been a changed man tomorrow, and whether our 
punishment of him is not useless cruelty. We shut up the dangerous - as we think - member of society, 
but the next day this man might cease to be dangerous and his imprisonment might be for nothing. I see 
that a man I know to be a ruffian is pursuing a young girl. I have a gun in my hand - I kill the ruffian 
and save the girl. But the death or the wounding of the ruffian has positively taken place, while what 
would have happened if this had not been I cannot know. And what an immense mass of evil must 
result, and indeed does result, from allowing men to assume the right of anticipating what may happen. 
Ninety-nine percent, of the evil of the world is founded on this reasoning - from the Inquisition to 
dynamite bombs, and the executions or punishments of tens of thousands of political criminals. 

A fourth, still more refined, reply to the question, "What ought to be the Christian's attitude to 
Christ's command of non-resistance to evil by force?" consists in declaring that they do not deny the 
command of non-resistance to evil, but recognize it; but they only do not ascribe to this command the 
special exclusive value attached to it by sectarians. To regard this command as the indispensable 
condition of Christian life, as Garrison, Ballou, Dymond, the Quakers, the Mennonites, and the Shakers 
do now, and as the Moravian brothers, the Waldenses, the Albigenses, the Bogomilites, and the 
Paulicians did in the past, is a one-sided heresy. This command has neither more nor less value than all 
the other commands, and the man who through weakness transgresses any command whatever, the 
command of non-resistance included, does not cease to be a Christian if he hold the true faith. This is a 

15 



very skillful device, and many people who wish to be deceived are easily deceived by it. The device 
consists in reducing a direct conscious denial of a command to a casual breach of it. But one need only 
compare the attitude of the teachers of the Church to this and to other commands that they really do 
recognize, to be convinced that their attitude to this is completely different from their attitude to other 
duties. 

The command against fornication they do really recognize, and consequently they do not admit that 
in any case fornication can cease to be wrong. The Church preachers never point out cases in which the 
command against fornication can be broken, and always teach that we must avoid seductions that lead to 
temptation to fornication. But not so with the command of non-resistance. All church preachers 
recognize cases in which that command can be broken, and teach the people accordingly. And they not 
only do not teach that we should avoid temptations to break it, chief of which is the military oath, but 
they themselves administer it. The preachers of the Church never in any other case advocate the 
breaking of any other commandment. But in connection with the commandment of non-resistance they 
openly teach that we must not understand it too literally, but that there are conditions and circumstances 
in which we must do the direct opposite, that is, go to law, fight, punish. Consequently, occasions for 
fulfilling the commandment of non-resistance to evil by force are taught for the most part as occasions 
for not fulfilling it. The fulfillment of this command, they say, is very difficult and pertains only to 
perfection. And how can it not be difficult, when the breach of it is not only not forbidden, but law 
courts, prisons, cannons, guns, armies, and wars are under the immediate sanction of the Church? It 
cannot be true, then, that this command is recognized by the preachers of the Church as on a level with 
other commands. 

The preachers of the Church clearly do not recognize it; only not daring to acknowledge this, they 
try to conceal their not recognizing it. 

So much for the fourth reply. 

The fifth kind of answer, which is the subtlest, the most often used, and the most effective, consists 
in avoiding answering, in making believe that this question is one that has long ago been decided 
perfectly clearly and satisfactorily, and that it is not worth while to talk about it. This method of reply is 
employed by all the more or less cultivated religious writers, that is to say, those who feel the laws of 
Christ binding for themselves. Knowing that the contradiction existing between the teaching of Christ 
that we profess with our lips and the whole order of our lives cannot be removed by words, and that 
touching upon it can only make it more obvious, they, with more or less ingenuity, evade it, pretending 
that the question of reconciling Christianity with the use of force has been decided already, or does not 
exist at all. 

The majority of religious critics of my book use this fifth method of replying to it. I could quote 
dozens of such critics, in all of whom, without exception, we find the same thing repeated; everything is 
discussed except what constitutes the principal subject of the book. As a characteristic example of such 
criticisms, I will quote the article of a well-known and ingenious English writer and preacher - Farrar - 
who, like many learned theologians, is a great master of the art of circuitously evading a question. The 
article was published in an American journal, the Forum, in October 1888. 



1 I only know one work that differs somewhat from this general definition, and that is not a criticism in the precise 
meaning of the word, but an article treating of the same subject and having my book in view. I mean the pamphlet of 
Mr. Troizky (published at Kazan), A Sermon for the People. The author obviously accepts Christ's teaching in its true 
meaning. He says that the prohibition of resistance to evil by force means exactly what it does mean; and the same with 
the prohibition of swearing. He does not, as others do, deny the meaning of Christ's teaching, but unfortunately he 
does not draw from this admission the inevitable conclusions that present themselves spontaneously in our life when we 
understand Christ's teaching in that way. If we must not oppose evil by force, nor swear, everyone naturally asks, 
"What, then, about military service and the oath of obedience?" To this question the author gives no reply, but it must 
be answered. And if he cannot answer, then he would do better not to speak on the subject at all, as such silence leads 
to error. 

16 



After conscientiously explaining in brief the contents of my book, Farrar says, "Tolstoy came to the 
conclusion that a coarse deceit had been palmed upon the world when these words, 'Do not resist evil,' 
were held by civil society to be compatible with war, courts of justice, capital punishment, divorce, 
oaths, national prejudice, and, indeed, with most of the institutions of civil and social life. He now 
believes that the kingdom of God would come if all men kept these five commandments of Christ: (1) 
live in peace with all men, (2) be pure, (3) take no oaths, (4) do not resist evil, and (5) renounce national 
distinctions. 

"Tolstoy," he says, "rejects the inspiration of the Old Testament; hence he rejects the chief doctrines 
of the Church - that of the Atonement by blood, the Trinity, the descent of the Holy Ghost on the 
Apostles, and his transmission through the priesthood." And he recognizes only the words and 
commands of Christ. "But is this interpretation of Christ a true one?" he says. "Are all men bound to 
act as Tolstoy teaches - i.e., to carry out these five commandments of Christ?" You expect, then, that in 
answer to this essential question, which is the only one that could induce a man to write an article about 
the book, he will say either that this interpretation of Christ's teaching is true and we ought to follow it, 
or he will say that such an interpretation is untrue, will show why, and will give some other correct 
interpretation of those words that I interpret incorrectly. But nothing of the kind is done. Farrar only 
expresses his 'belief that, "though actuated by the noblest sincerity, Count Tolstoy has been misled by 
partial and one-sided interpretations of the meaning of the Gospel and the mind and will of Christ." 
What this error consists in is not made clear; it is only said, "To enter into the proof of this is impossible 
in this article, for I have already exceeded the space at my command." 

And he concludes, in a tranquil spirit: 

"Meanwhile, the reader who feels troubled lest it should be his duty also to forsake all the conditions 
of his life and to take up the position and work of a common laborer, may rest for the present on the 
principle, securus judicat orbis terrarum. With few and rare exceptions," he continues, "the whole of 
Christendom, from the days of the Apostles down to our own, has come to the firm conclusion that it 
was the object of Christ to lay down great eternal principles, but not to disturb the bases and 
revolutionize the institutions of all human society, which themselves rest on divine sanctions as well as 
on inevitable conditions. Were it my object to prove how untenable is the doctrine of communism, 
based by Count Tolstoy upon the divine paradoxes (sic), which can be interpreted only on historical 
principles in accordance with the whole method of the teaching of Jesus, it would require an ampler 
canvas than I have here at my disposal." What a pity he has not "an ampler canvas at his disposal"! 
And what a strange thing it is that for all these last fifteen centuries no one has had "a canvas ample 
enough" to prove that Christ, whom we profess to believe in, says something utterly unlike what he does 
say! Still, they could prove it if they wanted to. But it is not worthwhile to prove what everyone knows; 
it is enough to say, "securus judicat orbis terrarum." 

And of this kind, without exception, are all the criticisms of educated believers, who must, as such, 
understand the danger of their position. The sole escape from it for them lies in their hope that they may 
be able, by using the authority of the Church, of antiquity, and of their sacred office, to overawe the 
reader and draw him away from the idea of reading the Gospel for himself and thinking out the question 
in his own mind for himself. And in this they are successful; for, indeed, how could the notion occur to 
anyone that all that has been repeated from century to century with such earnestness and solemnity by 
all those archdeacons, bishops, archbishops, holy synods, and popes, is all of it a base lie and a calumny 
foisted upon Christ by them for the sake of keeping safe the money they must have to live luxuriously 
on the necks of other men? And it is a lie and a calumny so transparent that the only way of keeping it 
up consists in overawing people by their earnestness, their conscientiousness. It is just what has taken 
place of late years at recruiting sessions; at a table before the zertzal - the symbol of the Czar's authority 
- in the seat of honor under the life-size portrait of the Czar, sit dignified old officials, wearing 
decorations, conversing freely and easily, writing notes, summoning men before them, and giving 
orders. Here, wearing a cross on his breast, near them, is a prosperous-looking old priest in a silken 

17 



cassock, with long gray hair flowing on to his cope, before a lectern who wears the golden cross and has 
a Gospel bound in gold. 

They summon Ivan Petroff. A young man comes in, wretchedly, shabbily dressed, and in terror, the 
muscles of his face working, his eyes bright and restless; and in a broken voice, hardly above a whisper, 
he says, "I - by Christ's law - as a Christian - I cannot." "What is he muttering?" asks the president, 
frowning impatiently and raising his eyes from his book to listen. "Speak louder," the colonel with 
shining epaulets shouts to him. "I - I as a Christian ..." And at last it appears that the young man 
refuses to serve in the army because he is a Christian. "Don't talk nonsense. Stand to be measured. 
Doctor, may I trouble you to measure him. He is all right?" "Yes." "Reverend father, administer the 
oath to him." 

No one is the least disturbed by what the poor scared young man is muttering. They do not even pay 
attention to it. "They all mutter something, but we've no time to listen to it, we have to enroll so many." 

The recruit tries to say something still. "It's opposed to the law of Christ." "Go along, go along; we 
know without your help what is opposed to the law and what's not; and you soothe his mind, reverend 
father, soothe him. Next: Vassily Nikitin." And they lead the trembling youth away. And it does not 
strike anyone - the guards, or Vassily Nikitin, whom they are bringing in, or any of the spectators of this 
scene - that these inarticulate words of the young man, at once suppressed by the authorities, contain the 
truth, and that the loud, solemnly uttered sentences of the calm, self-confident official and the priest are 
a lie and a deception. 

Such is the impression produced not only by Farrar's article, but by all those solemn sermons, 
articles, and books that make their appearance from all sides at the very moment when there is a glimpse 
of truth exposing a predominant falsehood. At once begins the series of long, clever, ingenious, and 
solemn speeches and writings that deal with questions nearly related to the subject, but skillfully avoid 
touching the subject itself. 

That is the essence of the fifth and most effective means of getting out of the contradictions in which 
Church Christianity has placed itself, by professing its faith in Christ's teaching in words, while it denies 
it in its life, and teaches people to do the same. 

Those who justify themselves by the first method, crudely asserting that Christ sanctioned violence, 
wars, and murder, repudiate Christ's doctrine directly; those who find their defense in the second, the 
third, or the fourth method are confused and can easily be convicted of error; but this last class, who do 
not argue, who do not condescend to argue about it, but take shelter behind their own grandeur, and 
make a show of all this having been decided by them or at least by someone long ago, and no longer 
offering a possibility of doubt to anyone - they seem safe from attack, and will be beyond attack until 
men come to realize that they are under the narcotic influence exerted on them by governments and 
churches, and are no longer affected by it. 

Such was the attitude of the spiritual critics - i.e., those professing faith in Christ - to my book. And 
their attitude could not have been different. They are bound to take up this attitude by the contradictory 
position in which they find themselves between belief in the divinity of their Master and disbelief in his 
clearest utterances, and they want to escape from this contradiction. Consequently, one cannot expect 
from them free discussion of the very essence of the question - that is, of the change in men's life that 
must result from applying Christ's teaching to the existing order of the world. Such free discussion I 
only expected from worldly, free-thinking critics who are not bound to Christ's teaching in any way, and 
can therefore take an independent view of it. I had anticipated that free-thinking writers would look at 
Christ, not merely, like the Churchmen, as the founder of a religion of personal salvation, but, to express 
it in their language, as a reformer who laid down new principles of life and destroyed the old, and whose 
reforms are not yet complete, but are still in progress even now. 

Such a view of Christ and his teaching follows from my book. But to my astonishment, out of the 
great number of critics of my book there was not one, either Russian or foreign, who treated the subject 
from the side from which it was approached in the book - that is, who criticized Christ's doctrines as 

18 



philosophical, moral, and social principles, to use their scientific expressions. This was not done in a 
single criticism. The free-thinking Russian critics taking my book as though its whole contents could be 
reduced to non-resistance to evil, and understanding the doctrine of non-resistance to evil itself (no 
doubt for greater convenience in refuting it) as though it would prohibit every kind of conflict with evil, 
fell vehemently upon this doctrine, and for some years past have been very successfully proving that 
Christ's teaching is mistaken in so far as it forbids resistance to evil. Their refutations of this 
hypothetical doctrine of Christ were all the more successful since they knew beforehand that their 
arguments could not be contested or corrected, for the censorship, not having passed the book, did not 
pass articles in its defense. 

It is a remarkable thing that among us, where one cannot say a word about the Holy Scriptures 
without the prohibition of the censorship, for some years past there have been in all the journals constant 
attacks and criticisms on the command of Christ simply and directly stated in Matt. 5:39. The Russian 
advanced critics, obviously unaware of all that has been done to elucidate the question of non-resistance, 
and sometimes even imagining apparently that the rule of non-resistance to evil had been invented by 
me personally, fell foul of the very idea of it. They opposed it and attacked it, and advancing with great 
heat arguments that had long ago been analyzed and refuted from every point of view, they 
demonstrated that a man ought invariably to defend (with violence) all the injured and oppressed, and 
that thus the doctrine of non-resistance to evil is an immoral doctrine. 

To all Russian critics the whole importance of Christ's command seemed reducible to the fact that it 
would hinder them from the active opposition to evil to which they are accustomed. Consequently, the 
principle of non-resistance to evil by force has been attacked by two opposing camps: the conservatives, 
because this principle would hinder their activity in resistance to evil as applied to the revolutionists, in 
persecution and punishment of them; the revolutionists, too, because this principle would hinder their 
resistance to evil as applied to the conservatives and the overthrowing of them. The conservatives were 
indignant at the doctrine of non-resistance to evil by force hindering the energetic destruction of the 
revolutionary elements, which may ruin the national prosperity, the revolutionists were indignant at the 
doctrine of non-resistance to evil by force hindering the overthrow of the conservatives, who are ruining 
the national prosperity. It is worthy of remark in this connection that the revolutionists have attacked the 
principle of non-resistance to evil by force, in spite of the fact that it is the greatest terror and danger for 
every despotism. Ever since the beginning of the world, the use of violence of every kind, from the 
Inquisition to the Schlusselburg fortress, has rested and still rests on the opposite principle of the 
necessity of resisting evil by force. 

Besides this, the Russian critics have pointed out the fact that the application of the command of 
non-resistance to practical life would turn mankind aside out of the path of civilization along which it is 
moving. The path of civilization on which mankind in Europe is moving is in their opinion the one 
along which all mankind ought always to move. 

So much for the general character of the Russian critics. 

Foreign critics started from the same premises, but their discussions of my book were somewhat 
different from those of Russian critics, not only in being less bitter, and in showing more culture, but 
also even in the subject matter. 

In discussing my book and the Gospel teaching generally, as it is expressed in the Sermon on the 
Mount, the foreign critics maintained that such doctrine is not peculiarly Christian (Christian doctrine is 
either Catholicism or Protestantism according to their views) - the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount 
is only a string of very pretty impracticable dreams du charmant docteur, as Renan says, fit for the 
simple and half-savage inhabitants of Galilee who lived eighteen hundred years ago, and for the half- 
savage Russian peasants - Sutaev and Bondarev - and the Russian mystic Tolstoy, but not at all 
consistent with a high degree of European culture. 

The foreign free-thinking critics have tried in a delicate manner, without being offensive to me, to 
give the impression that my conviction that mankind could be guided by such a naive doctrine as that of 

19 



the Sermon on the Mount proceeds from two causes: that such a conviction is partly due to my want of 
knowledge, my ignorance of history, my ignorance of all the vain attempts to apply the principles of the 
Sermon on the Mount to life, which have been made in history and have led to nothing; and that it is 
partly due to my failing to appreciate the full value of the lofty civilization to which mankind has 
attained at present, with its Krupp cannons, smokeless powder, colonization of Africa, Irish Coercion 
Bill, parliamentary government, journalism, strikes, and the Eiffel Tower. 

So wrote de Vogue and Leroy Beaulieu and Matthew Arnold. So wrote the American author 
Savage, and Ingersoll, the popular free-thinking American preacher, and many others. 

"Christ's teaching is no use, because it is inconsistent with our industrial age," says Ingersoll 
naively, expressing in this utterance, with perfect directness and simplicity, the exact notion of Christ's 
teaching held by persons of refinement and culture of our times. The teaching is no use for our 
industrial age, precisely as though the existence of this industrial age were a sacred fact that ought not to 
and could not be changed. It is just as though drunkards when advised how they could be brought to 
habits of sobriety should answer that the advice is incompatible with their habit of taking alcohol. 

The arguments of all the free-thinking critics, Russian and foreign alike, different as they may be in 
tone and manner of presentation, all amount essentially to the same strange misapprehension - namely, 
that Christ's teaching, one of the consequences of which is non-resistance to evil, is of no use to us 
because it requires a change of our life. 

Christ's teaching is useless because, if it were carried into practice, life could not go on as at present; 
we must add: if we have begun by living sinfully, as we do live and are accustomed to live. Not only is 
the question of non-resistance to evil not discussed; the very mention of the fact that the duty of non- 
resistance enters into Christ's teaching is regarded as satisfactory proof of the impracticability of the 
whole teaching. 

Meanwhile one would have thought it was necessary to point out at least some kind of solution of 
the following question, since it is at the root of almost everything that interests us. 

The question amounts to this: In what way are we to decide men's disputes, when some men 
consider evil what others consider good, and vice versal And to reply that that is evil which I think evil, 
in spite of the fact that my opponent thinks it good, is not a solution of the difficulty. There can only be 
two solutions: either to find a real unquestionable criterion of what is evil or not to resist evil by force. 

The first course has been tried ever since the beginning of historical times, and, as we all know, it 
has not hitherto led to any successful results. 

The second solution - not forcibly to resist what we consider evil until we have found a universal 
criterion - that is the solution given by Christ. 

We may consider the answer given by Christ unsatisfactory; we may replace it by another and better, 
by finding a criterion by which evil could be defined for all men unanimously and simultaneously; we 
may simply, like savage nations, not recognize the existence of the question. But we cannot treat the 
question as the learned critics of Christianity do. They pretend either that no such question exists at all 
or that the question is solved by granting to certain persons or assemblies of persons the right to define 
evil and to resist it by force. But we know all the while that granting such a right to certain persons does 
not decide the question (still less so when we are ourselves the certain persons), since there are always 
people who do not recognize this right in the authorized persons or assemblies. 

But this assumption, that what seems evil to us is really evil, shows a complete misunderstanding of 
the question, and lies at the root of the argument of free-thinking critics about the Christian religion. In 
this way, then, the discussions of my book on the part of Churchmen and free-thinking critics alike 
showed me that the majority of men simply do not understand either Christ's teaching or the questions 
that Christ's teaching solves. 



20 



CHAPTER 3 

CHRISTIANITY MISUNDERSTOOD BY BELIEVERS 

Meaning of Christian Doctrine, Understood by a Minority, has Become Completely Incomprehensible for the Majority of 
Men - Reason of this to be Found in Misinterpretation of Christianity and Mistaken Conviction of Believers and Unbelievers 
Alike that they Understand it - The Meaning of Christianity Obscured for Believers by the Church - The First Appearance of 
Christ's Teaching - Its Essence and Difference from Heathen Religions - Christianity not Fully Comprehended at the 
Beginning, Became More and More Clear to those who Accepted it from its Correspondence with Truth - Simultaneously 
with this Arose the Claim to Possession of the Authentic Meaning of the Doctrine Based on the Miraculous Nature of its 
Transmission - Assembly of Disciples as Described in the Acts - The Authoritative Claim to the Sole Possession of the True 
Meaning of Christ's Teaching Supported by Miraculous Evidence has Led by Logical Development to the Creeds of the 
Churches - A Church Could Not be Founded by Christ - Definitions of a Church According to the Catechisms - The 
Churches have Always been Several in Number and Hostile to One Another - What is Heresy - The Work of G. Arnold on 
Heresies - Heresies the Manifestations of Progress in the Churches - Churches Cause Dissension among Men, and are 
Always Hostile to Christianity - Account of the Work Done by the Russian Church - Matt. 23:23 - The Sermon on the 
Mount or the Creed - The Orthodox Church Conceals from the People the True Meaning of Christianity - The Same Thing is 
Done by the Other Churches - All the External Conditions of Modern Life are such as to Destroy the Doctrine of the Church, 
and therefore the Churches use Every Effort to Support their Doctrines. 



Thus the information I received, after my book came out, went to show that the Christian doctrine, in 
its direct and simple sense, was understood, and had always been understood, by a minority of men, 
while the critics, ecclesiastical and free-thinking alike, denied the possibility of taking Christ's teaching 
in its direct sense. All this convinced me that while on one hand the true understanding of this doctrine 
had never been lost to a minority, but had been established more and more clearly, on the other hand the 
meaning of it had been more and more obscured for the majority. Consequently, at last such a depth of 
obscurity has been reached that men do not take in their direct sense even the simplest precepts, 
expressed in the simplest words, in the Gospel. 

Christ's teaching is not generally understood in its true, simple, and direct sense even in these days, 
when the light of the Gospel has penetrated even to the darkest recesses of human consciousness; when, 
in the words of Christ, that which was spoken in the ear is proclaimed from the house-tops; and when 
the Gospel is influencing every side of human life - domestic, economic, civic, legislative, and 
international. This lack of true understanding of Christ's words at such a time would be inexplicable, if 
there were not causes to account for it. 

One of these causes is the fact that believers and unbelievers alike are firmly persuaded that they 
have understood Christ's teaching a long time, and that they understand it so fully, indubitably, and 
conclusively that it can have no other significance than the one they attribute to it. And the reason of 
this conviction is that the false interpretation and consequent misapprehension of the Gospel is an error 
of such long standing. Even the strongest current of water cannot add a drop to a cup that is already full. 

The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any 
idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is 
firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him. 

The Christian doctrine is presented to the men of our world today as a doctrine that everyone has 
known so long and accepted so unhesitatingly in all its minutest details that it cannot be understood in 
any other way than it is understood now. 

Christianity is understood now by all who profess the doctrines of the Church as a supernatural 
miraculous revelation of everything that is repeated in the Creed. By unbelievers it is regarded as an 
illustration of man's craving for a belief in the supernatural, which mankind has now outgrown, as an 
historical phenomenon that has received full expression in Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and 

21 



Protestantism, and has no longer any living significance for us. The significance of the Gospel is hidden 
from believers by the Church, from unbelievers by Science. 

I will speak first of the former. Eighteen hundred years ago there appeared in the midst of the 
heathen Roman world a strange new doctrine, unlike any of the old religions, and attributed to a man, 
Christ. 

This new doctrine was in both form and content absolutely new to the Jewish world in which it 
originated, and still more to the Roman world in which it was preached and diffused. 

In the midst of the elaborate religious observances of Judaism, in which, in the words of Isaiah, law 
was laid upon law, and in the midst of the Roman legal system worked out to the highest point of 
perfection, a new doctrine appeared, which denied not only every deity, and all fear and worship of 
them, but even all human institutions and all necessity for them. In place of all the rules of the old 
religions, this doctrine sets up only a type of inward perfection, truth, and love in the person of Christ, 
and - as a result of this inward perfection being attained by men - also the outward perfection foretold 
by the Prophets - the kingdom of God, when all men will cease to learn to make war, when all shall be 
taught of God and united in love, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. Instead of the threats of 
punishment that all the old laws of religions and governments alike laid down for non-fulfillment of 
their rules, instead of promises of rewards for fulfillment of them, this doctrine called men to it only 
because it was the truth. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it is of 
God." (John 7:17) "If I say the truth, why do you not believe me? But you seek to kill me, a man who 
has told you the truth. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. God is a spirit, and 
those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Keep my sayings, and you shall know 
of my sayings whether they are true." (John 8:46) No proofs of this doctrine were offered except its 
truth, the correspondence of the doctrine with the truth. The whole teaching consisted in the recognition 
of truth and following it, in a greater and greater attainment of truth, and a closer and closer following of 
it in the acts of life. There are no acts in this doctrine that could justify a man and make him saved. 
There is only the image of truth to guide him, for inward perfection in the person of Christ, and for 
outward perfection in the establishment of the kingdom of God. The fulfillment of this teaching consists 
only in walking in the chosen way, in getting nearer to inward perfection in the imitation of Christ, and 
outward perfection in the establishment of the kingdom of God. The greater or lesser blessedness of a 
man depends, according to this doctrine, not on the degree of perfection to which he has attained, but on 
the greater or lesser swiftness with which he is pursuing it. 

The progress toward perfection of the publican Zaccheus, of the woman that was a sinner, of the 
robber on the cross, is a greater state of blessedness, according to this doctrine, than the stationary 
righteousness of the Pharisee. The lost sheep is dearer than ninety-nine that were not lost. The prodigal 
son, the piece of money that was lost and found again, are dearer, more precious to God than those who 
have not been lost. 

Every condition, according to this doctrine, is only a particular step in the attainment of inward and 
outward perfection, and therefore has no significance of itself. Blessedness consists in progress toward 
perfection; to stand still in any condition whatever means the cessation of this blessedness. 

"Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." "No man having put his hand to the 
plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." "Do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, 
but seek rather that your names be written in heaven." "Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is 
perfect." "Seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness." 

The fulfillment of this precept is only to be found in uninterrupted progress toward the attainment of 
ever-higher truth, toward establishing more and more firmly an ever-greater love within oneself, and 
establishing more and more widely the kingdom of God outside oneself. 

It is obvious that, appearing as it did in the midst of the Jewish and heathen world, such teaching 
could not be accepted by the majority of men, who were living a life absolutely different from what was 

22 



required by it. It is obvious, too, that even for those by whom it was accepted, it was so absolutely 
opposed to all their old views that it could not be comprehensible in its full significance. 

It has been only by a succession of misunderstandings, errors, partial explanations, and the 
corrections and additions of generations that the meaning of the Christian doctrine has grown 
continually more and more clear to men. The Christian view of life has exerted an influence on the 
Jewish and heathen, and the heathen and Jewish view of life has, too, exerted an influence on the 
Christian. And Christianity, as the living force, has gained more and more upon the extinct Judaism and 
heathenism, and has grown continually clearer and clearer, as it freed itself from the mixture of 
falsehood that had overlaid it. Men went further and further in the attainment of the meaning of 
Christianity, and realized it more and more in life. 

The longer mankind lived, the clearer and clearer became the meaning of Christianity, as must 
always be the case with every theory of life. 

Succeeding generations corrected the errors of their predecessors, and grew ever nearer and nearer to 
a comprehension of the true meaning. It was thus from the very earliest times of Christianity. And so, 
too, from the earliest times of Christianity there were men who began to assert on their own authority 
that the meaning they attribute to the doctrine is the only true one, and as proof bring forward 
supernatural occurrences in support of the correctness of their interpretation. 

This was the principal cause at first of the misunderstanding of the doctrine, and afterward of the 
complete distortion of it. 

It was supposed that Christ's teaching was transmitted to men not like every other truth, but in a 
special miraculous way. Thus the truth of the teaching was not proved by its correspondence with the 
needs of the mind and the whole nature of man, but by the miraculous manner of its transmission, which 
was advanced as an irrefutable proof of the truth of the interpretation put on it. This hypothesis 
originated from misunderstanding of the teaching, and its result was to make it impossible to understand 
it rightly. 

And this happened first in the earliest times, when the doctrine was still not so fully understood and 
often interpreted wrongly, as we see by the Gospels and the Acts. The less the doctrine was understood, 
the more obscure it appeared and the more necessary were external proofs of its truth. The proposition 
that we ought not to do to others as we would not want the to do to us, did not need to be proved by 
miracles and needed no exercise of faith, because this proposition is in itself convincing and in harmony 
with man's mind and nature; but the proposition that Christ was God had to be proved by miracles 
completely beyond our comprehension. 

The more the understanding of Christ's teaching was obscured, the more the miraculous was 
introduced into it; and the more the miraculous was introduced into it, the more the doctrine was strained 
from its meaning and the more obscure it became; and the more it was strained from its meaning and the 
more obscure it became, the more strongly its infallibility had to be asserted, and the less 
comprehensible the doctrine became. 

One can see by the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles how from the earliest times the non- 
comprehension of the doctrine called forth the need for proofs through the miraculous and 
incomprehensible. 

The first example in the book of Acts is the assembly that gathered together in Jerusalem to decide 
the question that had arisen, whether to baptize or not the uncircumcised and those who had eaten of 
food sacrificed to idols. 

The very fact of this question being raised showed that those who discussed it did not understand the 
teaching of Christ, who rejected all outward observances - ablutions, purifications, fasts, and sabbaths. 
It was plainly said, "It is not what goes into a man's mouth, but what comes out of a man's mouth, that 
defiles him," and therefore the question of baptizing the uncircumcised could only have arisen among 
men who, though they loved their Master and dimly felt the grandeur of his teaching, still did not 
understand the teaching itself very clearly. And this was the fact. 

23 



Just in proportion to the failure of the members of the assembly to understand the doctrine was their 
need of external confirmation of their incomplete interpretation of it. And then to settle this question, 
the very asking of which proved their misunderstanding of the doctrine, there was uttered in this 
assembly, as is described in the Acts, that strange phrase, which was for the first time found necessary to 
give external confirmation to certain assertions, and which has been productive of so much evil. 

That is, it was asserted that the correctness of what they had decided was guaranteed by the 
miraculous participation of the Holy Ghost, that is, of God, in their decision. But the assertion that the 
Holy Ghost, that is, God, spoke through the Apostles, in its turn wanted proof. And thus it was 
necessary, to confirm this, that the Holy Ghost should descend at Pentecost in tongues of fire upon those 
who made this assertion. (In the account of it, the descent of the Holy Ghost precedes the assembly, but 
the book of Acts was written much later than both events.) But the descent of the Holy Ghost too had to 
be proved for those who had not seen the tongues of fire (though it is not easy to understand why a 
tongue of fire burning above a man's head should prove that what that man is going to say will be 
infallibly the truth). And so arose the necessity for still more miracles and changes, raisings of the dead 
to life, and strikings of the living to death, and all those marvels that have been a stumbling-block to 
men, of which the Acts is full, and that, far from ever convincing one of the truth of the Christian 
doctrine, can only repel men from it. The result of such a means of confirming the truth was that the 
more these confirmations of truth by tales of miracles were heaped up one after another, the more the 
doctrine was distorted from its original meaning, and the more incomprehensible it became. 

Thus it was from the earliest times, and so it went on, constantly increasing, until it reached in our 
day the logical climax of the dogmas of transubstantiation and the infallibility of the Pope, or of the 
bishops, or of Scripture, and of requiring a blind faith rendered incomprehensible and utterly 
meaningless, not in God, but in Christ, not in a doctrine, but in a person, as in Catholicism, or in 
persons, as in Greek Orthodoxy, or in a book, as in Protestantism. The more widely Christianity was 
diffused, and the greater the number of people unprepared for it who were brought under its sway, the 
less it was understood, the more absolutely was its infallibility insisted on, and the less possible it 
became to understand the true meaning of the doctrine. In the times of Constantine the whole 
interpretation of the doctrine had been already reduced to a resume - supported by the temporal 
authority - of the disputes that had taken place in the Council - to a creed that reckoned off - I believe 
in so and so, and so and so, and so and so to the end - to one holy, Apostolic Church, which means the 
infallibility of those persons who call themselves the Church. Consequently, it all amounts to a man no 
longer believing in God nor Christ, as they are revealed to him, but believing in what the Church orders 
him to believe in. 

But the Church is holy; the Church was founded by Christ. God could not leave men to interpret his 
teaching at random - therefore he founded the Church. All those statements are so utterly untrue and 
unfounded that one is ashamed to refute them. Nowhere nor in anything, except in the assertion of the 
Church, can we find that God or Christ founded anything like what Churchmen understand by the 
Church. In the Gospels there is a warning against the Church, as it is an external authority, a warning 
most clear and obvious in the passage where it is said that Christ's followers should "call no man 
master." But nowhere is anything said of the foundation of what Churchmen call the Church. 

The word church is used twice in the Gospels - once in the sense of an assembly of men to decide a 
dispute, the other time in connection with the obscure utterance about a stone - Peter, and the gates of 
hell. From these two passages in which the word church is used, in the signification merely of an 
assembly, has been deduced all that we now understand by the Church. 

But Christ could not have founded the Church, that is, what we now understand by that word. For 
nothing like the idea of the Church as we know it now, with its sacraments, miracles, and above all its 
claim to infallibility, is to be found either in Christ's words or in the ideas of the men of that time. 

The fact that men called what was formed afterward by the same word as Christ used for something 
totally different, does not give them the right to assert that Christ founded the one, true Church. 

24 



Besides, if Christ had really founded such an institution as the Church for the foundation of all his 
teaching and the whole faith, he would certainly have described this institution clearly and definitely, 
and would have given the only true Church, besides tales of miracles, which are used to support every 
kind of superstition, some tokens so unmistakable that no doubt of its genuineness could ever have 
arisen. But nothing of the sort was done by him. And there have been and still are different institutions, 
each calling itself the true Church. 

The Catholic catechism says, "L'Eglise est la societe des fideles etablie par notre Seigneur Jesus 
Christ, repandue sur toute la terre et soumise a l'authorite des pasteurs legitimes, principalement notre 
Saint Pere le Pape," 2 understanding by the words 'pasteurs legitimes' an association of men having the 
Pope at its head, and consisting of certain individuals bound together by a certain organization. 

The Greek Orthodox catechism says, "The Church is a society founded upon earth by Jesus Christ, 
which is united into one whole, by one divine doctrine and by sacraments, under the rule and guidance 
of a priesthood appointed by God," meaning by the "priesthood appointed by God" the Greek Orthodox 
priesthood, consisting of certain individuals who happen to be in such or such positions. 

The Lutheran catechism says, "The Church is holy Christianity, or the collection of all believers 
under Christ, their head, to whom the Holy Ghost through the Gospels and sacraments promises, 
communicates, and administers heavenly salvation," meaning that the Catholic Church is lost in error, 
and that the true means of salvation is in Lutheranism. 

For Catholics the Church of God coincides with the Roman priesthood and the Pope. For the Greek 
Orthodox believer the Church of God coincides with the establishment and priesthood of Russia. 3 

For Lutherans the Church of God coincides with a body of men who recognize the authority of the 
Bible and Luther's catechism. 

Ordinarily, when speaking of the rise of Christianity, men belonging to one of the existing churches 
use the word church in the singular, as though there were and had been only one church. But this is 
absolutely incorrect. The Church, as an institution that asserted that it possessed infallible truth, did not 
make its appearance singly; there were at least two churches that directly made this claim. 

While believers were agreed among themselves and the body was one, it had no need to declare 
itself as a church. It was only when believers were split up into opposing parties, renouncing one 
another, that it seemed necessary to each party to confirm their own truth by ascribing to themselves 
infallibility. The conception of one church only arose when there were two sides divided and disputing, 
who each called the other side heresy, and recognized their own side only as the infallible church. 

If we knew that there was a church that decided in the year 51 to receive the uncircumcised, it is 
only so because there was another church - of the Judaists - who decided to keep the uncircumcised out. 



1 "The Church is the society of the faithful, established by our Lord Jesus Christ, spread over the whole earth, and subject 
to the authority of its lawful pastors, and chief of them our Holy Father the Pope." 

3 Homyakov's definition of the Church, which was received with some favor among Russians, does not improve matters, if 
we are to agree with Homyakov in considering the Greek Orthodox Church as the one true Church. Homyakov asserts 
that a church is a collection of men (all without distinction of clergy and laymen) united together by love, and that 
only to men united by love is the truth revealed (let us love each other, that in the unity of thought, etc.), and that such 
a church is the church that, in the first place, recognizes the Nicene Creed, and in the second place does not, after the 
division of the churches, recognize the popes and new dogmas. But with such a definition of the church, there is still 
more difficulty in reconciling, as Homyakov tries to do, the church united by love with the church that recognizes the 
Nicene Creed and the doctrine of Photius. Consequently, Homyakov's assertion that this church, united by love, and 
consequently holy, is the same church as the Greek Orthodox priesthood profess faith in, is even more arbitrary than 
the assertions of the Catholics or the Orthodox. If we admit the idea of a church in the sense Homyakov gives to it - 
that is, a body of men bound together by love and truth - then all that any man can predicate in regard to this body, if 
such a one exists, is its love and truth, but there can be no outer signs by which one could reckon oneself or another as a 
member of this holy body, nor by which one could put anyone outside it; so that no institution having an external 
existence can correspond to this idea. 

25 



If there is a Catholic Church now that asserts its own infallibility, that is only because there are 
churches - Greco-Russian, Old Orthodox, and Lutheran - each asserting its own infallibility and 
denying that of all other churches. Consequently, the one Church is only a fantastic imagination that has 
not the least trace of reality about it. 

As a real historical fact there has existed, and still exist, several bodies of men, each asserting that it 
is the one Church, founded by Christ, and that all the others who call themselves churches are only sects 
and heresies. 

The catechisms of the churches of the most world-wide influence - the Catholic, the Old Orthodox, 
and the Lutheran - openly assert this. 

In the Catholic catechism it is said, "Quels sont ceux qui sont hors de l'eglise? Les infideles, les 
heretiques, les schismatiques." 4 The so-called Greek Orthodox are regarded as schismatics and the 
Lutherans as heretics, so that according to the Catholic catechism the only people in the Church are 
Catholics. 

In the so-called Orthodox catechism it is said, "By the one Christian Church is understood the 
Orthodox, which remains fully in accord with the Universal Church." As for the Roman Church and 
other sects (the Lutherans and the rest they do not even dignify by the name of church), they cannot be 
included in the one true Church, since they have themselves separated from it. 

According to this definition the Catholics and Lutherans are outside the Church, and there are only 
Orthodox in the Church. 

The Lutheran catechism says, "Die wahre Kirche wird darein erkannt, dass in ihr das Wort Gottes 
lauter und rein ohne Menschenzusatze gelehrt und die Sacramente treu nach Christi Einsetzung 
gewahret werden." 5 

According to this definition all those who have added anything to the teaching of Christ and the 
apostles, as the Catholic and Greek churches have done, are outside the Church. And in the Church 
there are only Protestants. 

The Catholics assert that the Holy Ghost has been transmitted without a break in their priesthood. 
The Orthodox assert that the same Holy Ghost has been transmitted without a break in their priesthood. 
The Arians asserted that the Holy Ghost was transmitted in their priesthood (they asserted this with just 
as much right as the churches in authority now). The Protestants of every kind - Lutherans, Reformed 
Church, Presbyterians, Methodists, Swedenborgians, and Mormons - assert that the Holy Ghost is only 
present in their communities. If the Catholics assert that the Holy Ghost, at the time of the division of 
the Church into Arian and Greek, left the Church that fell away and remained in the one true Church, 
with precisely the same right the Protestants of every denomination can assert that at the time of the 
separation of their Church from the Catholic the Holy Ghost left the Catholic and passed into the Church 
they professed. And this is just what they do. 

Every church traces its creed through an uninterrupted transmission from Christ and the Apostles. 
And truly every Christian creed that has been derived from Christ must have come down to the present 
generation through a certain transmission. But that does not prove that it alone of all that has been 
transmitted, excluding all the rest, can be the sole truth, admitting of no doubt. 

Every branch in a tree comes from the root in unbroken connection; but the fact that each branch 
comes from the one root, does not prove at all that each branch was the only one. It is precisely the 
same with the Church. Every church presents exactly the same proofs of the succession, and even the 
same miracles, in support of its authenticity, as every other. Consequently, there is but one strict and 
exact definition of what is a church (not of something fantastic that we would wish it to be, but of what 
it is and has been in reality) - a church is a body of men who claim for themselves that they are in 



4 "Who are those who are outside the Church? Infidels, heretics, and schismatics." 

5 "The true Church will be known by the Word of God being studied clear and unmixed with man's additions and the 
sacraments being maintained faithful to Christ's teaching." 

26 



complete and sole possession of the truth. And these bodies, having in course of time, aided by the 
support of the temporal authorities, developed into powerful institutions, have been the principal 
obstacles to the diffusion of a true comprehension of the teaching of Christ. 

It could not be otherwise. The chief peculiarity that distinguished Christ's teaching from previous 
religions consisted in the fact that those who accepted it strove ever more and more to comprehend and 
realize its teaching. But the Church doctrine asserted its own complete and final comprehension and 
realization of it. 

Strange though it may seem to us who have been brought up in the erroneous view of the Church as 
a Christian institution, and in contempt for heresy, yet the fact is that only in what was called heresy was 
there any true movement, that is, true Christianity, and that it only ceased to be so when those heresies 
stopped short in their movement and also petrified into the fixed forms of a church. 

And, indeed, what is a heresy? Read all the theological works one after another. In all of them 
heresy is the subject that first presents itself for definition; since every theological work deals with the 
true doctrine of Christ as distinguished from the erroneous doctrines that surround it, that is, heresies. 
Yet you will not find anywhere anything like a definition of heresy. 

The treatment of this subject by the learned historian of Christianity, E. de Pressense, in his Histoire 
du Dogme (Paris, 1869), under the heading "Ubi Christus, ibi Ecclesia," may serve as an illustration of 
the complete absence of anything like a definition of what is understood by the word heresy. Here is 
what he says in his introduction (p. 3). "Je sais que Ton nous conteste le droit de qualifier ainsi (that is, 
to call heresies) les tendances qui furent si vivement combattues par les premiers Peres. La designation 
meme d'heresie semble une atteinte portee a la liberte de conscience et de pensee. Nous ne pouvons 
partager ce scrupule, car il n'irait a rien moins qu'a enlever au Christianisme tout caractere distinctif." 

And though he tells us that after Constantine's time the Church did actually abuse its power by 
designating those who dissented from it as heretics and persecuting them, yet he says, when speaking of 
early times, "L'eglise est une libre association; il y a tout profit a se separer d'elle. La polemique contre 
l'erreur n'a d'autres ressources que la pensee et le sentiment. Un type doctrinal uniforme n'a pas encore 
ete elabore; les divergences secondaires se produisent en Orient et en Occident avec une entiere liberte; 
la theologie n'est point liee a d'invariables formules. Si au sein de cette diversite apparait un fonds 
commun de croyances, n'est-on pas en droit d'y voir non pas un systeme formule et compose par les 
representants d'une autorite d'ecole, mais la foi elle-meme dans son instinct le plus sur et sa 
manifestation la plus spontanee? Si cette meme unanimite qui se revele dans les croyances essentielles, 
se retrouve pour repousser telles ou telles tendances, ne serons-nous pas en droit de conclure que ces 
tendances etaient en disaccord flagrant avec les principes fondamentaux du christianisme? Cette 
presomption ne se transformera-telle pas en certitude si nous reconnaissons dans la doctrine 
universellement repoussee par l'Eglise les traits caracteristiques de l'une des religions du passe? Pour 
dire que le gnosticisme ou l'ebionitisme sont les formes legitimes de la pensee chretienne il faut dire 
hardiment qu'il n'y a pas de pensee chretienne, ni de caractere specifique qui la fasse reconnaitre. Sous 
pretexte de l'elargir, on la dissout. Personne au temps de Platon n'eut ose couvrir de son nom une 
doctrine qui n'eut pas fait place a la theorie des idees; et Ton eut excite les justes moqueries de la Grece, 
en voulant faire d'Epicure ou de Zenon un disciple de lAcademie. Reconnaissons done que s'il existe 
une religion ou une doctrine qui s'appelle christianisme, elle peut avoir ses heresies." 7 



6 "I know that our right to qualify thus the tendencies that were so actively opposed by the early Fathers is contested. The 
very use of the word heresy seems an attack upon liberty of conscience and thought. We cannot share this scruple; for 
it would amount to nothing less than depriving Christianity of all distinctive character." 

7 "The Church is a free association; there is much to be gained by separation from it. Conflict with error has no 
weapons other than thought and feeling. One uniform type of doctrine has not yet been elaborated; divergences in 
secondary matters arise freely in East and West; theology is not wedded to invariable formulas. If in the midst of 
this diversity a mass of beliefs common to all is apparent, is one not justified in seeing in it, not a formulated system, 
framed by the representatives of pedantic authority, but faith itself in its surest instinct and its most spontaneous 

27 



The author's whole argument amounts to this: that every opinion that differs from the code of 
dogmas we believe in at a given time is heresy. But of course at any given time and place men always 
believe in something or other; and this belief in something, indefinite at any place, at some time, cannot 
be a criterion of truth. 

It all amounts to this: since ubi Christus ibi Ecclesia, then Christus is where we are. 

Every so-called heresy, regarding, as it does, its own creed as the truth, can just as easily find in 
Church history a series of illustrations of its own creed, can use all Pressense's arguments on its own 
behalf, and can call its own creed the one truly Christian creed. And that is just what all heresies do and 
have always done. 

The only definition of heresy (the word a 'ipeaig, means a part) is this: the name given by a body of 
men to any opinion that rejects a part of the Creed professed by that body. The more frequent meaning, 
more often ascribed to the word heresy, is: that of an opinion that rejects the Church doctrine founded 
and supported by the temporal authorities. 

There is a remarkable and voluminous work, very little known, Unpartheyische Kirchen- und 
Ketzer-Historie, 1729, by Gottfried Arnold, which deals with precisely this subject, and points out all 
the unlawfulness, the arbitrariness, the senselessness, and the cruelty of using the word heretic in the 
sense of reprobate. This book is an attempt to write the history of Christianity in the form of a history of 
heresy. 

In the introduction the author propounds a series of questions: (1) of those who make heretics, (2) of 
those whom they made heretics, (3) of heretical subjects themselves, (4) of the method of making 
heretics, and (5) of the object and result of making heretics. 

On each of these points he propounds ten more questions, the answers to which he gives later on 
from the works of well-known theologians. But he leaves the reader to draw for himself the principal 
conclusion from the expositions in the whole book. As examples of these questions, in which the 
answers are to some extent included also, I will quote the following. Under the 4th heading, of the 
manner in which heretics are made, he says, in one of the questions (in the 7th): 

"Doesn't all history show that the greatest makers of heretics and masters of that craft were just 
these wise men, from whom the Father hid his secrets, that is, the hypocrites, the Pharisees, and lawyers, 
men utterly godless and perverted (Question 20-21)? And in the corrupt times of Christianity weren't 
these very men cast out, denounced by the hypocrites and envious, who were endowed by God with 
great gifts and who would in the days of pure Christianity have been held in high honor? And, on the 
other hand, wouldn't the men who, in the decline of Christianity raised themselves above all, and 
regarded themselves as the teachers of the purest Christianity, wouldn't these very men, in the times of 
the apostles and disciples of Christ, have been regarded as the most shameless heretics and anti- 
Christians?" 

He expounds, among other things in these questions, the theory that any verbal expression of faith, 
such as was demanded by the Church, and the departure from which was reckoned as heresy, could 
never fully cover the exact religious ideas of a believer, and that therefore the demand for an expression 
of faith in certain words was ever productive of heresy, and he says, in Question 21 : 

manifestation? If the same unanimity that is revealed in essential points of belief is found also in rejecting certain 
tendencies, are we not justified in concluding that these tendencies were in flagrant opposition to the fundamental 
principles of Christianity? And will not this presumption be transformed into certainty if we recognize in the doctrine 
universally rejected by the Church the characteristic features of one of the religions of the past? To say that Gnosticism 
or Ebionitism are legitimate forms of Christian thought, one must boldly deny the existence of Christian thought at all, 
or any specific character by which it could be recognized. While ostensibly widening its realm, one undermines it. No 
one in the time of Plato would have ventured to give his name to a doctrine in which the theory of ideas had no place, and 
one would deservedly have excited the ridicule of Greece by trying to pass off Epicurus or Zeno as a disciple of the 
Academy. Let us recognize, then, that if a religion or a doctrine exists which is called Christianity, it may have its 
heresies." 

28 



"And if heavenly things and thoughts present themselves to a man's mind as so great and so 
profound that he does not find corresponding words to express them, ought one to call him a heretic, 
because he cannot express his idea with perfect exactness?" And in Question 33: 

"And is not the fact that there was no heresy in the earliest days due to the fact that the Christians did 
not judge one another by verbal expressions, but by deed and by heart, since they had perfect liberty to 
express their ideas without the dread of being called heretics; was it not the easiest and most ordinary 
ecclesiastical proceeding, if the clergy wanted to get rid of or to ruin anyone, for them to cast suspicion 
on the person's belief, and to throw a cloak of heresy upon him, and by this means to procure his 
condemnation and removal? 

"True though it may be that there were sins and errors among the so-called heretics, it is no less true 
and evident," he says farther on, "from the innumerable examples quoted here (i.e., in the history of the 
Church and of heresy), that there was not a single sincere and conscientious man of any importance 
whom the Churchmen would not from envy or other causes have ruined." 

Thus, almost two hundred years ago, the real meaning of heresy was understood. And 
notwithstanding that, the same conception of it has gone on existing up to now. And it cannot fail to 
exist so long as the conception of a church exists. Heresy is the obverse side of the Church. Wherever 
there is a church, there must be the conception of heresy. A church is a body of men who assert that 
they are in possession of infallible truth. Heresy is the opinion of the men who do not admit the 
infallibility of the Church's truth. 

Heresy makes its appearance in the Church. It is the effort to break through the petrified authority of 
the Church. All effort after a living comprehension of the doctrine has been made by heretics. 
Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, Luther, Huss, Savonarola, Helchitsky, and the rest were heretics. It could 
not be otherwise. 

The follower of Christ, whose service means an ever-growing understanding of his teaching, and an 
ever-closer fulfillment of it, in progress toward perfection, cannot, just because he is a follower of 
Christ, claim for himself or any other that he understands Christ's teaching fully and fulfills it. Still less 
can he claim this for any body of men. 

To whatever degree of understanding and perfection the follower of Christ may have attained, he 
always feels the insufficiency of his understanding and fulfillment of it, and is always striving toward a 
fuller understanding and fulfillment. And therefore, to assert of one's self or of any body of men, that 
one is or they are in possession of perfect understanding and fulfillment of Christ's word, is to renounce 
the very spirit of Christ's teaching. 

Strange as it may seem, the churches as churches have always been, and must be, institutions not 
only alien in spirit to Christ's teaching, but also even directly antagonistic to it. With good reason 
Voltaire calls the Church I'infdme; with good reason have all or almost all so-called sects of Christians 
recognized the Church as the scarlet woman foretold in the Apocalypse; with good reason is the history 
of the Church the history of the greatest cruelties and horrors. 

The churches as churches are not, as many people suppose, institutions that have Christian principles 
for their basis, even though they may have strayed a little away from the straight path. The churches as 
churches, as bodies that assert their own infallibility, are institutions opposed to Christianity. There is 
not only nothing in common between the churches as such and Christianity, except the name, but they 
represent two principles fundamentally opposed and antagonistic to one another. One represents pride, 
violence, self-assertion, stagnation, and death; the other, meekness, penitence, humility, progress, and 
life. 

We cannot serve these two masters; we have to choose between them. 

The servants of the churches of all denominations, especially of later times, try to show themselves 
champions of progress in Christianity. They make concessions, wish to correct the abuses that have 
slipped into the Church, and maintain that one cannot, on account of these abuses, deny the principle 
itself of a Christian church, which alone can bind all men together in unity and be a mediator between 

29 



men and God. But this is all a mistake. Not only have the churches never bound men together in unity; 
they have always been one of the principal causes of division between men, of their hatred of one 
another, of wars, battles, inquisitions, massacres of St. Bartholomew, and so on. And the churches have 
never served as mediators between men and God. Such mediation is not wanted, and was directly 
forbidden by Christ, who has revealed his teaching directly and immediately to each man. But the 
churches set up dead forms in the place of God, and far from revealing God, they obscure him from 
men's sight. The churches, which originated from misunderstanding of Christ's teaching and have 
maintained this misunderstanding by their immovability, must persecute and refuse to recognize all true 
understanding of Christ's words. They try to conceal this, but in vain; for every step forward along the 
path pointed out for us by Christ is a step toward their destruction. 

To hear and to read the sermons and articles in which Church writers of later times of all 
denominations speak of Christian truths and virtues; to hear or read these skillful arguments that have 
been elaborated during centuries, and exhortations and professions, which sometimes seem like sincere 
professions, one is ready to doubt whether the churches can be antagonistic to Christianity. "It cannot 
be," one says, "that these people who can point to such men as Chrysostom, Fenelon, Butler, and others 
professing the Christian faith, were antagonistic to Christianity." One is tempted to say, "The churches 
may have strayed away from Christianity, they may be in error, but they cannot be hostile to it." But we 
must look to the fruit to judge the tree, as Christ taught us. And if we see that their fruits were evil, that 
the results of their activity were antagonistic to Christianity, we must admit that however good the men 
were - the work of the Church in which these men took part was not Christian. The goodness and worth 
of these men who served the churches was the goodness and worth of the men, and not of the institution 
they served. All the good men, such as Francis of Assisi, and Francis of Sales, our Tihon Zadonsky, 
Thomas a Kempis, and others, were good men in spite of their serving an institution hostile to 
Christianity, and they would have been still better if they had not been under the influence of the error 
that they were serving. 

But why should we speak of the past and judge from the past, which may have been misrepresented 
and misunderstood by us? The churches, with their principles and their practice, are not a thing of the 
past. The churches are before us today, and we can judge of them to some purpose by their practical 
activity, their influence on men. 

What is the practical work of the churches today? What is their influence upon men? What is done 
by the churches among us, among the Catholics and the Protestants of all denominations - what is their 
practical work? And what are the results of their practical work? 

The practice of our Russian so-called Orthodox Church is plain to all. It is an enormous fact that 
there is no possibility of hiding and about which there can be no disputing. 

What constitutes the practical work of this Russian Church, this immense, intensely active 
institution, which consists of a regiment of half a million men and costs the people tens of millions of 
rubles? 

The practical business of the Church consists in instilling by every conceivable means into the mass 
of one hundred million Russian people those extinct relics of beliefs for which there is nowadays no 
kind of justification, in which scarcely anyone now believes, and often not even those whose duty it is to 
diffuse these false beliefs." To instill into the people the formulas of Byzantine theology, of the Trinity, 
of the Mother of God, of Sacraments, of Grace, and so on, extinct conceptions, foreign to us, and having 
no kind of meaning for men of our times, forms only one part of the work of the Russian Church. 
Another part of its practice consists in the maintenance of idol-worship in the most literal meaning of the 
word: in the veneration of holy relics, and of icons, the offering of sacrifices to them, and the 
expectation of their answers to prayer. I am not going to speak of what is preached and what is written 
by clergy of scientific or liberal tendencies in the theological journals. I am going to speak of what is 
actually done by the clergy through the wide expanse of the Russian land among a people of one 

30 



hundred million. What do they, diligently, assiduously, everywhere alike, without intermission, teach 
the people? What do they demand from the people in virtue of their (so-called) Christian faith? 

I will begin from the beginning with the birth of a child. At the birth of a child they teach them that 
they must recite a prayer over the child and mother to purify them, as though without this prayer the 
mother of a newborn child were unclean. To do this the priest holds the child in his arms before the 
images of the saints (called by the people plainly gods) and reads words of exorcizing power, and this 
purifies the mother. Then it is suggested to the parents, and even exacted of them, under fear of 
punishment for non-fulfillment, that the child must be baptized; that is, be dipped by the priest three 
times into the water, while certain words, understood by no one, are read aloud, and certain actions, still 
less understood, are performed; various parts of the body are rubbed with oil, and the hair is cut, while 
the sponsors blow and spit at an imaginary devil. All this is necessary to purify the child and to make 
him a Christian. Then it is instilled into the parents that they ought to administer the sacrament to the 
child, that is, give him, in the guise of bread and wine, a portion of Christ's body to eat, as a result of 
which the child receives the grace of God within it, and so on. Then it is suggested that the child as it 
grows up must be taught to pray. To pray means to place himself directly before the wooden boards on 
which are painted the faces of Christ, the Mother of God, and the saints, to bow his head and his whole 
body, and to touch his forehead, his shoulders and his stomach with his right hand, holding his fingers in 
a certain position, and to utter some words of Slavonic, the most usual of which as taught to all children 
are, "Mother of God, virgin, rejoice, etc., etc." 

Then it is instilled into the child as it is brought up that at the sight of any church or icon he must 
repeat the same action - i.e., cross himself. Then it is instilled into him that on holidays (holidays are 
the days on which Christ was born, though no one knows when that was, on which he was circumcised, 
on which the Mother of God died, on which the cross was carried in procession, on which icons have 
been set up, on which a lunatic saw a vision, and so on) - on holidays he must dress himself in his best 
clothes and go to church, and must buy candles and place them there before the images of the saints. 
Then he must give offerings and prayers for the dead, and little loaves to be cut up into three-cornered 
pieces, and must pray many times for the health and prosperity of the Czar and the bishops, and for 
himself and his own affairs, and then kiss the cross and the hand of the priest. 

Besides these observances, it is instilled into him that at least once a year he must confess. To 
confess means to go to the church and to tell the priest his sins, on the theory that this informing a 
stranger of his sins completely purifies him from them. And after that he must eat with a little spoon a 
morsel of bread with wine, which will purify him still more. Next it is instilled into him that if a man 
and woman want their physical union to be sanctified they must go to church, put on metal crowns, 
drink certain potions, walk three times round a table to the sound of singing, and that then the physical 
union of a man and woman becomes sacred and altogether different from all other such unions. 

Further it is instilled into him in his life that he must observe the following rules: not to eat butter or 
milk on certain days, and on certain other days to sing Te Deums and requiems for the dead, on holidays 
to entertain the priest and give him money, and several times in the year to bring the icons from the 
church, and to carry them slung on his shoulders through the fields and houses. It is instilled into him 
that on his death-bed a man must not fail to eat bread and wine with a spoon, and that it will be still 
better if he has time to be rubbed with sacred oil. This will guarantee his welfare in the future life. 
After his death it is instilled into his relatives that it is a good thing for the salvation of the dead man to 
place a printed paper of prayers in his hands; it is a good thing further to read aloud a certain book over 
the dead body, and to pronounce the dead man's name in church at a certain time. All this is regarded as 
faith obligatory on everyone. 

But if anyone wants to take particular care of his soul, then according to this faith he is instructed 
that the greatest security of the salvation of the soul in the world is attained by offering money to the 
churches and monasteries, and engaging the holy men by this means to pray for him. Entering 
monasteries too, and kissing relics and miraculous icons, are further means of salvation for the soul. 

31 



According to this faith icons and relics communicate a special sanctity, power, and grace, and even 
proximity to these objects, touching them, kissing them, putting candles before them, crawling under 
them while they are being carried along, are all efficacious for salvation, as well as Te Deums repeated 
before these holy things. 

So this, and nothing else, is the faith called Orthodox, which is the actual faith that, under the guise 
of Christianity, has been with all the forces of the Church, and is now with especial zeal, instilled into 
the people. 

And let no one say that the Orthodox teachers place the essential part of their teaching in something 
else, and that all these are only ancient forms, which it is not thought necessary to do away with. That is 
false. This, and nothing but this, is the faith taught through the whole of Russia by the whole of the 
Russian clergy, and in recent years with especial zeal. There is nothing else taught. Something different 
may be talked of and written of in the capitals; but among the hundred million people this is what is 
done, this is what is taught, and nothing more. Churchmen may talk of something else, but this is what 
they teach by every means in their power. 

All this, and the worship of relics and of icons, has been introduced into works of theology and into 
the catechisms. Thus they teach it to the people in theory and in practice, using every resource of 
authority, solemnity, pomp, and violence to impress them. They compel the people, by overawing them, 
to believe in this, and jealously guard this faith from any attempt to free the people from these barbarous 
superstitions. 

As I said when I published my book, Christ's teaching and his very words about non-resistance to 
evil were for many years a subject for ridicule and low jesting in my eyes, and Churchmen, far from 
opposing it, even encouraged this scoffing at sacred things. But try the experiment of saying a 
disrespectful word about a hideous idol that is carried sacrilegiously about Moscow by drunken men 
under the name of the icon of the Iversky virgin, and you will raise a groan of indignation from these 
same Churchmen. All that they preach is an external observance of the rites of idolatry. And let it not 
be said that the one does not hinder the other. "These you ought to have done, while not leaving the 
other undone." (Matt. 23:23) "You must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what 
they do, for they do not practice what they preach." (Matt. 23:3) 

This was spoken of the Pharisees, who fulfilled all the external observances prescribed by the law, 
and therefore the words "obey them and do everything they tell you," refer to works of mercy and 
goodness, and the words "do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach," refer to 
their observance of ceremonies and their neglect of good works, and have exactly the opposite meaning 
to that which the Churchmen try to give to the passage, interpreting it as an injunction to observe 
ceremonies. External observances and the service of truth and goodness are for the most part difficult to 
combine; the one excludes the other. So it was with the Pharisees, so it is now with Church Christians. 

If a man can be saved by the redemption, by sacraments, and by prayer, then he does not need good 
works. 

The Sermon on the Mount, or the Creed. One cannot believe in both. And Churchmen have chosen 
the latter. The Creed is taught and is read as a prayer in the churches, but the Sermon on the Mount is 
excluded even from the Gospel passages read in the churches, so that the congregation never hears it in 
church, except on those days when the whole of the Gospel is read. Indeed, it could not be otherwise. 
People who believe in a wicked and senseless God - who has cursed the human race and devoted his 
own Son to sacrifice, and a part of mankind to eternal torment - cannot believe in the God of love. The 
man who believes in a God, in a Christ coming again in glory to judge and to punish the living and the 
dead, cannot believe in the Christ who told us to turn the left cheek, do not judge, forgive those that 
wrong us, and love our enemies. The man who believes in the inspiration of the Old Testament and the 
sacred character of David, who commanded on his deathbed the murder of an old man who had cursed 
him, and whom he could not kill himself because he was bound by an oath to him, and the similar 
atrocities of which the Old Testament is full, cannot believe in the holy love of Christ. The man who 

32 



believes in the Church's doctrine of the compatibility of warfare and capital punishment with 
Christianity cannot believe in the brotherhood of all men. 

And what is most important of all - the man who believes in salvation through faith in the 
redemption or the sacraments, cannot devote all his powers to realizing Christ's moral teaching in his 
life. 

The man who has been instructed by the Church in the profane doctrine that a man cannot be saved 
by his own powers, but that there is another means of salvation, will infallibly rely upon this means and 
not on his own powers, which, they assure him, it is sinful to trust in. 

The teaching of every Church, with its redemption and sacraments, excludes the teaching of Christ, 
most of all the teaching of the Orthodox Church with its idolatrous observances. 

"But the people have always believed of their own accord as they believe now," will be said in 
answer to this. "The whole history of the Russian people proves it. One cannot deprive the people of 
their traditions." This statement, too, is misleading. The people did certainly at one time believe in 
something like what the Church believes in now, though it was far from being the same thing. In spite 
of their superstitious regard for icons, house-spirits, relics, and festivals with wreaths of birch leaves, 
there has still always been in the people a profound moral and living understanding of Christianity, 
which there has never been in the Church as a whole, and which is only met with in its best 
representatives. But the people, notwithstanding all the prejudices instilled into them by the government 
and the Church, have in their best representatives long outgrown that crude stage of understanding, a 
fact that is proved by the springing up everywhere of the rationalist sects with which Russia is swarming 
today, and on which Churchmen are now carrying on an ineffectual warfare. The people are advancing 
to a consciousness of the moral, living side of Christianity. And then the Church comes forward, not 
borrowing from the people, but zealously instilling into them the petrified formalities of an extinct 
paganism, and striving to thrust them back again into the darkness from which they are emerging with 
such effort. 

"We teach the people nothing new, nothing but what they believe, only in a more perfect form," say 
the Churchmen. This is just what the man did who tied up the full-grown chicken and thrust it back into 
the shell it had come out of. 

I have often been irritated, though it would be comic if the consequences were not so awful, by 
observing how men shut one another in a delusion and cannot get out of this magic circle. 

The first question, the first doubt of a Russian who is beginning to think, is a question about the 
icons, and still more the miraculous relics: Is it true that they are genuine, and that miracles are worked 
through them? Hundreds of thousands of men put this question to themselves, and their principal 
difficulty in answering it is the fact that bishops, metropolitans, and all men in positions of authority kiss 
the relics and wonder-working icons. Ask the bishops and men in positions of authority why they do so, 
and they will say they do it for the sake of the people, while the people kiss them because the bishops 
and men in authority do so. 

In spite of all the external varnish of modernity, learning, and spirituality that the members of the 
Church begin nowadays to assume in their works, their articles, their theological journals, and their 
sermons, the practical work of the Russian Church consists of nothing more than keeping the people in 
their present condition of coarse and savage idolatry, and worse still, strengthening and diffusing 
superstition and religious ignorance, and suppressing that living understanding of Christianity that exists 
in the people side by side with idolatry. 

I remember once being present in the monks' bookshop of the Optchy Hermitage while an old 
peasant was choosing books for his grandson, who could read. A monk pressed on him accounts of 
relics, holidays, miraculous icons, a psalter, etc. I asked the old man, "Has he the Gospel?" "No." 
"Give him the Gospel in Russian," I said to the monk. "That will not do for him," answered the monk. 
There you have an epitome of the work of our Church. 

33 



But this is only in barbarous Russia, the European and American reader will observe. And such an 
observation is just, but only so far as it refers to the government, which aids the Church in its task of 
stultification and corruption in Russia. 

It is true that there is nowhere in Europe a government so despotic and so closely allied with the 
ruling Church. And therefore the share of the temporal power in the corruption of the people is greatest 
in Russia. But it is untrue that the Russian Church in its influence on the people is in any respect 
different from any other church. 

The churches are everywhere the same, and if the Catholic, the Anglican, or the Lutheran Church 
has not at hand a government as compliant as the Russian, it is not due to any indisposition to profit by 
such a government. 

The Church as a church, whatever it may be - Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian - every 
church, in so far as it is a church, must strive for the same object as the Russian Church. That object is 
to conceal the real meaning of Christ's teaching and to replace it by their own, which lays no obligation 
on them, excludes the possibility of understanding the true teaching of Christ, and what is the chief 
consideration, justifies the existence of priests supported at the people's expense. 

What else has Catholicism done, what else is it doing in its prohibition of reading the Gospel, and in 
its demand for unreasoning submission to Church authorities and to an infallible Pope? Is the religion of 
Catholicism any other than that of the Russian Church? There is the same external ritual, the same 
relics, miracles, and wonder-working images of Notre Dame, and the same processions; the same loftily 
vague discussions of Christianity in books and sermons, and when it comes to practice, the same 
supporting of the present idolatry. And is not the same thing done in Anglicanism, Lutheranism, and 
every denomination of Protestantism that has been formed into a church? There is the same duty laid on 
their congregations to believe in the dogmas expressed in the fourth century, which have lost all 
meaning for men of our times, and the same duty of idolatrous worship, if not of relics and icons, then of 
the Sabbath Day and the letter of the Bible. There is always the same activity directed to concealing the 
real duties of Christianity, and to putting in their place an external respectability and cant, as it is so well 
described by the English, who are peculiarly oppressed by it. In Protestantism this tendency is 
especially remarkable because it has not the excuse of antiquity. And doesn't exactly the same thing 
show itself even in contemporary revivalism - the revived Calvinism and Evangelicalism, to which the 
Salvation Army owes its origin? 

Uniform is the attitude of all the churches to the teaching of Christ, whose name they assume for 
their own advantage. 

The inconsistency of all church forms of religion with the teaching of Christ is, of course, the reason 
why special efforts are necessary to conceal this inconsistency from people. Truly, we need only 
imagine ourselves in the position of any grown-up man, not necessarily educated, even the simplest man 
of the present day, who has picked up the ideas that are everywhere in the air nowadays of geology, 
physics, chemistry, cosmography, or history, when he, for the first time, consciously compares them 
with the articles of belief instilled into him in childhood, and maintained by the churches - that God 
created the world in six days, and light before the sun; that Noah shut up all the animals in his ark, and 
so on; that Jesus is also God the Son, who created all before time was; that this God came down upon 
earth to atone for Adam's sin; that he rose again, ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the 
Father, and will come in the clouds to judge the world, and so on. All these propositions, elaborated by 
men of the fourth century, had a certain meaning for men of that time, but for men of today they have no 
meaning whatever. Men of the present day can repeat these words with their lips, but believe them they 
cannot. For such sentences as that God lives in heaven, that the heavens opened and a voice from 
somewhere said something, that Christ rose again, and ascended somewhere in heaven, and again will 
come from somewhere on the clouds, and so on, have no meaning for us. 

A man who regarded the heavens as a solid, finite vault could believe or disbelieve that God created 
the heavens, that the heavens opened, that Christ ascended into heaven, but for us all these phrases have 

34 



no sense whatever. Men of the present can only believe, as indeed they do, that they ought to believe in 
this; but believe it they cannot, because it has no meaning for them. 

Even if all these phrases ought to be interpreted in a figurative sense and are allegories, we know 
that in the first place all Churchmen are not agreed about it, but, on the contrary, the majority stick to 
understanding the Holy Scripture in its literal sense; and secondly, that these allegorical interpretations 
are very varied and are not supported by any evidence. 

But even if a man wants to force himself to believe in the doctrines of the Church just as they are 
taught to him, the universal diffusion of education and of the Gospel and of communication between 
people of different forms of religion presents a still more insurmountable obstacle to his doing so. 

A man of the present day need only buy a Gospel for three kopecks and read through the plain 
words, admitting of no misinterpretation, that Christ said to the Samaritan woman "that the Father does 
not seek worshipers at Jerusalem, nor in this mountain nor in that, but worshipers in spirit and in truth," 
or the saying that "the Christian must not pray like the heathen, nor for show, but secretly, that is, in his 
closet," or that Christ's follower must call no man master or father - he need only read these words to be 
thoroughly convinced that the Church pastors, who call themselves teachers in opposition to Christ's 
precept, and dispute among themselves, constitute no kind of authority, and that what the Churchmen 
teach us is not Christianity. Less even than that is necessary. Even if a man nowadays did continue to 
believe in miracles and did not read the Gospel, mere association with people of different forms of 
religion and faith, which happens so easily in these days, compels him to doubt of the truth of his own 
faith. It was all very well when a man did not see men of any other form of religion than his own; he 
believed that his form of religion was the one true one. But a thinking man has only to come into 
contact - as constantly happens in these days - with people, equally good and bad, of different 
denominations, who condemn each other's beliefs, to doubt of the truth of the belief he professes 
himself. In these days only a man who is absolutely ignorant or absolutely indifferent to the vital 
questions with which religion deals, can remain in the faith of the Church. 

What deceptions and what strenuous efforts the churches must employ to continue, in spite of all 
these tendencies subversive of the faith, to build churches, to perform masses, to preach, to teach, to 
convert, and, most of all, to receive for it all immense emoluments, as do all these priests, pastors, 
incumbents, superintendents, abbots, archdeacons, bishops, and archbishops. They need special 
supernatural efforts. And the churches do, with ever-increasing intensity and zeal, make such efforts. 
With us in Russia, besides other means, they employ simple brute force, as there the temporal power is 
willing to obey the Church. Men who refuse an external assent to the faith, and say so openly, are either 
directly punished or deprived of their rights; men who strictly keep the external forms of religion are 
rewarded and given privileges. 

That is how the Orthodox clergy proceed; but indeed all churches without exception avail 
themselves of every means for the purpose - one of the most important of which is what is now called 
hypnotism. 

Every art, from architecture to poetry, is brought into requisition to work its effect on men's souls 
and to reduce them to a state of stupefaction, and this effect is constantly produced. This use of 
hypnotizing influence on men to bring them to a state of stupefaction is especially apparent in the 
proceedings of the Salvation Army, who employ new practices to which we are unaccustomed: 
trumpets, drums, songs, flags, costumes, marching, dancing, tears, and dramatic performances. 

But this only displeases us because these are new practices. Weren't the old practices in churches 
essentially the same, with their special lighting, gold, splendor, candles, choirs, organ, bells, vestments, 
intoning, etc.? 

But however powerful this hypnotic influence may be, it is not the chief or the most pernicious 
activity of the Church. The chief and most pernicious work of the Church is that which is directed to the 
deception of children - these very children of whom Christ said, "Woe to him who offends one of these 
little ones." From the very first awakening of the consciousness of the child they begin to deceive him, 

35 



to instill into him with the utmost solemnity what they do not themselves believe in, and they continue 
to instill it into him until the deception has by habit grown into the child's nature. They studiously 
deceive the child on the most important subject in life, and when the deception has so grown into his life 
that it would be difficult to uproot it, then they reveal to him the whole world of science and reality, 
which cannot by any means be reconciled with the beliefs that have been instilled into him, leaving it to 
him to find his way as best he can out of these contradictions. 

If one set oneself the task of trying to confuse a man so that he could not think clearly nor free 
himself from the perplexity of two opposing theories of life that had been instilled into him from 
childhood, one could not invent any means more effectual than the treatment of every young man 
educated in our so-called Christian society. 

It is terrible to think what the churches do to men. But if one imagines oneself in the position of the 
men who constitute the Church, we see they could not act differently. The churches are placed in a 
dilemma: the Sermon on the Mount or the Nicene Creed - the one excludes the other. If a man 
sincerely believes in the Sermon on the Mount, the Nicene Creed must inevitably lose all meaning and 
significance for him, and the Church and its representatives together with it. If a man believes in the 
Nicene Creed, that is, in the Church, that is, in those who call themselves its representatives, the Sermon 
on the Mount becomes superfluous for him. And therefore the churches must make every possible effort 
to obscure the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, and to attract men to themselves. It is only due to 
the intense zeal of the churches in this direction that the influence of the churches has lasted hitherto. 

Let the Church stop its work of hypnotizing the masses, and deceiving children even for the briefest 
interval of time, and men would begin to understand Christ's teaching. But this understanding will be 
the end of the churches and all their influence. And therefore the churches will not for an instant relax 
their zeal in the business of hypnotizing grown-up people and deceiving children. This, then, is the 
work of the churches: to instill a false interpretation of Christ's teaching into men, and to prevent a true 
interpretation of it for the majority of so-called believers. 



36 



CHAPTER 4 

CHRISTIANITY MISUNDERSTOOD BY MEN OF SCIENCE 

Attitude of Men of Science to Religions in General - What Religion is, and What is its Significance for the Life of Humanity 
- Three Conceptions of Life - Christian Religion the Expression of the Divine Conception of Life - Misinterpretation of 
Christianity by Men of Science, Who Study it in its External Manifestations Due to their Criticizing it from Standpoint of 
Social Conception of Life - Opinion, Resulting from this Misinterpretation, that Christ's Moral Teaching is Exaggerated and 
Cannot be put into Practice - Expression of Divine Conception of Life in the Gospel - False Ideas of Men of Science on 
Christianity Proceed from their Conviction that they have an Infallible Method of Criticism - From which come Two 
Misconceptions in Regard to Christian Doctrine - First Misconception, that the Teaching Cannot be put into Practice, Due to 
the Christian Religion Directing Life in a Way Different from that of the Social Theory of Life - Christianity holds up Ideal, 
does not lay down Rules - To the Animal Force of Man Christ Adds the Consciousness of a Divine Force - Christianity 
Seems to Destroy Possibility of Life only when the Ideal held up is Mistaken for Rule - Ideal Must Not be Lowered - Life, 
According to Christ's Teaching, is Movement - The Ideal and the Precepts - Second Misconception Shown in Replacing 
Love and Service of God by Love and Service of Humanity - Men of Science Imagine their Doctrine of Service of Humanity 
and Christianity are Identical - Doctrine of Service of Humanity Based on Social Conception of Life - Love for Humanity, 
Logically Deduced from Love of Self, has No Meaning because Humanity is a Fiction - Christian Love Deduced from Love 
of God, Finds its Object in the whole World, not in Humanity Alone - Christianity Teaches Man to Live in Accordance with 
his Divine Nature - It Shows that the Essence of the Soul of Man is Love, and that his Happiness Ensues from Love of God, 
whom he Recognizes as Love within himself. 



Now I will speak of the other view of Christianity that hinders the true understanding of it - the 
scientific view. 

Churchmen substitute for Christianity the version they have framed of it for themselves, and this 
view of Christianity they regard as the one infallibly true one. 

Men of science regard as Christianity only the tenets held by the different churches in the past and 
present; and finding that these tenets have lost all the significance of Christianity, they accept it as a 
religion that has outlived its age. 

To see clearly how impossible it is to understand the Christian teaching from such a point of view, 
one must form for oneself an idea of the place actually held by religions in general, by the Christian 
religion in particular, in the life of mankind, and of the significance attributed to them by science. 

Just as the individual man cannot live without having some theory of the meaning of his life, and is 
always, though often unconsciously, framing his conduct in accordance with the meaning he attributes to 
his life, so too associations of men living in similar conditions - nations - must have theories of the 
meaning of their associated life and conduct ensuing from those theories. And as the individual man, 
when he attains a fresh stage of growth, inevitably changes his philosophy of life, and the grownup man 
sees a different meaning in it from the child, so too associations of men - nations - are bound to change 
their philosophy of life and the conduct ensuing from their philosophy, to correspond with their 
development. 

The difference, as regards this, between the individual man and humanity as a whole, lies in the fact 
that the individual, in forming the view of life proper to the new period of life on which he is entering 
and the conduct resulting from it, benefits by the experience of men who have lived before him, who 
have already passed through the stage of growth upon which he is entering. But humanity cannot have 
this aid, because it is always moving along a hitherto untrodden track, and has no one to ask how to 
understand life, and to act in the conditions on which it is entering and through which no one has ever 
passed before. 

Nevertheless, just as a man with wife and children cannot continue to look at life as he looked at it 
when he was a child, so too in the face of the various changes that are taking place, the greater density of 

37 



population, the establishment of communication between different peoples, the improvements of the 
methods of the struggle with nature, and the accumulation of knowledge, humanity cannot continue to 
look at life as of old, and it must frame a new theory of life, from which conduct may follow adapted to 
the new conditions on which it has entered and is entering. 

To meet this need humanity has the special power of producing men who give a new meaning to the 
whole of human life - a theory of life from which follow new forms of activity quite different from all 
preceding them. The formation of this philosophy of life appropriate to humanity in the new conditions 
on which it is entering, and of the practice resulting from it, is what is called religion. 

And therefore, in the first place, religion is not, as science imagines, a manifestation that at one time 
corresponded with the development of humanity, but is afterward outgrown by it. It is a manifestation 
always inherent in the life of humanity, and is as indispensable, as inherent in humanity at the present 
time as at any other. Secondly, religion is always the theory of the practice of the future and not of the 
past, and therefore it is clear that investigation of past manifestations cannot in any case grasp the 
essence of religion. 

The essence of every religious teaching lies not in the desire for a symbolic expression of the forces 
of nature, nor in the dread of these forces, nor in the craving for the marvelous, nor in the external forms 
in which it is manifested, as men of science imagine; the essence of religion lies in the faculty of men of 
foreseeing and pointing out the path of life along which humanity must move in the discovery of a new 
theory of life, as a result of which the whole future conduct of humanity is changed and different from 
all that has been before. 

This faculty of foreseeing the path along which humanity must move is common in a greater or 
lesser degree to all men. But in all times there have been men in whom this faculty was especially 
strong, and these men have given clear and definite expression to what all men felt vaguely, and formed 
a new philosophy of life from which new lines of action followed for hundreds and thousands of years. 

Of such philosophies of life we know three; two have already been passed through by humanity, and 
the third is that we are passing through now in Christianity. These philosophies of life are three in 
number, and only three, not because we have arbitrarily brought the various theories of life together 
under these three heads, but because all men's actions are always based on one of these three views of 
life - because we cannot view life otherwise than in these three ways. 

These three views of life are as follows: first, embracing the individual, or the animal view of life; 
second, embracing the society, or the pagan view of life; third, embracing the whole world, or the divine 
view of life. 

In the first theory of life a man's life is limited to his one individuality; the aim of life is the 
satisfaction of the will of this individuality. In the second theory of life a man's life is limited not to his 
own individuality, but to certain societies and classes of individuals: to the tribe, the family, the clan, 
the nation; the aim of life is limited to the satisfaction of the will of those associations of individuals. In 
the third theory of life a man's life is limited not to societies and classes of individuals, but extends to 
the principle and source of life - to God. 

These three conceptions of life form the foundation of all the religions that exist or have existed. 

The savage recognizes life only in himself and his personal desires. His interest in life is 
concentrated on himself alone. The highest happiness for him is the fullest satisfaction of his desires. 
The motive power of his life is personal enjoyment. His religion consists in propitiating his deity and in 
worshiping his gods, whom he imagines as persons living only for their personal aims. 

The civilized pagan recognizes life not in himself alone, but in societies of men - in the tribe, the 
clan, the family, and the kingdom - and sacrifices his personal good for these societies. The motive 
power of his life is glory. His religion consists in the exaltation of the glory of those who are allied to 



38 



him - the founders of his family, his ancestors, his rulers - and in worshiping gods who are exclusively 
protectors of his clan, his family, his nation, his government. 

The man who holds the divine theory of life recognizes life not in his own individuality, and not in 
societies of individualities (in the family, the clan, the nation, the tribe, or the government), but in the 
eternal undying source of life - in God; and to fulfill the will of God he is ready to sacrifice his 
individual and family and social welfare. The motor power of his life is love. And his religion is the 
worship in deed and in truth of the principle of the whole - God. 

The whole historic existence of mankind is nothing else than the gradual transition from the 
personal, animal conception of life to the social conception of life, and from the social conception of life 
to the divine conception of life. The whole history of the ancient peoples, lasting through thousands of 
years and ending with the history of Rome, is the history of the transition from the animal, personal view 
of life to the social view of life. The whole of history from the time of the Roman Empire and the 
appearance of Christianity is the history of the transition, through which we are still passing now, from 
the social view of life to the divine view of life. 

This view of life is the last, and founded upon it is the Christian teaching, which is a guide for the 
whole of our life and lies at the root of all our activity, practical and theoretic. Yet men of what is 
falsely called science, pseudo-scientific men, looking at it only in its externals, regard it as something 
outgrown and having no value for us. 

Reducing it to its dogmatic side only - to the doctrines of the Trinity, the redemption, the miracles, 
the Church, the sacraments, and so on - men of science regard it as only one of an immense number of 
religions that have arisen among mankind, and now, they say, having played out its part in history, it is 
outliving its own age and fading away before the light of science and of true enlightenment. 

We come here upon what, in a large proportion of cases, forms the source of the grossest errors of 
mankind. Men on a lower level of understanding, when brought into contact with phenomena of a 
higher order, instead of making efforts to understand them, to raise themselves up to the point of view 
from which they must look at the subject, judge it from their lower standpoint, and the less they 
understand what they are talking about, the more confidently and unhesitatingly they pass judgment on 
it. 

To the majority of learned men, looking at the living, moral teaching of Christ from the lower 
standpoint of the state conception of life, this doctrine appears as nothing but a very indefinite and 
incongruous combination of Indian asceticism, Stoic and Neoplatonic philosophy, and insubstantial anti- 
social visions, which have no serious significance for our times. Its whole meaning is concentrated for 
them in its external manifestations - in Catholicism, Protestantism, in certain dogmas, or in the conflict 
with the temporal power. Estimating the value of Christianity by these phenomena is like a deaf man's 
judging of the character and quality of music by seeing the movements of the musicians. 

The result of this is that all these scientific men, from Kant, Strauss, Spencer, and Renan down, do 
not understand the meaning of Christ's sayings, do not understand the significance, the object, or the 
reason of their utterance, do not understand even the question to which they form the answer. Yet, 
without even taking the pains to enter into their meaning, they refuse, if unfavorably disposed, to 
recognize any reasonableness in his doctrines; or if they want to treat them indulgently, they 
condescend, from the height of their superiority, to correct them, on the supposition that Christ meant to 
express precisely their own ideas, but did not succeed in doing so. They behave to his teaching much as 
self-assertive people talk to those whom they consider beneath them, often supplying their companions' 



8 The fact that so many varied forms of existence, as the life of the family, of the tribe, of the clan, of the state, and even 
the life of humanity theoretically conceived by the Positivists, are founded on this social or pagan theory of life, does 
not destroy the unity of this theory of life. All these varied forms of life are founded on the same conception, that the 
life of the individual is not a sufficient aim of life - that the meaning of life can be found only in societies of individuals. 

39 



words, "Yes, you mean to say this and that." This correction is always with the aim of reducing the 
teaching of the higher, divine conception of life to the level of the lower, state conception of life. 

They usually say that the moral teaching of Christianity is very fine, but over-exaggerated; that to 
make it quite right we must reject all in it that is superfluous and unnecessary to our manner of life. 
"And the doctrine that asks too much, and requires what cannot be performed, is worse than that which 
requires of men what is possible and consistent with their powers," these learned interpreters of 
Christianity maintain, repeating what was long ago asserted, and could not but be asserted, by those who 
crucified the Teacher because they did not understand him - the Jews. 

It seems that in the judgment of the learned men of our time the Hebrew law - a tooth for a tooth, 
and an eye for an eye - is a law of just retaliation, known to mankind five thousand years before the law 
of holiness that Christ taught in its place. 

It seems that all that has been done by those men who understood Christ's teaching literally and 
lived in accordance with such an understanding of it, all that has been said and done by all true 
Christians, by all the Christian saints, all that is now reforming the world in the shape of socialism and 
communism - is simply exaggeration, not worth talking about. 

After eighteen hundred years of education in Christianity the civilized world, as represented by its 
most advanced thinkers, holds the conviction that the Christian religion is a religion of dogmas; that its 
teaching in relation to life is unreasonable, and is an exaggeration, subversive of the real lawful 
obligations of morality consistent with the nature of man; and that very doctrine of retribution that Christ 
rejected, and in place of which he put his teaching, is more practically useful for us. 

To learned men the doctrine of non-resistance to evil by force is exaggerated and even irrational. 
Christianity is much better without it, they think, not observing closely what Christianity, as represented 
by them, amounts to. 

They do not see that to say that the doctrine of non-resistance to evil is an exaggeration in Christ's 
teaching is just like saying that the statement of the equality of the radii of a circle is an exaggeration in 
the definition of a circle. And those who speak thus are acting precisely like a man who, having no idea 
of what a circle is, should declare that this requirement, that every point of the circumference should be 
an equal distance from the center, is exaggerated. To advocate the rejection of Christ's command of 
non-resistance to evil, or its adaptation to the needs of life, implies a misunderstanding of the teaching of 
Christ. 

And those who do so certainly do not understand it. They do not understand that this teaching is the 
institution of a new theory of life, corresponding to the new conditions on which men have entered now 
for eighteen hundred years, and also the definition of the new conduct of life that results from it. They 
do not believe that Christ meant to say what he said; or he seems to them to have said what he said in the 
Sermon on the Mount and in other places accidentally, or through his lack of intelligence or of 
cultivation. 9 



9 Here, for example, is a characteristic view of that kind from the American journal the Arena (October, 1890): "New 
Basis of Church Life." In considering the significance of the Sermon on the Mount and non-resistance to evil in particular, 
the author, being under no necessity, like the Churchmen, to hide its significance, says: 

"Christ in fact preached complete communism and anarchy; but one must learn to regard Christ always in his historical 
and psychological significance. Like every advocate of the love of humanity, Christ went to the furthest extreme in his 
teaching. Every step forward toward the moral perfection of humanity is always guided by men who see nothing but 
their vocation. Christ, in no disparaging sense be it said, had the typical temperament of such a reformer. And therefore 
we must remember that his precepts cannot be understood literally as a complete philosophy of life. We ought to 
analyze his words with respect for them, but in the spirit of criticism, accepting what is true," etc. 

In other words, Christ would have been happy to say what he ought, but he was not able to express himself as exactly 
and clearly as we can in the spirit of criticism, and therefore let us correct him. All that he said about meekness, 
sacrifice, lowliness, not caring for tomorrow, was said by Accident, through lack of knowing how to express himself 
scientifically. 

40 



"Therefore I say to you, take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; 
nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Isn't life more than meat, and the body than clothing? 
Behold the birds of the air; for they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor do they gather into barns; yet 
your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they are? Which of you by thinking 
about it can add one foot to his stature? And why do you think about clothing? Consider the lilies of the 
field and how they grow; they do not toil, neither do they spin; and yet I say to you, that even Solomon 
in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, 
which is here today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not clothe you much more, O you of 
little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or, 'What shall we drink?' or, 'With 
what shall we be clothed?' (the Gentiles seek after all these things), for your heavenly Father knows that 
you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things 
shall be given to you. Take no thought for tomorrow; for tomorrow shall take thought for its own 
things. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." (Matt. 6:25-34) "Sell that you have, and give alms; 
provide for yourselves bags that do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no 
thief approaches and no moth corrupts. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 
12:33-34) Sell all you have and follow me; and he who will not leave father, or mother, or children, or 
brothers, or fields, or house, he cannot be my disciple. Deny yourself, take up your cross each day and 
follow me. My meat is to do the will of him who sent me, and to perform his works. Not my will, but 
yours be done; not what I will, but as you will. Life is to do not one's own will, but the will of God. 

All these principles appear to men who regard them from the standpoint of a lower conception of life 
as the expression of an impulsive enthusiasm, having no direct application to life. These principles, 
however, follow from the Christian theory of life, just as logically as the principles of paying a part of 
one's private gains to the commonwealth and of sacrificing one's life in defense of one's country follow 
from the state theory of life. 

As the man of the state conception of life said to the savage, "Reflect, consider yourself! The life of 
your individuality cannot be true life, because that life is pitiful and passing. But the life of a society 
and succession of individuals, family, clan, tribe, or state, goes on living, and therefore a man must 
sacrifice his own individuality for the life of the family or the state." In exactly the same way the 
Christian doctrine says to the man of the social, state conception of life, 'Repent' - jusravoCsTS- i-e., 
consider yourself, or you will be ruined. Understand that this casual, personal life that now comes into 
being and tomorrow is no more can have no permanence, that no external means, no construction of it 
can give it consecutiveness and permanence. Take thought and understand that the life you are living is 
not real life - the life of the family, of society, of the state will not save you from annihilation. The true, 
the rational life is only possible for man according to the measure in which he can participate, not in the 
family or the state, but in the source of life - the Father - according to the measure in which he can 
merge his life in the life of the Father. Such is undoubtedly the Christian conception of life, visible in 
every utterance of the Gospel. 

One may not share this view of life, one may reject it, one may show its inaccuracy and its 
erroneousness, but we cannot judge of the Christian teaching without mastering this view of life. Still 
less can one criticize a subject on a higher plane from a lower point of view. From the basement one 
cannot judge of the effect of the spire. But this is just what the learned critics of the day try to do. For 
they share the erroneous idea of the orthodox believers that they are in possession of certain infallible 
means for investigating a subject. They fancy if they apply their so-called scientific methods of 
criticism, there can be no doubt of their conclusion being correct. 

This testing the subject by the fancied infallible method of science is the principal obstacle to 
understanding the Christian religion for unbelievers, for so-called educated people. From this follow all 
the mistakes made by scientific men about the Christian religion, and especially two strange 
misconceptions that, more than everything else, hinder them from a correct understanding of it. One of 
these misconceptions is that the Christian moral teaching cannot be carried out, and that therefore it has 

41 



either no force at all - that is, it should not be accepted as the rule of conduct - or it must be 
transformed, adapted to the limits within which its fulfillment is possible in our society. Another 
misconception is that the Christian doctrine of love of God, and therefore of his service, is an obscure, 
mystic principle, which gives no definite object for love, and should therefore be replaced by the more 
exact and comprehensible principles of love for men and the service of humanity. 

The first misconception in regard to the impossibility of following the principle is the result of men 
of the state conception of life unconsciously taking that conception as the standard by which the 
Christian religion directs men, and taking the Christian principle of perfection as the rule by which that 
life is to be ordered; they think and say that to follow Christ's teaching is impossible, because the 
complete fulfillment of all that is required by this teaching would put an end to life. "If a man were to 
carry out all that Christ teaches, he would destroy his own life; and if all men carried it out, then the 
human race would come to an end," they say. 

"If we take no thought for tomorrow, what we shall eat and what we shall drink, and with what we 
shall be clothed, do not defend our life, nor resist evil by force, lay down our life for others, and observe 
perfect chastity, the human race cannot exist," they say. 

And they are perfectly right if they take the principle of perfection given by Christ's teaching as a 
rule that everyone is bound to fulfill, just as in the state principles of life everyone is bound to carry out 
the rule of paying taxes, supporting the law, and so on. 

The misconception is based precisely on the fact that the teaching of Christ guides men differently 
from the way in which the precepts founded on the lower conception of life guide men. The precepts of 
the state conception of life only guide men by requiring of them an exact fulfillment of rules or laws. 
Christ's teaching guides men by pointing them to the infinite perfection of their heavenly Father, to 
which every man independently and voluntarily struggles, whatever the degree of his imperfection in the 
present. 

The misunderstanding of men who judge of the Christian principle from the point of view of the 
state principle, consists in the fact that on the supposition that the perfection which Christ points to, can 
be fully attained, they ask themselves (just as they ask the same question on the supposition that state 
laws will be carried out) what will be the result of all this being carried out? This supposition cannot be 
made, because the perfection held up to Christians is infinite and can never be attained; and Christ lays 
down his principle, having in view the fact that absolute perfection can never be attained, but that 
striving toward absolute, infinite perfection will continually increase the blessedness of men, and that 
this blessedness may be increased to infinity thereby. 

Christ is teaching not angels, but men, living and moving in the animal life. And so to this animal 
force of movement Christ, as it were, applies the new force - the recognition of Divine perfection - and 
thereby directs the movement by the resultant of these two forces. 

To suppose that human life is going in the direction to which Christ pointed it is just like supposing 
that a little boat afloat on a rapid river, and directing its course almost exactly against the current, will 
progress in that direction. 

Christ recognizes the existence of both sides of the parallelogram, of both eternal indestructible 
forces of which the life of man is compounded: the force of his animal nature and the force of the 
consciousness of kinship to God. Saying nothing of the animal force that asserts itself, remains always 
the same, and is therefore independent of human will, Christ speaks only of the Divine force, calling 
upon a man to know it more closely, to set it more free from all that retards it, and to carry it to a higher 
degree of intensity. 

In the process of liberating, of strengthening this force, the true life of man, according to Christ's 
teaching, consists. The true life, according to preceding religions, consists in carrying out rules, the law; 
according to Christ's teaching it consists in an ever closer approximation to the divine perfection held up 
before every man, and recognized within himself by every man, in an ever closer and closer approach to 

42 



the perfect fusion of his will in the will of God, that fusion toward which man strives, and the attainment 
of which would be the destruction of the life we know. 

The divine perfection is the asymptote of human life to which it is always striving, and always 
approaching, though it can only be reached in infinity. 

The Christian religion seems to exclude the possibility of life only when men mistake the pointing to 
an ideal as the laying down of a rule. It is only then that the principles presented in Christ's teaching 
appear to be destructive of life. These principles, on the contrary, are the only ones that make true life 
possible. Without these principles true life could not be possible. 

"One ought not to expect so much," is what people usually say in discussing the requirements of the 
Christian religion. "One cannot expect to take absolutely no thought for tomorrow, as is said in the 
Gospel, but only not to take too much thought for it; one cannot give away all to the poor, but one must 
give away a certain definite part; one need not aim at virginity, but one must avoid debauchery; one 
need not forsake wife and children, but one must not give too great a place to them in one's heart," and 
so on. 

But to speak like this is just like telling a man who is struggling on a swift river and is directing his 
course against the current, that it is impossible to cross the river rowing against the current, and that to 
cross it he must float in the direction of the point he wants to reach. 

In reality, in order to reach the place to which he wants to go, he must row with all his strength 
toward a point much higher up. 

To let go the requirements of the ideal means not only to diminish the possibility of perfection, but 
also to make an end of the ideal itself. The ideal that has power over men is not an ideal invented by 
someone, but the ideal that every man carries within his soul. Only this ideal of complete infinite 
perfection has power over men, and stimulates them to action. A moderate perfection loses its power of 
influencing men's hearts. 

Christ's teaching only has power when it demands absolute perfection - that is, the fusion of the 
divine nature that exists in every man's soul with the will of God - the union of the Son with the Father. 
Life according to Christ's teaching consists of nothing but this setting free of the Son of God, existing in 
every man, from the animal, and in bringing him closer to the Father. 

The animal existence of a man does not constitute human life alone. Life, according to the will of 
God only, is also not human life. Human life is a combination of the animal life and the divine life. 
And the more this combination approaches to the divine life, the more life there is in it. 

Life, according to the Christian religion, is a progress toward the divine perfection. No one 
condition, according to this doctrine, can be higher or lower than another. Every condition, according to 
this doctrine, is only a particular stage, of no consequence in itself, on the way toward unattainable 
perfection, and therefore in itself it does not imply a greater or lesser degree of life. Increase of life, 
according to this, consists in nothing but the quickening of the progress toward perfection. And 
therefore the progress toward perfection of the publican Zaccheus, of the woman that was a sinner, and 
of the robber on the cross, implies a higher degree of life than the stagnant righteousness of the Pharisee. 
And therefore for this religion there cannot be rules that it is obligatory to obey. The man who is at a 
lower level but is moving onward toward perfection is living a more moral, a better life, is more fully 
carrying out Christ's teaching, than the man on a much higher level of morality who is not moving 
onward toward perfection. 

It is in this sense that the lost sheep is dearer to the Father than those that were not lost. The prodigal 
son, the piece of money lost and found again, were more precious than those that were not lost. 

The fulfillment of Christ's teaching consists in moving away from self toward God. It is obvious 
that there cannot be definite laws and rules for this fulfillment of the teaching. Every degree of 
perfection and every degree of imperfection are equal in it; no obedience to laws constitutes a fulfillment 
of this doctrine, and therefore for it there can be no binding rules and laws. 

43 



From this fundamental distinction between the religion of Christ and all preceding religions based on 
the state conception of life, follows a corresponding difference in the special precepts of the state theory 
and the Christian precepts. The precepts of the state theory of life insist for the most part on certain 
practical prescribed acts, by which men are justified and secure of being right. The Christian precepts 
(the commandment of love is not a precept in the strict sense of the word, but the expression of the very 
essence of the religion) are the five commandments of the Sermon on the Mount - all negative in 
character. They show only what at a certain stage of development of humanity men may not do. 

These commandments are, as it were, signposts on the endless road to perfection, toward which 
humanity is moving, showing the point of perfection that is possible at a certain period in the 
development of humanity. 

Christ has given expression in the Sermon on the Mount to the eternal ideal toward which men are 
spontaneously struggling, and also the degree of attainment of it to which men may reach in our times. 

The ideal is not to desire to do ill to anyone, not to provoke ill will, to love all men. The precept, 
showing the level below which we cannot fall in the attainment of this ideal, is the prohibition of evil 
speaking. And that is the first command. 

The ideal is perfect chastity, even in thought. The precept, showing the level below which we 
cannot fall in the attainment of this ideal, is that of purity of married life, avoidance of debauchery. That 
is the second command. 

The ideal is to take no thought for the future, to live in the present moment. The precept, showing 
the level below which we cannot fall, is the prohibition of swearing, of promising anything in the future. 
And that is the third command. 

The ideal is never for any purpose to use force. The precept, showing the level below which we 
cannot fall is that of returning good for evil, being patient under wrong, giving the cloak also. That is 
the fourth command. 

The ideal is to love the enemies who hate us. The precept, showing the level below which we cannot 
fall, is not to do evil to our enemies, to speak well of them, and to make no difference between them and 
our neighbors. 

All these precepts are indications of what, on our journey to perfection, we are already fully able to 
avoid, and what we must labor to attain now, and what we ought by degrees to translate into instinctive 
and unconscious habits. But these precepts, far from constituting the whole of Christ's teaching and 
exhausting it, are simply stages on the way to perfection. These precepts must and will be followed by 
higher and higher precepts on the way to the perfection held up by the religion. 

And therefore it is essentially a part of the Christian religion to make demands higher than those 
expressed in its precepts; and by no means to diminish the demands either of the ideal itself, or of the 
precepts, as people imagine who judge it from the standpoint of the social conception of life. 

So much for one misunderstanding of the scientific men, in relation to the importance and aim of 
Christ's teaching. Another misunderstanding arising from the same source consists in substituting love 
for men, the service of humanity, for the Christian principles of love for God and his service. 

The Christian doctrine to love God and serve him, and only as a result of that love to love and serve 
one's neighbor, seems to scientific men obscure, mystic, and arbitrary. And they would absolutely 
exclude the obligation of love and service of God, holding that the doctrine of love for men, for 
humanity alone, is far more clear, tangible, and reasonable. 

Scientific men teach in theory that the only good and rational life is that which is devoted to the 
service of the whole of humanity. That is for them the importance of the Christian doctrine, and to that 
they reduce Christ's teaching. They seek confirmation of their own doctrine in the Gospel, on the 
supposition that the two doctrines are really the same. 

This idea is an absolutely mistaken one. The Christian doctrine has nothing in common with the 
doctrine of the Positivists, Communists, and all the apostles of the universal brotherhood of mankind, 
based on the general advantage of such a brotherhood. They differ from one another especially in 

44 



Christianity's having a firm and clear basis in the human soul, while love for humanity is only a 
theoretical deduction from analogy. 

The doctrine of love for humanity alone is based on the social conception of life. 

The essence of the social conception of life consists in the transference of the aim of the individual 
life to the life of societies of individuals: family, clan, tribe, or state. This transference is accomplished 
easily and naturally in its earliest forms, in the transference of the aim of life from the individual to the 
family and the clan. The transference to the tribe or the nation is more difficult and requires special 
training. And the transference of the sentiment to the state is the furthest limit that the process can 
reach. 

To love one's self is natural to everyone, and no one needs any encouragement to do so. To love 
one's clan who support and protect one, to love one's wife, the joy and help of one's existence, one's 
children, the hope and consolation of one's life, and one's parents, who have given one life and 
education, is natural. And such love, though far from being so strong as love of self, is met with pretty 
often. 

To love - for one's own sake, through personal pride - one's tribe, one's nation, though not so 
natural, is nevertheless common. Love of one's own people who are of the same blood, the same 
tongue, and the same religion as one's self is possible, though far from being so strong as love of self, or 
even love of family or clan. But love for a state, such as Turkey, Germany, England, Austria, or Russia 
is a thing almost impossible. And though it is zealously inculcated, it is only an imagined sentiment; it 
has no existence in reality. And at that limit man's power of transferring his interest ceases, and he 
cannot feel any direct sentiment for that fictitious entity. The Positivists, however, and all the apostles 
of fraternity on scientific principles, without taking into consideration the weakening of sentiment in 
proportion to the extension of its object, draw further deductions in theory in the same direction. 
"Since," they say, "it was for the advantage of the individual to extend his personal interest to the 
family, the tribe, and subsequently to the nation and the state, it would be still more advantageous to 
extend his interest in societies of men to the whole of mankind, and so all to live for humanity just as 
men live for the family or the state." 

Theoretically it follows, indeed, having extended the love and interest for the personality to the 
family, the tribe, and thence to the nation and the state, it would be perfectly logical for men to save 
themselves the strife and calamities that result from the division of mankind into nations and states by 
extending their love to the whole of humanity. This would be most logical, and theoretically nothing 
would appear more natural to its advocates, who do not observe that love is a sentiment that may or may 
not be felt, but that it is useless to advocate; and moreover, that love must have an object, and that 
humanity is not an object. It is nothing but a fiction. 

The family, the tribe, even the state were not invented by men, but formed themselves 
spontaneously, like anthills or swarms of bees, and have a real existence. The man who, for the sake of 
his own animal personality, loves his family, knows whom he loves: Anna, Dolly, John, Peter, and so 
on. The man who loves his tribe and takes pride in it, knows that he loves all the Guelphs or all the 
Ghibellines; the man who loves the state knows that he loves France bounded by the Rhine, and the 
Pyrenees, and its principal city Paris, and its history and so on. But the man who loves humanity - what 
does he love? There is such a thing as a state, as a nation; there is the abstract conception of man; but 
humanity as a concrete idea does not, and cannot exist. 

Humanity! Where is the definition of humanity? Where does it end and where does it begin? Does 
humanity end with the savage, the idiot, the dipsomaniac, or the madman? If we draw a line excluding 
from humanity its lowest representatives, where are we to draw the line? Shall we exclude the Negroes 
like the Americans, or the Hindus like some Englishmen, or the Jews like some others? If we include all 
men without exception, why should we not include also the higher animals, many of whom are superior 
to the lowest specimens of the human race. 

45 



We know nothing of humanity as an eternal object, and we know nothing of its limits. Humanity is 
a fiction, and it is impossible to love it. It would, doubtless, be very advantageous if men could love 
humanity just as they love their family. It would be very advantageous, as Communists advocate, to 
replace the competitive, individualistic organization of men's activity by a social universal organization, 
so that each would be for all and all for each. Only there are no motives to lead men to do this. The 
Positivists, the Communists, and all the apostles of fraternity on scientific principles advocate the 
extension to the whole of humanity of the love men feel for themselves, their families, and the state. 
They forget that the love that they are discussing is a personal love, which might expand in a rarefied 
form to embrace a man's native country, but which disappears before it can embrace an artificial state 
such as Austria, England, or Turkey, and which we cannot even conceive of in relation to all humanity, 
an absolutely mystic conception. 

"A man loves himself (his animal personality), he loves his family, and he even loves his native 
country. Why should he not love humanity? That would be such an excellent thing. And by the way, it 
is precisely what is taught by Christianity." So think the advocates of Positivist, Communistic, or 
Socialistic fraternity. 

It would indeed be an excellent thing. But it can never be, for the love that is based on a personal or 
social conception of life can never rise beyond love for the state. 

The fallacy of the argument lies in the fact that the social conception of life, on which love for 
family and nation is founded, rests itself on love of self, and that love grows weaker and weaker as it is 
extended from self to family, tribe, nationality, and state; and in the state we reach the furthest limit 
beyond which it cannot go. 

The necessity of extending the sphere of love is beyond dispute. But in reality the possibility of this 
love is destroyed by the necessity of extending its object indefinitely. And thus the insufficiency of 
personal human love is made manifest. 

And here the advocates of Positivist, Communistic, Socialistic fraternity propose to draw upon 
Christian love to make up the default of this bankrupt human love; but Christian love only in its results, 
not in its foundations. They propose love for humanity alone, apart from love for God. 

But such a love cannot exist. There is no motive to produce it. Christian love is the result only of 
the Christian conception of life, in which the aim of life is to love and serve God. 

The social conception of life has led men, by a natural transition from love of self and then of 
family, tribe, nation, and state, to a consciousness of the necessity of love for humanity, a conception 
that has no definite limits and extends to all living things. And this necessity for love of what awakens 
no kind of sentiment in a man is a contradiction that cannot be solved by the social theory of life. 

The Christian doctrine in its full significance can alone solve it, by giving a new meaning to life. 
Christianity recognizes love of self, of family, of nation, and of humanity, and not only of humanity, but 
also of everything living, everything existing; it recognizes the necessity of an infinite extension of the 
sphere of love. But the object of this love is not found outside self in societies of individuals, nor in the 
external world, but within self, in the divine self whose essence is that very love, which the animal self 
is brought to feel the need of through its consciousness of its own perishable nature. 

The difference between the Christian doctrine and those that preceded it is that the social doctrine 
said, "Live in opposition to your nature (understanding by this only the animal nature), make it subject 
to the external law of family, society, and state." Christianity says, "Live according to your nature 
(understanding by this the divine nature); do not make it subject to anything - neither you (an animal 
self) nor that of others - and you will attain the very aim to which you are striving when you subject 
your external self." 

The Christian doctrine brings a man to the elementary consciousness of self, only not of the animal 
self, but of the divine self, the divine spark, the self as the Son of God, as much God as the Father 
himself, though confined in an animal husk. The consciousness of being the Son of God, whose chief 
characteristic is love, satisfies the need for the extension of the sphere of love to which the man of the 

46 



social conception of life had been brought. For the latter, the welfare of the personality demanded an 
ever-widening extension of the sphere of love; love was a necessity and was confined to certain objects 
- self, family, and society. With the Christian conception of life, love is not a necessity and is confined 
to no object; it is the essential faculty of the human soul. Man loves not because it is his interest to love 
this or that, but because love is the essence of his soul, because he must love. 

The Christian doctrine shows man that the essence of his soul is love - that his happiness depends 
not on loving this or that object, but on loving the principle of the whole - God, whom he recognizes 
within himself as love, and therefore he loves all things and all men. 

In this is the fundamental difference between the Christian doctrine and the doctrine of the 
Positivists, and all the theorizers about universal brotherhood on non-Christian principles. 

Such are the two principal misunderstandings relating to the Christian religion, from which the 
greater number of false reasonings about it proceed. The first consists in the belief that Christ's teaching 
instructs men, like all previous religions, by rules, which they are bound to follow, and that these rules 
cannot be fulfilled. The second is the idea that the whole purpose of Christianity is to teach men to live 
advantageously together, as one family, and that to attain this we need only follow the rule of love to 
humanity, dismissing all thought of love of God altogether. 

The mistaken notion of scientific men that the essence of Christianity consists in the supernatural, 
and that its moral teaching is impracticable, constitutes another reason of the failure of men of the 
present day to understand Christianity. 



47 



CHAPTER 5 

CONTRADICTION BETWEEN OUR LIFE AND OUR CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE 

Men Think they can Accept Christianity without Altering their Life - Pagan Conception of Life does not Correspond with 
Present Stage of Development of Humanity, and Christian Conception Alone Can Accord with it - Christian Conception of 
Life not yet Understood by Men, but the Progress of Life itself will Lead them Inevitably to Adopt it - The Requirements of 
a New Theory of Life Always Seem Incomprehensible, Mystic, and Supernatural - So Seem the Requirements of the 
Christian Theory of Life to the Majority of Men - The Absorption of the Christian Conception of Life will Inevitably be 
Brought About as the Result of Material and Spiritual Causes - The Fact of Men Knowing the Requirements of the Higher 
View of Life, and yet Continuing to Preserve Inferior Organizations of Life, Leads to Contradictions and Sufferings that 
Embitter Existence and Must Result in its Transformation - The Contradictions of our Life - The Economic Contradiction 
and the Suffering Induced by it for Rich and Poor Alike - The Political Contradiction and the Sufferings Induced by 
Obedience to the Laws of the State - The International Contradiction and the Recognition of it by Contemporaries: 
Komarovsky, Ferri, Booth, Passy, Lawson, Wilson, Bartlett, Defourney, Moneta - The Striking Character of the Military 
Contradiction. 



There are many reasons why Christ's teaching is not understood. One reason is that people suppose 
they have understood it when they have decided, as the Churchmen do, that it was revealed by 
supernatural means, or when they have studied, as the scientific men do, the external forms in which it 
has been manifested. Another reason is the mistaken notion that it is impracticable, and ought to be 
replaced by the doctrine of love for humanity. But the principal reason, which is the source of all the 
other mistaken ideas about it, is the notion that Christianity is a doctrine that can be accepted or rejected 
without any change of life. 

Men who are used to the existing order of things, who like it and dread its being changed, try to take 
the doctrine as a collection of revelations and rules that one can accept without their modifying one's 
life. While Christ's teaching is not only a doctrine that gives rules that a man must follow, it unfolds a 
new meaning in life, and defines a whole world of human activity quite different from all that has 
preceded it and appropriate to the period on which man is entering. 

The life of humanity changes and advances, like the life of the individual, by stages, and every stage 
has a theory of life appropriate to it, which is inevitably absorbed by men. Those who do not absorb it 
consciously, absorb it unconsciously. It is the same with the changes in the beliefs of peoples and of all 
humanity as it is with the changes of belief of individuals. If the father of a family continues to be 
guided in his conduct by his childish conceptions of life, life becomes so difficult for him that he 
involuntarily seeks another philosophy and readily absorbs that which is appropriate to his age. 

That is just what is happening now to humanity at this time of transition through which we are 
passing, from the pagan conception of life to the Christian. The socialized man of the present day is 
brought by experience of life itself to the necessity of abandoning the pagan conception of life, which is 
inappropriate to the present stage of humanity, and of submitting to the obligation of the Christian 
doctrines, the truths of which, however corrupt and misinterpreted, are still known to him, and alone 
offer him a solution of the contradictions surrounding him. 

If the requirements of the Christian doctrine seem strange and even alarming to the man of the social 
theory of life, no less strange, incomprehensible, and alarming to the savage of ancient times seemed the 
requirements of the social doctrine when it was not fully understood and could not be foreseen in its 
results. 

"It is unreasonable," said the savage, "to sacrifice my peace of mind or my life in defense of 
something incomprehensible, impalpable, and conventional - family, tribe, or nation; and above all it is 
unsafe to put oneself at the disposal of the power of others." 

48 



But the time came when the savage, on one hand, felt, though vaguely, the value of the social 
conception of life, and of its chief motor power, social censure, or social approbation - glory, and when, 
on the other hand, the difficulties of his personal life became so great that he could not continue to 
believe in the value of his old theory of life. Then he accepted the social, state theory of life and 
submitted to it. 

That is just what the man of the social theory of life is passing through now. 

"It is unreasonable," says the socialized man, "to sacrifice my welfare and that of my family and my 
country in order to fulfill some higher law, which requires me to renounce my most natural and virtuous 
feelings of love of self, of family, of kindred, and of country; and above all, it is unsafe to part with the 
security of life afforded by the organization of government." 

But the time is coming when, on one hand, the vague consciousness in his soul of the higher law, of 
love to God and his neighbor, and, on the other hand, the suffering, resulting from the contradictions of 
life, will force the man to reject the social theory and to assimilate the new one prepared ready for him, 
which solves all the contradictions and removes all his sufferings - the Christian theory of life. And this 
time has now come. 

We, who thousands of years ago passed through the transition, from the personal, animal view of life 
to the socialized view, imagine that that transition was an inevitable and natural one; but this transition 
through which we have been passing for the last eighteen hundred years seems arbitrary, unnatural, and 
alarming. But we only fancy this because that first transition has been so fully completed that the 
practice attained by it has become unconscious and instinctive in us, while the present transition is not 
yet over and we have to complete it consciously. 

It took ages, thousands of years, for the social conception of life to permeate men's consciousness. 
It went through various forms and has now passed into the region of the instinctive through inheritance, 
education, and habit. And therefore it seems natural to us. But five thousand years ago it seemed as 
unnatural and alarming to men as the Christian doctrine in its true sense seems today. 

We think today that the requirements of the Christian doctrine - of universal brotherhood, 
suppression of national distinctions, abolition of private property, and the strange injunction of non- 
resistance to evil by force - demand what is impossible. But it was just the same thousands of years 
ago, with every social or even family duty, such as the duty of parents to support their children, of the 
young to maintain the old, of fidelity in marriage. Still more strange, and even unreasonable, seemed 
the state duties of submitting to the appointed authority, and paying taxes, and fighting in defense of the 
country, and so on. All such requirements seem simple, comprehensible, and natural to us today, and we 
see nothing mysterious or alarming in them. But three or five thousand years ago they seemed to require 
what was impossible. 

The social conception of life served as the basis of religion because at the time when it was first 
presented to men it seemed to them absolutely incomprehensible, mystic, and supernatural. Now that 
we have outlived that phase of the life of humanity, we understand the rational grounds for uniting men 
in families, communities, and states. But in antiquity the duties involved by such association were 
presented under cover of the supernatural and were confirmed by it. 

The patriarchal religions exalted the family, the tribe, and the nation. State religions deified 
emperors and states. Even now most ignorant people - like our peasants, who call the Czar an earthly 
god - obey state laws, not through any rational recognition of their necessity, nor because they have any 
conception of the meaning of state, but through a religious sentiment. 

In precisely the same way the Christian doctrine is presented to men of the social or heathen theory 
of life today, in the guise of a supernatural religion, though there is in reality nothing mysterious, mystic, 
or supernatural about it. It is simply the theory of life that is appropriate to the present degree of 
material development, the present stage of growth of humanity, and that must therefore inevitably be 
accepted. 

49 



The time will come - it is already coming - when the Christian principles of equality and fraternity, 
community of property, non-resistance of evil by force, will appear just as natural and simple as the 
principles of family or social life seem to us now. 

Humanity can no more go backward in its development than the individual man. Men have outlived 
the social, family, and state conceptions of life. Now they must go forward and assimilate the next and 
higher conception of life, which is what is now taking place. This change is brought about in two ways: 
consciously through spiritual causes, and unconsciously through material causes. 

Just as the individual man very rarely changes his way of life at the dictates of his reason alone, but 
generally continues to live as before, in spite of the new interests and aims revealed to him by his 
reason, and only alters his way of living when it has become absolutely opposed to his conscience, and 
consequently intolerable to him; so, too, humanity, long after it has learned through its religions the new 
interests and aims of life, toward which it must strive, continues in the majority of its representatives to 
live as before, and is only brought to accept the new conception by finding it impossible to go on living 
its old life as before. 

Though the need of a change of life is preached by the religious leaders and recognized and realized 
by the most intelligent men, the majority, in spite of their reverential attitude to their leaders, that is, 
their faith in their teaching, continue to be guided by the old theory of life in their present complex 
existence. As though the father of a family, knowing how he ought to behave at his age, should yet 
continue through habit and thoughtlessness to live in the same childish way as he did in boyhood. 

That is just what is happening in the transition of humanity from one stage to another, through which 
we are passing now. Humanity has outgrown its social stage and has entered upon a new period. It 
recognizes the doctrine that ought to be made the basis of life in this new period. But through inertia it 
continues to keep up the old forms of life. From this inconsistency between the new conception of life 
and practical life follows a whole succession of contradictions and sufferings that embitter our life and 
necessitate its alteration. 

One need only compare the practice of life with the theory of it, to be dismayed at the glaring 
antagonism between our conditions of life and our conscience. 

Our whole life is in flat contradiction with all we know, and with all we regard as necessary and 
right. This contradiction runs through everything, in economic life, in political life, and in international 
life. As though we had forgotten what we knew and put away for a time the principles we believe in (we 
cannot help still believing in them because they are the only foundation we have to base our life on) we 
do the very opposite of all that our conscience and our common sense require of us. 

We are guided in economical, political, and international questions by the principles that were 
appropriate to men of three or five thousand years ago, though they are directly opposed to our 
conscience and the conditions of life in which we are placed today. 

It was very well for the man of ancient times to live in a society based on the division of mankind 
into masters and slaves, because he believed that such a distinction was decreed by God and must 
always exist. But is such a belief possible in these days? 

The man of antiquity could believe he had the right to enjoy the good things of this world at the 
expense of other men, and to keep them in misery for generations, since he believed that men came from 
different origins, were base or noble in blood, children of Ham or of Japheth. The greatest sages of the 
world, the teachers of humanity, Plato and Aristotle, justified the existence of slaves and demonstrated 
the lawfulness of slavery; and even three centuries ago, the men who described an imaginary society of 
the future, Utopia, could not conceive of it without slaves. 

Men of ancient and medieval times believed, firmly believed, that men are not equal, that the only 
true men are Persians, or Greeks, or Romans, or Franks. But we cannot believe that now. And people 
who sacrifice themselves for the principles of aristocracy and of patriotism today don't believe and can't 
believe what they assert. 

50 



We all know and cannot help knowing - even though we may never have heard the idea clearly 
expressed, may never have read of it, and may never have put it into words, still through unconsciously 
imbibing the Christian sentiments that are in the air - with our whole heart we know and cannot escape 
knowing the fundamental truth of the Christian doctrine, that we are all sons of one Father, wherever we 
may live and whatever language we may speak; we are all brothers and are subject to the same law of 
love implanted by our common Father in our hearts. 

Whatever the opinions and degree of education of a man of today, whatever his shade of liberalism, 
whatever his school of philosophy, or of science, or of economics, however ignorant or superstitious he 
may be, every man of the present day knows that all men have an equal right to life and the good things 
of life, and that one set of people are no better nor worse than another, that all are equal. Everyone 
knows this, beyond doubt; everyone feels it in his whole being. Yet at the same time everyone sees all 
round him the division of men into two castes - the one, laboring, oppressed, poor, and suffering, the 
other idle, oppressing, luxurious, and profligate. And everyone not only sees this, but voluntarily or 
involuntarily, in one way or another, he takes part in maintaining this distinction that his conscience 
condemns. And he cannot help suffering from the consciousness of this contradiction and his share in it. 

Whether he is master or slave, the man of today cannot help constantly feeling the painful opposition 
between his conscience and actual life, and the miseries resulting from it. 

The toiling masses, the immense majority of mankind who are suffering under the incessant, 
meaningless, and hopeless toil and privation in which their whole life is swallowed up, still find their 
keenest suffering in the glaring contrast between what is and what ought to be, according to all the 
beliefs held by themselves, and those who have brought them to that condition and keep them in it. 

They know that they are in slavery and condemned to privation and darkness to minister to the lusts 
of the minority who keep them down. They know it, and they say so plainly. And this knowledge 
increases their sufferings and constitutes its bitterest sting. 

The slave of antiquity knew that he was a slave by nature, but our laborer, while he feels he is a 
slave, knows that he ought not to be, and so he tastes the agony of Tantalus, forever desiring and never 
gaining what might and ought to be his. 

The sufferings of the working classes, springing from the contradiction between what is and what 
ought to be, are increased tenfold by the envy and hatred engendered by their consciousness of it. 

The laborer of the present day would not cease to suffer even if his toil were much lighter than that 
of the slave of ancient times, even if he gained an eight-hour working day and a wage of three dollars a 
day. For he is working at the manufacture of things that he will not enjoy, working not by his own will 
for his own benefit, but through necessity, to satisfy the desires of luxurious and idle people in general, 
and for the profit of a single rich man, the owner of a factory or workshop in particular. And he knows 
that all this is going on in a world in which it is a recognized scientific principle that labor alone creates 
wealth, and that to profit by the labor of others is immoral, dishonest, and punishable by law; in a world, 
moreover, which professes to believe Christ's doctrine that we are all brothers, and that true merit and 
dignity is to be found in serving one's neighbor, not in exploiting him. All this he knows, and he must 
suffer keenly from the sharp contrast between what is and what ought to be. 

"According to all principles, according to all I know, and what everyone professes," the workman 
says to himself. "I ought to be free, equal to everyone else, and loved; and I am - a slave, humiliated 
and hated." And he too is filled with hatred and tries to find means to escape from his position, to shake 
off the enemy who is over-riding him, and to oppress him in turn. People say, "Workmen have no 
business to try to become capitalists, the poor to try to put themselves in the place of the rich." That is a 
mistake. The workingmen and the poor would be wrong if they tried to do so in a world in which slaves 
and masters were regarded as different species created by God; but they are living in a world that 
professes the faith of the Gospel, that all are alike sons of God, and so brothers and equal. And however 
men may try to conceal it, one of the first conditions of Christian life is love, not in words but in deeds. 

51 



The man of the so-called educated classes lives in still more glaring inconsistency and suffering. 
Every educated man, if he believes in anything, believes in the brotherhood of all men, or at least he has 
a sentiment of humanity, or else of justice, or else he believes in science. And all the while he knows 
that his whole life is framed on principles in direct opposition to it all, to all the principles of 
Christianity, humanity, justice, and science. 

He knows that all the habits in which he has been brought up, and that he could not give up without 
suffering, can only be satisfied through the exhausting, often fatal, toil of oppressed laborers, that is, 
through the most obvious and brutal violation of the principles of Christianity, humanity, and justice, 
and even of science (that is, economic science). He advocates the principles of fraternity, humanity, 
justice, and science, yet he lives so that he is dependent on the oppression of the working classes, which 
he denounces, and his whole life is based on the advantages gained by their oppression. Moreover he is 
directing every effort to maintaining this state of things so flatly opposed to all his beliefs. 

We are all brothers - and yet every morning a brother or a sister must empty the bedroom slops for 
me. We are all brothers, but every morning I must have a cigar, a sweetmeat, an ice, and such things, 
which my brothers and sisters have been wasting their health in manufacturing, and I enjoy these things 
and demand them. We are all brothers, yet I live by working in a bank, or mercantile house, or shop at 
making all goods dearer for my brothers. We are all brothers, but I live on a salary paid me for 
prosecuting, judging, and condemning the thief or the prostitute whose existence the whole tenor of my 
life tends to bring about, and who I know ought not to be punished but reformed. We are all brothers, 
but I live on the salary I gain by collecting taxes from needy laborers to be spent on the luxuries of the 
rich and idle. We are all brothers, but I take a stipend for preaching a false Christian religion, which I do 
not myself believe in, and which only serves to hinder men from understanding true Christianity. I take 
a stipend as priest or bishop for deceiving men in the matter of the greatest importance to them. We are 
all brothers, but I will not give the poor the benefit of my educational, medical, or literary labors except 
for money. We are all brothers, yet I take a salary for being ready to commit murder, for teaching men 
to murder, or making firearms, gunpowder, or fortifications. 

The whole life of the upper classes is a constant inconsistency. The more delicate a man's 
conscience is, the more painful this contradiction is to him. 

A man of sensitive conscience must suffer if he lives such a life. The only means by which he can 
escape from this suffering is by blunting his conscience, but even if some men succeed in dulling their 
conscience they cannot dull their fears. 

The men of the higher dominating classes, whose consciences are naturally not sensitive or have 
become blunted, if they don't suffer through conscience, suffer from fear and hatred. They are bound to 
suffer. They know all the hatred of them existing, and inevitably existing in the working classes. They 
are aware that the working classes know that they are deceived and exploited, and that they are 
beginning to organize themselves to shake off oppression and revenge themselves on their oppressors. 
The higher classes see the unions, the strikes, the May Day Celebrations, and feel the calamity that is 
threatening them, and their terror passes into an instinct of self-defense and hatred. They know that if 
for one instant they are worsted in the struggle with their oppressed slaves, they will perish, because the 
slaves are exasperated and their exasperation is growing more intense with every day of oppression. 
The oppressors, even if they wished to do so, could not make an end to oppression. They know that they 
themselves will perish at the very moment when they relax the harshness of their oppression. And they 
do not relax it, in spite of all their pretended care for the welfare of the working classes, for the eight- 
hour day, for regulation of the labor of minors and of women, for savings banks and pensions. All that 
is humbug, or else simply anxiety to keep the slave fit to do his work. But the slave is still a slave, and 
the master who cannot live without a slave is less disposed to set him free than ever. 

The attitude of the ruling classes to the laborers is that of a man who has felled his adversary to the 
earth and holds him down, not so much because he wants to hold him down, as because he knows that if 
he let him go, even for a second, he would himself be stabbed, for his adversary is infuriated and has a 

52 



knife in his hand. And therefore, whether their conscience is tender or the reverse, our rich men cannot 
enjoy the wealth they have filched from the poor as the ancients did who believed in their right to it. 
Their whole life and all their enjoyments are embittered either by the stings of conscience or by terror. 

So much for the economic contradiction. The political contradiction is even more striking. 

All men are brought up to the habit of obeying the laws of the state before everything. The whole 
existence of modern times is defined by laws. A man marries and is divorced, educates his children, and 
even (in many countries) professes his religious faith in accordance with the law. What about the law 
then that defines our whole existence? Do men believe in it? Do they regard it as good? Not at all. In 
the majority of cases people of the present time do not believe in the justice of the law, they despise it, 
but still they obey it. It was very well for the men of the ancient world to observe their laws. They 
firmly believed that their law (it was generally of a religious character) was the only just law, which 
everyone ought to obey. But is it so with us? We know and cannot help knowing that the law of our 
country is not the one eternal law; that it is only one of the many laws of different countries, which are 
equally imperfect, often obviously wrong and unjust, and are criticized from every point of view in the 
newspapers. The Jew might well obey his laws, since he had not the slightest doubt that God had 
written them with his finger; the Roman too might well obey the laws that he thought had been dictated 
by the nymph Egeria. Men might well observe the laws if they believed the Czars who made them were 
God's anointed, or even if they thought they were the work of assemblies of lawgivers who had the 
power and the desire to make them as good as possible. But we all know how our laws are made. We 
have all been behind the scenes, we know that they are the product of covetousness, trickery, and party 
struggles; that there is not and cannot be any real justice in them. And so, modern men cannot believe 
that obedience to civic or political laws can satisfy the demands of the reason or of human nature. Men 
have long ago recognized that it is irrational to obey a law the justice of which is very doubtful, and so 
they must suffer in obeying a law that they do not accept as judicious and binding. 

A man must suffer when his whole life is defined beforehand for him by laws, which he must obey 
under threat of punishment, though he does not believe in their wisdom or justice, and often clearly 
perceives their injustice, cruelty, and artificiality. 

We recognize the uselessness of customs and import duties, and are obliged to pay them. We 
recognize the uselessness of the expenditure on the maintenance of the Court and other members of 
Government, and we regard the teaching of the Church as injurious, but we are obliged to bear our share 
of the expenses of these institutions. We regard the punishments inflicted by law as cruel and 
shameless, but we must assist in supporting them. We regard as unjust and pernicious the distribution of 
landed property, but we are obliged to submit to it. We see no necessity for wars and armies, but we 
must bear terribly heavy burdens in support of troops and war expenses. 

But this contradiction is nothing in comparison with the contradiction that confronts us when we turn 
to international questions, and that demands a solution under pain of the loss of the sanity and even the 
existence of the human race. That is the contradiction between the Christian conscience and war. 

We are all Christian nations living the same spiritual life, so that every noble and pregnant thought, 
springing up at one end of the world, is at once communicated to the whole of Christian humanity and 
evokes everywhere the same emotion of pride and rejoicing without distinction of nationalities. We who 
love thinkers, philanthropists, poets, and scientific men of foreign origin, and are as proud of the exploits 
of Father Damien as if he were one of ourselves, we, who have a simple love for men of foreign 
nationalities, Frenchmen, Germans, Americans, and Englishmen, who respect their qualities, are glad to 
meet them and make them so warmly welcome, cannot regard war with them as anything heroic. We 
cannot even imagine without horror the possibility of a disagreement between these people and 
ourselves that would call for reciprocal murder. Yet we are all bound to take a hand in this slaughter 
that is bound to come to pass tomorrow - if not today. 

It was very well for the Jew, the Greek, and the Roman to defend the independence of his nation by 
murder. For he piously believed that his people were the only true, fine, and good people dear to God, 

53 



and all the rest were Philistines, barbarians. Men of medieval times - even up to the end of the last and 
beginning of this century - might continue to hold this belief. But however much we work upon 
ourselves we cannot believe it. And this contradiction for men of the present day has become so full of 
horror that without its solution life is no longer possible. 

"We live in a time that is full of inconsistencies," writes Count Komarovsky, the professor of 
international law, in his learned treatise. "The press of all countries is continually expressing the 
universal desire for peace, and the general sense of its necessity for all nations. 

"Representatives of governments, private persons, and official organs say the same thing; it is 
repeated in parliamentary debates, diplomatic correspondence, and even in state treaties. At the same 
time governments are increasing the strength of their armies every year, levying fresh taxes, raising 
loans, and leaving as a bequest to future generations the duty of repairing the blunders of the senseless 
policy of the present. What a striking contrast between words and deeds! Of course governments will 
plead in justification of these measures that all their expenditure and armament are exclusively for 
purposes of defense. But it remains a mystery to every disinterested man from where they can expect 
attacks if all the great powers are single-hearted in their policy, in pursuing nothing but self-defense. In 
reality it looks as if each of the great powers were every instant anticipating an attack on the part of the 
others. And this results in a general feeling of insecurity and superhuman efforts on the part of each 
government to increase their forces beyond those of the other powers. Such a competition of itself 
increases the danger of war. Nations cannot endure the constant increase of armies for long, and sooner 
or later they will prefer war to all the disadvantages of their present position and the constant menace of 
war. Then the most trifling pretext will be sufficient to throw the whole of Europe into the fire of 
universal war. And it is a mistaken idea that such a crisis might deliver us from the political and 
economical troubles that are crushing us. The experience of the wars of latter years teaches us that 
every war has only intensified national hatreds, made military burdens more crushing and insupportable, 
and rendered the political and economical position of Europe more grievous and insoluble." 

"Modern Europe keeps under arms an active army of nine million men," writes Enrico Ferri, 
"besides fifteen million reserves, with an outlay of four hundred million francs per annum. By continual 
increase of the armed force, the sources of social and individual prosperity are paralyzed, and the state 
of the modern world may be compared to that of a man who condemns himself to wasting from lack of 
nutrition in order to provide himself with arms, losing thereby the strength to use the arms he provides, 
under the weight of which he will at last succumb." 

Charles Booth, in his paper read in London before the Association for the Reform and Codification 
of the Law of Nations, June 26, 1887, says the same thing. After referring to the same number, nine 
million in the active army and fifteen million reserves, and the enormous expenditure of governments on 
the support and arming of these forces, he says, "These figures represent only a small part of the real 
cost, because besides the recognized expenditure of the war budget of the various nations, we ought also 
to take into account the enormous loss to society involved in withdrawing from it such an immense 
number of its most vigorous men, who are taken from industrial pursuits and every kind of labor, as well 
as the enormous interest on the sums expended on military preparations without any return. The 
inevitable result of this expenditure on war and preparations for war is a continually growing national 
debt. The greater number of loans raised by the governments of Europe were with a view to war. Their 
total sum amounts to four hundred million sterling, and these debts are increasing every year." 

The same Professor Komarovsky says in another place, "We live in troubled times. Everywhere we 
hear complaints of the depression of trade and manufactures, and the wretchedness of the economic 
position generally, the miserable conditions of existence of the working classes, and the universal 
impoverishment of the masses. But in spite of this, governments in their efforts to maintain their 
independence rush to the greatest extremes of senselessness. New taxes and duties are being devised 
everywhere, and the financial oppression of the nations knows no limits. If we glance at the budgets of 

54 



the states of Europe for the last hundred years, what strikes us most of all is their rapid and continually 
growing increase. 

"How can we explain this extraordinary phenomenon, which sooner or later threatens us all with 
inevitable bankruptcy? 

"It is caused beyond dispute by the expenditure for the maintenance of armaments that swallows up 
a third and even a half of all the expenditure of European states. And the most melancholy thing is that 
one can foresee no limit to this augmentation of the budget and impoverishment of the masses. What is 
socialism but a protest against this abnormal position in which the greater proportion of the population 
of our world is placed?" 

"We are ruining ourselves," says Frederick Passy in a letter read before the last Congress of 
Universal Peace (in 1890) in London, "we are ruining ourselves in order to be able to take part in the 
senseless wars of the future or to pay the interest on debts we have incurred by the senseless and 
criminal wars of the past. We are dying of hunger so as to secure the means of killing each other." 

Speaking later on of the way the subject is looked at in France, he says, "We believe that, a hundred 
years after the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the citizen, the time has come to recognize the 
rights of nations and to renounce at once and forever all those undertakings based on fraud and force, 
which, under the name of conquests, are veritable crimes against humanity, and which, whatever the 
vanity of monarchs and the pride of nations may think of them, only weaken even those who are 
triumphant over them." 

"I am surprised at the way religion is carried on in this country," said Sir Wilfrid Lawson at the same 
congress. "You send a boy to Sunday school, and you tell him, 'Dear boy, you must love your enemies. 
If another boy strikes you, you mustn't hit him back, but try to reform him by loving him.' Well. The 
boy stays in the Sunday school until he is fourteen or fifteen, and then his friends send him into the 
army. What has he to do in the army? He certainly won't love his enemy; quite the contrary, if he can 
only get at him, he will run him through with his bayonet. That is the nature of all religious teaching in 
this country. I do not think that that is a very good way of carrying out the precepts of religion. I think 
if it is a good thing for a boy to love his enemy, it is good for a grown-up man." 

"There are in Europe twenty-eight million men under arms," says Wilson, "to decide disputes, not by 
discussion, but by murdering one another. That is the accepted method for deciding disputes among 
Christian nations. This method is, at the same time, very expensive, for, according to the statistics I 
have read, the nations of Europe spent in the year 1872 a hundred and fifty million sterling on 
preparations for deciding disputes by means of murder. It seems to me, therefore, that in such a state of 
things one of two alternatives must be admitted: either Christianity is a failure, or those who have 
undertaken to expound it have failed in doing so. Until our warriors are disarmed and our armies 
disbanded, we have not the right to call ourselves a Christian nation." 

In a conference on the subject of the duty of Christian ministers to preach against war, G. D. Bartlett 
said among other things, "If I understand the Scriptures, I say that men are only playing with 
Christianity so long as they ignore the question of war. I have lived a longish life and have heard our 
ministers preach on universal peace hardly half a dozen times. Twenty years ago, in a drawing room, I 
dared in the presence of forty persons to raise the proposition that war was incompatible with 
Christianity; I was regarded as an arrant fanatic. The idea that we could get on without war was 
regarded as unmitigated weakness and folly." 

The Catholic priest Defourney has expressed himself in the same spirit. "One of the first precepts of 
the eternal law inscribed in the consciences of all men," says the Abbe Defourney, "is the prohibition of 
taking the life or shedding the blood of a fellow-creature without sufficient cause, without being forced 
into the necessity of it. This is one of the commandments that is most deeply stamped in the heart of 
man. But so soon as it is a question of war, that is, of shedding blood in torrents, men of the present day 
do not trouble themselves about a sufficient cause. Those who take part in wars do not even think of 
asking themselves whether there is any justification for these innumerable murders, whether they are 

55 



justifiable or unjustifiable, lawful or unlawful, innocent or criminal, or whether they are breaking that 
fundamental commandment that forbids killing without lawful cause. But their conscience is mute. 
War has ceased to be something dependent on moral considerations. In warfare men have in all the toil 
and dangers they endure no other pleasure than that of being conquerors, no sorrow other than that of 
being conquered. Don't tell me that they are serving their country. A great genius answered that long 
ago in the words that have become a proverb, 'Without justice, what is an empire but a great band of 
brigands?' And is not every band of brigands a little empire? They too have their laws; and they too 
make war to gain booty, and even for honor. 

"The aim of the proposed institution (the institution of an international board of arbitration) is that 
the nations of Europe may cease to be nations of robbers, and their armies, bands of brigands. And one 
must add, not only brigands, but also slaves. For our armies are simply gangs of slaves at the disposal of 
one or two commanders or government ministers, who exercise a despotic control over them without 
any real responsibility, as we very well know. 

"The peculiarity of a slave is that he is a mere tool in the hands of his master, a thing, not a man. 
That is just what soldiers, officers, and generals are, going to murder and be murdered at the will of a 
ruler or rulers. Military slavery is an actual fact, and it is the worst form of slavery, especially now 
when by means of compulsory service it lays its fetters on the necks of all the strong and capable men of 
a nation, to make them instruments of murder, butchers of human flesh, for that is all they are taken and 
trained to do. 

"The rulers, two or three in number, meet together in cabinets, secretly deliberate without registers, 
without publicity, and consequently without responsibility, and send men to be murdered." 

"Protests against armaments, burdensome to the people, have not originated in our times," says 
Signer E. G. Moneta. "Hear what Montesquieu wrote in his day: 'France (and one might say, Europe) 
will be ruined by soldiers. A new plague is spreading throughout Europe. It attacks sovereigns and 
forces them to maintain an incredible number of armed men. This plague is infectious and spreads, 
because at the very moment when one government increases its armament, all the others do likewise. 
Consequently, nothing is gained by it but general ruin. 

'"Every government maintains as great an army as it possibly could maintain if its people were 
threatened with extermination, and people call peace this state of tension of all against all. And 
therefore Europe is so ruined that if private persons were in the position of the governments of our 
continent, the richest of them would not have enough to live on. We are poor though we have the wealth 
and trade of the whole world.' 

"That was written almost 150 years ago. The picture seems drawn from the world of today. One 
thing only has changed - the form of government. In Montesquieu's time it was said that the cause of 
the maintenance of great armaments was the despotic power of kings, who made war in the hope of 
augmenting by conquest their personal revenues and gaining glory. People used to say then, 'Ah, if only 
people could elect those who would have the right to refuse governments the soldiers and the money - 
then there would be an end to military politics.' Now there are representative governments in almost the 
whole of Europe, and in spite of that, war expenditures and the preparations for war have increased to 
alarming proportions. 

"It is evident that the insanity of sovereigns has gained possession of the ruling classes. War is not 
made now because one king has been wanting in civility to the mistress of another king, as it was in 
Louis XIV 's time. But the natural and honorable sentiments of national honor and patriotism are so 
exaggerated, and the public opinion of one nation so excited against another, that it is enough for a 
statement to be made (even though it may be a false report) that the ambassador of one state was not 
received by the principal personage of another state to cause the outbreak of the most awful and 
destructive war there has ever been seen. Europe keeps more soldiers under arms today than in the time 
of the great Napoleonic wars. All citizens with few exceptions are forced to spend some years in 
barracks. Fortresses, arsenals, and ships are built, new weapons are constantly being invented, to be 

56 



replaced in a short time by fresh ones, for, sad to say, science, which ought always to be aiming at the 
good of humanity, assists in the work of destruction, and is constantly inventing new means for killing 
the greatest number of men in the shortest time. And to maintain so great a multitude of soldiers and to 
make such vast preparations for murder, hundreds of millions are spent annually, sums that would be 
sufficient for the education of the people and for immense works of public utility, and that would make 
it possible to find a peaceful solution of the social question. 

"Europe, then, is, in this respect, in spite of all the conquests of science, in the same position as in 
the darkest and most barbarous days of the Middle Ages. All deplore this state of things - neither peace 
nor war - and all would be glad to escape from it. The heads of governments all declare that they all 
wish for peace, and vie with one another in the most solemn protestations of peaceful intentions. But the 
same day or the next they will lay a scheme for the increase of the armament before their legislative 
assembly, saying that these are the preventive measures they take for the very purpose of securing peace. 

"But this is not the kind of peace we want. And the nations are not deceived by it. True peace is 
based on mutual confidence, while these huge armaments show open and utter lack of confidence, if not 
concealed hostility, between states. What should we say of a man who, wanting to show his friendly 
feelings for his neighbor, should invite him to discuss their differences with a loaded revolver in his 
hand? 

"It is just this flagrant contradiction between the peaceful professions and the warlike policy of 
governments that all good citizens desire to put an end to, at any cost." 

People are astonished that every year there are sixty thousand cases of suicide in Europe, and those 
only the recognized and recorded cases - and excluding Russia and Turkey; but one ought rather to be 
surprised that there are so few. Every man of the present day, if we go deep enough into the 
contradiction between his conscience and his life, is in a state of despair. 

Not to speak of all the other contradictions between modern life and the conscience, the permanently 
armed condition 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. 

What! All of us, Christians, not only profess to love one another, but do actually live one common 
life; we whose social existence beats with one common pulse - we aid one another, learn from one 
another, draw ever closer to one another to our mutual happiness, and find in this closeness the whole 
meaning of life! And tomorrow some crazy ruler will say something stupid, and another will answer in 
the same spirit, and then I must go expose myself to being murdered, and murder men - who have done 
me no harm - and more than that, whom I love. And this is not a remote contingency, but the very thing 
we are all preparing for, which is not only probable, but also an inevitable certainty. 

To recognize this clearly is enough to drive a man out of his senses or to make him shoot himself. 
And this is just what does happen, and especially often among military men. A man need only come to 
himself for an instant to be impelled inevitably to such an end. 

And this is the only explanation of the dreadful intensity with which men of modern times strive to 
stupefy themselves, with spirits, tobacco, opium, cards, reading newspapers, traveling, and all kinds of 
spectacles and amusements. These pursuits are followed up as an important, serious business. And 
indeed they are a serious business. If there were no external means of dulling their sensibilities, half of 
mankind would shoot themselves without delay, for to live in opposition to one's reason is the most 
intolerable condition. And that is the condition of all men of the present day. All men of the modern 
world exist in a state of continual and flagrant antagonism between their conscience and their way of 
life. This antagonism is apparent in economic as well as political life. But most striking of all is the 
contradiction between the Christian law of the brotherhood of men existing in the conscience and the 
necessity under which all men are placed by compulsory military service of being prepared for hatred 
and murder - of being at the same time a Christian and a gladiator. 

3/ 



CHAPTER 6 

ATTITUDE OF MEN OF THE PRESENT DAY TO WAR 

People do not Try to Remove the Contradiction between Life and Conscience by a Change of Life, but their Cultivated 
Leaders Exert Every Effort to Obscure the Demands of Conscience, and Justify their Life; in this Way they Degrade Society 
below Paganism to a State of Primeval Barbarism - Undefined Attitude of Modern Leaders of Thought to War, to Universal 
Militarism, and to Compulsory Service in Army - One Section Regards War as an Accidental Political Phenomenon, to be 
Avoided by External Measures only - Peace Congress - The Article in the Revue des Revues - Proposition of Maxime du 
Camp - Value of Boards of Arbitration and Suppression of Armies - Attitude of Governments to Men of this Opinion and 
What they Do - Another Section Regards War as Cruel, but Inevitable - Maupassant - Rod - A Third Section Regard War as 
Necessary, and not without its Advantages - Doucet - Claretie - Zola - Vogue. 



The antagonism between life and the conscience may be removed in two ways: by a change of life 
or by a change of conscience. And there would seem there can be no doubt as to these alternatives. 

A man may cease to do what he regards as wrong, but he cannot cease to consider wrong what is 
wrong. Just in the same way all humanity may cease to do what it regards as wrong, but far from being 
able to change, it cannot even retard for a time the continual growth of a clearer recognition of what is 
wrong and therefore ought not to be. And therefore it would seem inevitable for Christian men to 
abandon the pagan forms of society that they condemn, and to reconstruct their social existence on the 
Christian principles they profess. 

So it would be were it not for the law of inertia, as immutable a force in men and nations as in 
inanimate bodies. In men it takes the form of the psychological principle, so truly expressed in the 
words of the Gospel, "They have loved darkness better than light because their deeds were evil." This 
principle shows itself in men not trying to recognize the truth, but to persuade themselves that the life 
they are leading, which is what they like and are used to, is a life perfectly consistent with truth. 

Slavery was opposed to all the moral principles advocated by Plato and Aristotle, yet neither of them 
saw that, because to renounce slavery would have meant the break up of the life they were living. We 
see the same thing in our modern world. 

The division of men into two castes and the use of force in government and war are opposed to every 
moral principle professed by our modern society. Yet the cultivated and advanced men of the day seem 
not to see it. 

The majority, if not all, of the cultivated men of our day try unconsciously to maintain the old social 
conception of life, which justifies their position, and to hide from themselves and others its 
insufficiency, and above all the necessity of adopting the Christian conception of life, which will mean 
the break up of the whole existing social order. They struggle to keep up the organization based on the 
social conception of life, but do not believe in it themselves, because it is extinct and it is impossible to 
believe in it. 

All modern literature - philosophical, political, and artistic - is striking in this respect. What wealth 
of idea, of form, of color, what erudition, what art, but what a lack of serious matter, what dread of any 
exactitude of thought or expression! Subtleties, allegories, humorous fancies, the widest generalizations, 
but nothing simple and clear, nothing going straight to the point, that is, to the problem of life. 

But that is not all; besides these graceful frivolities, our literature is full of simple nastiness and 
brutality, of arguments that would lead men back in the most refined way to primeval barbarism, to the 
principles not only of the pagan, but even of the animal life, which we have left behind us five thousand 
years ago. 

And it could not be otherwise. In their dread of the Christian conception of life that will destroy the 
social order, which some cling to only from habit, others also from interest, men must be thrown back 

58 



upon the pagan conception of life and the principles based on it. Nowadays we see advocated not only 
patriotism and aristocratic principles just as they were advocated two thousand years ago, but even the 
coarsest Epicureanism and Animalism, only with this difference, that the men who then professed those 
views believed in them, while nowadays even the advocates of such views do not believe in them, for 
they have no meaning for the present day. No one can stand still when the earth is shaking under his 
feet. If we do not go forward we must go back. And strange and terrible to say, the cultivated men of 
our day, the leaders of thought, are in reality with their subtle reasoning drawing society back, not to 
paganism even, but to a state of primitive barbarism. 

This tendency on the part of the leading thinkers of the day is nowhere more apparent than in their 
attitude to the phenomenon in which all the insufficiency of the social conception of life is presented in 
the most concentrated form - in their attitude, that is, to war, to the general arming of nations, and to 
universal compulsory service. 

The undefined, if not disingenuous, attitude of modern thinkers to this phenomenon is striking. It 
takes three forms in cultivated society. One section look at it as an incidental phenomenon, arising out 
of the special political situation of Europe, and consider that this state of things can be reformed without 
a revolution in the whole internal social order of nations, by external measures of international 
diplomacy. Another section regard it as something cruel and hideous, but at the same time fated and 
inevitable, like disease and death. A third party with cool indifference considers war as an inevitable 
phenomenon, beneficial in its effects and therefore desirable. 

Men look at the subject from different points of view, but all alike talk of war as though it were 
something absolutely independent of the will of those who take part in it. And consequently they do not 
even admit the natural question that presents itself to every simple man, "How about me - ought I to 
take any part in it?" In their view no question of this kind even exists, and every man, however he may 
regard war from a personal standpoint, must slavishly submit to the requirements of the authorities on 
the subject. 

The attitude of the first section of thinkers, those who see a way out of war in international 
diplomatic measures, is well expressed in the report of the last Peace Congress in London, and the 
articles and letters upon war that appeared in No. 8 of the Revue des Revues, 1891. The congress after 
gathering together from various quarters the verbal and written opinion of learned men opened the 
proceedings by a religious service, and after listening to, addresses for five whole days, concluded them 
by a public dinner and speeches. They adopted the following resolutions: 

"1. The congress affirms its belief that the brotherhood of man involves as a necessary 
consequence a brotherhood of nations. 

"2. The congress recognizes the important influence that Christianity exercises on the moral and 
political progress of mankind, and earnestly urges upon ministers of the Gospel and other religious 
teachers the duty of setting forth the principles of peace and good will toward men. And it recommends 
that the third Sunday in December be set apart for that purpose. 

"3. The congress expresses the opinion that all teachers of history should call the attention of the 
young to the grave evils inflicted on mankind in all ages by war, and to the fact that such war has been 
waged for most inadequate causes. 

"4. The congress protests against the use of military drill in schools by way of physical exercise, 
and suggests the formation of brigades for saving life rather than of a quasi-military character; and urges 
the desirability of impressing on the Board of Examiners who formulate the questions for examination 
the propriety of guiding the minds of children in the principles of peace. 

"5. The congress holds that the doctrine of the Rights of Man requires that the aboriginal and 
weaker races, their territories and liberties, shall be guarded from injustice and fraud, and that these 
races shall be shielded against the vices so prevalent among the so-called advanced races of men. It 
further expresses its conviction that there should be concert of action among the nations for the 
accomplishment of these ends. The congress expresses its hearty appreciation of the resolutions of the 

59 



Anti-slavery Conference held recently at Brussels for the amelioration of the condition of the peoples of 
Africa. 

"6. The congress believes that the warlike prejudices and traditions that are still fostered in the 
various nationalities, and the misrepresentations by leaders of public opinion in legislative assemblies or 
through the press, are often indirect causes of war, and that these evils should be counteracted by the 
publication of accurate information tending to the removal of misunderstanding between nations, and 
recommends the importance of considering the question of commencing an international newspaper with 
such a purpose. 

"7. The congress proposes to the Inter-parliamentary Conference that the utmost support should be 
given to every project for unification of weights and measures, coinage, tariff, postage, and telegraphic 
arrangements, etc., which would assist in constituting a commercial, industrial, and scientific union of 
the peoples. 

"8. The congress, in view of the vast social and moral influence of woman, urges upon every 
woman to sustain the things that make for peace, as otherwise she incurs grave responsibility for the 
continuance of the systems of militarism. 

"9 The congress expresses the hope that the Financial Reform Association and other similar 
societies in Europe and America should unite in considering means for establishing equitable 
commercial relations between states, by the reduction of import duties. The congress feels that it can 
affirm that the whole of Europe desires peace, and awaits with impatience the suppression of 
armaments, which, under the plea of defense, become in their turn a danger by keeping alive mutual 
distrust, and are, at the same time, the cause of that general economic disturbance that stands in the way 
of settling in a satisfactory manner the problems of labor and poverty, which ought to take precedence of 
all others. 

"10. The congress, recognizing that a general disarmament would be the best guarantee of peace 
and would lead to the solution of the questions that now most divide states, expresses the wish that a 
congress of representatives of all the states of Europe may be assembled as soon as possible to consider 
the means of effecting a gradual general disarmament. 

"11. The congress, in consideration of the fact that the timidity of a single power might delay the 
convocation of the above-mentioned congress, is of opinion that the government that should first dismiss 
any considerable number of soldiers would confer a signal benefit on Europe and mankind, because it 
would, by public opinion, oblige other governments to follow its example, and by the moral force of this 
accomplished fact would have increased rather than diminished the conditions of its national defense. 

"12. The congress, considering the question of disarmament, as of peace in general, depends on 
public opinion, recommends the peace societies, as well as all friends of peace, to be active in its 
propaganda, especially at the time of parliamentary elections, in order that the electors should give their 
votes to candidates who are pledged to support Peace, Disarmament, and Arbitration. 

"13. The congress congratulates the friends of peace on the resolution adopted by the International 
American Conference, held at Washington in April last, by which it was recommended that arbitration 
should be obligatory in all controversies, whatever their origin, except only those which may imperil the 
independence of one of the nations involved. 

"14. The congress recommends this resolution to the attention of European statesmen, and expresses 
the ardent desire that similar treaties may speedily be entered into between the other nations of the 
world. 

"15. The congress expresses its satisfaction at the adoption by the Spanish Senate on June 16 last of 
a project of law authorizing the government to negotiate general or special treaties of arbitration for the 
settlement of all disputes except those relating to the independence or internal government of the states 
affected; also at the adoption of resolutions to a like effect by the Norwegian Storthing and by the Italian 
Chamber. 

60 



"16. The congress resolves that a committee be appointed to address communications to the 
principal political, religious, commercial, and labor and peace organizations, requesting them to send 
petitions to the governmental authorities praying that measures be taken for the formation of suitable 
tribunals for the adjudication of international questions so as to avoid the resort to war. 

"17. Seeing (1) that the object pursued by all peace societies is the establishment of judicial order 
between nations, and (2) that neutralization by international treaties constitutes a step toward this 
judicial state and lessens the number of districts in which war can be carried on, the congress 
recommends a larger extension of the rule of neutralization, and expresses the wish, (1) that all treaties 
that at present assure to certain states the benefit of neutrality remain in force, or if necessary be 
amended in a manner to render the neutrality more effective, either by extending neutralization to the 
whole of the state or by ordering the demolition of fortresses, which constitute rather a peril than a 
guarantee for neutrality; (2) that new treaties in harmony with the wishes of the populations concerned 
be concluded for establishing the neutralization of other states. 

"18. The sub-committee proposes, (1) that the annual Peace Congress should be held either 
immediately before the meeting of the annual Sub-parliamentary Conference, or immediately after it in 
the same town; (2) that the question of an international peace emblem be postponed sine die; (3) that the 
following resolutions be adopted: 

"a. To express satisfaction at the official overtures of the Presbyterian Church in the United States 
addressed to the highest representatives of each church organization in Christendom to unite in a general 
conference to promote the substitution of international arbitration for war. 

"b. To express in the name of the congress its profound reverence for the memory of Aurelio Saffi, 
the great Italian jurist, a member of the committee of the International League of Peace and Liberty. 

"(4) That the memorial adopted by this congress and signed by the president to the heads of the 
civilized states should, as far as practicable, be presented to each power by influential deputations. 

"(5) That the following resolutions are to be adopted: 

"a. A resolution of thanks to the presidents of the various sittings of the congress. 

"&. A resolution of thanks to the chairman, the secretaries, and the members of the bureau of the 
congress. 

"c. A resolution of thanks to the conveners and members of the sectional committees. 

"<i. A resolution of thanks to Rev. Canon Scott Holland, Rev. Dr. Reuen Thomas, and Rev. J. 
Morgan Gibbon for their pulpit addresses before the congress, and also to the authorities of St. Paul's 
Cathedral, the City Temple, and Stamford Hill Congregational Church for the use of those buildings for 
public services. 

"e. A letter of thanks to her Majesty for permission to visit Windsor Castle. 

"/ And also a resolution of thanks to the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, to Mr. Passmore 
Edwards, and other friends who have extended their hospitality to the members of the congress. 

"19. The congress places on record a heartfelt expression of gratitude to Almighty God for the 
remarkable harmony and concord that have characterized the meetings of the assembly, in which so 
many men and women of varied nations, creeds, tongues, and races have gathered in closest co- 
operation, and for the conclusion of the labors of the congress; and expresses its firm and unshaken 
belief in the ultimate triumph of the cause of peace and of the principles advocated at these meetings." 

The fundamental idea of the congress is the necessity (1) of diffusing among all people by all means 
the conviction of the disadvantages of war and the great blessing of peace, and (2) of rousing 
governments to the sense of the superiority of international arbitration over war and of the consequent 
advisability and necessity of disarmament. To attain the first aim the congress has recourse to teachers 
of history, to women, and to the clergy, with the advice to the latter to preach on the evil of war and the 
blessing of peace every third Sunday in December. To attain the second object the congress appeals to 
governments with the suggestion that they should disband their armies and replace war by arbitration. 

61 



They propose to preach to men of the evil of war and the blessing of peace! But the blessing of 
peace is so well known to men that, ever since there have been men at all, their best wish has been 
expressed in the greeting, "Peace be with you." So why preach about it? 

Not only Christians, but also pagans, thousands of years ago, all recognized the evil of war and the 
blessing of peace. Consequently, the recommendation to ministers of the Gospel to preach on the evil of 
war and the blessing of peace every third Sunday in December is quite superfluous. 

The Christian must preach on that subject every day of his life. If Christians and preachers of 
Christianity do not do so, there must be reasons for it. And until these have been removed no 
recommendations will be effective. Still less effective will be the recommendations to governments to 
disband their armies and replace them by international boards of arbitration. Governments, too, know 
very well the difficulty and the burdensomeness of raising and maintaining forces, and if in spite of that 
knowledge they do, at the cost of terrible strain and effort, raise and maintain forces, it is evident that 
they cannot do otherwise, and the recommendation of the congress can never change it. But the learned 
gentlemen are unwilling to see that, and keep hoping to find a political combination, through which 
governments shall be induced to limit their powers themselves. 

"Can we get rid of war?" asks a learned writer in the Revue des Revues. "All are agreed that if it 
were to break out in Europe, its consequences would be like those of the great inroads of barbarians. 
The existence of whole nationalities would be at stake, and therefore the war would be desperate, 
bloody, and atrocious. 

"This consideration, together with the terrible engines of destruction invented by modern science, 
retards the moment of declaring war, and maintains the present temporary situation, which might 
continue for an indefinite period, except for the fearful cost of maintaining armaments that are 
exhausting the European states and threatening to reduce nations to a state of misery hardly less than 
that of war itself. 

"Struck by this reflection, men of various countries have tried to find means for preventing, or at 
least for softening, the results of the terrible slaughter with which we are threatened. 

"Such are the questions brought forward by the Peace Congress shortly to be held in Rome, and the 
publication of a pamphlet, Sur le Desarmement. 

"It is unhappily beyond doubt that with the present organization of the majority of European states, 
isolated from one another and guided by distinct interests, the absolute suppression of war is an illusion 
with which it would be dangerous to cheat ourselves. Wiser rules and regulations imposed on these 
duels between nations might, however, at least limit its horrors. 

"It is equally chimerical to reckon on projects of disarmament, the execution of which is rendered 
almost impossible by considerations of a popular character present to the mind of all our readers. (This 
probably means that France cannot disband its army before taking its revenge.) Public opinion is not 
prepared to accept them, and moreover, the international relations between different peoples are not such 
as to make their acceptance possible. Disarmament imposed on one nation by another in circumstances 
threatening its security would be equivalent to a declaration of war. 

"However, one may admit that an exchange of ideas between the nations interested could aid, to a 
certain degree, in bringing about the good understanding indispensable to any negotiations, and would 
render possible a considerable reduction of the military expenditure that is crushing the nations of 
Europe and greatly hindering the solution of the social question, which each individually must solve on 
pain of having internal war as the price for escaping it externally. 

"We might at least demand the reduction of the enormous expenses of war organized as it is at 
present with a view to the power of invasion within twenty-four hours and a decisive battle within a 
week of the declaration of war. 

"We ought to manage so that states could not make the attack suddenly and invade each other's 
territories within twenty-four hours." 

This practical notion has been put forth by Maxime du Camp, and his article concludes with it. 

62 



The propositions of M. du Camp are as follows: 

1 . A diplomatic congress to be held every year. 

2. No war to be declared until two months after the incident that provoked it. (The difficulty here 
would be to decide precisely what incident did provoke the war, since whenever war is declared there 
are very many such incidents, and one would have to decide from which to reckon the two month 
interval.) 

3. No war to be declared before it has been submitted to a plebiscite of the nations preparing to take 
part in it. 

4. No hostilities to be commenced until a month after the official declaration of war. 

"No war to be declared. No hostilities to be commenced," etc. But who is to arrange that no war is 
to be declared? Who is to compel people to do this and that? Who is to force states to delay their 
operations for a certain fixed time? All the other states. But all these others are also states that want 
holding in check and keeping within limits, and forcing, too. Who is to force them, and how? Public 
opinion. But if there is a public opinion that can force governments to delay their operations for a fixed 
period, the same public opinion can force governments not to declare war at all. 

But, it will be replied, there may be such a balance of power, such a ponderation deforces, as would 
lead states to hold back of their own accord. Well, that has been tried and is being tried even now. The 
Holy Alliance was nothing but that; the League of Peace was another attempt at the same thing, and so 
on. 

But, it will be answered, suppose all were agreed. If all were agreed there would be no more war 
certainly, and no need for arbitration either. 

"A court of arbitration! Arbitration shall replace war. Questions shall be decided by a court of 
arbitration. The Alabama question was decided by a court of arbitration, and the question of the 
Caroline Islands was submitted to the decision of the Pope. Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, and 
Holland have all declared that they prefer arbitration to war." 

I dare say Monaco has expressed the same preference. The only unfortunate thing is that Germany, 
Russia, Austria, and France have not so far shown the same inclination. It is amazing how men can 
deceive themselves when they find it necessary! Governments consent to decide their disagreements by 
arbitration and to disband their armies! The differences between Russia and Poland, between England 
and Ireland, between Austria and Bohemia, between Turkey and the Slavonic states, between France and 
Germany, to be soothed away by amiable conciliation! 

One might as well suggest to merchants and bankers that they should sell nothing for a greater price 
than they gave for it, should undertake the distribution of wealth for no profit, and should abolish 
money, as it would thus be rendered unnecessary. 

But since commercial and banking operations consist in nothing but selling for more than the cost 
price, this would be equivalent to an invitation to suppress themselves. It is the same in regard to 
governments. To suggest to governments that they should not have recourse to violence, but should 
decide their misunderstandings in accordance with equity, is inviting them to abolish themselves as 
rulers, and no government can ever consent to do that. 

The learned men form societies (there are more than a hundred such societies), assemble in 
congresses (such as those recently held in London and Paris, and shortly to be held in Rome), deliver 
addresses, eat public dinners and make speeches, publish journals, and prove by every means possible 
that the nations forced to support millions of troops are strained to the furthest limits of their endurance, 
that the maintenance of these huge armed forces is in opposition to all the aims, the interests, and the 
wishes of the people, and that it is possible, moreover, by writing numerous papers, and uttering a great 
many words, to bring all men into agreement and to arrange so that they shall have no antagonistic 
interests, and then there will be no more war. 



63 



When I was a little boy they told me if I wanted to catch a bird I must put salt on its tail. I ran after 
the birds with the salt in my hand, but I soon convinced myself that if I could put salt on a bird's tail, I 
could catch it, and realized that I had been hoaxed. 

People ought to realize the same fact when they read books and articles on arbitration and 
disarmament. 

If one could put salt on a bird's tail, it would be because it could not fly and there would be no 
difficulty in catching it. If the bird had wings and did not want to be caught, it would not let one put salt 
on its tail, because the specialty of a bird is to fly. In precisely the same way the specialty of 
government is not to obey, but to enforce obedience. And a government is only a government so long as 
it can make itself be obeyed, and therefore it always strives for that and will never willingly abandon its 
power. But since it is on the army that the power of government rests, it will never give up the army, 
and the use of the army in war. 

The error arises from the learned jurists deceiving themselves and others, by asserting that 
government is not what it really is, one set of men banded together to oppress another set of men, but, as 
shown by science, is the representation of the citizens in their collective capacity. They have so long 
been persuading other people of this that at last they have persuaded themselves of it; and thus they 
often seriously suppose that government can be bound by considerations of justice. But history shows 
that from Caesar to Napoleon, and from Napoleon to Bismarck, government is in its essence always a 
force acting in violation of justice, and that it cannot be otherwise. Justice can have no binding force on 
a ruler or rulers who keep men deluded and drilled in readiness for acts of violence - soldiers, and by 
means of them control others. And so governments can never be brought to consent to diminish the 
number of these drilled slaves, who constitute their whole power and importance. 

Such is the attitude of certain learned men to the contradiction under which our society is being 
crushed, and such are their methods of solving it. Tell these people that the whole matter rests on the 
personal attitude of each man to the moral and religious question put nowadays to everyone, the 
question, that is, whether it is lawful or unlawful for him to take his share of military service, and these 
learned gentlemen will shrug their shoulders and not condescend to listen or to answer you. The 
solution of the question in their idea is to be found in reading addresses, writing books, electing 
presidents, vice-presidents, and secretaries, and meeting and speaking first in one town and then in 
another. From all this speechmaking and writing it will come to pass, according to their notions, that 
governments will cease to levy the soldiers, on whom their whole strength depends, will listen to their 
discourses, and will disband their forces, leaving themselves without any defense, not only against their 
neighbors, but also against their own subjects. As though a band of brigands, who have some unarmed 
travelers bound and ready to be plundered, should be so touched by their complaints of the pain caused 
by the cords they are fastened with as to let them go again. 

Still there are people who believe in this, busy themselves over peace congresses, read addresses, 
and write books. And governments, we may be quite sure, express their sympathy and make a show of 
encouraging them. In the same way they 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. 

To be able to do this they have long ago elaborated methods encouraging temperance, which cannot 
suppress drunkenness; methods of supporting education, which not only fail to prevent ignorance, but 
even increase it; methods of aiming at freedom and constitutionalism, which are no hindrance to 
despotism; methods of protecting the working classes, which will not free them from slavery; and a 
Christianity, too, they have elaborated, which does not destroy, but supports governments. 

64 



Now there is something more for the government to encourage - peace. The sovereigns, who 
nowadays take counsel with their government ministers, decide by their will alone whether the butchery 
of millions is to be begun this year or next. They know very well that all these discourses upon peace 
will not hinder them from sending millions of men to butchery when it seems good to them. They listen 
even with satisfaction to these discourses, encourage them, and take part in them. 

All this, far from being detrimental, is even of service to governments, by turning people's attention 
from the most important and pressing question: Ought or ought not each man called upon for military 
service to submit to serve in the army? 

"Peace will soon be arranged, thanks to alliances and congresses, to books and pamphlets; meantime 
go and put on your uniform, and prepare to cause suffering and to endure it for our benefit," is the 
government's line of argument. And the learned gentlemen who get up congresses and write articles are 
in perfect agreement with it. 

This is the attitude of one set of thinkers. And since it is that which is most beneficial to 
governments, it is also the most encouraged by all intelligent governments. 

Another attitude to war has something tragic in it. There are men who maintain that the love for 
peace and the inevitability of war form a hideous contradiction, and that such is the fate of man. These 
are mostly gifted and sensitive men, who see and realize all the horror and imbecility and cruelty of war, 
but through some strange perversion of mind neither see nor seek to find any way out of this position, 
and seem to take pleasure in teasing the wound by dwelling on the desperate position of humanity. A 
notable example of such an attitude to war is to be found in the celebrated French writer Guy de 
Maupassant. Looking from his yacht at the drill and firing practice of the French soldiers the following 
reflections occur to him: 

"When I think only of this word war, a kind of terror seizes upon me, as though I were listening to 
some tale of sorcery, of the Inquisition, some long past, remote abomination, monstrous, unnatural. 

"When cannibalism is spoken of, we smile with, pride, proclaiming our superiority to these savages. 
Who are the savages, the real savages: those who fight to eat the conquered, or those who fight to kill - 
for nothing but to kill? 

"The young recruits, moving about in lines yonder, are destined to death like the flocks of sheep 
driven by the butcher along the road. They will fall in some plain with a saber cut in the head, or a 
bullet through the breast. And these are young men who might work, be productive and useful. Their 
fathers are old and poor. Their mothers, who have loved them for twenty years, worshiped them as none 
but mothers can, will learn in six months' time, or a year perhaps, that their son, their boy, the big boy 
reared with so much labor, so much expense, so much love, has been thrown in a hole like some dead 
dog, after being disemboweled by a bullet, and trampled, crushed, to a mass of pulp by the charges of 
cavalry. Why have they killed her boy, her handsome boy, her one hope, her pride, and her life? She 
does not know. Ah, why? 

"War! Fighting! Slaughter! Massacres of men! And we have now, in our century, with our 
civilization, with the spread of science, and the degree of philosophy that the genius of man is supposed 
to have attained, schools for training to kill, to kill very far off, to perfection, great numbers at once, to 
kill poor devils of innocent men with families and without any kind of trial. 

"And what is most bewildering is that the people do not rise against their governments. For what 
difference is there between monarchies and republics? The most bewildering thing is that the whole of 
society is not in revolt at the word war." 

"Ah! We shall always live under the burden of the ancient and odious customs, the criminal 
prejudices, the ferocious ideas of our barbarous ancestors, for we are beasts, and beasts we shall remain, 
dominated by instinct and changed by nothing. Wouldn't any other man than Victor Hugo have been 
exiled for that mighty cry of deliverance and truth? Today force is called violence, and is being brought 
to judgment; war has been put on its trial. At the plea of the human race, civilization arraigns warfare, 
and draws up the great list of crimes laid at the charge of conquerors and generals. The nations are 

65 



coming to understand that the magnitude of a crime cannot be its extenuation; that if killing is a crime, 
killing many can be no extenuating circumstance; that if robbery is disgraceful, invasion cannot be 
glorious. Ah! Let us proclaim these absolute truths; let us dishonor war!' 

"Vain wrath," continues Maupassant, "a poet's indignation. War is held in more veneration than 
ever. 

"A skilled proficient in that line, a slaughterer of genius, Von Moltke, in reply to the peace 
delegates, once uttered these strange words: 

'"War is holy, war is ordained of God. It is one of the most sacred laws of the world. It maintains 
among men all the great and noble sentiments - honor, devotion, virtue, and courage, and saves them in 
short from falling into the most hideous materialism.' 

"So, then, bringing millions of men together into herds, marching by day and by night without rest, 
thinking of nothing, studying nothing, learning nothing, reading nothing, being useful to no one, 
wallowing in filth, sleeping in mud, living like brutes in a continual state of stupefaction, sacking towns, 
burning villages, ruining whole populations, then meeting another mass of human flesh, falling upon 
them, making pools of blood, and plains of flesh mixed with trodden mire and red with heaps of corpses, 
having your arms or legs carried off, your brains blown out for no advantage to anyone, and dying in 
some corner of a field while your old parents, your wife and children are perishing of hunger - that is 
what is meant by not falling into the most hideous materialism! 

"Warriors are the scourge of the world. We struggle against nature, ignorance, and obstacles of all 
kinds to make our wretched life less hard. Learned men - benefactors of all - spend their lives in 
working, in seeking what can aid, what be of use, what can alleviate the lot of their fellows. They 
devote themselves unsparingly to their task of usefulness, making one discovery after another, enlarging 
the sphere of human intelligence, extending the bounds of science, adding each day some new store to 
the sum of knowledge, gaining each day prosperity, ease, strength for their country. 

"War breaks out. In six months the generals have destroyed the work of twenty years of effort, of 
patience, and of genius. 

"That is what is meant by not falling into the most hideous materialism. 

"We have seen it, war. We have seen men turned to brutes, frenzied, killing for fun, for terror, for 
bravado, for ostentation. Then when right is no more, law is dead, every notion of justice has 
disappeared. We have seen men shoot innocent creatures found on the road, and suspected because they 
were afraid. We have seen them kill dogs chained at their masters' doors to try their new revolvers. We 
have seen them fire on cows lying in a field for no reason whatever, simply for the sake of shooting, for 
a joke. 

"That is what is meant by not falling into the most hideous materialism. 

"We have seen going into a country, cutting the man's throat who defends his house because he 
wears a blouse and has not a military cap on his head, burning the dwellings of wretched beings who 
have nothing to eat, breaking furniture and stealing goods, drinking the wine found in the cellars, 
violating the women in the streets, burning thousands of francs' worth of powder, and leaving misery 
and cholera in one's track. 

"That is what is meant by not falling into the most hideous materialism. 

"What have they done, those warriors, that proves the least intelligence? Nothing. What have they 
invented? Cannons and muskets. That is all. 

"What remains to us from Greece? Books and statues. Is Greece great from her conquests or her 
creations? 

"Was it the invasions of the Persians that saved Greece from falling into the most hideous 
materialism? 

"Were the invasions of the barbarians what saved and regenerated Rome? 

"Was it Napoleon I who carried forward the great intellectual movement started by the philosophers 
of the end of last century? 

66 



"Yes, indeed, since government assumes the right of annihilating peoples thus, there is nothing 
surprising in the fact that the peoples assume the right of annihilating governments. 

"They defend themselves. They are right. No one has an absolute right to govern others. It ought 
only to be done for the benefit of those who are governed. And it is as much the duty of anyone who 
governs to avoid war, as it is the duty of a captain of a ship to avoid shipwreck. 

"When a captain has let his ship come to ruin, he is judged and condemned, if he is found guilty of 
negligence or even incapacity. 

"Why shouldn't the government be put on its trial after every declaration of war? If the people 
understood that, if they themselves passed judgment on murderous governments, if they refused to let 
themselves be killed for nothing, if they would only turn their arms against those who have given them to 
them for massacre, on that day war would be no more. But that day will never come.'" 

The author sees all the horror of war. He sees that it is caused by governments forcing men by 
deception to go out to slaughter and be slain without any advantage to themselves. And he sees, too, 
that the men who make up the armies could turn their arms against the governments and bring them to 
judgment. But he thinks that that will never come to pass, and that there is, therefore, no escape from 
the present position. "I think war is terrible, but that it is inevitable; that compulsory military service is 
as inevitable as death, and that since government will always desire it, war will always exist." 

So writes this talented and sincere writer, who is endowed with that power of penetrating to the 
innermost core of the subjects that is the essence of the poetic faculty. He brings before us all the 
cruelty of the inconsistency between men's moral sense and their actions, but without trying to remove 
it; seems to admit that this inconsistency must exist and that it is the poetic tragedy of life. 

Another no less gifted writer, Edouard Rod, paints in still more vivid colors the cruelty and madness 
of the present state of things. He too only aims at presenting its tragic features, without suggesting or 
foreseeing any issue from the position. 

"What is the good of doing anything? What is the good of undertaking any enterprise? And how are 
we to love men in these troubled times when every fresh day is a menace of danger?... All we have 
begun, the plans we are developing, our schemes of work, the little good we may have been able to do, 
will it not all be swept away by the tempest that is in preparation?... Everywhere the earth is shaking 
under our feet and storm-clouds are gathering on our horizon that will have no pity on us. 

"Ah! If all we had to dread were the revolution that is held up as a specter to terrify us! Since I 
cannot imagine a society more detestable than ours, I feel more skeptical than alarmed in regard to that 
which will replace it. If I should have to suffer from the change, I should be consoled by thinking that 
the executioners of that day were the victims of the previous time, and the hope of something better 
would help us to endure the worst. But it is not that remote peril that frightens me. I see another danger, 
nearer and far more cruel - more cruel because there is no excuse for it, because it is absurd, because it 
can lead to no good. Every day one balances the chances of war on tomorrow, every day they become 
more merciless. 

"The imagination revolts before the catastrophe that is coming at the end of our century as the goal 
of the progress of our era, and yet we must get used to facing it. For twenty years past every resource of 
science has been exhausted in the invention of engines of destruction, and soon a few charges of cannon 
will suffice to annihilate a whole army. No longer are a few thousand poor devils paid a price for their 
blood and kept under arms, but whole nations are under arms to cut each other's throats. They are 
robbed of their time now (by compulsory service) that they may be robbed of their lives later. To 
prepare them for the work of massacre, their hatred is kindled by persuading them that they are hated. 
And peaceable men let themselves be played on thus and go and fall on one another with the ferocity of 
wild beasts; furious troops of peaceful citizens taking up arms at an empty word of command, for some 
ridiculous question of frontiers or colonial trade interests - Heaven only knows what... They will go like 



10 Surl'Eau, pp. 71-80. 



67 



sheep to the slaughter, knowing all the while where they are going, knowing that they are leaving their 
wives, knowing that their children will want for food, full of misgivings, yet intoxicated by the fine- 
sounding lies that are dinned into their ears. They will march without revolt, passive, resigned - though 
the numbers and the strength are theirs, and they might, if they knew how to co-operate together, 
establish the reign of good sense and fraternity, instead of the barbarous trickery of diplomacy. They 
will march to battle so deluded, so duped, that they will believe slaughter to be a duty, and will ask the 
benediction of God on their lust for blood. They will march to battle trampling underfoot the harvests 
they have sown, burning the towns they have built - with songs of triumph, festive music, and cries of 
jubilation. And their sons will raise statues to those who have done most in their slaughter. 

"The destiny of a whole generation depends on the hour in which some ill-fated politician may give 
the signal that will be followed. We know that the best of us will be cut down and our work will be 
destroyed in embryo. We know it and tremble with rage, but we can do nothing. We are held fast in the 
toils of officialdom and red tape, and too rude a shock would be needed to set us free. We are enslaved 
by the laws we set up for our protection, which have become our oppression. We are but the tools of 
that autocratic abstraction the state, which enslaves each individual in the name of the will of all, who 
would all, taken individually, desire exactly the opposite of what they will be made to do. 

"And if it were only a generation that must be sacrificed! But there are graver interests at stake. 

"The paid politicians, the ambitious statesmen, who exploit the evil passions of the populace, and the 
imbeciles who are deluded by fine-sounding phrases, have so embittered national feuds that the 
existence of a whole race will be at stake in the war of tomorrow. One of the elements that constitute 
the modern world is threatened, the conquered people will be wiped out of existence, and whichever it 
may be, we shall see a moral force annihilated, as if there were too many forces to work for good - we 
shall have a new Europe formed on foundations so unjust, so brutal, so sanguinary, stained with so 
monstrous a crime, that it must be worse than the Europe of today - more iniquitous, more barbarous, 
more violent. 

"Thus one feels crushed under the weight of an immense discouragement. We are struggling in a cul 
de sac with muskets aimed at us from the housetops. Our labor is like that of sailors executing their last 
task as the ship begins to sink. Our pleasures are those of the condemned victim, who is offered his 
choice of dainties a quarter of an hour before his execution. Thought is paralyzed by anguish, and the 
most it is capable of is to calculate - interpreting the vague phrases of government ministers, spelling 
out the sense of the speeches of sovereigns, and ruminating on the words attributed to diplomatists 
reported on the uncertain authority of the newspapers - whether it is to be tomorrow or the day after, this 
year or the next, that we are to be murdered. Consequently, one might seek in vain in history for an 
epoch more insecure and more crushed under the weight of suffering." 

Here it is pointed out that the force is in the hands of those who work their own destruction, in the 
hands of the individual men who make up the masses; it is pointed out that the source of the evil is the 
government. It would seem evident that the contradiction between life and conscience had reached the 
limit beyond which it cannot go, and after reaching this limit some solution of it must be found. 

But the author does not think so. He sees in this the tragedy of human life, and after depicting all the 
horror of the position he concludes that human life must be spent in the midst of this horror. 

So much for the attitude to war of those who regard it as something tragic and fated by destiny. 

The third category consists of men who have lost all conscience and, consequently, all common 
sense and feeling of humanity. 

To this category belongs Moltke, whose opinion has been quoted above by Maupassant, and the 
majority of military men, who have been educated in this cruel superstition, live by it, and consequently 
are often in all simplicity convinced that war is not only an inevitable, but even a necessary and 
beneficial thing. This is also the view of some civilians, so-called educated and cultivated people. 



11 Le Sens de la Vie, pp. 208-13. 



68 



Here is what the celebrated academician Camille Doucet writes in reply to the editor of the Revue 
des Revues, where several letters on war were published together: 

"Dear Sir: 

"When you ask the least warlike of academicians whether he is a partisan of war, his answer is 
known beforehand. 

"Alas! Sir, you yourself speak of the pacific ideal inspiring your generous compatriots as a dream. 

"During my life I have heard a great many good people protest against this frightful custom of 
international butchery, which all admit and deplore; but how is it to be remedied? 

"Often, too, there have been attempts to suppress dueling; one would fancy that seemed an easy task, 
but not at all! All that has been done hitherto with that noble object has never been and never will be of 
use. 

"All the congresses of both hemispheres may vote against war, and against dueling too, but above all 
arbitrations, conventions, and legislations there will always be the personal honor of individual men, 
which has always demanded dueling, and the interests of nations, which will always demand war. 

"I wish none the less from the depths of my heart that the Congress of Universal Peace may succeed 
at last in its very honorable and difficult enterprise. 

"I am, dear sir, etc., 
"Camille Doucet" 

The upshot of this is that personal honor requires men to fight, and the interests of nations require 
them to ruin and exterminate each other. As for the efforts to abolish war, they call for nothing but a 
smile. 

The opinion of another well-known academician, Jules Claretie, is of the same kind. 

"Dear Sir (he writes): 

"For a man of sense there can be but one opinion on the subject of peace and war. 

"Humanity is created to live, to live free, to perfect and ameliorate its fate by peaceful labor. The 
general harmony preached by the Universal Peace Congress is but a dream perhaps, but at least it is the 
fairest of all dreams. Man is always looking toward the Promised Land, and there the harvests are to 
ripen with no fear of their being torn up by shells or crushed by cannon wheels... But! Ah! But since 
philosophers and philanthropists are not the controlling powers, it is well for our soldiers to guard our 
frontier and homes, and their arms, skillfully used, are perhaps the surest guarantee of the peace we all 
love. 

"Peace is a gift only granted to the strong and the resolute. 

"I am, dear sir, etc., 
"Jules Claretie" 

The upshot of this letter is that there is no harm in talking about what no one intends or feels obliged 
to do. But when it comes to practice, we must fight. 

And here now is the view lately expressed by the most popular novelist in Europe, Emile Zola: 
"I regard war as a fatal necessity, which appears inevitable for us from its close connection with 
human nature and the whole constitution of the world. I should wish that war could be put off for the 
longest possible time. Nevertheless, the moment will come when we shall be forced to go to war. I am 
considering it at this moment from the standpoint of universal humanity, and making no reference to our 
misunderstanding with Germany - a most trivial incident in the history of mankind. I say that war is 
necessary and beneficial, since it seems one of the conditions of existence for humanity. War confronts 
us everywhere, not only war between different races and peoples, but war too, in private and family life. 

69 



It seems one of the principal elements of progress, and every step in advance that humanity has taken 
hitherto has been attended by bloodshed. 

"Men have talked, and still talk, of disarmament, while disarmament is something impossible, to 
which, even if it were possible, we ought not to consent. I am convinced that a general disarmament 
throughout the world would involve something like a moral decadence, which would show itself in 
general feebleness, and would hinder the progressive advancement of humanity. A warlike nation has 
always been strong and flourishing. The art of war has led to the development of all the other arts. 
History bears witness to it. So in Athens and in Rome, commerce, manufactures, and literature never 
attained so high a point of development as when those cities were masters of the whole world by force 
of arms. To take an example from times nearer our own, we may recall the age of Louis XIV. The wars 
of the Grand Monarque were not only no hindrance to the progress of the arts and sciences, but even, on 
the contrary, seem to have promoted and favored their development." 

So war is a beneficial thing! 

But the best expression of this attitude is the view of the most gifted of the writers of this school, the 
academician de Vogue. This is what he writes in an article on the Military Section of the Exhibition of 
1889: 

"On the Esplanade des Invalides, among the exotic and colonial encampments, a building in a more 
severe style overawes the picturesque bazaar; all these fragments of the globe have come to gather round 
the Palace of War, and in turn our guests mount guard submissively before the mother building, but for 
whom they would not be here. Fine subject for the antithesis of rhetoric, of humanitarians who could 
not fail to whimper over this juxtaposition, and to say that 'ceci tuera cela, ,n that the union of the 
nations through science and labor will overcome the instinct of war. Let us leave them to cherish the 
chimera of a golden age, which would soon become, if it could be realized, an age of mud. All history 
teaches us that the one is created for the other, that blood is needed to hasten and cement the union of the 
nations. Natural science has ratified in our day the mysterious law revealed to Joseph de Maistre by the 
intuition of his genius and by meditation on fundamental truths; he saw the world redeeming itself from 
hereditary degenerations by sacrifice; science shows it advancing to perfection through struggle and 
violent selection; there is the statement of the same law in both, expressed in different formulas. The 
statement is disagreeable, no doubt; but the laws of the world are not made for our pleasure, they are 
made for our progress. Let us enter this inevitable, necessary palace of war; we shall be able to observe 
there how the most tenacious of our instincts, without losing any of its vigor, is transformed and adapted 
to the varying exigencies of historical epochs." 

M. de Vogue finds the necessity for war, according to his views, well expressed by the two great 
writers, Joseph de Maistre and Darwin, whose statements he likes so much that he quotes them again: 

"Dear Sir (he writes to the editor of the Revue des Revues): 

"You ask me my view as to the possible success of the Universal Congress of Peace. I hold with 
Darwin that violent struggle is a law of nature that overrules all other laws; I hold with Joseph de 
Maistre that it is a divine law; two different ways of describing the same thing. If by some impossible 
chance a fraction of human society - all the civilized West, let us suppose - were to succeed in 
suspending the action of this law, some races of stronger instincts would undertake the task of putting it 
into action against us. Those races would vindicate nature's reasoning against human reason; they 
would be successful, because the certainty of peace - I do not say peace, I say the certainty of peace - 
would, in half a century, engender a corruption and a decadence more destructive for mankind than the 
worst of wars. I believe that we must do with war - the criminal law of humanity - as with all our 
criminal laws, that is, soften them, put them in force as rarely as possible; use every effort to make their 



12 Phrase quoted from Victor-Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris. 



70 



application unnecessary. But all the experience of history teaches us that they cannot be altogether 
suppressed so long as two men are left on earth, with bread, money, and a woman between them. 

"I should be very happy if the Congress would prove me in error. But I doubt if it can prove history, 
nature, and God in error also. 

"I am, dear sir, etc. 
"E. M. de Vogue" 

This amounts to saying that history, human nature, and God show us that so long as there are two 
men, and bread, money and a woman - there will be war. That is to say that no progress will lead men 
to rise above the savage conception of life, which regards no participation of bread, money (money is 
good in this context) and woman possible without fighting. 

They are strange people, these men who assemble in Congresses, and make speeches to show us how 
to catch birds by putting salt on their tails, though they must know it is impossible to do it. And 
amazing are they too, who, like Maupassant, Rod, and many others, see clearly all the horror of war, all 
the inconsistency of men not doing what is needful, right, and beneficial for them to do; who lament 
over the tragedy of life, and do not see that the whole tragedy is at an end; at the very moment when 
men, ceasing to take account of any unnecessary considerations, refuse to do what is hateful and 
disastrous to them. They are amazing people truly, but those, like de Vogue and others, who, professing 
the doctrine of evolution, regard war as not only inevitable, but also beneficial, and therefore desirable - 
they are terrible, hideous, in their moral perversion. The others, at least, say that they hate evil, and love 
good, but these openly declare that good and evil do not exist. 

All discussion of the possibility of re-establishing peace instead of everlasting war - is the 
pernicious sentimentality of phrasemongers. There is a law of evolution by which it follows that I must 
live and act in an evil way; what is to be done? I am an educated man, I know the law of evolution, and 
therefore I will act in an evil way. "Entrons au palais de la guerre.'" There is the law of evolution, and 
therefore there is neither good nor evil, and one must live for the sake of one's personal existence, 
leaving the rest to the action of the law of evolution. This is the last word of refined culture, and with it, 
of that overshadowing of conscience that has come upon the educated classes of our times. The desire 
of the educated classes to support the ideas they prefer, and the order of existence based on them, has 
attained its furthest limits. They lie, and delude themselves, and one another, with the subtlest forms of 
deception, simply to obscure, to deaden conscience. 

Instead of transforming their life into harmony with their conscience, they try by every means to 
stifle its voice. But it is in darkness that the light begins to shine, and so the light is rising upon our 
epoch. 



71 



CHAPTER 7 

SIGNIFICANCE OF COMPULSORY SERVICE 

Universal Compulsory Service is not a Political Accident, but the Furthest Limit of the Contradiction Inherent in the Social 
Conception of Life - Origin of Authority in Society - Basis of Authority is Physical Violence - To be Able to Perform its 
Acts of Violence Authority Needs a Special Organization - The Army - Authority, that is, Violence, is the Principle that is 
Destroying the Social Conception of Life - Attitude of Authority to the Masses, that is, Attitude of Government to Working 
Oppressed Classes - Governments Try to Foster in Working Classes the Idea that State Force is Necessary to Defend Them 
from External Enemies - But the Army is Principally Needed to Preserve Government from its own Subjects - The Working 
Classes - Speech of M. de Caprivi - All Privileges of Ruling Classes Based on Violence - The Increase of Armies up to 
Point of Universal Service - Universal Compulsory Service Destroys all the Advantages of Social Life, which Government is 
Intended to Preserve - Compulsory Service is the Furthest Limit of Submission, since in Name of the State it Requires 
Sacrifice of all that can be Precious to a Man - Is Government Necessary? - The Sacrifices Demanded by Government in 
Compulsory Service have No Longer any Reasonable Basis - And there is More Advantage to be Gained by not Submitting 
to the Demands of the State than by Submitting to Them. 



Educated people of the upper classes are trying to stifle the ever-growing sense of the necessity of 
transforming the existing social order. But life, which goes on growing more complex, and developing 
in the same direction, and increases the inconsistencies and the sufferings of men, brings them to the 
limit beyond which they cannot go. This furthest limit of inconsistency is universal compulsory military 
service. 

It is usually supposed that universal military service and the increased armaments connected with it, 
as well as the resulting increase of taxes and national debts, are a passing phenomenon, produced by the 
particular political situation of Europe, and that it may be removed by certain political combinations 
without any modification of the inner order of life. 

This is absolutely incorrect. Universal military service is only the internal inconsistency inherent in 
the social conception of life, carried to its furthest limits, and becoming evident when a certain stage of 
material development is reached. 

The social conception of life, we have seen, consists in the transfer of the aim of life from the 
individual to groups and their maintenance - to the tribe, family, race, or state. 

In the social conception of life it is supposed that since the aim of life is found in groups of 
individuals, individuals will voluntarily sacrifice their own interests for the interests of the group. And 
so it has been, and still is, in fact, in certain groups, the distinction being that they are the most primitive 
forms of association in the family, tribe, or race, or even in the patriarchal state. Through tradition 
handed down by education and supported by religious sentiment, individuals without compulsion 
merged their interests in the interest of the group and sacrificed their own good for the general welfare. 

But the more complex and the larger societies become, and especially the more often conquest 
becomes the cause of the amalgamation of people into a state, the more often individuals strive to attain 
their own aims at the public expense, and the more often it becomes necessary to restrain these 
insubordinate individuals by recourse to authority, that is, to violence. The champions of the social 
conception of life usually try to connect the idea of authority, that is, of violence, with the idea of moral 
influence, but this connection is quite impossible. 

The effect of moral influence on a man is to change his desires and to bend them in the direction of 
the duty required of him. The man who is controlled by moral influence acts in accordance with his own 
desires. Authority, in the sense in which the word is ordinarily understood, is a means of forcing a man 
to act in opposition to his desires. The man who submits to authority does not do as he chooses but as 
he is obliged by authority. Nothing can oblige a man to do what he does not choose except physical 

72 



force, or the threat of it, that is - deprivation of freedom, blows, imprisonment, or threats - easily carried 
out - of such punishments. This is what authority consists of and always has consisted of. 

In spite of the unceasing efforts of those who happen to be in authority to conceal this and attribute 
some other significance to it, authority has always meant for man the cord, the chain with which he is 
bound and fettered, or the knout with which he is to be flogged, or the ax with which he is to have 
hands, ears, nose, or head cut off, or at the very least, the threat of these terrors. So it was under Nero 
and Genghis Khan, and so it is today, even under the most liberal government in the Republics of the 
United States or of France. If men submit to authority, it is only because they are liable to these 
punishments in case of non-submission. All state obligations, payment of taxes, fulfillment of state 
duties, and submission to punishments, exile, fines, etc., to which people appear to submit voluntarily, 
are always based on bodily violence or the threat of it. 

The basis of authority is bodily violence. The possibility of applying bodily violence to people is 
provided above all by an organization of armed men, trained to act in unison in submission to one will. 
These bands of armed men, submissive to a single will, are what constitute the army. The army has 
always been and still is the basis of power. Power is always in the hands of those who control the army, 
and all men in power - from the Roman Caesars to the Russian and German Emperors - take more 
interest in their army than in anything, and court popularity in the army, knowing that if that is on their 
side their power is secure. 

The formation and aggrandizement of the army, indispensable to the maintenance of authority, is 
what has introduced into the social conception of life the principle that is destroying it. 

The object of authority and the justification for its existence lie in the restraint of those who aim at 
attaining their personal interests to the detriment of the interests of society. 

But however power has been gained, those who possess it are in no way different from other men, 
and therefore are no more disposed than others to subordinate their own interests to those of the society. 
On the contrary, having the power to do so at their disposal, they are more disposed than others to 
subordinate the public interests to their own. Whatever means men have devised for preventing those in 
authority from over-riding public interests for their own benefit, or for intrusting power only to the most 
faultless people, they have not so far succeeded in either of those aims. 

All the methods of appointing authorities that have been tried, divine right, and election, and 
heredity, and balloting, and assemblies and parliaments and senate - have all proved ineffectual. 
Everyone knows that not one of these methods attains the aim either of intrusting power only to the 
incorruptible, or of preventing power from being abused. Everyone knows on the contrary that men in 
authority - be they emperors, government ministers, governors, or police officers - are always, simply 
from the possession of power, more liable to be demoralized, that is, to subordinate public interests to 
their personal aims than those who have not the power to do so. Indeed, it could not be otherwise. 

The state conception of life could be justified only so long as all men voluntarily sacrificed their 
personal interests to the public welfare. But as soon as there were individuals who would not voluntarily 
sacrifice their own interests and authority, then violence was needed to restrain them, then the 
disintegrating principle of the coercion of one set of people by another set entered into the social 
conception of the organization based on it. 

For the authority of one set of men over another to attain its object of restraining those who override 
public interests for their personal ends, power ought only to be put into the hands of the impeccable, as it 
is supposed to be among the Chinese, and as it was supposed to be in the Middle Ages, and is even now 
supposed to be by those who believe in the consecration by anointing. Only under those conditions 
could the social organization be justified. 

But since this is not the case, and on the contrary men in power are always far from being saints, 
through the very fact of their possession of power, the social organization based on power has no 
justification. 

73 



Even if there was once a time when, owing to the low standard of morals, and the disposition of men 
to violence, the existence of an authority to restrain such violence was an advantage, because the 
violence of government was less than the violence of individuals, one must see that this advantage could 
not be lasting. As the disposition of individuals to violence diminished, as the habits of the people 
became more civilized, and as power grew more demoralized through lack of restraint, this advantage 
disappeared. 

The whole history of the last two thousand years is nothing but the history of this gradual change of 
relation between the moral development of the masses on the one hand and the demoralization of 
governments on the other. 

This, put simply, is how it has come to pass. 

Men lived in families, tribes, and races, at feud with one another, plundering, outraging, and killing 
one another. These violent hostilities were carried on a large and on a small scale: man against man, 
family against family, tribe against tribe, race against race, and people against people. The larger and 
stronger groups conquered and absorbed the weaker, and the larger and stronger they became, the more 
internal feuds disappeared and the more the continuity of the group seemed assured. 

The members of a family or tribe, united into one community, are less hostile among themselves, 
and families and tribes do not die like one man, but have a continuity of existence. Between the 
members of one state, subject to a single authority, the strife between individuals seems still less and the 
life of the state seems even more secure. 

Their association into larger and larger groups was not the result of the conscious recognition of the 
benefits of such associations, as it is said to be in the story of the Varyagi. It was produced, on one 
hand, by the natural growth of population, and, on the other, by struggle and conquest. 

After conquest the power of the emperor puts an end to internal dissensions, and so the state 
conception of life justifies itself. But this justification is never more than temporary. Internal 
dissensions disappear only in proportion to the degree of oppression exerted by the authority over the 
dissentient individuals. The violence of internal feud crushed by authority reappears in authority itself, 
which falls into the hands of men who, like the rest, are frequently or always ready to sacrifice the 
public welfare to their personal interest, with the difference that their subjects cannot resist them, and 
thus they are exposed to all the demoralizing influence of authority. And thus the evil of violence, when 
it passes into the hands of authority, is always growing and growing, and in time becomes greater than 
the evil it is supposed to suppress, while, at the same time, the tendency to violence in the members of 
the society becomes weaker and weaker, so that the violence of authority is less and less needed. 

Government authority, even if it does suppress private violence, always introduces into the life of 
men fresh forms of violence, which tend to become greater and greater in proportion to the duration and 
strength of the government. 

Consequently, though the violence of power is less noticeable in government than when it is 
employed by members of society against one another, because it finds expression in submission, and not 
in strife, it nevertheless exists, and often to a greater degree than in former days. 

And it could not be otherwise, since, apart from the demoralizing influence of power, the policy or 
even the unconscious tendency of those in power will always be to reduce their subjects to the extreme 
of weakness, for the weaker the oppressed, the less effort need be made to keep him in subjection. 

And therefore the oppression of the oppressed always goes on growing up to the furthest limit, 
beyond which it cannot go without killing the goose with the golden eggs. And if the goose lays no 
more eggs, like the American Indians, Negroes, and Fijians, then it is killed in spite of the sincere 
protests of philanthropists. 

The most convincing example of this is to be found in the condition of the working classes of our 
epoch, who are in reality no better than the slaves of ancient times subdued by conquest. 

In spite of the pretended efforts of the higher classes to ameliorate the position of the workers, all the 
working classes of the present day are kept down by the inflexible iron law by which they only get just 

74 



what is barely necessary, so that they are forced to work without ceasing while still retaining strength 
enough to labor for their employers, who are really those who have conquered and enslaved them. 

So it has always been. In ratio to the duration and increasing strength of authority its advantages for 
its subjects disappear and its disadvantages increase. 

And this has been so, independently of the forms of government under which nations have lived. 
The only difference is that under a despotic form of government the authority is concentrated in a small 
number of oppressors and violence takes a cruder form; under constitutional monarchies and republics 
as in France and America authority is divided among a great number of oppressors and the forms 
assumed by violence is less crude, but its effect of making the disadvantages of authority greater than its 
advantages, and of enfeebling the oppressed to the furthest extreme to which they can be reduced with 
advantage to the oppressors, remains always the same. 

Such has been and still is the condition of all the oppressed, but hitherto they have not recognized 
the fact. In the majority of instances they have believed in all simplicity that governments exist for their 
benefit; that they would be lost without a government; that the very idea of living without a government 
is a blasphemy that one hardly dare put into words; that this is the - for some reason terrible - doctrine 
of anarchism, with which a mental picture of all kinds of horrors is associated. 

People have believed, as though it were something fully proved, and so needing no proof, that since 
all nations have hitherto developed in the form of states, that form of organization is an indispensable 
condition of the development of humanity. 

And in that way it has lasted for hundreds and thousands of years, and governments - those who 
happened to be in power - have tried it, and are now trying more zealously than ever to keep their 
subjects in this error. 

So it was under the Roman emperors and so it is now. In spite of the fact that the sense of the 
uselessness and even injurious effects of state violence is more and more penetrating into men's 
consciousness, things might have gone on in the same way forever if governments were not under the 
necessity of constantly increasing their armies in order to maintain their power. 

It is generally supposed that governments strengthen their forces only to defend the state from other 
states, in oblivion of the fact that armies are necessary, before all things, for the defense of governments 
from their own oppressed and enslaved subjects. 

That has always been necessary, and has become more and more necessary with the increased 
diffusion of education among the masses, with the improved communication between people of the 
same and of different nationalities. It has become particularly indispensable now in the face of 
communism, socialism, anarchism, and the labor movement generally. Governments feel that it is so, 
and strengthen the force of their disciplined armies. 13 

In the German Reichstag not long ago, in reply to a question why funds were needed for raising the 
salaries of the under-officers, the German Chancellor openly declared that trustworthy under-officers 
were necessary to contend against socialism. Caprivi only said aloud what every statesman knows and 
assiduously conceals from the people. The reason to which he gave expression is essentially the same as 
that which made the French kings and the popes engage Swiss and Scotch guards, and makes the 
Russian authorities of today so carefully distribute the recruits, so that the regiments from the frontiers 
are stationed in central districts, and the regiments from the center are stationed on the frontiers. The 



13 The fact that in America the abuses of authority exist in spite of the small number of their troops not only fails to 
disprove this position, but also positively confirms it. In America there are fewer soldiers than in other states. That 
is why there is nowhere else so little oppression of the working classes, and no country where the end of the abuses of 
government and of government itself seems so near. Of late as the combinations of laborers gain in strength, one hears 
more and more frequently the cry raised for the increase of the army, though the United States are not threatened with 
any attack from without. The upper classes know that an army of fifty thousand will soon be insufficient, and no longer 
relying on Pinkerton's men, they feel that the security of their position depends on the increased strength of the army. 

75 



meaning of Caprivi's speech, put into plain language, is that funds are needed, not to resist foreign foes, 
but to buy under-officers to be ready to act against the enslaved toiling masses. 

Caprivi incautiously gave utterance to what everyone knows perfectly well, or at least feels vaguely 
if he does not recognize it, that is, that the existing order of life is as it is, not, as would be natural and 
right, because the people wish it to be so, but because it is so maintained by state violence, by the army 
with its bought under-officers and generals. 

If the laborer has no land, if he cannot use the natural right of every man to derive subsistence for 
himself and his family out of the land, that is not because the people wish it to be so, but because a 
certain set of men, the landowners, have appropriated the right of giving or refusing admittance to the 
land to the laborers. And this abnormal order of things is maintained by the army. If the immense 
wealth produced by the labor of the working classes is not regarded as the property of all, but as the 
property of a few exceptional persons; if labor is taxed by authority and the taxes spent by a few on what 
they think fit; if strikes on the part of laborers are repressed, while on the part of capitalists they are 
encouraged; if certain persons appropriate the right of choosing the form of the education, religious and 
secular, of children, and certain persons monopolize the right of making the laws all must obey, and so 
dispose of the lives and properties of other people - all this is not done because the people wish it and 
because it is what is natural and right, but because the government and ruling classes wish this to be so 
for their own benefit, and insist on its being so even by physical violence. 

Everyone, if he does not recognize this now, will know that it is so at the first attempt at 
insubordination or at a revolution of the existing order. 

Armies, then, are needed by governments and by the ruling classes above all to support the present 
order, which, far from being the result of the people's needs, is often in direct antagonism to them, and 
is only beneficial to the government and ruling classes. 

To keep their subjects in oppression and to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor the government 
must have armed forces. 

But there is not only one government. There are other governments, exploiting their subjects by 
violence in the same way, and always ready to pounce down on any other government and carry off the 
fruits of the toil of its enslaved subjects. And so every government needs an army also to protect its 
booty from its neighbor brigands. Every government is thus involuntarily reduced to the necessity of 
emulating one another in the increase of their armies. This increase is contagious, as Montesquieu 
pointed out 150 years ago. 

Every increase in the army of one state, with the aim of self-defense against its subjects, becomes a 
source of danger for neighboring states and calls for a similar increase in their armies. 

The armed forces have reached their present number of millions not only through the menace of 
danger from neighboring states, but principally through the necessity of subduing every effort at revolt 
on the part of the subjects. 

Both causes, mutually dependent, contribute to the same result at once; troops are required against 
internal forces and also to keep up a position with other states. One is the result of the other. The 
despotism of a government always increases with the strength of the army and its external successes, 
and the aggressiveness of a government increases with its internal despotism. 

The rivalry of the European states in constantly increasing their forces has reduced them to the 
necessity of having recourse to universal military service, since by that means the greatest possible 
number of soldiers is obtained at the least possible expense. Germany first hit on this device. And at the 
very moment one state adopted it the others were obliged to do the same. And by this means all citizens 
are under arms to support the iniquities practiced upon them; all citizens have become their own 
oppressors. 

Universal military service was an inevitable logical necessity, to which we were bound to come. But 
it is also the last expression of the inconsistency inherent in the social conception of life, when violence 
is needed to maintain it. This inconsistency has become obvious in universal military service. In fact, 

76 



the whole significance of the social conception of life consists in man's recognition of the barbarity of 
strife between individuals, and the transitory nature of personal life itself, and the transference of the aim 
of life to groups of persons. But with universal military service it comes to pass that men, after making 
every sacrifice to get rid of the cruelty of strife and the insecurity of existence, are called upon to face all 
the perils they had meant to avoid. And in addition to this the state, for whose sake individuals 
renounced their personal advantages, is exposed again to the same risks of insecurity and lack of 
permanence as the individual himself was in previous times. 

Governments were to give men freedom from the cruelty of personal strife and security in the 
permanence of the state order of existence. But instead of doing that, they expose the individuals to the 
same necessity of strife, substituting strife with individuals of other states for strife with neighbors. And 
the danger of destruction for the individual, and the state too, they leave just as it was. 

Universal military service may be compared to the efforts of a man to prop up his falling house who 
so surrounds it and fills it with props and buttresses and planks and scaffolding that he manages to keep 
the house standing only by making it impossible to live in it. 

In the same way universal military service destroys all the benefits of the social order of life that it is 
employed to maintain. 

The advantages of social organization are security of property and labor and associated action for the 
improvement of existence - universal military service destroys all this. 

The taxes raised from the people for war preparations absorb the greater part of the produce of labor 
that the army ought to defend. 

The withdrawing of all men from the ordinary course of life destroys the possibility of labor itself. 
The danger of war, ever ready to break out, renders all reforms of social life vain and fruitless. 

In former days if a man were told that if he did not acknowledge the authority of the state, he would 
be exposed to attack from enemies domestic and foreign, that he would have to resist them alone, and 
would be liable to be killed, and that therefore it would be to his advantage to put up with some 
hardships to secure himself from these calamities, he might well believe it, seeing that the sacrifices he 
made to the state were only partial and gave him the hope of a tranquil existence in a permanent state. 
But now, when the sacrifices have been increased tenfold and the promised advantages are disappearing, 
it would be a natural reflection that submission to authority is absolutely useless. 

But the fatal significance of universal military service, as the manifestation of the contradiction 
inherent in the social conception of life, is not only apparent in that. The greatest manifestation of this 
contradiction consists in the fact that every citizen in being made a soldier becomes a prop of the 
government organization, and shares the responsibility of everything the government does, even though 
he may not admit its legitimacy. 

Governments assert that armies are needed above all for external defense, but that is not true. They 
are needed principally against their subjects, and every man, under universal military service, becomes 
an accomplice in all the acts of violence of the government against the citizens without any choice of his 
own. 

To convince oneself of this one need only remember what things are done in every state, in the name 
of order and the public welfare, of which the execution always falls to the army. All civil outbreaks for 
dynastic or other party reasons, all the executions that follow on such disturbances, all repression of 
insurrections, and military intervention to break up meetings and to suppress strikes, all forced extortion 
of taxes, all the iniquitous distributions of land, all the restrictions on labor - are either carried out 
directly by the military or by the police with the army at their back. Anyone who serves his time in the 
army shares the responsibility of all these things, about which he is, in some cases, dubious, while very 
often they are directly opposed to his conscience. People are unwilling to be turned out of the land they 
have cultivated for generations, or they are unwilling to disperse when the government authority orders 
them, or they are unwilling to pay the taxes required of them, or to recognize laws as binding on them 
when they have had no hand in making them, or to be deprived of their nationality - and I, in the 

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fulfillment of my military duty, must go and shoot them for it. How can I help asking myself when I 
take part in such punishments, whether they are just, and whether I ought to assist in carrying them out? 

Universal service is the extreme limit of violence necessary for the support of the whole state 
organization, and it is the extreme limit to which submission on the part of the subjects can go. It is the 
keystone of the whole edifice, and its fall will bring it all down. 

The time has come when the ever-growing abuse of power by governments and their struggles with 
one another has led to their demanding such material and even moral sacrifices from their subjects that 
everyone is forced to reflect and ask himself, "Can I make these sacrifices? And for the sake of what am 
I making them? I am expected for the sake of the state to make these sacrifices, to renounce everything 
that can be precious to man - peace, family, security, and human dignity." What is this state, for whose 
sake such terrible sacrifices have to be made? And why is it so indispensably necessary? "The state," 
they tell us, "is indispensably needed, in the first place, because without it we should not be protected 
against the attacks of evil-disposed persons; and secondly, except for the state we should be savages and 
should have neither religion, culture, education, nor commerce, nor means of communication, nor other 
social institutions; and thirdly, without the state to defend us we should be liable to be conquered and 
enslaved by neighboring peoples." 

"Except for the state," they say, "we should be exposed to the attacks of evil-disposed persons in our 
own country." 

But who are these evil-disposed persons in our midst from whose attacks we are preserved by the 
state and its army? Even if, three or four centuries ago, when men prided themselves on their warlike 
prowess, when killing men was considered an heroic achievement, there were such persons; we know 
very well that there are no such persons now, that we do not nowadays carry or use firearms, but 
everyone professes humane principles and feels sympathy for his fellows, and wants nothing more than 
we all do - that is, to be left in peace to enjoy his existence undisturbed. Consequently, nowadays there 
are no special malefactors from whom the state could defend us. If by these evil disposed persons is 
meant the men who are punished as criminals, we know very well that they are not a different kind of 
being like wild beasts among sheep, but are men just like ourselves, and no more naturally inclined to 
crimes than those against whom they commit them. We know now that threats and punishments cannot 
diminish their number; that that can only be done by change of environment and moral influence. 
Consequently, the justification of state violence on the ground of the protection it gives us from evil- 
disposed persons, even if it had some foundation three or four centuries ago, has none whatever now. At 
present one would rather say on the contrary that the action of the state with its cruel methods of 
punishment, behind the general moral standard of the age, such as prisons, galleys, gibbets, and 
guillotines, tends rather to brutalize the people than to civilize them, and consequently rather to increase 
than diminish the number of malefactors. 

"Except for the state," they tell us, "we should not have any religion, education, culture, means of 
communication, and so on. Without the state men would not have been able to form the social 
institutions needed for doing anything." This argument too was well founded only some centuries ago. 

If there was a time when people were so disunited, when they had so little means of communication 
and interchange of ideas, that they could not co-operate and agree together in any common action in 
commerce, economics, or education without the state as a center, this want of common action exists no 
longer. The great extension of means of communication and interchange of ideas has made men 
completely able to dispense with state aid in forming societies, associations, corporations, and 
congresses for scientific, economic, and political objects. Indeed government is more often an obstacle 
than an assistance in attaining these aims. 

From the end of last century there has hardly been a single progressive movement of humanity that 
has not been retarded by the government. So it has been with abolition of corporal punishment, of trial 
by torture, and of slavery, as well as with the establishment of the liberty of the press and the right of 
public meeting. In our day governments not only fail to encourage, but directly hinder every movement 

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by which people try to work out new forms of life for themselves. Every attempt at the solution of the 
problems of labor, land, politics, and religion meets with direct opposition on the part of government. 

"Without governments nations would be enslaved by their neighbors." It is scarcely necessary to 
refute this last argument. It carries its refutation on the face of it. The government, they tell us, with its 
army, is necessary to defend us from neighboring states that might enslave us. But we know this is what 
all governments say of one another, and yet we know that all the European nations profess the same 
principles of liberty and fraternity, and therefore stand in no need of protection against one another. 
And if defense against barbarous nations were meant, one-thousandth part of the troops now under arms 
would be amply sufficient for that purpose. We see that it is really the very opposite of what we have 
been told. The power of the state, far from being a security against the attacks of our neighbors, exposes 
us, on the contrary, to much greater danger of such attacks. Consequently, every man who is led, 
through his compulsory service in the army, to reflect on the value of the state for whose sake he is 
expected to be ready to sacrifice his peace, security, and life, cannot fail to perceive that there is no kind 
of justification in modern times for such a sacrifice. 

And it is not only from the theoretical standpoint that every man must see that the sacrifices 
demanded by the state have no justification. Even looking at it practically, weighing, that is to say, all 
the burdens laid on him by the state, no man can fail to see that for him personally to comply with state 
demands and serve in the army, would, in the majority of cases, be more disadvantageous than to refuse 
to do so. 

If the majority of men choose to submit rather than to refuse, it is not the result of sober balancing of 
advantages and disadvantages, but because they are induced by a kind of hypnotizing process practiced 
upon them. In submitting they simply yield to the suggestions given them as orders, without thought or 
effort of will. To resist would need independent thought and effort of which every man is not capable. 
Even apart from the moral significance of compliance or non-compliance, considering material 
advantage only, non-compliance will be more advantageous in general. 

Whoever I may be, whether I belong to the well-to-do class of the oppressors, or the working class 
of the oppressed, in either case the disadvantages of non-compliance are less and its advantages greater 
than those of compliance. If I belong to the minority of oppressors the disadvantages of non-compliance 
will consist in my being brought to judgment for refusing to perform my duties to the state, and if I am 
lucky, being acquitted or, as is done in the case of the Mennonites in Russia, being set to work out my 
military service at some civil occupation for the state; while if I am unlucky, I may be condemned to 
exile or imprisonment for two or three years (I judge by the cases that have occurred in Russia), possibly 
to even longer imprisonment, or possibly to death, though the probability of that latter is very remote. 

So much for the disadvantages of non-compliance. The disadvantages of compliance will be as 
follows: If I am lucky I shall not be sent to murder my fellow-creatures, and shall not be exposed to 
great danger of being maimed and killed, but shall only be enrolled into military slavery. I shall be 
dressed up like a clown, I shall be at the beck and call of every man of a higher grade than my own from 
corporal to field-marshal, shall be put through any bodily contortions at their pleasure, and after being 
kept from one to five years I shall have for ten years afterward to be in readiness to undertake all of it 
again at any minute. If I am unlucky I may, in addition, be sent to war, where I shall be forced to kill 
men of foreign nations who have done me no harm, where I may be maimed or killed, or sent to certain 
destruction as in the case of the garrison of Sevastopol, and other cases in every war, or what would be 
most terrible of all, I may be sent against my own compatriots and have to kill my own brothers for 
some dynastic or other state interests that have absolutely nothing to do with me. So much for the 
comparative disadvantages. 

The comparative advantages of compliance and non-compliance are as follows: 

For the man who submits, the advantages will be that, after exposing himself to all the humiliation 
and performing all the barbarities required of him, he may, if he escapes being killed, get a decoration of 
red or gold tinsel to stick on his clown's dress; he may, if he is very lucky, be put in command of 

79 



hundreds of thousands of others as brutalized as himself; be called a field-marshal, and get a lot of 
money. 

The advantages of the man who refuses to obey will consist in preserving his dignity as a man, 
gaining the approbation of good men, and above all knowing that he is doing the work of God, and so 
undoubtedly doing good to his fellow-men. 

So much for the advantages and disadvantages of both lines of conduct for a man of the wealthy 
classes, an oppressor. For a man of the poor working class the advantages and disadvantages will be the 
same, but with a great increase of disadvantages. The disadvantages for the poor man who submits will 
be aggravated by the fact that he will by taking part in it, and, as it were, assenting to it strengthen the 
state of subjection in which he is held himself. 

But no considerations as to how far the state is useful or beneficial to the men who help to support it 
by serving in the army, nor of the advantages or disadvantages for the individual of compliance or non- 
compliance with state demands, will decide the question of the continued existence or the abolition of 
government. This question will be finally decided beyond appeal by the religious consciousness or 
conscience of every man who is forced, whether he will or no, through universal conscription, to face 
the question whether the state is to continue to exist or not. 



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CHAPTER 8 

DOCTRINE OF NON-RESISTANCE TO EVIL BY FORCE MUST INEVITABLY BE ACCEPTED 

BY MEN OF THE PRESENT DAY 

Christianity is Not a System of Rules, but a New Conception of Life, and therefore it was Not Obligatory and was Not 
Accepted in its True Significance by All, but only by a Few - Christianity is, Moreover, Prophetic of the Destruction of the 
Pagan Life, and therefore of Necessity of the Acceptance of the Christian Doctrines - Non-resistance of Evil by Force is One 
Aspect of the Christian Doctrine, which must Inevitably in Our Times be Accepted by Men - Two Methods of Deciding 
Every Quarrel - First Method is to Find a Universal Definition of Evil, which All Must Accept, and to Resist this Evil by 
Force - Second Method is the Christian One of Complete Non-resistance by Force - Though the Failure of the First Method 
was Recognized since the Early Days of Christianity, it was Still Proposed, and only as Mankind has Progressed it has 
Become More and More Evident that there Cannot be any Universal Definition of Evil - This is Recognized by All at the 
Present Day, and if Force is Still Used to Resist Evil, it is Not Because it is Now Regarded as Right, but Because People 
Don't Know How to Avoid It - The Difficulty of Avoiding It is the Result of the Subtle and Complex Character of the 
Government Use of Force - Force is Used in Four Ways: Intimidation, Bribery, Hypnotism, and Coercion by Force of Arms 
- State Violence Can Never be Suppressed by the Forcible Overthrow of the Government - Men are Led by the Sufferings of 
the Pagan Mode of Life to the Necessity of Accepting Christ's Teaching with its Doctrine of Non-resistance by Force - The 
Consciousness of its Truth that is Diffused Throughout Our Society, Will also Bring About its Acceptance - This 
Consciousness is in Complete Contradiction with Our Life - This is Specially Obvious in Compulsory Military Service, but 
Through Habit and the Application of the Four Methods of Violence by the State, Men do not See this Inconsistency of 
Christianity with Life of a Soldier - They do Not even See It, though the Authorities Themselves Show all the Immorality of 
a Soldier's Duties with Perfect Clearness - The Call to Military Service is the Supreme Test for Every Man, when the Choice 
is Offered Him, between Adopting the Christian Doctrine of Non-resistance, or Slavishly Submitting to the Existing State 
Organization - Men Usually Renounce All They Hold Sacred, and Submit to the Demands of Government, Seeming to See 
No Other Course Open to Them - For Men of the Pagan Conception of Life there is No Other Course Open, and Never Will 
Be, in Spite of the Growing Horrors of War - Society, Made Up of Such Men, Must Perish, and No Social Reorganization 
Can Save It - Pagan Life Has Reached Its Extreme Limit, and Will Annihilate Itself. 



It is often said that if Christianity is a truth, it ought to have been accepted by everyone at the very 
moment when it appeared, and ought to have transformed men's lives for the better. But this is like 
saying that if the seed were ripe it ought at once to bring forth stalk, flower, and fruit. 

The Christian religion is not a legal system that, being imposed by violence, may transform men's 
lives. Christianity is a new and higher conception of life. A new conception of life cannot be imposed 
on men; it can only be freely assimilated. And it can only be freely assimilated in two ways: one 
spiritual and internal, the other experimental and external. 

Some people - a minority - by a kind of prophetic instinct divine the truth of the doctrine, surrender 
themselves to it, and adopt it. Others - the majority - only through a long course of mistakes, 
experiments, and suffering are brought to recognize the truth of the doctrine and the necessity of 
adopting it. 

And by this experimental external method the majority of Christian men have now been brought to 
this necessity of assimilating the doctrine. One sometimes wonders what necessitated the corruption of 
Christianity, which is now the greatest obstacle to its acceptance in its true significance. 

If Christianity had been presented to men in its true, uncorrupted form, it would not have been 
accepted by the majority, who would have been as untouched by it as the nations of Asia are now. The 
peoples who accepted it in its corrupt form were subjected to its slow but certain influence, and by a 
long course of errors and experiments and their resultant sufferings have now been brought to the 
necessity of assimilating it in its true significance. 

The corruption of Christianity and its acceptance in its corrupt form by the majority of men was as 
necessary as it is that the seed should remain hidden for a certain time in the earth in order to germinate. 

81 



Christianity is at once a doctrine of truth and a prophecy. Eighteen centuries ago Christianity 
revealed to men the truth in which they ought to live, and at the same time foretold what human life 
would become if men would not live by it but continued to live by their previous principles, and what it 
would become if they accepted the Christian doctrine and carried it out in their lives. 

Laying down in the Sermon on the Mount the principles by which to guide men's lives, Christ said, 
"Whoever hears these sayings of mine, and put them into practice, I will liken him to a wise man, who 
built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat 
upon that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that hears these 
sayings, and does not put them into practice, shall be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon 
the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; 
and it fell, and great was its fall." (Matt. 7:24-27) 

And now after eighteen centuries the prophecy has been fulfilled. Not having followed Christ's 
teaching generally and its application to social life in non-resistance to evil, men have been brought in 
spite of themselves to the inevitable destruction foretold by Christ for those who do not fulfill his 
teaching. 

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 that presents itself to a traveler when the road on which he has been 
journeying divides into two branches. He must go on and he 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. 

The question of resistance or non-resistance to evil arose when the first conflict between men took 
place, since every conflict is nothing else than resistance by force to what each of the combatants 
regards as evil. But before Christ, men did not see that resistance by force to what each regards as evil, 
simply because one thinks evil what the other thinks good, is only one of the methods of settling the 
dispute, and that there is another method, that of not resisting evil by force at all. 

Before Christ's teaching, it seemed to men that the one only means of settling a dispute was by 
resistance to evil by force. And they acted accordingly, each of the combatants trying to convince 
himself and others that what each respectively regards as evil, is actually, absolutely evil. 

And to do this from the earliest time men have devised definitions of evil and tried to make them 
binding on everyone. And such definitions of evil sometimes took the form of laws, supposed to have 
been received by supernatural means, sometimes of the commands of rulers or assemblies to whom 
infallibility was attributed. Men resorted to violence against others, and convinced themselves and 
others that they were directing their violence against evil recognized as such by all. 

This means was employed from the earliest times, especially by those who had gained possession of 
authority, and for a long while its irrationality was not detected. 

But the longer men lived in the world and the more complex their relations became, the more evident 
it was that to resist by force what each regarded as evil was irrational, that conflict was in no way 
lessened thereby, and that no human definitions can succeed in making what some regard as evil be 
accepted as such by others. 

Already at the time Christianity arose, it was evident to a great number of people in the Roman 
Empire where it arose, that what was regarded as evil by Nero and Caligula could not be regarded as evil 
by others. Even at that time men had begun to understand that human laws, though given out for divine 
laws, were compiled by men, and cannot be infallible, whatever the external majesty with which they 
are invested, and that erring men are not rendered infallible by assembling together and calling 

82 



themselves a senate or any other name. Even at that time this was felt and understood by many. And it 
was then that Christ preached his doctrine, which consisted not only of the prohibition of resistance to 
evil by force, but gave a new conception of life and a means of putting an end to conflict between all 
men, not by making it the duty of one section only of mankind to submit without conflict to what is 
prescribed to them by certain authorities, but by making it the duty of all - and consequently of those in 
authority - not to resort to force against anyone in any circumstances. 

This doctrine was accepted at the time by only a very small number of disciples. The majority of 
men, especially all who were in power, even after the nominal acceptance of Christianity, continued to 
maintain for themselves the principle of resistance by force to what they regarded as evil. So it was 
under the Roman and Byzantine emperors, and so it continued to be afterwards. 

The insufficiency of the principle of the authoritative definition of evil and resistance to it by force, 
evident as it was in the early ages of Christianity, becomes still more obvious through the division of the 
Roman Empire into many states of equal authority, through their hostilities and the internal conflicts that 
broke out within them. 

But men were not ready to accept the solution given by Christ, and the old definitions of evil, which 
ought to be resisted, continued to be laid down by means of making laws binding on all and enforced by 
forcible means. The authority who decided what ought to be regarded as evil and resisted by force was 
at one time the Pope, at another an emperor or king, an elective assembly or a whole nation. But both 
within and without the state there were always men to be found who did not accept as binding on 
themselves the laws given out as the decrees of a god, or made by men invested with a sacred character, 
or the institutions supposed to represent the will of the nation; and there were men who thought good 
what the existing authorities regarded as bad, and who struggled against the authorities with the same 
violence as was employed against them. 

The men invested with religious authority regarded as evil what the men and institutions invested 
with temporal authority regarded as good and vice versa, and the struggle grew more and more intense. 
And the longer men used violence as the means of settling their disputes, the more obvious it became 
that it was an unsuitable means, since there could be no external authority able to define evil recognized 
by all. 

Things went on like this for eighteen centuries, and at last reached the present position in which it is 
absolutely obvious that there is, and can be, no external definition of evil binding upon all. Men have 
come to the point of ceasing to believe in the possibility or even desirability of finding and establishing 
such a general definition. It has come to men in power ceasing to attempt to prove that what they regard 
as evil is evil, and simply declaring that they regard as evil what they don't like, while their subjects no 
longer obey them because they accept the definition of evil laid down by them, but simply obey because 
they cannot help themselves. It was not because it was a good thing, necessary and beneficial to men, 
and the contrary course would have been an evil, but simply because it was the will of those in power 
that Nice was incorporated into France, and Lorraine into Germany, and Bohemia into Austria, and that 
Poland was divided, and Ireland and India ruled by the English government, and that the Chinese are 
attacked and the Africans slaughtered, and the Chinese prevented from immigrating by the Americans, 
and the Jews persecuted by the Russians, and that landowners appropriate lands they do not cultivate 
and capitalists enjoy the fruits of the labor of others. It has come to the present state of things; one set of 
men commit acts of violence no longer on the pretext of resistance to evil, but simply for their profit or 
their caprice, and another set submit to violence, not because they suppose, as was supposed in former 
times, that this violence was practiced upon them for the sake of securing them from evil, but simply 
because they cannot avoid it. 

If the Roman, or the man of medieval times, or the average Russian of fifty years ago, as I remember 
him, was convinced without a shade of doubt that the violence of authority was indispensable to 
preserve him from evil; that taxes, dues, serfdom, prisons, scourging, knouts, executions, the army and 
war were what ought to be - we know now that one can seldom find a man who believes that all these 

83 



means of violence preserve anyone from any evil whatever, and indeed does not clearly perceive that 
most of these acts of violence to which he is exposed, and in which he has some share, are in themselves 
a great and useless evil. 

There is no one today who does not see the uselessness and injustice of collecting taxes from the 
toiling masses to enrich idle officials; or the senselessness of inflicting punishments on weak or 
depraved persons in the shape of transportation from one place to another, or of imprisonment in a 
fortress where, living in security and indolence, they only become weaker and more depraved; or the 
worse than uselessness and injustice, the positive insanity and barbarity of preparations for war and of 
wars, causing devastation and ruin, and having no kind of justification. Yet these forms of violence 
continue and are supported by the very people who see their uselessness, injustice, and cruelty, and 
suffer from them. If fifty years ago the idle rich man and the illiterate laborer were both alike convinced 
that their state of everlasting holiday for one and everlasting toil for the other was ordained by God 
himself, we know very well that nowadays, thanks to the growth of population and the diffusion of 
books and education, it would be hard to find in Europe or even in Russia, either among rich or poor, a 
man to whom in one shape or another a doubt as to the justice of this state of things had never presented 
itself. The rich know that they are guilty in the very fact of being rich, and try to expiate their guilt by 
sacrifices to art and science, as of old they expiated their sins by sacrifices to the Church. And even the 
larger half of the working people openly declares that the existing order is iniquitous and bound to be 
destroyed or reformed. One set of religious people of whom there are millions in Russia, the so-called 
sectaries, consider the existing social order as unjust and to be destroyed on the ground of the Gospel 
teaching taken in its true sense. Others regard it as unjust on the ground of the socialistic, communistic, 
or anarchistic theories, which are springing up in the lower strata of the working people. Violence no 
longer rests on the belief in its utility, but only on the fact of its having existed so long, and being 
organized by the ruling classes who profit by it, so that those who are under their authority cannot 
extricate themselves from it. The governments of our day - all of them, the most despotic and the 
liberal alike - have become what Herzen so well called "Genghis Khan with the telegraph"; that is to 
say, organizations of violence based on no principle but the grossest tyranny, and at the same time 
taking advantage of all the means invented by science for the peaceful collective social activity of free 
and equal men, used by them to enslave and oppress their fellows. 

Governments and the ruling classes no longer take their stand on right or even on the semblance of 
justice, but on a skillful organization carried to such a point of perfection by the aid of science that 
everyone is caught in the circle of violence and has no chance of escaping from it. This circle is made 
up now of four methods of working upon men, joined together like the links of a chain ring. 

The first and oldest method is intimidation. This consists in representing the existing state 
organization - whatever it may be, a free republic or the most savage despotism - as something sacred 
and immutable, and therefore following any efforts to alter it with the most cruel punishments. This 
method is in use now - as it has been from olden times - wherever there is a government: in Russia 
against the so-called Nihilists, in America against Anarchists, in France against Imperialists, Legitimists, 
Communards, and Anarchists. 

Railways, telegraphs, telephones, photographs, and the great perfection of the means of getting rid of 
men for years, without killing them, by solitary confinement, where, hidden from the world, they perish 
and are forgotten, and the many other modern inventions employed by government, give such power 
that when once authority has come into certain hands, the police, open and secret, the administration and 
prosecutors, jailers and executioners of all kinds, do their work so zealously that there is no chance of 
overturning the government, however cruel and senseless it may be. 

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. These bought officials, from the highest 
government ministers to the poorest copying clerks, make up an unbroken network of men bound 

84 



together by the same interest - that of living at the expense of the people. They become the richer the 
more submissively they carry out the will of the government; and at all times and places, sticking at 
nothing, in all departments support by word and deed the violence of government, on which their own 
prosperity also rests. 

The third method is what I can only describe as hypnotizing the 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 government rests. This hypnotizing process is 
organized at the present in the most complex manner, and starting from their earliest childhood, 
continues to act on men until the day of their death. It begins in their earliest years in the compulsory 
schools, created for this purpose, in which the children have instilled into them the ideas of life of their 
ancestors, which are in direct antagonism with the conscience of the modern world. In countries where 
there is a state religion, they teach the children the senseless blasphemies of the Church catechisms, 
together with the duty of obedience to their superiors. In republican states they teach them the savage 
superstition of patriotism and the same pretended obedience to the governing authorities. 

The process is kept up during later years by the encouragement of religious and patriotic 
superstitions. 

The religious superstition is encouraged by establishing, with money taken from the people, temples, 
processions, memorials, and festivals, which, aided by painting, architecture, music, and incense, 
intoxicate the people, and above all by the support of the clergy, whose duty consists in brutalizing the 
people and keeping them in a permanent state of stupefaction by their teaching, the solemnity of their 
services, their sermons, and their interference in private life - at births, deaths, and marriages. The 
patriotic superstition is encouraged by the creation, with money taken from the people, of national fetes, 
spectacles, monuments, and festivals to dispose men to attach importance to their own nation, and to the 
aggrandizement of the state and its rulers, and to feel antagonism and even hatred for other nations. 
With these objects under despotic governments there is direct prohibition against printing and 
disseminating books to enlighten the people, and everyone who might rouse the people from their 
lethargy is exiled or imprisoned. Moreover, under every government without exception everything is 
kept back that might emancipate and everything encouraged that tends to corrupt the people, such as 
literary works tending to keep them in the barbarism of religious and patriotic superstition, all kinds of 
sensual amusements, spectacles, circuses, theaters, and even the physical means of inducing 
stupefaction, as tobacco and alcohol, which form the principal source of revenue of states. Even 
prostitution is encouraged, and not only recognized, but also even organized by the government in the 
majority of states. So much for the third method. 

The fourth method consists in selecting from all the men who have been stupefied 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 instrument for carrying out all the 
cruelties and brutalities needed by the government. This result is attained by taking them at the youthful 
age, when men have not had time to form clear and definite principles of morals, and removing them 
from all natural and human conditions of life, home, family, kindred, and useful labor. They are shut up 
together in barracks, dressed in special clothes, and worked upon by cries, drums, music, and shining 
objects to go through certain daily actions invented for this purpose, and by this means are brought into 
an hypnotic condition in which they cease to be men and become mere senseless machines, submissive 
to the hypnotizer. These physically vigorous young men (in these days of universal conscription, all 
young men), hypnotized, armed with murderous weapons, always obedient to the governing authorities 
and ready for any act of violence at their command, constitute the fourth and principal method of 
enslaving men. 

By this method the circle of violence is completed. 



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Intimidation, corruption, and hypnotizing bring people into a condition in which they are willing to 
be soldiers; the soldiers give the power of punishing and plundering them (and purchasing officials with 
the spoils), and hypnotizing them and converting them in time into these same soldiers again. 

The circle is complete, and there is no chance of breaking through it by force. 

Some persons maintain that freedom from violence, or at least a great diminution of it, may be 
gained by the oppressed forcibly overturning the oppressive government and replacing it by a new one 
under which such violence and oppression will be unnecessary, but they deceive themselves and others, 
and their efforts do not better the position of the oppressed, but only make it worse. Their conduct only 
tends to increase the despotism of government. Their efforts only afford a plausible pretext for 
government to strengthen their power. 

Even if we admit that under a combination of circumstances specially unfavorable for the 
government, as in France in 1870, any government might be forcibly overturned and the power 
transferred to other hands, the new authority would rarely be less oppressive than the old one; on the 
contrary, always having to defend itself against its dispossessed and exasperated enemies, it would be 
more despotic and cruel, as has always been the rule in all revolutions. 

While socialists and communists regard the individualistic, capitalistic organization of society as an 
evil, and the anarchists regard as an evil all government whatever, there are royalists, conservatives, and 
capitalists who consider any socialistic or communistic organization or anarchy as an evil, and all these 
parties have no means other than violence to bring men to agreement. Whichever of these parties were 
successful in bringing their schemes to pass, must resort to support its authority to all the existing 
methods of violence, and even invent new ones. 

The oppressed would be another set of people, and coercion would take some new form; but the 
violence and oppression would be unchanged or even more cruel, since hatred would be intensified by 
the struggle, and new forms of oppression would have been devised. So it has always been after all 
revolutions and all attempts at revolution, all conspiracies, and all violent changes of government. 
Every conflict only strengthens the means of oppression in the hands of those who happen at a given 
moment to be in power. 

The position of our Christian society, and especially the ideals most current in it, prove this in a 
strikingly convincing way. 

There remains now only one sphere of human life not encroached upon by government authority - 
that is the domestic, economic sphere, the sphere of private life and labor. And even this is now - 
thanks to the efforts of communists and socialists - being gradually encroached upon by government, so 
that labor and recreation, dwellings, dress, and food will gradually, if the hopes of the reformers are 
successful, be prescribed and regulated by government. 

The slow progress of eighteen centuries has brought the Christian nations again to the necessity of 
deciding the question they have evaded - the question of the acceptance or non-acceptance of Christ's 
teaching, and the question following upon it in social life of resistance or non-resistance to evil by force. 
But there is this difference, that whereas formerly men could accept or refuse to accept the solution 
given by Christ, now that solution cannot be avoided, since it alone can save men from the slavery in 
which they are caught like a net. 

But it is not only the misery of the position that makes this inevitable. 

While the pagan organization has been proved more and more false, the truth of the Christian 
religion has been growing more and more evident. 

Not in vain have the best men of Christian humanity, who apprehended the truth by spiritual 
intuition, for eighteen centuries testified to it in spite of every menace, every privation, and every 
suffering. By their martyrdom they passed on the truth to the masses, and impressed it on their hearts. 

Christianity has penetrated into the consciousness of humanity, not only negatively by the 
demonstration of the impossibility of continuing in the pagan life, but also through its simplification, its 

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increased clearness and freedom from the superstitions intermingled with it, and its diffusion through all 
classes of the population. 

Eighteen centuries of Christianity have not passed without an effect even on those who accepted it 
only externally. These eighteen centuries have brought men so far that even while they continue to live 
the pagan life that is no longer consistent with the development of humanity, they not only see clearly all 
the wretchedness of their position, but in the depths of their souls they believe (they can only live 
through this belief) that the only salvation from this position is to be found in fulfilling the Christian 
doctrine in its true significance. As to the time and manner of salvation, opinions are divided according 
to the intellectual development and the prejudices of each society. But every man of the modern world 
recognizes that our salvation lies in fulfilling the law of Christ. Some believers in the supernatural 
character of Christianity hold that salvation will come when all men are brought to believe in Christ, 
whose second coming is at hand. Other believers in supernatural Christianity hold that salvation will 
come through the Church, which will draw all men into its fold, train them in the Christian virtues, and 
transform their life. A third section, who do not admit the divinity of Christ, hold that the salvation of 
mankind will be brought about by slow and gradual progress, through which the pagan principles of our 
existence will be replaced by the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity - that is, by Christian 
principles. A fourth section, who believe in the social revolution, hold that salvation will come when 
through a violent revolution men are forced into community of property, abolition of government, and 
collective instead of individual industry - that is to say, the realization of one side of the Christian 
doctrine. In one way or another all men of our day in their inner consciousness condemn the existing 
effete pagan order, and admit, often unconsciously and while regarding themselves as hostile to 
Christianity, that our salvation is only to be found in the application of the Christian doctrine, or parts of 
it, in its true significance to our daily life. 

Christianity cannot, as its Founder said, be realized by the majority of men all at once; it must grow 
like a huge tree from a tiny seed. And so it has grown, and now has reached its full development, not 
yet in actual life, but in the conscience of men of today. 

Now not only the minority, who have always comprehended Christianity by spiritual intuition, but 
also all the vast majority who seem so far from it in their social existence, recognize its true significance. 

Look at individual men in their private life, listen to their standards of conduct in their judgment of 
one another; hear not only their public utterances, but the counsels given by parents and guardians to the 
young in their charge; and you will see that, far as their social life based on violence may be from 
realizing Christian truth, in their private life what is considered good by all without exception is nothing 
but the Christian virtues; what is considered as bad is nothing but the anti-Christian vices. Those who 
consecrate their lives self-sacrificingly to the service of humanity are regarded as the best men. The 
selfish, who make use of the misfortunes of others for their own advantage, are regarded as the worst of 
men. 

Though some non-Christian ideals, such as strength, courage, and wealth, are still worshiped by a 
few who have not been penetrated by the Christian spirit, these ideals are out of date and are abandoned, 
if not by all, at least by all those regarded as the best people. There are no ideals, other than the 
Christian ideals, which are accepted by all and regarded as binding on all. 

The position of our Christian humanity, if you look at it from the outside with all its cruelty and 
degradation of men, is terrible indeed. But if one looks at it within, in its inner consciousness, the 
spectacle it presents is absolutely different. 

All the evil of our life seems to exist only because it has been so for so long; those who do the evil 
have not had time yet to learn how to act otherwise, though they do not want to act as they do. 

All the evil seems to exist through some cause independent of the conscience of men. 

Strange and contradictory as it seems, all men of the present day hate the very social order they are 
themselves supporting. 

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I think it is Max Miiller who describes the amazement of an Indian convert to Christianity, who after 
absorbing the essence of the Christian doctrine came to Europe and saw the actual life of Christians. He 
could not recover from his astonishment at the complete contrast between the reality and what he had 
expected to find among Christian nations. If we feel no astonishment at the contrast between our 
convictions and our conduct, that is because the influences, tending to obscure the contrast, produce an 
effect upon us too. We need only look at our life from the point of view of that Indian, who understood 
Christianity in its true significance, without any compromises or concessions, we need but look at the 
savage brutalities of which our life is full, to be appalled at the contradictions in the midst of which we 
live often without observing them. 

We need only recall the preparations for war, the machine guns, the silver-gilt bullets, the torpedoes, 
and - the Red Cross; the solitary prison cells, the experiments of execution by electricity - and the care 
of the hygienic welfare of prisoners; the philanthropy of the rich, and their life, which produces the poor 
they are benefiting. 

And these inconsistencies are not, as it might seem, because men pretend to be Christians while they 
are really pagans, but because of something lacking in men, or some kind of force hindering them from 
being what they already feel themselves to be in their consciousness, and what they genuinely wish to 
be. Men of the present day do not merely pretend to hate oppression, inequality, class distinction, and 
every kind of cruelty to animals as well as human beings. They genuinely detest all this, but they do not 
know how to put a stop to it, or perhaps cannot decide to give up what preserves it all, and seems to 
them necessary. 

Indeed, ask every man separately whether he thinks it laudable and worthy of a man of this age to 
hold a position from which he receives a salary disproportionate to his work; to take from the people - 
often in poverty - taxes to be spent on constructing cannons, torpedoes, and other instruments of 
butchery, so as to make war on people with whom we wish to be at peace, and who feel the same wish in 
regard to us; or to receive a salary for devoting one's whole life to constructing these instruments of 
butchery, or to preparing oneself and others for the work of murder. And ask him whether it is laudable 
and worthy of a man, and suitable for a Christian, to employ himself, for a salary, in seizing wretched, 
misguided, often illiterate and drunken, creatures because they appropriate the property of others - on a 
much smaller scale than we do - or because they kill men in a different fashion from that in which we 
undertake to do it - and shutting them in prison for it, ill treating them and killing them; and whether it 
is laudable and worthy of a man and a Christian to preach for a salary to the people not Christianity, but 
superstitions that one knows to be stupid and pernicious; and whether it is laudable and worthy of a man 
to rob his neighbor for his gratification of what he wants to satisfy his simplest needs, as the great 
landowners do; or to force him to exhausting labor beyond his strength to augment one's wealth, as do 
factory owners and manufacturers; or to profit by the poverty of men to increase one's gains, as 
merchants do. And everyone taken separately, especially if one's remarks are directed at someone else, 
not himself, will answer, "No!" And yet the very man who sees all the baseness of those actions, of his 
own free will, uncoerced by anyone, often even for no pecuniary profit, but only from childish vanity, 
for a china cross, a scrap of ribbon, a bit of fringe he is allowed to wear, will enter military service, 
become a magistrate or justice of the peace, commissioner, arch, bishop, or beadle, though in fulfilling 
these offices he must commit acts the baseness and shamefulness of which he cannot fail to recognize. 

I know that many of these men will confidently try to prove that they have reasons for regarding 
their position as legitimate and quite indispensable. They will say in their defense that authority is given 
by God, that the functions of the state are indispensable for the welfare of humanity, that property is not 
opposed to Christianity, that the rich young man was only commanded to sell all he had and give to the 
poor if he wished to be perfect, that the existing distribution of property and our commercial system 
must always remain as they are, and are to the advantage of all, and so on. But, however much they try 
to deceive themselves and others, they all know that what they are doing is opposed to all the beliefs that 
they profess, and in the depths of their souls, when they are left alone with their conscience, they are 

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ashamed and miserable at the recollection of it, especially if the baseness of their action has been 
pointed out to them. A man of the present day, whether he believes in the divinity of Christ or not, 
cannot fail to see that to assist in the capacity of czar, government minister, governor, or commissioner 
in taking from a poor family its last cow for taxes to be spent on cannons, or on the pay and pensions of 
idle officials, who live in luxury and are worse than useless; or in putting into prison some man we have 
ourselves corrupted, and throwing his family on the streets; or in plundering and butchering in war; or in 
inculcating savage and idolatrous superstitions in the place of the law of Christ; or in impounding the 
cow found on one's land, though it belongs to a man who has no land; or to cheat the workman in a 
factory, by imposing fines for accidentally spoiled articles; or making a poor man pay double the value 
for anything simply because he is in the direst poverty; - not a man of the present day can fail to know 
that all these actions are base and disgraceful, and that they need not do them. They all know it. They 
know that what they are doing is wrong, and would not do it for anything in the world if they had the 
power of resisting the forces that shut their eyes to the criminality of their actions and impel them to 
commit them. 

In nothing is the pitch of inconsistency modern life has attained to so evident as in universal 
conscription, which is the last resource and the final expression of violence. 

Indeed, it is only because this state of universal armament has been brought about gradually and 
imperceptibly, and because governments have exerted, in maintaining it, every resource of intimidation, 
corruption, brutalization, and violence, that we do not see its flagrant inconsistency with the Christian 
ideas and sentiments by which the modern world is permeated. 

We are so accustomed to the inconsistency that we do not see all the hideous folly and immorality of 
men voluntarily choosing the profession of butchery as though it were an honorable career, of poor 
wretches submitting to conscription, or in countries where compulsory service has not been introduced, 
of people voluntarily abandoning a life of industry to recruit soldiers and train them as murderers. We 
know that all of these men are either Christians, or profess humane and liberal principles, and they know 
that they thus become partly responsible - through universal conscription, personally responsible - for 
the most insane, aimless, and brutal murders. And yet they all do it. 

More than that, in Germany, where compulsory service first originated, Caprivi has given expression 
to what had been hitherto so assiduously concealed - that is, that the men that the soldiers will have to 
kill are not foreigners alone, but their own countrymen, the very working people from whom they 
themselves are taken. And this admission has not opened people's eyes, has not horrified them! They 
still go like sheep to the slaughter, and submit to everything required of them. 

And that is not all. The Emperor of Germany has lately shown still more clearly the duties of the 
army, by thanking and rewarding a soldier for killing a defenseless citizen who made his approach 
incautiously. By rewarding an action always regarded as base and cowardly even by men on the lowest 
level of morality, William has shown that a soldier's chief duty - the one most appreciated by the 
authorities - is that of executioner; and not a professional executioner who kills only condemned 
criminals, but one ready to butcher any innocent man at the word of command. 

And even that is not all. In 1892, the same William, the enfant terrible of state authority, who says 
plainly what other people only think, in addressing some soldiers gave public utterance to the following 
speech, which was reported next day in thousands of newspapers: "Conscripts!" he said, "you have 
sworn fidelity to me before the altar and the minister of God! You are still too young to understand all 
the importance of what has been said here; let your care before all things be to obey the orders and 
instructions given you. You have sworn fidelity to me, lads of my guard; that means that you are now 
my soldiers, that you have given yourselves to me body and soul. For you there is now but one enemy, 
my enemy. In these days of socialistic sedition it may come to pass that I command you to fire on your 
own kindred, your brothers, even your own fathers and mothers - which God forbid! - even then you are 
bound to obey my orders without hesitation." 

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This man expresses what all sensible rulers think, but studiously conceal. He says openly that the 
soldiers are in his service, at his disposal, and must be ready for his advantage to murder even their 
brothers and fathers. 

In the most brutal words he frankly exposes all the horrors and criminality for which men prepare 
themselves in entering the army, and the depths of ignominy to which they fall in promising obedience. 
Like a bold hypnotizer, he tests the degree of insensibility of the hypnotized subject. He touches his 
skin with a red-hot iron; the skin smokes and scorches, but the sleeper does not awake. 

This miserable man, imbecile and drunk with power, outrages in this utterance everything that can 
be sacred for a man of the modern world. And yet all the Christians, liberals, and cultivated people, far 
from resenting this outrage, did not even observe it. 

The last, the most extreme test is put before men in its coarsest form. And they do not seem even to 
notice that it is a test, that there is any choice about it. They seem to think there is no course open but 
slavish submission. One would have thought these insane words, which outrage everything a man of the 
present day holds sacred, must rouse indignation. But there has been nothing of the kind. 

All the young men through the whole of Europe are exposed year after year to this test, and with 
very few exceptions they renounce all that a man can hold sacred, all express their readiness to kill their 
brothers, even their fathers, at the bidding of the first crazy creature dressed up in a livery with red and 
gold trimming, and only wait to be told where and when they are to kill. And they actually are ready. 

Every savage has something he holds sacred, something for which he is ready to suffer, and 
something he will not consent to do. But what is it that is sacred to the civilized man of today? They 
say to him, "You must become my slave, and this slavery may force you to kill even your own father"; 
and he, often very well educated, trained in all the sciences at the university, quietly puts his head under 
the yoke. They dress him up in a clown's costume and order him to cut capers, turn, twist, bow, and 
kill. He does it all submissively. And when they let him go, he seems to shake himself and go back to 
his former life, and he continues to discourse upon the dignity of man, liberty, equality, and fraternity as 
before. 

"Yes, but what is one to do?" people often ask in genuine perplexity. "If everyone would stand out 
it would be something, but by myself, I shall only suffer without doing any good to anyone." 

And that is true. A man with the social conception of life cannot resist. The aim of his life is his 
personal welfare. It is better for his personal welfare for him to submit, and he submits. 

Whatever they do to him, however they torture or humiliate him, he will submit, for, alone, he can 
do nothing; he has no principle for the sake of which he could resist violence alone. And those who 
control them never allow them to unite together. It is often said that the invention of terrible weapons of 
destruction will put an end to war. That is an error. As the means of extermination are improved, the 
means of reducing men who hold the state conception of life to submission can be improved to 
correspond. They may slaughter them by thousands, by millions, they may tear them to pieces, and still 
they will march to war like senseless cattle. Some will want beating to make them move, others will be 
proud to go if they are allowed to wear a scrap of ribbon or gold lace. 

And of this mass of men so brutalized as to be ready to promise to kill their own parents, the social 
reformers - conservatives, liberals, socialists, and anarchists - propose to form a rational and moral 
society. What sort of moral and rational society can be formed out of such elements? With warped and 
rotten planks you cannot build a house, however you put them together. And to form a rational moral 
society of such men is just as impossible a task. They can be formed into nothing but a herd of cattle, 
driven by the shouts and whips of the herdsmen. As indeed they are. 

So, then, we have on one side men calling themselves Christians, and professing the principles of 
liberty, equality, and fraternity, and along with that ready, in the name of liberty, to submit to the most 
slavish degradation; in the name of equality, to accept the crudest, most senseless division of men by 



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externals merely into higher and lower classes, allies and enemies; and, in the name of fraternity, ready 
to murder their brothers. 14 

The contradiction between life and conscience and the misery resulting from it have reached the 
extreme limit and can go no further. The state organization of life based on violence, the aim of which 
was the security of personal, family, and social welfare, has come to the point of renouncing the very 
objects for which it was founded - it has reduced men to absolute renunciation and loss of the welfare it 
was to secure. 

The first half of the prophecy has been fulfilled in the generation of men who have not accepted 
Christ's teaching. Their descendants have been brought now to the absolute necessity of putting the 
truth of the second half to the test of experience. 



14 The fact that among certain nations, such as the English and the American, military service is not compulsory (though 
already one hears there are some who advocate that it should be made so) does not affect the servility of the citizens to 
the government in principle. Here we have each to go and kill or be killed, there they have each to give the fruit of 
their toil to pay for the recruiting and training of soldiers. 

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CHAPTER 9 

THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPTION OF LIFE WILL EMANCIPATE MEN 

FROM THE MISERIES OF OUR PAGAN LIFE 

The External Life of Christian Peoples Remains Pagan Though they are Penetrated by Christian Consciousness - The Way 
Out of this Contradiction is by the Acceptance of the Christian Theory of Life - Only Through Christianity is Every Man 
Free, and Emancipated of All Human Authority - This Emancipation can be Effected by no Change in External Conditions of 
Life, but Only by a Change in the Conception of Life - The Christian Ideal of Life Requires Renunciation of all Violence, 
and in Emancipating the Man who Accepts it, Emancipates the Whole World from All External Authorities - The Way Out 
of the Present Apparently Hopeless Position is for Every Man who is Capable of Assimilating the Christian Conception of 
Life, to Accept it and Live in Accordance with it - But Men Consider this Way too Slow, and Look for Deliverance Through 
Changes in Material Conditions of Life Aided by Government - That Will Lead to No Improvement, as it is simply 
Increasing the Evil under which Men are Suffering - A Striking Instance of this is the Submission to Compulsory Military 
Service, which it would be More Advantageous for Every Man to Refuse than to Submit to - The Emancipation of Men Can 
Only be Brought About by each Individual Emancipating Himself, and the Examples of this Self-emancipation that are 
already Appearing Threaten the Destruction of Governmental Authority - Refusal to Comply with the Unchristian Demands 
of Government Undermines the Authority of the State and Emancipates Men - And therefore Cases of such Non-compliance 
are Regarded with more Dread by State Authorities than any Conspiracies or Acts of Violence - Examples of Non- 
compliance in Russia, in Regard to Oath of Allegiance, Payment of Taxes, Passports, Police Duties, and Military Service - 
Examples of such Non-compliance in other States - Governments do not Know how to Treat Men who Refuse to Comply 
with their Demands on Christian Grounds - Such People, without Striking a Blow, Undermine the very Basis of Government 
from Within - To Punish them is Equivalent to Openly Renouncing Christianity, and Assisting in Diffusing the Very 
Principle by which these Men Justify their Non-compliance - So Governments are in a Helpless Position - Men who 
Maintain the Uselessness of Personal Independence, only Retard the Dissolution of the Present State Organization Based on 
Force. 



The position of the Christian peoples in our days has remained just as cruel as it was in the times of 
paganism. In many respects, especially in the oppression of the masses, it has become even more cruel 
than it was in the days of paganism. 

But between the condition of men in ancient times and their condition in our days there is just the 
difference that we see in the world of vegetation between the last days of autumn and the first days of 
spring. In the autumn the external lifelessness in nature corresponds with its inward condition of death, 
while in the spring the external lifelessness is in sharp contrast with the internal state of reviving and 
passing into new forms of life. 

In the same way the similarity between the ancient heathen life and the life of today is merely 
external. The inward condition of men in the times of heathenism was absolutely different from their 
inward condition at the present time. 

Then the outward condition of cruelty and of slavery was in complete harmony with the inner 
conscience of men, and every step in advance intensified this harmony; now the outward condition of 
cruelty and of slavery is completely contradictory to the Christian consciousness of men, and every step 
in advance only intensifies this contradiction. 

Humanity is passing through seemingly unnecessary, fruitless agonies. It is passing through 
something like the throes of birth. Everything is ready for the new life, but still the new life does not 
come. 

There seems no way out of the position. And there would be none, except that a man (and thereby 
all men) is gifted with the power of forming a different, higher theory of life, which at once frees him 
from all the bonds by which he seems indissolubly fettered. 

And such a theory is the Christian view of life made known to mankind eighteen hundred years ago. 



92 



A man need only make this theory of life his own for the fetters that seemed so indissolubly forged 
upon him to drop off of themselves, and for him to feel himself absolutely free, just as a bird would feel 
itself free in a fenced-in place at the very moment when it took to its wings. 

People talk about the liberty of the Christian Church, about giving or not giving freedom to 
Christians. Underlying all these ideas and expressions there is some strange misconception. Freedom 
cannot be bestowed on or taken from a Christian or Christians. Freedom is an inalienable possession of 
the Christian. 

If we talk of bestowing freedom on Christians or withholding it from them, we are obviously talking 
not of real Christians but of people who only call themselves Christians. A Christian cannot fail to be 
free, because the attainment of the aim he sets before himself cannot be prevented or even hindered by 
anyone or anything. 

Let a man only understand his life as Christianity teaches him to understand it, let him understand, 
that is, that his life belongs not to him - not to his own individuality, nor to his family, nor to the state - 
but to him who has sent him into the world, and let him once understand that he must therefore fulfill 
not the law of his own individuality, nor his family, nor of the state, but the infinite law of him from 
whom he has come; and he will not only feel himself absolutely free from every human power, but will 
even cease to regard such power as at all able to hamper anyone. 

Let a man but realize that the aim of his life is the fulfillment of God's law, and that law will replace 
all other laws for him, and he will give it his sole allegiance, so that by that very allegiance every human 
law will lose all binding and controlling power in his eyes. 

The Christian is independent of every human authority by the fact that he regards the divine law of 
love, implanted in the soul of every man, and brought before his consciousness by Christ, as the sole 
guide of his life and other men's also. 

The Christian may be subjected to external violence, he may be deprived of bodily freedom, he may 
be in bondage to his passions (he who commits sin is the slave of sin), but he cannot be in bondage in 
the sense of being forced by any danger or by any threat of external harm to perform an act that is 
against his conscience. 

He cannot be compelled to do this, because the deprivations and sufferings that form such a 
powerful weapon against men of the state conception of life have not the least power to compel him. 

Deprivations and sufferings take from them the happiness for which they live; but far from 
disturbing the happiness of the Christian, which consists in the consciousness of fulfilling the will of 
God, they may even intensify it, when they are inflicted on him for fulfilling his will. 

And therefore the Christian, who is subject only to the inner divine law, not only cannot carry out the 
enactments of the external law, when they are not in agreement with the divine law of love that he 
acknowledges (as is usually the case with state obligations), he cannot even recognize the duty of 
obedience to anyone or anything whatever, he cannot recognize the duty of what is called allegiance. 

For a Christian the oath of allegiance to any government whatever - the very act that is regarded as 
the foundation of the existence of a state - is a direct renunciation of Christianity. For the man who 
promises unconditional obedience in the future to laws, made or to be made, by that very promise is in 
the most positive manner renouncing Christianity, which means obeying in every circumstance of life 
only the divine law of love he recognizes within him. 

Under the pagan conception of life it was possible to carry out the will of the temporal authorities, 
without infringing the law of God expressed in circumcisions, sabbaths, fixed times of prayer, abstention 
from certain kinds of food, and so on. The one law was not opposed to the other. But that is just the 
distinction between the Christian religion and heathen religion. Christianity does not require of a man 
certain definite negative acts, but puts him in a new, different relation to men, from which may result the 
most diverse acts, which cannot be defined beforehand. And therefore the Christian not only cannot 
promise to obey the will of any other man, without knowing what will be required by that will; he not 
only cannot obey the changing laws of man, but he cannot even promise to do anything definite at a 

93 



certain time, or to abstain from doing anything for a certain time. For he cannot know what at any time 
will be required of him by that Christian law of love, obedience to which constitutes the meaning of life 
for him. The Christian, in promising unconditional fulfillment of the laws of men in the future, would 
show plainly by that promise that the inner law of God does not constitute for him the sole law of his 
life. 

For a Christian to promise obedience to men, or the laws of men, is just as though a workman bound 
to one employer should also promise to carry out every order that might be given him by outsiders. One 
cannot serve two masters. 

The Christian is independent of human authority, because he acknowledges God's authority alone. 
His law, revealed by Christ, he recognizes in himself, and voluntarily obeys it. 

And this independence is gained, not by means of strife, not by the destruction of existing forms of 
life, but only by a change in the interpretation of life. This independence results first from the Christian 
recognizing the law of love, revealed to him by his teacher, as perfectly sufficient for all human 
relations, and therefore he regards every use of force as unnecessary and unlawful; and secondly, from 
the fact that those deprivations and sufferings, or threats of deprivations and sufferings (which reduce 
the man of the social conception of life to the necessity of obeying) to the Christian from his different 
conception of life, present themselves merely as the inevitable conditions of existence. And these 
conditions, without striving against them by force, he patiently endures, like sickness, hunger, and every 
other hardship, but they cannot serve him as a guide for his actions. The only guide for the Christian's 
actions is to be found in the divine principle living within him, which cannot be checked or governed by 
anything. 

The Christian acts according to the words of the prophecy applied to his teacher: "He shall not 
strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and 
smoking flax shall he not quench, until he sends forth judgment to victory." (Matt. 12:19,20) 

The Christian will not dispute with anyone, nor attack anyone, nor use violence against anyone. On 
the contrary, he will bear violence without opposing it. But by this very attitude to violence, he will not 
only himself be free, but will free the whole world from all external power. 

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." If there were any doubt of 
Christianity being the truth, the perfect liberty, that nothing can curtail, which a man experiences at the 
very moment when he makes the Christian theory of life his own, would be an unmistakable proof of its 
truth. 

Men in their present condition are like a swarm of bees hanging in a cluster to a branch. The 
position of the bees on the branch is temporary, and must inevitably be changed. They must start off 
and find themselves a habitation. Each of the bees knows this, and desires to change her own and the 
others' position, but no one of them can do it until the rest of them do it. They cannot all start off at 
once, because one hangs on to another and hinders her from separating from the swarm, and therefore 
they all continue to hang there. It would seem that the bees could never escape from their position, just 
as it seems that worldly men, caught in the toils of the state conception of life, can never escape. And 
there would be no escape for the bees, if each of them were not a living, separate creature, endowed with 
wings of its own. Similarly there would be no escape for men, if each were not a living being endowed 
with the faculty of entering into the Christian conception of life. 

If every bee that could fly, did not try to fly, the others, too, would never be stirred, and the swarm 
would never change its position. And if the man who has mastered the Christian conception of life 
would not, without waiting for other people, begin to live in accordance with this conception, mankind 
would never change its position. But only let one bee spread her wings, start off, and fly away, and after 
her another, and another, and the clinging, inert cluster would become a freely flying swarm of bees. 
Just in the same way, only let one man look at life as Christianity teaches him to look at it, and after him 
let another and another do the same, and the enchanted circle of existence in the state conception of life, 
from which there seemed no escape, will be broken through. 

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But men think that to set all men free by this means is too slow a process, that they must find some 
other means by which they could set all men free at once. It is just as though the bees who want to start 
and fly away should consider it too long a process to wait for all the swarm to start one by one; and 
should think they ought to find some means by which it would not be necessary for every separate bee to 
spread her wings and fly off, but by which the whole swarm could fly at once where it wanted to. But 
that is not possible; until a first, a second, a third, a hundredth bee spreads her wings and flies off of her 
own accord, the swarm will not fly off and will not begin its new life. Until every individual man makes 
the Christian conception of life his own, and begins to live in accord with it, there can be no solution of 
the problem of human life, and no establishment of a new form of life. 

One of the most striking phenomena of our times is precisely this advocacy of slavery, which is 
promulgated among the masses, not by governments, in whom it is inevitable, but by men who, in 
advocating socialistic theories, regard themselves as the champions of freedom. 

These people advance the opinion that the amelioration of life, the bringing of the facts of life into 
harmony with the conscience, will come, not as the result of the personal efforts of individual men, but 
of itself as the result of a certain possible reconstruction of society effected in some way or other. The 
idea is promulgated that men ought not to walk on their own legs where they want and ought to go, but 
that a kind of floor under their feet will be moved somehow, so that on it they can reach where they 
ought to go without moving their own legs. And, therefore, all their efforts ought to be directed, not to 
going so far as their strength allows in the direction they ought to go, but to standing still and 
constructing such a floor. 

In the sphere of political economy a theory is propounded that amounts to saying that the worse 
things are the better they are; that the greater the accumulation of capital, and therefore the oppression of 
the workman, the nearer the day of emancipation, and, therefore, every personal effort on the part of a 
man to free himself from the oppression of capital is useless. In the sphere of government it is 
maintained that the greater the power of the government, which, according to this theory, ought to 
intervene in every department of private life in which it has not yet intervened, the better it will be, and 
that therefore we ought to invoke the interference of government in private life. In politics and 
international questions it is maintained that the improvement of the means of destruction, the 
multiplication of armaments, will lead to the necessity of making war by means of congresses, 
arbitration, and so on. And, marvelous to say, so great is the dullness of men that they believe in these 
theories, in spite of the fact that the whole course of life, every step they take, shows how unworthy they 
are of belief. 

The people are suffering from oppression, and to deliver them from this oppression they are advised 
to frame general measures for the improvement of their position, which measures are to be entrusted to 
the authorities, and themselves to continue to yield obedience to the authorities. And obviously all that 
results from this is only greater power in the hands of the authorities, and greater oppression resulting 
from it. 

Not one of the errors of men carries them so far away from the aim toward which they are struggling 
as this very one. They do all kinds of different things for the attainment of their aim, but not the one 
simple obvious thing that is within reach of everyone. They devise the subtlest means for changing the 
position that is irksome to them, but not that simplest means, that everyone should refrain from doing 
what leads to that position. 

I have been told a story of a gallant police officer, who came to a village where the peasants were in 
insurrection and the military had been called out, and he undertook to pacify the insurrection in the spirit 
of Nicholas I, by his personal influence alone. He ordered some loads of rods to be brought, and 
collecting all the peasants together into a barn, he went in with them, locking the door after him. To 
begin with, he so terrified the peasants by his loud threats that, reduced to submission by him, they set to 
work to flog one another at his command. And so they flogged one another until a simpleton was found 
who would not allow himself to be flogged, and shouted to his companions not to flog one another. 

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Only then the flogging ceased and the police officer made his escape. Well, this simpleton's advice 
would never be followed by men of the state conception of life, who continue to flog one another, and 
teach people that this very act of self-castigation is the last word of human wisdom. 

Indeed, can one imagine a more striking instance of men flogging themselves than the 
submissiveness with which men of our times will perform the very duties required of them to keep them 
in slavery, especially the duty of military service? We see people enslaving themselves, suffering from 
this slavery, and believing that it must be so, that it does not matter, and will not hinder the emancipation 
of men, which is being prepared somewhere, somehow, in spite of the ever-increasing growth of slavery. 

In fact, take any man of the present time whatever (I don't mean a true Christian, but an average man 
of the present day), educated or uneducated, believing or unbelieving, rich or poor, married or 
unmarried. Such a man lives working at his work, or enjoying his amusements, spending the fruits of 
his labors on himself or on those near to him, and, like everyone, hating every kind of restriction and 
deprivation, dissension and suffering. Such a man is going his way peaceably, when suddenly people 
come and say to him, "First, promise and swear to us that you will slavishly obey us in everything we 
dictate to you, and will consider absolutely good and authoritative everything we plan, decide, and call 
law. Secondly, hand over a part of the fruits of your labors for us to dispose of - we will use the money 
to keep you in slavery, and to hinder you from forcibly opposing our orders. Thirdly, elect others, or be 
yourself elected, to take a pretended share in the government, knowing all the while that the government 
will proceed quite without regard to the foolish speeches you, and those like you, may utter, and 
knowing that its proceedings will be according to our will, the will of those who have the army in their 
hands. Fourthly, come at a certain time to the law courts and take your share in those senseless cruelties 
that we perpetrate on sinners, and those whom we have corrupted, in the shape of penal servitude, exile, 
solitary confinement, and death. And fifthly and lastly, more than all this, in spite of the fact that you 
may be on the friendliest terms with people of other nations, be ready, at the very moment when we 
order you to do so, to regard those whom we indicate to you as your enemies; and be ready to assist, 
either in person or by proxy, in devastation, plunder, and murder of their men, women, children, and 
aged alike - possibly your own kinsmen or relations - if that is necessary to us." 

One would expect that every man of the present day who has a grain of sense left, might reply to 
such requirements, "But why should I do all this?" One would think every right-minded man must say 
in amazement, "Why should I promise to yield obedience to everything that has been decreed first by 
Salisbury, then by Gladstone; one day by Boulanger, and another by Parliament; one day by Peter III, 
the next by Catherine, and the day after by Pougachef; one day by a mad king of Bavaria, another by 
William? Why should I promise to obey them, knowing them to be wicked or foolish people, or else not 
knowing them at all? Why am I to hand over the fruits of my labors to them in the shape of taxes, 
knowing that the money will be spent on the support of officials, prisons, churches, armies, on things 
that are harmful, and on my own enslavement? Why should I punish myself? Why should I go wasting 
my time and hoodwinking myself, giving to miscreant evildoers a semblance of legality, by taking part 
in elections, and pretending that I am taking part in the government, when I know very well that the real 
control of the government is in the hands of those who have got hold of the army? Why should I go to 
the law courts to take part in the trial and punishment of men because they have sinned, knowing, if I am 
a Christian, that the law of vengeance is replaced by the law of love, and, if I am an educated man, that 
punishments do not reform, but only deprave those on whom they are inflicted? And why, most of all, 
am I to consider as enemies the people of a neighboring nation, with whom I have hitherto lived and 
with whom I wish to live in love and harmony, and to kill and rob them, or to bring them to misery, 
simply in order that the keys of the temple at Jerusalem may be in the hands of one archbishop and not 
another, that one German and not another may be prince in Bulgaria, or that the English rather than the 
American merchants may capture seals? 

"And why, most of all, should I take part in person or hire others to murder my own brothers and 
kinsmen? Why should I flog myself? It is altogether unnecessary for me; it is hurtful to me, and from 

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every point of view it is immoral, base, and vile. So why should I do this? If you tell me that if I do it 
not I shall receive some injury from someone, then, in the first place, I cannot anticipate from anyone an 
injury so great as the injury you bring on me if I obey you; and secondly, it is perfectly clear to me that 
if we our own selves do not flog ourselves, no one will flog us. 

"As for the government - that means the czars, government ministers, and officials with pens in their 
hands, who cannot force us into doing anything, as that officer of police compelled the peasants; the 
men who will drag us to the law court, to prison, and to execution, are not czars or officials with pens in 
their hands, but the very people who are in the same position as we are. And it is just as unprofitable, 
harmful, and unpleasant to them to be flogged as to me, and therefore there is every likelihood that if I 
open their eyes they not only would not treat me with violence, but would do just as I am doing. 

"Thirdly, even if it should come to pass that I had to suffer for it, even then it would be better for me 
to be exiled or sent to prison for standing up for common sense and right - which, if not today, at least 
within a very short time, must be triumphant - than to suffer for folly and wrong that must come to an 
end directly. And therefore, even in that case, it is better to run the risk of their banishing me, shutting 
me up in prison, or executing me, than of my living all my life in bondage, through my own fault, to 
wicked men. Better is this than the possibility of being destroyed by victorious enemies, and being 
stupidly tortured and killed by them, in fighting for a cannon, or a piece of land of no use to anyone, or 
for a senseless rag called a banner. 

"I don't want to flog myself and I won't do it. I have no reason to do it. Do it yourselves, if you 
want it done; but I won't do it." 

One would have thought that not religious or moral feeling alone, but the simplest common sense 
and foresight should impel every man of the present day to answer and to act in that way. But not so. 
Men of the state conception of life are of the opinion that to act in that way is not necessary, and is even 
prejudicial to the attainment of their object, the emancipation of men from slavery. They hold that we 
must continue, like the police officer's peasants, to flog one another, consoling ourselves with the 
reflection that we are talking away in the assemblies and meetings, founding trades unions, marching 
through the streets on the 1st of May, getting up conspiracies, and stealthily teasing the government that 
is flogging us, and that through all this it will be brought to pass that, by enslaving ourselves in closer 
and closer bondage, we shall very soon be free. 

Nothing hinders the emancipation of men from slavery so much as this amazing error. Instead of 
every man directing his energies to freeing himself, to transforming his conception of life, people seek 
for an external united method of gaining freedom, and continue to rivet their chains faster and faster. 

It is much as if men were to maintain that to make up a fire there was no need to kindle any of the 
coals, but that all that was necessary was to arrange the coals in a certain order. Yet the fact that the 
freedom of all men will be brought about only through the freedom of individual persons becomes more 
and more clear as time goes on. The freedom of individual men, in the name of the Christian conception 
of life, from state domination, which was formerly an exceptional and unnoticed phenomenon, has of 
late acquired threatening significance for state authorities. 

If in a former age, in the Roman times, it happened that a Christian confessed his religion and 
refused to take part in sacrifices, and to worship the emperors or the gods; or in the Middle Ages a 
Christian refused to worship images, or to acknowledge the authority of the Pope - these cases were in 
the first place a matter of chance. A man might be placed under the necessity of confessing his faith, or 
he might live all his life without being placed under this necessity. But now all men, without exception, 
are subjected to this trial of their faith. Every man of the present day is under the necessity of taking 
part in the cruelties of pagan life, or of refusing all participation in them. And secondly, in those days 
cases of refusal to worship the gods or the images or the Pope were not incidents that had any material 
bearing on the state. Whether men worshiped or did not worship the gods, the images, or the Pope, the 
state remained just as powerful. But now cases of refusing to comply with the unchristian demands of 

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the government are striking at the very root of state authority, because the whole authority of the state is 
based on the compliance with these unchristian demands. 

The sovereign powers of the world have in the course of time been brought into a position in which, 
for their own preservation, they must require from all men actions that cannot be performed by men who 
profess true Christianity. 

And therefore in our days every profession of true Christianity, by any individual man, strikes at the 
most essential power of the state, and inevitably leads the way for the emancipation of all. 

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 in 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 that 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. 

A new reign is beginning. According to the universal rule and established order it is required that all 
the subjects should take the oath of allegiance to the new government. There is a general decree to that 
effect, and all are summoned to the council-houses to take the oath. All at once one man in Perm, 
another in Tula, a third in Moscow, and a fourth in Kalouga declare that they will not take the oath, and 
though there is no communication between them, they all explain their refusal on the same grounds - 
namely, that swearing is forbidden by the law of Christ, and that even if swearing had not been 
forbidden, they could not, in the spirit of the law of Christ, promise to perform the evil actions required 
of them in the oath, such as informing against all such as may act against the interests of the 
government, or defending their government with firearms or attacking its enemies. They are brought 
before rural police officers, district police captains, priests, and governors. They are admonished, 
questioned, threatened, and punished; but they adhere to their resolution, and do not take the oath. And 
among the millions of those who did take the oath, those dozens go on living who did not take the oath. 
And they are questioned: 

"What, didn't you take the oath?" 

"No, I didn't take the oath." 

"And what happened - nothing?" 

"Nothing." 

The subjects of a state are all bound to pay taxes. And everyone pays taxes, until suddenly one man 
in Kharkov, another in Tver, and a third in Samara refuse to pay taxes - all, as though in collusion, 
saying the same thing. One says he will only pay when they tell him what object the money taken from 
him will be spent on. "If it is for good deeds," he says, "he will give it of his own accord, and more 
even than is required of him. If it is for evil deeds, then he will give nothing voluntarily, because by the 
law of Christ, whose follower he is, he cannot take part in evil deeds." The others, too, say the same in 
other words, and will not voluntarily pay the taxes. 

Those who have anything to be taken have their property taken from them by force; as for those who 
have nothing, they are left alone. 

"What, didn't you pay the tax?" 

"No, I didn't pay it." 

"And what happened - nothing?" 

"Nothing." 

There is the institution of passports. Everyone moving from his place of residence is bound to carry 
one, and to pay a duty on it. Suddenly people are to be found in various places declaring that to carry a 

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passport is not necessary, that one ought not to recognize one's dependence on a state that exists by 
means of force; and these people do not carry passports, or pay the duty on them. And again, it's 
impossible to force those people by any means to do what is required. They send them to jail, and let 
them out again, and these people live without passports. 

All peasants are bound to fill certain police offices - that of village constable, and of watchman, and 
so on. Suddenly in Kharkov a peasant refuses to perform this duty, justifying his refusal on the ground 
that by the law of Christ, of which he is a follower, he cannot put any man in fetters, lock him up, or 
drag him from place to place. The same declaration is made by a peasant in Tver, and by another in 
Tambov. These peasants are abused, beaten, shut up in prison, but they stick to their resolution and 
don't fill these offices against their convictions. And at last they cease to appoint them as constables. 
And again nothing happens. 

All citizens are obliged to take a share in law proceedings in the character of jurymen. Suddenly the 
most different people - mechanics, professors, tradesmen, peasants, servants, as though by agreement 
refuse to fill this office, and not on the grounds allowed as sufficient by law, but because any process at 
law is, according to their views, unchristian. They fine these people, trying not to let them have an 
opportunity of explaining their motives in public, and replace them by others. And again nothing can be 
done. 

All young men of twenty-one years of age are obliged to draw lots for service in the army. All at 
once one young man in Moscow, another in Tver, a third in Kharkov, and a fourth in Kiev present 
themselves before the authorities, and, as though by previous agreement, declare that they will not take 
the oath, they will not serve because they are Christians. I will give the details of one of the first cases, 
since they have become more frequent, which I happen to know about. The same treatment has been 
repeated in every other case. A young man of fair education refuses in the Moscow town hall to take the 
oath. No attention is paid to what he says, and it is requested that he should pronounce the words of the 
oath like the rest. He declines, quoting a particular passage of the Gospel in which swearing is 
forbidden. No attention is paid to his arguments, and he is again requested to comply with the order, but 
he does not comply with it. Then it is supposed that he is a sectary and therefore does not understand 
Christianity in the right sense, that is to say, not in the sense in which the priests in the pay of the 
government understand it. And the young man is conducted under escort to the priests, that they may 
bring him to reason. The priests begin to reason with him, but their efforts in Christ's name to persuade 
him to renounce Christ obviously have no influence on him; he is pronounced incorrigible and sent back 
again to the army. He persists in not taking the oath and openly refuses to perform any military duties. 
It is a case that has not been provided for by the laws. To overlook such a refusal to comply with the 
demands of the authorities is out of the question, but to put such a case on a par with simple breach of 
discipline is also out of the question. 

After deliberation among themselves, the military authorities decide to get rid of the troublesome 
young man, to consider him as a revolutionist, and they dispatch him under escort to the committee of 
the secret police. The police authorities and gendarmes cross-question him, but nothing that he says can 
be brought under the head of any of the misdemeanors that come under their jurisdiction. And there is 
no possibility of accusing him either of revolutionary acts or revolutionary plotting, since he declares 
that he does not wish to attack anything, but, on the contrary, is opposed to any use of force, and, far 
from plotting in secret, he seeks every opportunity of saying and doing all that he says and does in the 
most open manner. And the gendarmes, though they are bound by no hard-and-fast rules, still find no 
ground for a criminal charge against the young man, and, like the clergy, they send him back to the 
army. Again the authorities deliberate together, and decide to accept him though he has not taken the 
oath, and to enroll him among the soldiers. They put him into the uniform, enroll him, and send him 
under guard to the place where the army is quartered. There the chief officer of the division that he 



15 All the details of this case, as well as those preceding it, are authentic. 

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enters again expects the young man to perform his military duties, and again he refuses to obey, and in 
the presence of other soldiers explains the reason of his refusal, saying that he as a Christian cannot 
voluntarily prepare himself to commit murder, which is forbidden by the law of Moses. 

This incident occurs in a provincial town. The case awakens the interest, and even the sympathy, not 
only of outsiders, but also even of the officers. And the chief officers consequently do not decide to 
punish this refusal of obedience with disciplinary measures. To save appearances, though, they shut the 
young man up in prison, and write to the highest military authorities to inquire what they are to do. To 
refuse to serve in the army, in which the Czar himself serves, and which enjoys the blessing of the 
Church, seems insanity from the official point of view. Consequently they write from Petersburg that, 
since the young man must be out of his mind, they must not use any severe treatment with him, but must 
send him to a lunatic asylum, that his mental condition may be inquired into and be scientifically treated. 
They send him to the asylum in the hope that he will remain there, like another young man, who refused 
ten years ago at Tver to serve in the army, and who was tortured in the asylum until he submitted. But 
even this step does not rid the military authorities of the inconvenient man. The doctors examine him, 
interest themselves warmly in his case, and naturally finding in him no symptoms of mental disease, 
send him back to the army. There they receive him, and making believe to have forgotten his refusal 
and his motives for it, they again request him to go to drill, and again in the presence of the other 
soldiers he refuses and explains the reason of his refusal. The affair continues to attract more and more 
attention, both among the soldiers and the inhabitants of the town. Again they write to Petersburg, and 
thence comes the decree to transfer the young man to some division of the army stationed on the 
frontier, in some place where the army is under martial law, where he can be shot for refusing to obey, 
and where the matter can proceed without attracting observation, seeing that there are few Russians and 
Christians in such a distant part, but the majority are foreigners and Muslims. This is accordingly done. 
They transfer him to a division stationed on the Zacaspian border, and in company with convicts send 
him to a chief officer who is notorious for his harshness and severity. 

All this time, through all these changes from place to place, the young man is roughly treated, kept 
in cold, hunger, and filth, and life is made burdensome to him generally. But all these sufferings do not 
compel him to change his resolution. On the Zacaspian border, where he is again requested to go on 
guard fully armed, he again declines to obey. He does not refuse to go and stand near the haystacks 
where they place him, but refuses to take his arms, declaring that he will not use violence in any case 
against anyone. All this takes place in the presence of the other soldiers. To let such a refusal pass 
unpunished is impossible, and the young man is put on his trial for breach of discipline. The trial takes 
place, and he is sentenced to confinement in the military prison for two years. He is again transferred, in 
company with convicts, by etape, to Caucasus, and there he is shut up in prison and falls under the 
irresponsible power of the jailer. There he is persecuted for a year and a half, but he does not for all that 
alter his decision not to bear arms, and he explains why he will not do this to everyone with whom he is 
brought in contact. At the end of the second year they set him free, before the end of his term of 
imprisonment, reckoning it contrary to law to keep him in prison after his time of military service was 
over, and only too glad to get rid of him as soon as possible. 

Other men in various parts of Russia behave, as though by agreement, precisely in the same way as 
this young man, and in all these cases the government has adopted the same timorous, undecided, and 
secretive course of action. Some of these men are sent to the lunatic asylum, some are enrolled as clerks 
and transferred to Siberia, some are sent to work in the forests, some are sent to prison, some are fined. 
And at this very time some men of this kind are in prison, not charged with their real offense - that is, 
denying the lawfulness of the action of the government, but for non-fulfillment of special obligations 
imposed by government. Thus an officer of reserve, who did not report his change of residence, and 
justified this on the ground that he would not serve in the army any longer, was fined thirty rubles for 
non-compliance with the orders of the superior authority. This fine he also declined voluntarily to pay. 

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In the same way some peasants and soldiers who have refused to be drilled and to bear arms have been 
placed under arrest on a charge of breach of discipline and insolence. 

And cases of refusing to comply with the demands of government when they are opposed to 
Christianity, and especially cases of refusing to serve in the army, are occurring of late not in Russia 
only, but everywhere. Thus I happen to know that in Serbia men of the so-called sect of Nazarenes 
steadily refuse to serve in the army, and the Austrian Government has been carrying on a fruitless 
contest with them for years, punishing them with imprisonment. In the year 1885 there were 130 such 
cases. I know that in Switzerland in the year 1890 there were men in prison in the castle of Chillon for 
declining to serve in the army, whose resolution was not shaken by their punishment. There have been 
such cases in Sweden. The men who refused obedience were sent to prison in exactly the same way, 
and the government studiously concealed these cases from the people. There have been similar cases 
also in Prussia. I know of the case of a sub-lieutenant of the Guards, who in 1891 declared to the 
authorities in Berlin that he would not, as a Christian, continue to serve, and in spite of all admonitions, 
threats, and punishments he stuck to his resolution. In the south of France a society has arisen of late 
bearing the name of the Hinschists (these facts are taken from the Peace Herald, July 1891), the 
members of which refuse to enter military service on the grounds of their Christian principles. At first 
they were enrolled in the ambulance corps, but now, as their numbers increase, they are subjected to 
punishment for non-compliance, but they still refuse to bear arms just the same. 

The socialists, the communists, the anarchists, with their bombs and riots and revolutions, are not 
nearly so much dreaded by governments as these disconnected individuals coming from different parts, 
and all justifying their non-compliance on the grounds of the same religion, which is known to all the 
world. 

Every government knows by what means and in what manner to defend itself from revolutionists 
and has resources for doing so, and therefore does not dread these external foes. But what are 
governments to do against men who show the uselessness, superfluousness, and perniciousness of all 
governments, and who do not contend against them, but simply do not need them and do without them, 
and therefore are unwilling to take any part in them? 

The revolutionists say, "The form of government is bad in this respect and that respect; we must 
overturn it and substitute this or that form of government." The Christian says, "I know nothing about 
the form of government. I don't know whether it is good or bad, and I don't want to overturn it 
precisely because I don't know whether it's good or bad, but for the very same reason I don't want to 
support it either. And I not only don't want to, but I can't, because what it demands of me is against my 
conscience." 

All state obligations are against the conscience of a Christian - the oath of allegiance, taxes, law 
proceedings, and military service. And the whole power of the government rests on these very 
obligations. 

Revolutionary enemies attack the government from without. Christianity does not attack it at all, 
but, from within, it destroys all the foundations on which government rests. 

Among the Russian people, especially since the age of Peter I, the protest of Christianity against the 
government has never ceased, and the social organization has been such that men emigrate in communes 
to Turkey, to China, and to uninhabited lands, and not only feel no need of state aid, but always regard 
the state as a useless burden, only to be endured as a misfortune, whether it happens to be Turkish, 
Russian, or Chinese. And so, too, among the Russian people more and more frequent examples have of 
late appeared of conscious Christian freedom from subjection to the state. And these examples are the 
more alarming for the government from the fact that these non-compliant persons often belong not to the 
so-called lower uneducated classes, but are men of fair or good education; and also from the fact that 
they do not in these days justify their position by any mystic and exceptional views, as in former times, 
do not associate themselves with any superstitious or fanatic rites, like the sects who practice self- 

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immolation by fire, or the wandering pilgrims, but put their refusal on the very simplest and clearest 
grounds, comprehensible to all, and recognized as true by all. 

Thus they refuse the voluntary payment of taxes, because taxes are spent on deeds of violence - on 
the pay of men of violence - soldiers, on the construction of prisons, fortresses, and cannons. They as 
Christians regard it as sinful and immoral to have any hand in such deeds. 

Those who refuse to take the oath of allegiance refuse because to promise obedience to authorities, 
that is, to men who are given to deeds of violence, is contrary to the sense of Christ's teaching. They 
refuse to take the oath in the law courts, because oaths are directly forbidden by the Gospel. They refuse 
to perform police duties, because in the performance of these duties they must use force against their 
brothers and ill-treat them, and a Christian cannot do that. They refuse to take part in trials at law, 
because they consider every appeal to law is fulfilling the law of vengeance, which is inconsistent with 
the Christian law of forgiveness and love. They refuse to take any part in military preparations and in 
the army, because they cannot be executioners, and they are unwilling to prepare themselves to be so. 

The motives in all these cases are so excellent that, however despotic governments may be, they 
could hardly punish them openly. To punish men for refusing to act against their conscience the 
government must renounce all claim to good sense and benevolence. And they assure people that they 
only rule in the name of good sense and benevolence. 

What are governments to do against such people? 

Governments can of course flog to death or execute or keep in perpetual imprisonment all enemies 
who want to overturn them by violence, they can lavish gold on that section of the people who are ready 
to destroy their enemies. But what can they do against men who, without wishing to overturn or destroy 
anything, desire simply for their part to do nothing against the law of Christ, and who, therefore, refuse 
to perform the commonest state requirements, which are, therefore, the most indispensable to the 
maintenance of the state? 

If they had been revolutionists, advocating and practicing violence and murder, their suppression 
would have been an easy matter; some of them could have been bought over, some could have been 
duped, some could have been overawed, and these who could not be bought over, duped, or overawed 
would have been treated as criminals, enemies of society, would have been executed or imprisoned, and 
the crowd would have approved of the action of the government. If they had been fanatics, professing 
some peculiar belief, it might have been possible, in disproving the superstitious errors mixed in with 
their religion, to attack also the truth they advocate. But what is to be done with men who profess no 
revolutionary ideas nor any peculiar religious dogmas, but merely because they are unwilling to do evil 
to any man, refuse to take the oath, to pay taxes, to take part in law proceedings, to serve in the army, to 
fulfill, in fact, any of the obligations upon which the whole fabric of a state rests? What is to done with 
such people? To buy them over with bribes is impossible; the very risks to which they voluntarily 
expose themselves show that they are incorruptible. To dupe them into believing that this is their duty 
to God is also impossible, since their refusal is based on the clear, unmistakable law of God, recognized 
even by those who are trying to compel men to act against it. To terrify them by threats is still less 
possible, because the deprivations and sufferings to which they are subjected only strengthen their desire 
to follow the faith by which they are commanded: to obey God rather than men, and not to fear those 
who can destroy the body, but to fear him who can destroy body and soul. To kill them or keep them in 
perpetual imprisonment is also impossible. These men have friends, and a past; their way of thinking 
and acting is well known; they are known by everyone for good, gentle, peaceable people, and they 
cannot be regarded as criminals who must be removed for the safety of society. And to put men to death 
who are regarded as good men is to provoke others to champion them and justify their refusal. And it is 
only necessary to explain the reasons of their refusal to make clear to everyone that these reasons have 
the same force for all other men, and that they all ought to have done the same long ago. These cases 
put the ruling powers into a desperate position. They see that the prophecy of Christianity is coming to 
pass, that it is loosening the fetters of those in chains, and setting free those who are in bondage, and that 

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this must inevitably be the end of all oppressors. The ruling authorities see this, they know that their 
hours are numbered, and they can do nothing. All that they can do to save themselves is only deferring 
the hour of their downfall. And this they do, but their position is not made less desperate. 

It is like the position of a conqueror who is trying to save a town that has been set on fire by its own 
inhabitants. At the very moment when he puts out the conflagration in one place, it is alight in two other 
places; at the very moment when he gives in to the fire and cuts off what is on fire from a large building, 
the building itself is alight at both ends. These separate fires may be few, but they are burning with a 
flame that, however small a spark it starts from, never ceases until it has set the whole ablaze. 

Thus it is that the ruling authorities are in such a defenseless position before men who advocate 
Christianity, that but little is necessary to overthrow this sovereign power that seems so powerful, and 
has held such an exalted position for so many centuries. And yet, social reformers are busy 
promulgating the idea that it is not necessary and is even pernicious and immoral for every man 
separately to work out his own freedom. As though, while one set of men have been at work a long 
while turning a river into a new channel, and had dug out a complete water-course and had only to open 
the floodgates for the water to rush in and do the rest, another set of men should come along and begin 
to advise them that it would be much better, instead of letting the water out, to construct a machine that 
would ladle the water up from one side and pour it over the other side. 

But the thing has gone too far. Already ruling governments feel their weak and defenseless position, 
and men of Christian principles are awakening from their apathy, and already begin to feel their power. 

"I have come to send a fire on the earth," said Christ, "and how I wish it were already kindled!" 

And this fire is beginning to burn. 



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CHAPTER 10 

EVIL CANNOT BE SUPPRESSED BY THE PHYSICAL FORCE OF THE GOVERNMENT - THE 
MORAL PROGRESS OF HUMANITY IS BROUGHT ABOUT NOT ONLY BY INDIVIDUAL 
RECOGNITION OF TRUTH, BUT ALSO THROUGH THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A PUBLIC 

OPINION 

Christianity Destroys the State - But Which is Most Necessary: Christianity or the State? - There are Some who Assert the 
Necessity of a State Organization, and Others who Deny it, both Arguing from same First Principles - Neither Contention 
can be Proved by Abstract Argument - The Question must be Decided by the Stage in the Development of Conscience of 
Each Man, which will either Prevent or Allow him to Support a Government Organization - Recognition of the Futility and 
Immorality of Supporting a State Organization Contrary to Christian Principles will Decide the Question for Every Man, in 
Spite of any Action on Part of the State - Argument of those who Defend the Government, that it is a Form of Social Life, 
Needed to Protect the Good from the Wicked, until all Nations and all Members of each Nation have Become Christians - 
The Most Wicked are Always those in Power - The whole History of Humanity is the History of the Forcible Appropriation 
of Power by the Wicked and their Oppression of the Good - The Recognition by Governments of the Necessity of Opposing 
Evil by Force is Equivalent to Suicide on their Part - The Abolition of State Violence cannot Increase the Sum Total of Acts 
of Violence - The Suppression of the Use of Force is not only Possible, but is even Taking Place before Our Eyes - But it 
will Never be Suppressed by the Violence of Government, but through Men who have Attained Power by Evidence 
Recognizing its Emptiness and Becoming Better and Less Capable of Using Force - Individual Men and also Whole Nations 
Pass Through this Process - By this Means Christianity is Diffused Through Consciousness of Men, not only in Spite of Use 
of Violence by Government, but even Through its Action, and therefore the Suppression is not to be Dreaded, but is Brought 
About by the National Progress of Life - Objection of those who Defend State Organization that Universal Adoption of 
Christianity is hardly Likely to be Realized at any Time - The General Adoption of the Truths of Christianity is being 
Brought About not only by the Gradual and Inward Means, that is, by Knowledge of the Truth, Prophetic Insight, and 
Recognition of the Emptiness of Power, and Renunciation of it by Individuals, but also by Another External Means, the 
Acceptance of a New Truth by Whole Masses of Men on a Lower Level of Development Through Simple Confidence in their 
Leaders - When a Certain Stage in the Diffusion of a Truth has been Reached, a Public Opinion is Created that Impels a 
Whole Mass of Men, formerly Antagonistic to the New Truth, to Accept it - And therefore all Men may Quickly be Brought 
to Renounce the use of Violence when once a Christian Public Opinion is Established - The Conviction of Force being 
Necessary Hinders the Establishment of a Christian Public Opinion - The Use of Violence Leads Men to Distrust the 
Spiritual Force that is the Only Force by which they Advance - Neither Nations nor Individuals have been really Subjugated 
by Force, but only by Public Opinion, which no Force can Resist - Savage Nations and Savage Men can only be Subdued by 
the Diffusion of a Christian Standard among them, while actually Christian Nations in order to Subdue them do all they can 
to Destroy a Christian Standard - These Fruitless Attempts to Civilize Savages Cannot be Adduced as Proofs that Men 
Cannot be Subdued by Christianity - Violence by Corrupting Public Opinion, only Hinders the Social Organization from 
being What it Ought to Be - And by the Use of Violence being Suppressed, a Christian Public Opinion would be Established 
- Whatever might be the Result of the Suppression of Use of Force, this Unknown Future could not be Worse than the 
Present Condition, and so there is no Need to Dread it - To Attain Knowledge of the Unknown, and to Move Toward it, is 
the Essence of Life. 



Christianity in its true sense puts an end to government. It was understood in this way at its very 
commencement; it was for that cause that Christ was crucified. It has always been understood in this 
way by people who were not under the necessity of justifying a Christian government. Only from the 
time that the heads of government assumed an external and nominal Christianity, men began to invent 
all the impossible, cunningly devised theories by means of which Christianity can be reconciled with 
government. But no honest and serious-minded man of our day can help seeing the incompatibility of 
true Christianity - the doctrine of meekness, forgiveness of injuries, and love - with government, with 
its pomp, acts of violence, executions, and wars. The profession of true Christianity not only excludes 
the possibility of recognizing government, but also even destroys its very foundations. 

But if it is so, and we are right in saying that Christianity is incompatible with government, then the 
question naturally presents itself: Which is more necessary to the good of humanity, in which way is 

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men's happiness best to be secured, by maintaining the organization of government or by destroying it 
and replacing it by Christianity? 

Some people maintain that government is more necessary for humanity, that the destruction of the 
state organization would involve the destruction of all that humanity has gained, and that the state has 
been and still is the only form in which humanity can develop. The evil that we see among peoples 
living under a government organization they attribute not to that type of society, but to its abuses, which, 
they say, can be corrected without destroying it, and thus humanity, without discarding the state 
organization, can develop and attain a high degree of happiness. And men of this way of thinking bring 
forward in support of their views arguments, which they think irrefutable drawn from history, 
philosophy, and even religion. But there are men who hold on the contrary that, as there was a time 
when humanity lived without government, such an organization is temporary, and that a time must come 
when men need a new organization, and that that time has come now. And men of this way of thinking 
also bring forward in support of their views arguments that they think irrefutable from philosophy, 
history, and religion. 

Volumes may be written in defense of the former view (and volumes indeed have long ago been 
written and more will still be written on that side), but much also can be written against it (and much 
also, and most brilliantly, has been written - though more recently - on this side). 

And it cannot be proved, as the champions of the state maintain, that the destruction of government 
involves a social chaos, mutual spoliation and murder, the destruction of all social institutions, and the 
return of mankind to barbarism. Nor can it be proved as the opponents of government maintain that men 
have already become so wise and good that they will not spoil or murder one another, but will prefer 
peaceful associations to hostilities; that of their own accord, unaided by the state, they will make all the 
arrangements that they need, and that therefore government, far from being any aid, under show of 
guarding men exerts a pernicious and brutalizing influence over them. It is impossible to prove either of 
these contentions by abstract reasoning. Still less possible is it to prove them by experiment, since the 
whole matter turns on the question, ought we to try the experiment? The question whether or not the 
time has come to make an end of government would be unanswerable, except that there exists another 
living means of settling it beyond dispute. 

We may dispute upon the question whether the nestlings are ready to do without the mother-hen and 
to come out of the eggs, or whether they are not yet advanced enough. But the young birds will decide 
the question without any regard for our arguments when they find themselves cramped for space in the 
eggs. Then they will begin to try them with their beaks and come out of them of their own accord. 

It is the same with the question whether the time has come to do away with the governmental type of 
society and to replace it by a new type. If a man, through the growth of a higher conscience, can no 
longer comply with the demands of government, he finds himself cramped by it and at the same time no 
longer needs its protection. When this comes to pass, the question whether men are ready to discard the 
governmental type is solved. And the conclusion will be as final for them as for the young birds hatched 
out of the eggs. Just as no power in the world can put them back into the shells, so can no power in the 
world bring men again under the governmental type of society when once they have outgrown it. 

"It may well be that government was necessary and is still necessary for all the advantages that you 
attribute to it," says the man who has mastered the Christian theory of life. "I only know that on the one 
hand, government is no longer necessary for me, and on the other hand, / can no longer carry out the 
measures that are necessary to the existence of a government. Settle for yourselves what you need for 
your life. I cannot prove the need or the harm of governments in general. I know only what I need and 
do not need, what I can do and what I cannot. I know that I do not need to divide myself off from other 
nations, and therefore I cannot admit that I belong exclusively to any state or nation, or that I owe 
allegiance to any government. I know that I do not need all the government institutions organized 
within the state, and therefore I cannot deprive people who need my labor to give it in the form of taxes 
to institutions that I do not need, which for all I know may be pernicious. I know that I have no need of 

105 



the administration or of courts of justice founded upon force, and therefore I can take no part in either. I 
know that I do not need to attack and slaughter other nations or to defend myself from them with arms, 
and therefore I can take no part in wars or preparations for wars. It may well be that there are people 
who cannot help regarding all this as necessary and indispensable. I cannot dispute the question with 
them, I can only speak for myself; but I can say with absolute certainty that I do not need it, and that I 
cannot do it. And I do not need this and I cannot do it, not because such is my own, my personal will, 
but because such is the will of him who sent me into life, and gave me an indubitable law for my 
conduct through life." 

Whatever arguments may be advanced in support of the contention that the suppression of 
government authority would be injurious and would lead to great calamities, men who have once 
outgrown the governmental form of society cannot go back to it again. And all the reasoning in the 
world cannot make the man who has outgrown the governmental form of society take part in actions 
disallowed by his conscience, any more than the full-grown bird can be made to return into the egg- 
shell. 

"But even it be so," say the champions of the existing order of things, "still the suppression of 
government violence can only be possible and desirable when all men have become Christians. So long 
as among people nominally Christians there are unchristian wicked men, who for the gratification of 
their own lusts are ready to do harm to others, the suppression of government authority, far from being a 
blessing to others, would only increase their miseries. The suppression of the governmental type of 
society is not only undesirable so long as there is only a minority of true Christians; it would not even be 
desirable if the whole of a nation were Christians, but among and around them were still unchristian men 
of other nations. For these unchristian men would rob, outrage, and kill the Christians with impunity 
and would make their lives miserable. All that would result would be that the bad would oppress and 
outrage the good with impunity. And therefore the authority of government must not be suppressed 
until all the wicked and rapacious people in the world are extinct. And since this will either never be, or 
at least cannot be for a long time to come, in spite of the efforts of individual Christians to be 
independent of government authority, it ought to be maintained in the interests of the majority. The 
champions of government assert that without it the wicked will oppress and outrage the good, and that 
the power of the government enables the good to resist the wicked." 

But in this assertion the champions of the existing order of things take for granted the proposition 
they want to prove. When they say that except for the government the bad would oppress the good, they 
take it for granted that the good are those who at the present time are in possession of power, and the bad 
are those who are in subjection to it. But this is just what wants proving. It would only be true if the 
custom of our society were what is, or rather is supposed to be, the custom in China; that is, that the 
good always rule, and that at the very moment when those at the head of government cease to be better 
than those they rule over, the citizens are bound to remove them. This is supposed to be the custom in 
China. In reality it is not so and can never be so. For to remove the heads of a government ruling by 
force, it is not the right alone, but the power to do so that is needed. Consequently, even in China this is 
only an imaginary custom. And in our Christian world we do not even suppose such a custom, and we 
have nothing on which to build up the supposition that it is the good or the superior who are in power; in 
reality it is those who have seized power and who keep it for their own and their retainers' benefit. 

The good cannot seize power, nor retain it; to do this men must love power. And love of power is 
inconsistent with goodness; but quite consistent with the very opposite qualities - pride, cunning, 
cruelty. 

Without the aggrandizement of self and the abasement of others, without hypocrisies and deceptions, 
without prisons, fortresses, executions, and murders, no power can come into existence or be 
maintained. 

"If the power of government is suppressed the more wicked will oppress the less wicked," say the 
champions of state authority. But when the Egyptians conquered the Jews, the Romans conquered the 

106 



Greeks, and the Barbarians conquered the Romans, is it possible that all the conquerors were always 
better than those they conquered? And the same with the transitions of power within a state from one 
personage to another: Has the power always passed from a worse person to a better one? When Louis 
XVI was removed and Robespierre came to power, and afterward Napoleon - who ruled then, a better 
man or a worse? And when were better men in power, when the Versaillist party or when the Commune 
was in power? When Charles I was ruler, or when Cromwell? And when Peter III was Czar, or when 
he was killed and Catherine was Czarina in one-half of Russia and Pougachef ruled the other? Which 
was bad then, and which was good? All men who happen to be in authority assert that their authority is 
necessary to keep the bad from oppressing the good, assuming that they themselves are the good par 
excellence, who protect other good people from the bad. 

But ruling means using force, and using force means doing to him to whom force is used, what he 
does not like, and what he who uses the force would certainly not like done to himself. Consequently, 
ruling means doing to others what we would not want them to do to us, that is, doing wrong. 

To submit means to prefer suffering to using force. And to prefer suffering to using force means to 
be good, or at least less wicked than those who do to others what they would not like themselves. 

And therefore, in all probability, not the better but the worse have always ruled and are ruling now. 
There may be bad men among those who are ruled, but it cannot be that those who are better have 
generally ruled those who are worse. 

It might be possible to suppose this with the inexact heathen definition of good; but with the clear 
Christian definition of good and evil, it is impossible to imagine it. 

If the more or less good, and the more or less bad cannot be distinguished in the heathen world, the 
Christian conception of good and evil has so clearly defined the characteristics of the good and the 
wicked, that it is impossible to confound them. According to Christ's teaching the good are those who 
are meek and long-suffering, do not resist evil by force, forgive injuries, and love their enemies; those 
are wicked who exalt themselves, oppress, strive, and use force. Therefore by Christ's teaching there 
can be no doubt whether the good are to be found among rulers or ruled, and whether the wicked are 
among the ruled or the rulers. Indeed it is absurd even to speak of Christians ruling. 

Non-Christians, i.e., those who find the aim of their lives in earthly happiness, must always rule 
Christians, the aim of whose lives is the renunciation of such earthly happiness. 

This difference has always existed and has become more and more defined as the Christian religion 
has been more widely diffused and more correctly understood. 

The more widely true Christianity was diffused and the more it penetrated men's conscience, the 
more impossible it was for Christians to be rulers, and the easier it became for non-Christians to rule 
them. 

"To get rid of governmental violence in a society in which all are not true Christians, will only result 
in the wicked dominating the good and oppressing them with impunity," say the champions of the 
existing order of things. But it has never been, and cannot be otherwise. So it has always been from the 
beginning of the world, and so it is still. The wicked will always dominate the good, and will always 
oppress them. Cain overpowered Abel, the cunning Jacob oppressed the guileless Esau and was in his 
turn deceived by Laban, Caiaphas and Pilate oppressed Christ, the Roman emperors oppressed Seneca, 
Epictetus, and the good Romans who lived in their times. John IV with his favorites, the syphilitic 
drunken Peter with his buffoons, the vicious Catherine with her paramours, ruled and oppressed the 
industrious religious Russians of their times. 

William is ruling over the Germans, Stambouloff over the Bulgarians, and the Russian officials over 
the Russian people. The Germans have dominated the Italians, now they dominate the Hungarians and 
Slavonians; the Turks have dominated and still dominate the Slavonians and Greeks; the English 
dominate the Hindus, the Mongolians dominate the Chinese. 

Consequently, whether governmental violence is suppressed or not, the position of good men, in 
being oppressed by the wicked, will be unchanged. 

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To terrify men with the prospect of the wicked dominating the good is impossible, for that is just 
what has always been, and is now, and must be. 

The whole history of pagan times is nothing but a recital of the incidents and means by which the 
more wicked gained possession of power over the less wicked, and retained it by cruelties and 
deceptions, ruling over the good under the pretense of guarding the right and protecting the good from 
the wicked. All the revolutions in history are only examples of the wicked seizing power and oppressing 
the good. In declaring that if their authority did not exist the wicked would oppress the good, the ruling 
authorities only show their disinclination to let other oppressors come to power who would like to snatch 
it from them. 

But in asserting this they only accuse themselves. They say that their power, i.e., violence, is needed 
to defend men from other possible oppressors in the present or the future. 16 

The weakness of the use of violence lies in the fact that all the arguments brought forward by 
oppressors in their own defense can with even better reason be advanced against them. They plead the 
danger of violence - most often imagined in the future - but they are all the while continuing to practice 
actual violence themselves. "You say that men used to pillage and murder in the past, and that you are 
afraid that they will pillage and murder one another if your power were no more. That may happen - or 
it may not happen. But the fact that you ruin thousands of men in prisons, fortresses, galleys, and exile, 
break up millions of families and ruin millions of men, physically as well as morally, in the army, that 
fact is not an imaginary but a real act of violence, which, according to your own argument, one ought to 
oppose by violence. And so you are yourselves these wicked men against whom, according to your own 
argument, it is absolutely necessary to use violence," the oppressed are sure to say to their oppressors. 
And non-Christian men always do say, and think and act on this reasoning. If the oppressed are more 
wicked than their oppressors, they attack them and try to overthrow them; and in favorable 
circumstances they succeed in overthrowing them, or what is more common, they rise into the ranks of 
the oppressors and assist in their acts of violence. 

Consequently, the very violence that the champions of government hold up as a terror - pretending 
that except for its oppressive power the wicked would oppress the good - has really always existed and 
will exist in human society. And therefore the suppression of state violence cannot in any case be the 
cause of increased oppression of the good by the wicked. 

If state violence ceased, there would be acts of violence perhaps on the part of different people, other 
than those who had done deeds of violence before. But the total amount of violence could not in any 
case be increased by the mere fact of power passing from one set of men to another. 

"State violence can only cease when there are no more wicked men in society," say the champions of 
the existing order of things, assuming in this of course that since there will always be wicked men, it can 
never cease. And that would be right enough if it were the case, as they assume, that the oppressors are 
always the best of men, and that the sole means of saving men from evil is by violence. Then, indeed, 
violence could never cease. But since this is not the case, but quite the contrary, that it is not the better 
oppress the worse, but the worse oppress the better, and since violence will never put an end to evil, and 
there is, moreover, another means of putting an end to it, the assertion that violence will never cease is 
incorrect. The use of violence grows less and less and evidently must disappear. But this will not come 
to pass, as some champions of the existing order imagine, through the oppressed becoming better and 
better under the influence of government (on the contrary, its influence causes their continual 
degradation), but through the fact that all men are constantly growing better and better of themselves, so 



16 I may quote in this connection the amazingly naive and comic declaration of the Russian authorities, the oppressors of 
other nationalities - the Poles, the Germans the Baltic provinces, and the Jews. The Russian Government has 
oppressed its subjects for centuries, and has never troubled itself about the Little Russians of Poland, or the Letts of the 
Baltic provinces, or the Russian peasants, exploited by everyone. And now it has all of a sudden become the champion 
of the oppressed - the very oppressed whom it is itself oppressing. 

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that even the most wicked, who are in power, will become less and less wicked, until at last they are so 
good as to be incapable of using violence. 

The progressive movement of humanity does not proceed from the better elements in society seizing 
power and making those who are subject to them better, by forcible means, as both conservatives and 
revolutionists imagine. It proceeds first and principally from the fact that all men in general are 
advancing steadily and undeviatingly toward a more and more conscious assimilation of the Christian 
theory of life; and secondly, from the fact that, even apart from conscious spiritual life, men are 
unconsciously brought into a more Christian attitude to life by the very process of one set of men 
grasping the power, and again being replaced by others. 

The worse elements of society, gaining possession of power, under the sobering influence that 
always accompanies power, grow less and less cruel, and become incapable of using cruel forms of 
violence. Consequently others are able to seize their place, and the same process of softening and, so to 
say, unconscious Christianizing goes on with them. It is something like the process of ebullition. Most 
men, having the non-Christian view of life, always strive for power and struggle to obtain it. In this 
struggle the most cruel, the coarsest, the least Christian elements of society overpower the most gentle, 
well-disposed, and Christian, and rise by means of their violence to the upper ranks of society. And in 
them is Christ's prophecy fulfilled: "Woe to you who are rich! Woe to you who are full! Woe to you 
when all men shall speak well of you!" For the men who are in possession of power and all that results 
from it - glory and wealth - and have attained the various aims they set before themselves, recognize the 
vanity of it all and return to the position from which they came. Charles V, John IV, and Alexander I, 
recognizing the emptiness and the evil of power, renounced it because they were incapable of using 
violence for their own benefit, as they had done. 

But they are not the solitary examples of this recognition of the emptiness and evil of power. 
Everyone who gains a position of power he has striven for, every general, every government minister, 
every millionaire, every petty official who has gained the place he has coveted for ten years, every rich 
peasant who has laid by some hundred rubles, passes through this unconscious process of softening. 

And not only individual men, but also societies of men, whole nations, pass through this process. 

The seductions of power, and all the wealth, honor, and luxury it gives, seem a sufficient aim for 
men's efforts only so long as they are unattained. At the very moment when a man reaches them he sees 
all their vanity, and they gradually lose all their power of attraction. They are like clouds that have form 
and beauty only from the distance; at the very moment when one ascends into them, all their splendor 
vanishes. 

Men who are in possession of power and wealth, sometimes even those who have gained for 
themselves their power and wealth, but more often their heirs, cease to be so eager for power, and so 
cruel in their efforts to obtain it. 

Having learned by experience, under the operation of Christian influence, the vanity of all that is 
gained by violence, men sometimes in one, sometimes in several generations lose the vices that are 
generated by the passion for power and wealth. They become less cruel and so cannot maintain their 
position, and are expelled from power by others less Christian and more wicked. Thus they return to a 
rank of society lower in position, but higher in morality, raising thereby the average level of Christian 
consciousness in men. But directly after them again the worst, coarsest, least Christian elements of 
society rise to the top, and are subjected to the same process as their predecessors, and again in a 
generation or so, seeing the vanity of what is gained by violence, and having imbibed Christianity, they 
come down again among the oppressed, and their place is again filled by new oppressors, less brutal 
than former oppressors, though more so than those they oppress. Consequently, although power remains 
externally the same as it was, with every change of the men in power there is a constant increase of the 
number of men who have been brought by experience to the necessity of assimilating the Christian 
conception of life, and with every change - though it is the coarsest, crudest, and least Christian who 

109 



come into possession of power, they are less coarse and cruel and more Christian than their predecessors 
when they gained possession of power. 

Power selects and attracts the worst elements of society, transforms them, improves and softens 
them, and returns them to society. 

Such is the process by means of which Christianity, in spite of the hindrances to human progress 
resulting from the violence of power, gains more and more hold of men. Christianity penetrates to the 
consciousness of men, not only in spite of the violence of power, but also by means of it. 

And therefore the assertion of the champions of the state, that if the power of government were 
suppressed the wicked would oppress the good, not only fails to show that that is to be dreaded, since it 
is just what happens now, but proves, on the contrary, that it is governmental power that enables the 
wicked to oppress the good, and is the evil most desirable to suppress, and that it is being gradually 
suppressed in the natural course of things. 

"But if it were true that governmental power will disappear when those in power become so 
Christian that they renounce power of their own accord, and there are no men found willing to take their 
place, and even if this process is already going on," say the champions of the existing order, "when will 
that come to pass? If, after eighteen hundred years, there are still so many eager for power, and so few 
anxious to obey, there seems no likelihood of its happening very soon - or indeed of its ever happening 
at all. 

"Even if there are, as there have always been, some men who prefer renouncing power to enjoying it, 
the mass of men in reserve, who prefer dominion to subjection, is so great that it is difficult to imagine a 
time when the number will be exhausted. 

"Before this Christianizing process could so affect all men one after another that they would pass 
from the heathen to the Christian conception of life, and would voluntarily abandon power and wealth, it 
would be necessary that all the coarse, half-savage men, completely incapable of appreciating 
Christianity or acting upon it, of whom there are always a great many in every Christian society, should 
be converted to Christianity. More than this, all the savage and absolutely non-Christian peoples, who 
are so numerous outside the Christian world, must also be converted. And therefore, even if we admit 
that this Christianizing process will someday affect everyone, still, judging by the amount of progress it 
has made in eighteen hundred years, it will be many times eighteen centuries before it will do so. And it 
is therefore impossible and unprofitable to think at present of anything so impracticable as the 
suppression of authority. We ought only to try to put authority into the best hands." 

And this criticism would be perfectly just, if the transition from one conception of life to another 
were only accomplished by the single process of all men, separately and successively, realizing, each for 
himself, the emptiness of power, and reaching Christian truth by the inner spiritual path. That process 
goes on unceasingly, and men are passing over to Christianity one after another by this inner way. 

But there is also another external means by which men reach Christianity and by which the transition 
is less gradual. 

This transition from one organization of life to another is not accomplished by degrees like the sand 
running through the hourglass grain after grain. It is more like the water filling a vessel floating on 
water. At first the water only runs in slowly on one side, but as the vessel grows heavier it suddenly 
begins to sink, and almost instantaneously fills with water. 

It is just the same with the transitions of mankind from one conception - and so from one 
organization of life - to another. At first only gradually and slowly, one after another, men attain to the 
new truth by the inner spiritual way, and follow it out in life. But when a certain point in the diffusion 
of the truth has been reached, it is suddenly assimilated by everyone, not by the inner way, but, as it 
were, involuntarily. 

That is why the champions of the existing order are wrong in arguing that, since only a small section 
of mankind has passed over to Christianity in eighteen centuries, it must be many times eighteen 
centuries before all the remainder do the same. For in that argument they do not take into account any 

110 



other means, besides the inward spiritual one, by which men assimilate a new truth and pass from one 
order of life to another. 

Men do not only assimilate a truth through recognizing it by prophetic insight, or by experience of 
life. When the truth has become sufficiently widely diffused, men at a lower stage of development 
accept it all at once simply through confidence in those who have reached it by the inner spiritual way, 
and are applying it to life. 

Every new truth, by which the order of human life is changed and humanity is advanced, is at first 
accepted by only a very small number of men who understand it through inner spiritual intuition. The 
remainder of mankind who accepted on trust the preceding truth on which the existing order is based, 
are always opposed to the diffusion of the new truth. 

But seeing that, to begin with, men do not stand still, but are steadily advancing to a greater 
recognition of the truth and a closer adaptation of their life to it, and secondly, all men in varying 
degrees according to their age, their education, and their race are capable of understanding the new 
truths, at first those who are nearest to the men who have attained the new truth by spiritual intuition, 
slowly and one by one, but afterward more and more quickly, pass over to the new truth. Thus the 
number of men who accept the new truth becomes greater and greater, and the truth becomes more and 
more comprehensible. 

And thus more confidence is aroused in the remainder, who are at a less advanced stage of capacity 
for understanding the truth. And it becomes easier for them to grasp it, and an increasing number accept 
it. 

And so the movement goes on more and more quickly, and on an ever-increasing scale, like a 
snowball, until at last a public opinion in harmony with the new truth is created, and then the whole 
mass of men is carried over all at once by its momentum to the new truth and establishes a new social 
order in accordance with it. 

Those men who accept a new truth when it has gained a certain degree of acceptance always pass 
over all at once in masses. They are like the ballast with which every ship is always loaded, at once to 
keep it upright and enable it to sail properly. If there were no ballast, the ship would not be low enough 
in the water, and would shift its position at the slightest change in its conditions. This ballast, which 
strikes one at first as superfluous and even as hindering the progress of the vessel, is really indispensable 
to its good navigation. 

It is the same with the mass of mankind, who not individually, but always in a mass, under the 
influence of a new social idea pass all at once from one organization of life to another. This mass 
always hinders, by its inertia, frequent and rapid revolutions in the social order that have not been 
sufficiently proved by human experience. And it delays every truth a long while until it has stood the 
test of prolonged struggles, and has thoroughly permeated the consciousness of humanity. 

And that is why it is a mistake to say that because only a very small minority of men has assimilated 
Christianity in eighteen centuries, it must take many times as many centuries for all mankind to 
assimilate it, and that since that time is so far off, we who live in the present need not even think about 
it. It is a mistake, because the men at a lower stage of culture, the men and the nations who are 
represented as the obstacle to the realization of the Christian order of life, are the very people who 
always pass over in masses all at once to any truth that has once been recognized by public opinion. 

And therefore the transformation of human life, through which men in power will renounce it, and 
there will be none anxious to take their place, will not come only by all men consciously and separately 
assimilating the Christian conception of life. It will come when a Christian public opinion has arisen, so 
definite and easily comprehensible as to reach the whole of the inert mass, which is not able to attain 
truth by its own intuition, and therefore is always under the sway of public opinion. 

Public opinion arises spontaneously and spreads for hundreds and thousands of years, but it has the 
power of working on men by infection, and with great rapidity gains a hold on great numbers of men. 

Ill 



"But," say the champions of the existing order, "even if it is true that public opinion, when it has 
attained a certain degree of definiteness and precision, can convert the inert mass of men outside the 
Christian world - the non-Christian races - as well as the coarse and depraved who are living in its 
midst, what proofs have we that this Christian public opinion has arisen and is able to replace force and 
render it unnecessary. 

"We must not give up force, by which the existing order is maintained, and by relying on the vague 
and impalpable influence of public opinion expose Christians to the risk of being pillaged, murdered, 
and outraged in every way by the savages inside and outside of civilized society. 

"Since, even supported by the use of force, we can hardly control the non-Christian elements that are 
always ready to pour down on us and to destroy all that has been gained by civilization, is it likely that 
public opinion could take the place of force and render us secure? And besides, how are we to find the 
moment when public opinion has become strong enough to be able to replace the use of force? To reject 
the use of force and trust to public opinion to defend us would be as insane as to remove all weapons of 
defense in a menagerie, and then to let loose all the lions and tigers, relying on the fact that the animals 
seemed peaceable when kept in their cages and held in check by red-hot irons. And therefore people in 
power, who have been put in positions of authority by fate or by God, have not the right to run the risk, 
ruining all that has been gained by civilization, just because they want to try an experiment to see 
whether public opinion is or is not able to replace the protection given by authority." 

A French writer, forgotten now, Alphonse Karr, said somewhere, trying to show the impossibility of 
doing away with the death penalty, "Que messieurs les assassins commencent par nous donner 
l'exemple." Often have I heard this bon mot repeated by men who thought that these words were a 
witty and convincing argument against the abolition of capital punishment. And yet, all the 
erroneousness of the argument of those who consider that governments cannot give up the use of force 
until all people are capable of doing the same could not be more clearly expressed than it is in that 
epigram. 

"Let the murderers," say the champions of state violence, "set us the example by giving up murder 
and then we will give it up." But the murderers say just the same, only with much more right. They say, 
"Let those who have undertaken to teach us and guide us set us the example of giving up legal murder, 
and then we will imitate them." And they say this, not as a jest, but seriously, because it is the actual 
state of the case. 

"We cannot give up the use of violence, because we are surrounded by violent ruffians." Nothing in 
our days hinders the progress of humanity and the establishment of the organization corresponding to its 
present development more than this false reasoning. Those in authority are convinced that men are only 
guided and only progress through the use of force, and therefore they confidently make use of it to 
support the existing organization. The existing order is maintained, not by force, but by public opinion, 
the action of which is disturbed by the use of force. Consequently, the effect of using force is to disturb 
and to weaken the very thing it tries to maintain. 

Violence, even in the most favorable case, when it is not used simply for some personal aims of 
those in power, always punishes under the one inelastic formula of the law what has long before been 
condemned by public opinion. But there is this difference, that while public opinion censures and 
condemns all the acts opposed to the moral law, including the most varied cases in its reprobation, the 
law that rests on violence only condemns and punishes a certain very limited range of acts, and by so 
doing seems to justify all other acts of the same kind that do not come under its scope. 

Public opinion ever since the time of Moses has regarded covetousness, profligacy, and cruelty as 
wrong, and has censured them accordingly. And it condemns every kind of manifestation of 
covetousness, not only the appropriation of the property of others by force or fraud or trickery, but even 
the cruel abuse of wealth; it condemns every form of profligacy, whether with concubine, slave, 
divorced woman, or even one's own wife; it condemns every kind of cruelty, whether shown in blows, 
in ill-treatment, or in murder, not only of men, but even of animals. The law resting on force only 

112 



punishes certain forms of covetousness, such as robbery and swindling, certain forms of profligacy and 
cruelty, such as conjugal infidelity, murder, and wounding. And in this way it seems to countenance all 
the manifestations of covetousness, profligacy, and cruelty that do not come under its narrow definition. 

But besides corrupting public opinion, the use of force leads men to the fatal conviction that they 
progress, not through the spiritual impulse that impels them to the attainment of truth and its realization 
in life, and that constitutes the only source of every progressive movement of humanity, but by means of 
violence, the very force that, far from leading men to truth, always carries them further away from it. 
This is a fatal error, because it leads men to neglect the chief force underlying their life - their spiritual 
activity - and to turn all their attention and energy to the use of violence, which is superficial, sluggish, 
and most generally pernicious in its action. 

They make the same mistake as men who, trying to set a steam engine in motion, should turn its 
wheels round with their hands, not suspecting that the underlying cause of its movement was the 
expansion of the steam, and not the motion of the wheels. By turning the wheels by hand and by levers 
they could only produce a semblance of movement, and meantime they would be wrenching the wheels 
and so preventing their being fit for real movement. 

That is just what people are doing who think to make men advance by means of external force. 

They say that the Christian life cannot be established without the use of violence, because there are 
savage races outside the pale of Christian societies in Africa and in Asia (there are some who even 
represent the Chinese as a danger to civilization), and that in the midst of Christian societies there are 
savage, corrupt, and, according to the new theory of heredity, congenital criminals. And violence, they 
say, is necessary to keep savages and criminals from annihilating our civilization. 

But these savages within and without Christian society, who are such a terror to us, have never been 
subjugated by violence, and are not subjugated by it now. Nations have never subjugated other nations 
by violence alone. If a nation that subjugated another was on a lower level of civilization, it has never 
happened that it succeeded in introducing its organization of life by violence. On the contrary, it was 
always forced to adopt the organization of life existing in the conquered nation. If ever any of the 
nations conquered by force have been really subjugated, or even nearly so, it has always been by the 
action of public opinion, and never by violence, which only tends to drive a people to further rebellion. 

When whole nations have been subjugated by a new religion, and have become Christian or Muslim, 
such a conversion has never been brought about because the authorities made it obligatory (on the 
contrary, violence has more often acted in the opposite direction), but because public opinion made such 
a change inevitable. Nations, on the contrary, that have been driven by force to accept the faith of their 
conquerors have always remained antagonistic to it. 

It is just the same with the savage elements existing in the midst of our civilized societies. Neither 
the increased nor the diminished severity of punishment, nor the modifications of prisons, nor the 
increase of police will increase or diminish the number of criminals. Their number will only be 
diminished by the change of the moral standard of society. No severities could put an end to duels and 
vendettas in certain districts. It spite of the number of Tcherkesses executed for robbery, they continue 
to be robbers from their youth up, for no maiden will marry a Tcherkess youth until he has given proof 
of his bravery by carrying off a horse, or at least a sheep. If men cease to fight duels, and the 
Tcherkesses cease to be robbers, it will not be from fear of punishment (indeed, that invests the crime 
with additional charm for youth), but through a change in the moral standard of public opinion. It is the 
same with all other crimes. Force can never suppress what is sanctioned by public opinion. On the 
contrary, public opinion need only be in direct opposition to force to neutralize the whole effect of the 
use of force. It has always been so and always will be in every case of martyrdom. 

What would happen if force were not used against hostile nations and the criminal elements of 
society, we do not know. But we do know by prolonged experience that neither enemies nor criminals 
have been successfully suppressed by force. 

113 



And indeed, how could nations be subjugated by violence when they are led by their whole 
education, their traditions, and even their religion to see the loftiest virtue in warring with their 
oppressors and fighting for freedom? And how are we to suppress by force acts committed in the midst 
of our society that are regarded as crimes by the government and as daring exploits by the people? 

To exterminate such nations and such criminals by violence is possible, and indeed is done, but to 
subdue them is impossible. 

The sole guide that directs men and nations has always been and is the unseen, intangible, 
underlying force, the resultant of all the spiritual forces of a certain people, or of all humanity, which 
finds its outward expression in public opinion. 

The use of violence only weakens this force, hinders it and corrupts it, and tries to replace it by 
another that, far from being conducive to the progress of humanity, is detrimental to it. 

To bring under the sway of Christianity all the savage nations outside the pale of the Christian world 
- all the Zulus, Mongols, and Chinese, whom many regard as savages - and the savages who live in our 
midst, there is only one means. That means is the propagation among these nations of the Christian ideal 
of society, which can only be realized by a Christian life, Christian actions, and Christian examples. 
And meanwhile, though this is the one and only means of gaining a hold over the people who have 
remained non-Christian, the men of our day set to work in the directly opposite fashion to attain this 
result. 

To bring under the sway of Christianity savage nations who do not attack us and whom we have 
therefore no excuse for oppressing, we ought before all things to leave them in peace, and in case we 
need or wish to enter into closer relations with them, we ought only to influence them by Christian 
manners and Christian teaching, setting them the example of the Christian virtues of patience, meekness, 
endurance, purity, brotherhood, and love. Instead of that we begin by establishing among them new 
markets for our commerce, with the sole aim of our own profit; then we appropriate their lands, i.e., rob 
them; then we sell them spirits, tobacco, and opium, i.e., corrupt them; then we establish our morals 
among them, teach them the use of violence and new methods of destruction, i.e., we teach them nothing 
but the animal law of strife, below which man cannot sink, and we do all we can to conceal from them 
all that is Christian in us. After this we send some dozens of missionaries prating to them of the 
hypocritical absurdities of the Church, and then quote the failure of our efforts to turn the heathen to 
Christianity as an incontrovertible proof of the impossibility of applying the truths of Christianity in 
practical life. 

It is just the same with the so-called criminals living in our midst. To bring these people under the 
sway of Christianity there is only one means, that is, the Christian social ideal, which can only be 
realized among them by true Christian teaching and supported by a true example of the Christian life. 
And to preach this Christian truth and to support it by Christian example we set up among them prisons, 
guillotines, gallows, and preparations for murder; we diffuse among the common herd idolatrous 
superstitions to stupefy them; we sell them spirits, tobacco, and opium to brutalize them; we even 
organize legalized prostitution; we give land to those who do not need it; we make a display of senseless 
luxury in the midst of suffering poverty; we destroy the possibility of anything like a Christian public 
opinion, and studiously try to suppress what Christian public opinion is existing. And then, after having 
ourselves assiduously corrupted men, we shut them up like wild beasts in places from which they cannot 
escape, and where they become still more brutalized, or else we kill them. And these very men whom 
we have corrupted and brutalized by every means, we bring forward as a proof that one cannot deal with 
criminals except by brute force. 

We are just like ignorant doctors who put a man, recovering from illness by the force of nature, into 
the most unfavorable conditions of hygiene, and dose him with the most deleterious drugs, and then 
assert triumphantly that their hygiene and their drugs saved his life, when the patient would have been 
well long before if they had left him alone. 

114 



Violence, which is held up as the means of supporting the Christian organization of life, not only 
fails to produce that effect, it even hinders the social organization of life from being what it might and 
ought to be. The social organization is as good as it is not as a result of force, but in spite of it. 

And therefore the champions of the existing order are mistaken in arguing that since, even with the 
aid of force, the bad and non-Christian elements of humanity can hardly be kept from attacking us, the 
abolition of the use of force and the substitution of public opinion for it would leave humanity quite 
unprotected. 

They are mistaken, because force does not protect humanity, but, on the contrary, deprives it of the 
only possible means of really protecting itself, that is, the establishment and diffusion of a Christian 
public opinion. Only by the suppression of violence will a Christian public opinion cease to be 
corrupted, and be enabled to be diffused without hindrance, and men will then turn their efforts in the 
spiritual direction by which alone they can advance. 

"But how are we to cast off the visible tangible protection of an armed policeman, and trust to 
something so intangible as public opinion? Does it yet exist? Moreover, we know the condition of 
things in which we are living now, be it good or bad. We know its shortcomings and are used to it. We 
know what to do, and how to behave under present conditions. But what will happen when we give it up 
and trust ourselves to something invisible and intangible, and altogether unknown?" 

The unknown world on which they are entering in renouncing their habitual ways of life appears 
itself as dreadful to them. It is all very well to dread the unknown when our habitual position is sound 
and secure. But our position is so far from being secure that we know, beyond all doubt, that we are 
standing on the brink of a precipice. 

If we must be afraid let us be afraid of what is really alarming, and not what we imagine as alarming. 

Fearing to make the effort to detach ourselves from our perilous position because the future is not 
fully clear to us, we are like passengers in a foundering ship who, through being afraid to trust 
themselves to the boat that would carry them to the shore, shut themselves up in the cabin and refuse to 
come out of it; or like sheep, who, terrified by their barn being on fire, huddle in a corner and do not go 
out of the wide-open door. 

We are standing on the threshold of the murderous war of social revolution, terrific in its miseries, 
beside which, as those who are preparing it tell us, the horrors of 1793 will be child's play. And can we 
talk of the danger threatening us from the warriors of Dahomey, the Zulus, and such, who live so far 
away and are not dreaming of attacking us, and from some thousands of swindlers, thieves, and 
murderers, brutalized and corrupted by ourselves, whose number is in no way lessened by all our 
sentences, prisons, and executions? 

Moreover, this dread of the suppression of the visible protection of the policeman is essentially a 
sentiment of townspeople, that is, of people who are living in abnormal and artificial conditions. People 
living in natural conditions of life, not in towns, but in the midst of nature, and carrying on the struggle 
with nature, live without this protection and know how little force can protect us from the real dangers 
with which we are surrounded. There is something sickly in this dread, which is essentially dependent 
on the artificial conditions in which many of us live and have been brought up. 

A doctor, a specialist in insanity, told a story that one summer day when he was leaving the asylum, 
the lunatics accompanied him to the street door. "Come for a walk in the town with me," the doctor 
suggested to them. The lunatics agreed, and a small band followed the doctor. But the further they 
proceeded along the street where healthy people were freely moving about, the more timid they became, 
and they pressed closer and closer to the doctor, hindering him from walking. At last they all began to 
beg him to take them back to the asylum, to their meaningless but customary way of life, to their 
keepers, to blows, strait-jackets, and solitary cells. 

This is just how men of today huddle in terror and draw back to their irrational manner of life, their 
factories, law courts, prisons, executions, and wars, when Christianity calls them to liberty, to the free, 
rational life of the future coming age. 

115 



People ask, "How will our security be guaranteed when the existing organization is suppressed? 
What precisely will the new organization be that is to replace it? So long as we do not know precisely 
how our life will be organized, we will not stir a step forward." 

An explorer going to an unknown country might as well ask for a detailed map of the country before 
he would start. 

If a man, before he passed from one stage to another, could know his future life in full detail, he 
would have nothing to live for. It is the same with the life of humanity. If it had a programme of the life 
that awaited it before entering a new stage, it would be the surest sign that it was not living, nor 
advancing, but simply rotating in the same place. 

We cannot know the conditions of the new order of life in advance because we have to create them 
by our own labors. That is all that life is, to learn the unknown, and to adapt our actions to this new 
knowledge. 

That is the life of each individual man, and that is the life of human societies and of humanity. 



116 



CHAPTER 1 1 

THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPTION OF LIFE HAS ALREADY ARISEN IN OUR SOCIETY, AND 
WILL INFALLIBLY PUT AN END TO THE PRESENT ORGANIZATION OF OUR LIFE BASED 

ON FORCE - WHEN THAT WILL BE 

The Condition and Organization of our Society are Terrible, but they Rest only on Public Opinion, and can be Destroyed by 
it - Already Violence is Regarded from a Different Point of View; the Number of those who are Ready to Serve the 
Government is Diminishing; and even the Servants of Government are Ashamed of their Position, and so often Do Not 
Perform their Duties - These Facts are all Signs of the Rise of a Public Opinion, which Continually Growing will Lead to No 
One being Willing to Enter Government Service - Moreover, it Becomes More and More Evident that those Offices are of 
No Practical Use - Men already Begin to Understand the Futility of all Institutions Based on Violence, and if a Few already 
Understand it, All will One Day Understand it - The Day of Deliverance is Unknown, but it Depends on Men Themselves, 
on how far Each Man Lives According to the Light that is in Him. 



The position of Christian humanity with its prisons, galleys, gibbets, its factories and accumulation 
of capital, its taxes, churches, gin-palaces, licensed brothels, its ever-increasing armament and its 
millions of brutalized men, ready, like chained dogs, to attack anyone against whom their master incites 
them, would be terrible indeed if it were the product of violence, but it is pre-eminently the product of 
public opinion. And what has been established by public opinion can be destroyed by public opinion - 
and, indeed, is being destroyed by public opinion. 

Money lavished by hundreds of millions of citizens, tens of millions of disciplined troops, weapons 
of astounding destructive power, all organizations carried to the highest point of perfection, a whole 
army of men charged with the task of deluding and hypnotizing the people, and all this, by means of 
electricity that annihilates distance, under the direct control of men who regard such an organization of 
society not only as necessary for profit, but even for self-preservation, and therefore exert every effort of 
their ingenuity to preserve it - what an invincible power it would seem! And yet we need only imagine 
for a moment what will really inevitably come to pass, that is, the Christian social standard replacing the 
heathen social standard and established with the same power and universality, and the majority of men 
as much ashamed of taking any part in violence or in profiting by it, as they are today of thieving, 
swindling, begging, and cowardice; and at once we see the whole of this complex, and seemingly 
powerful organization of society falls into ruins of itself without a struggle. 

And to bring this to pass, nothing new need be brought before men's minds. Only let the mist, 
which veils from men's eyes the true meaning of certain acts of violence, pass away, and the Christian 
public opinion that is springing up would overpower the extinct public opinion that permitted and 
justified acts of violence. People need only come to be as much ashamed to do deeds of violence, to 
assist in them or to profit by them, as they now are of being, or being reputed a swindler, a thief, a 
coward, or a beggar. And already this change is beginning to take place. We do not notice it just as we 
do not notice the movement of the earth, because we are moved together with everything around us. 

It is true that the organization of society remains in its principal features just as much an 
organization based on violence as it was one thousand years ago, and even in some respects, especially 
in the preparation for war and in war itself, it appears still more brutal. But the rising Christian ideal, 
which must at a certain stage of development replace the heathen ideal of life, already makes its 
influence felt. A dead tree stands apparently as firmly as ever - it may even seem firmer because it is 
harder - but it is rotten at the core, and soon must fall. It is just so with the present order of society, 
based on force. The external aspect is unchanged. There is the same division of oppressors and 
oppressed, but their view of the significance and dignity of their respective positions is no longer what it 
once was. 

117 



The oppressors, that is, those who take part in government, and those who profit by oppression, that 
is, the rich, no longer imagine, as they once did, that they are the elect of the world, and that they 
constitute the ideal of human happiness and greatness, to attain which was once the highest aim of the 
oppressed. 

Very often now, it is not the oppressed who strive to attain the position of the oppressors, and try to 
imitate them, but on the contrary the oppressors who voluntarily abandon the advantages of their 
position, prefer the condition of the oppressed, and try to resemble them in the simplicity of their life. 

Not to speak of the duties and occupations now openly despised, such as that of spy, agent of secret 
police, moneylender, and publican, there are a great number of professions formerly regarded as 
honorable, such as those of police officials, courtiers, judges, and administrative functionaries, 
clergymen, military officers, speculators, and bankers, which are no longer considered desirable 
positions by everyone, and are even despised by a special circle of the most respected people. There are 
already men who voluntarily abandon these professions that were once reckoned irreproachable, and 
prefer less lucrative callings that are in no way connected with the use of force. 

And there are even rich men who, not through religious sentiment, but simply through special 
sensitiveness to the social standard that is springing up, relinquish their inherited property, believing that 
a man can only justly consume what he has gained by his own labor. 

The position of a government official or of a rich man is no longer, as it once was, and still is among 
non-Christian peoples, regarded as necessarily honorable and deserving of respect, and under the special 
blessing of God. The most delicate and moral people (they are generally also the most cultivated) avoid 
such positions and prefer more humble callings that are not dependent on the use of force. 

The best of our young people, at the age when they are still uncorrupted by life and are choosing a 
career, prefer the calling of doctor, engineer, teacher, artist, writer, or even that of simple farmer living 
on his own labor, to legal, administrative, clerical, and military positions in the pay of government, or to 
an idle existence living on their incomes. 

Monuments and memorials in these days are mostly not erected in honor of government dignitaries, 
or generals, or still less of rich men, but rather of artists, men of science, and inventors, persons who 
have nothing in common with the government, and often have even been in conflict with it; they are the 
men whose praises are celebrated in poetry, who are honored by sculpture and received with triumphant 
jubilations. 

The best men of our day are all striving for such places of honor. Consequently, the class from 
which the wealthy and the government officials are drawn grows less in number and lower in 
intelligence and education, and still more in moral qualities. Consequently, nowadays the wealthy class 
and men at the head of government do not constitute, as they did in former days, the elite of society. On 
the contrary, they are inferior to the middle class. 

In Russia and Turkey as in America and France, however often the governments change their 
officials, the majority of them are self-seeking and corrupt, of so low a moral standard that they do not 
even come up the elementary requirements of common honesty expected by the government. One may 
often nowadays hear from persons in authority the naive complaint that the best people are always, by 
some strange - as it seems to them - fate, to be found in the camp of the opposition. As though men 
were to complain that those who accepted the office of hangman were - by some strange fate - all 
persons of very little refinement or beauty of character. 

The most cultivated and refined people of our society are not nowadays to be found among the very 
rich, as used formerly to be the rule. The rich are mostly coarse money-grubbers, absorbed only in 
increasing their hoard, generally by dishonest means, or else the degenerate heirs of such money- 
grubbers, who, far from playing any prominent part in society, are mostly treated with general contempt. 

And besides the fact that the class from which the servants of government and the wealthy are drawn 
grows less in number and lower in caliber, they no longer themselves attach the same importance to their 
positions as they once did; often they are ashamed of the ignominy of their calling and do not perform 

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the duties they are bound to perform in their position. Kings and emperors scarcely govern at all; they 
scarcely ever decide upon an internal reform or a new departure in foreign politics. They mostly leave 
the decision of such questions to government institutions or to public opinion. All their duties are 
reduced to representing the unity and majesty of government. And even this duty they perform less and 
less successfully. Most of them do not keep up their old unapproachable majesty, but become more and 
more democratized and even vulgarized, casting aside the external prestige that remained to them, and 
thereby destroying the very thing it was their function to maintain. 

It is just the same with the army. Military officers of the highest rank, instead of encouraging in 
their soldiers the brutality and ferocity necessary for their work, diffuse education among the soldiers, 
inculcate humanity, and often even themselves share the socialistic ideas of the masses and denounce 
war. In the last plots against the Russian Government many of the conspirators were in the army. And 
the number of the disaffected in the army is always increasing. And it often happens (there was a case, 
indeed, within the last few days) that when called upon to quell disturbances they refuse to fire upon the 
people. Military exploits are openly reprobated by the military themselves, and are often the subject of 
jests among them. 

It is the same with judges and public prosecutors. The judges, whose duty it is to judge and 
condemn criminals, conduct the proceedings so as to whitewash them as far as possible. Consequently, 
the Russian Government, to procure the condemnation of those whom they want to punish, never entrust 
them to the ordinary tribunals, but have them tried before a court martial, which is only a parody of 
justice. The prosecutors themselves often refuse to proceed, and even when they do proceed, often in 
spite of the law, really defend those they ought to be accusing. The learned jurists whose business it is 
to justify the violence of authority, are more and more disposed to deny the right of punishment and to 
replace it by theories of irresponsibility and even of moral insanity, proposing to deal with those they 
call criminals by medical treatment only. 

Jailers and overseers of galleys generally become the champions of those whom they ought to 
torture. Police officers and detectives are continually assisting the escape of those they ought to arrest. 
The clergy preach tolerance, and even sometimes condemn the use of force, and the more educated 
among them try in their sermons to avoid the very deception that is the basis of their position and that it 
is their duty to support. Executioners refuse to perform their functions, so that in Russia the death 
penalty cannot be carried out for want of executioners. And in spite of all the advantages bestowed on 
these men, who are selected from convicts, there is a constantly diminishing number of volunteers for 
the post. Governors, police officials, tax collectors often have compassion on the people and try to find 
pretexts for not collecting the tax from them. The rich are not at ease in spending their wealth only on 
themselves, and lavish it on works of public utility. Landowners build schools and hospitals on their 
property, and some even give up the ownership of their land and transfer it to the cultivators, or establish 
communities upon it. Mill owners and manufacturers build hospitals, schools, savings banks, asylums, 
and dwellings for their workpeople. Some of them form co-operative associations in which they have 
shares on the same terms as the others. Capitalists expend a part of their capital on educational, artistic, 
philanthropic, and other public institutions. And many, who are not equal to parting with their wealth in 
their lifetime, leave it in their wills to public institutions. 

All these phenomena might seem to be mere exceptions, except that they can all be referred to one 
common cause. Just as one might fancy the first leaves on the budding trees in April were exceptional if 
we did not know that they all have a common cause, the spring, and that if we see the branches on some 
trees shooting and turning green, it is certain that it will soon be so with all. 

So it is with the manifestation of the Christian standard of opinion on force and all that is based on 
force. If this standard already influences some, the most impressionable, and impels each in his own 
sphere to abandon advantages based on the use of force, then its influence will extend further and further 
until it transforms the whole order of men's actions and puts it into accord with the Christian ideal that is 
already a living force in the vanguard of humanity. 

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And if there are now rulers, who do not decide on any step on their own authority, who try to be as 
unlike monarchs, and as like plain mortals as possible, who state their readiness to give up their 
prerogatives and become simply the first citizens of a republic; if there are already soldiers who realize 
all the sin and harm of war, and are not willing to fire on men either of their own or a foreign country; 
judges and prosecutors who do not like to try and to condemn criminals; priests, who abjure deception; 
tax-gatherers who try to perform as little as they can of their duties, and rich men renouncing their 
wealth - then the same thing will inevitably happen to other rulers, other soldiers, other judges, priests, 
tax-gatherers, and rich men. And when there are no longer men willing to fill these offices, these offices 
themselves will disappear too. 

But this is not the only way in which public opinion is leading men to the abolition of the prevailing 
order and the substitution of a new order. As the positions based on the rule of force become less 
attractive and fewer men are found willing to fill them, the more will their uselessness be apparent. 

Everywhere throughout the Christian world the same rulers, and the same governments, the same 
armies, the same law courts, the same tax-gatherers, the same priests, the same rich men, landowners, 
manufacturers, and capitalists, as ever, but the attitude of the world to them, and their attitude to 
themselves is altogether changed. 

The same sovereigns have still the same audiences and interviews, hunts and banquets, and balls and 
uniforms; there are the same diplomats and the same deliberations on alliances and wars; there are still 
the same parliaments, with the same debates on the Eastern question and Africa, on treaties and 
violations of treaties, and Home Rule and the eight-hour day; and one set of government ministers 
replacing another in the same way, and the same speeches and the same incidents. But for men who 
observe how one newspaper article has more effect on the position of affairs than dozens of royal 
audiences or parliamentary sessions, it becomes more and more evident that these audiences and 
interviews and debates in parliaments do not direct the course of affairs, but something independent of 
all that, which cannot be concentrated in one place. 

The same generals and officers and soldiers, and cannons and fortresses, 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, 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 same lawyers and judges, and the same assizes, but it becomes more and more evident that the 
civil courts decide cases on the most diverse grounds, but regardless of justice, and that criminal trials 
are quite senseless, because the punishments do not attain the objects aimed at by the judges themselves. 
These institutions therefore serve no other purpose than to provide a means of livelihood for men who 
are not capable of doing anything more useful. 

The same priests and archbishops and churches and synods, but it becomes more and more evident 
that they have long ago ceased to believe in what they preach, and therefore they can convince no one of 
the necessity of believing what they don't believe themselves. 

The same tax collectors, but they are less and less capable of taking men's property from them by 
force, and it becomes more and more evident that people can collect all that is necessary by voluntary 
subscription without their aid. 

The same rich men, but it becomes more and more evident that they can only be of use by ceasing to 
administer their property in person and giving up to society the whole or at least a part of their wealth. 

And when all this has become absolutely evident to everyone, it will be natural for men to ask 
themselves, "But why should we keep and maintain all these kings, emperors, presidents, and members 
of all sorts of senates and ministries, since nothing comes of all their debates and audiences? Wouldn't 
it be better, as some humorist suggested, to make a queen out of rubber and plastic?" 

And what good to us are these armies with their generals and bands and horses and drums? And 
what need is there of them when there is no war, and no one wants to make war? And if there were a 

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war, other nations would not let us gain any advantage from it; while the soldiers refuse to fire on their 
fellow-countrymen. 

And what is the use of these lawyers and judges who don't decide civil cases with justice and 
recognize themselves the uselessness of punishments in criminal cases? 

And what is the use of tax collectors who collect the taxes unwillingly, when it is easy to raise all 
that is wanted without them? 

What is the use of the clergy, who don't believe in what they preach? 

And what is the use of capital in the hands of private persons, when it can only be of use as the 
property of all? 

And when once people have asked themselves these questions they cannot help coming to some 
decision and ceasing to support all these institutions that are no longer of use. 

But even before those who support these institutions decide to abolish them, the men who occupy 
these positions will be reduced to the necessity of throwing them up. 

Public opinion more and more condemns the use of force, and therefore men are less and less willing 
to fill positions that rest on the use of force, and if they do occupy them, are less and less able to make 
use of force in them. And hence they must become more and more superfluous. 

I once took part in Moscow in a religious meeting that used to take place generally in the week after 
Easter near the church in the Ohotny Row. A little knot of some twenty men was collected together on 
the pavement, engaged in serious religious discussion. At the same time there was a kind of concert 
going on in the buildings of the Court Club in the same street, and a police officer noticing the little 
group collected near the church sent a mounted policeman to disperse it. It was absolutely unnecessary 
for the officer to disperse it. A group of twenty men was no obstruction to anyone, but he had been 
standing there the whole morning, and he wanted to do something. The policeman, a young fellow, with 
a resolute flourish of his right arm and a clink of his saber, came up to us and commanded us severely, 
"Move on! What's this meeting about?" Everyone looked at the policeman, and one of the speakers, a 
quiet man in a peasant's dress, answered with a calm and gracious air, "We are speaking of serious 
matters, and there is no need for us to move on; you would do better, young man, to get off your horse 
and listen. It might do you good." And turning round he continued his discourse. The policeman 
turned his horse and went off without a word. 

That is just what should be done in all cases of violence. 

The officer was bored; he had nothing to do. He had been put, poor fellow, in a position in which he 
had no choice but to give orders. He was shut off from all human existence; he could do nothing but 
superintend and give orders, and give orders and superintend, though his superintendence and his orders 
served no useful purpose whatever. And this is the position in which all these unlucky rulers, 
government ministers, members of parliament, governors, generals, officers, archbishops, priests, and 
even rich men find themselves to some extent already, and will find themselves altogether as time goes 
on. They can do nothing but give orders, and they give orders and send their messengers, as the officer 
sent the policeman, to interfere with people. And because the people they hinder turn to them and 
request them not to interfere, they fancy they are very useful indeed. 

But the time will come and is coming when it will be perfectly evident to everyone that they are not 
of any use at all, and only a hindrance, and those whom they interfere with will say gently and quietly to 
them, like my friend in the street meeting, "Pray don't interfere with us." And all the messengers and 
those who send them too will be obliged to follow this good advice, that is to say, will leave off 
galloping about, with their arms akimbo, interfering with people, and getting off their horses and 
removing their spurs, will listen to what is being said, and mixing with others, will take their place with 
them in some real human work. 

The time will come and is inevitably coming when all institutions based on force will disappear 
through their uselessness, stupidity, and even inconvenience becoming obvious to all. 

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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. 

The story is that there was once an emperor, very fond of new clothes. And to him came two tailors, 
who promised to make him some extraordinary clothes. The emperor engages them and they begin to 
sew at them, but they explain that the clothes have the extraordinary property of remaining invisible to 
anyone who is unfit for his position. The courtiers come to look at the tailors' work and see nothing, for 
the men are plying their needles in empty space. But remembering the extraordinary property of the 
clothes, they all declare they see them and are loud in their admiration. The emperor does the same 
himself. The day of the procession comes in which the emperor is to go out in his new clothes. The 
emperor undresses and puts on his new clothes, that is to say, remains naked, and naked he walks 
through the town. But remembering the magic property of the clothes, no one ventures to say that he 
has nothing on until a little child cries out, "Look, he is naked!" 

This will be exactly the situation of all who continue through inertia to fill offices that have long 
become useless at the very moment when someone who has no interest in concealing their uselessness 
exclaims in all simplicity, "But these people have been of no use to anyone for a long time past!" 

The condition of Christian humanity with its fortresses, cannons, dynamite, guns, torpedoes, prisons, 
gallows, churches, factories, customs offices, and palaces is really terrible. But still cannons and guns 
will not fire themselves, prisons will not shut men up of themselves, gallows will not hang them, 
churches will not delude them, nor customs offices hinder them, and palaces and factories are not built 
nor kept up of themselves. All those things are the work of men. If men come to understand that they 
ought not to do these things, then they will cease to be. And already they are beginning to understand it. 
Though all do not understand it yet, the advanced guard understands and the rest will follow it. And 
those in the advanced guard cannot cease to understand what they have once understood; and what they 
understand the rest not only can, but also must inevitably understand hereafter. 

Consequently, the prophecy that the time will come when men will be taught of God, will learn war 
no more, will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into reaping-hooks, which means, 
translating it into our language, the fortresses, prisons, barracks, palaces, and churches will remain 
empty, and all the gibbets and guns and cannons will be left unused, is no longer a dream, but the 
definite new form of life to which mankind is approaching with ever-increasing rapidity. 

But when will it be? 

Christ answered to this question eighteen hundred years ago that the end of the world (that is, of the 
pagan organization of life) shall come when the tribulation of men is greater than it has ever been, and 
when the Gospel of the kingdom of God, that is, the possibility of a new organization of life, shall be 
preached in the world to all nations. (Matt. 24:3-28.) But of that day and hour no man knows - only the 
Father (Matt. 24:3-6), said Christ. For it may come any time, in such an hour as you do not expect. 

To the question when this hour will come, Christ answers that we cannot know, but just because we 
cannot know when that hour is coming we ought to be always ready to meet it, just as the master ought 
to watch who guards his house from thieves, as the virgins ought to watch with lamps alight for the 
bridegroom; and further, we ought to work with all the powers given us to bring that hour to pass, as the 
servants ought to work with the talents entrusted to them. (Matt. 24:43, and 26:13-30.) 

And there could be no answer but this one. Men cannot know when the day and the hour of the 
kingdom of God will come, because its coming depends on themselves alone. 

The answer is like that of the wise man who, when asked whether it was far to the town, answered, 
"Walk!" 

How can we tell whether it is far to the goal that humanity is approaching, when we do not know 
how men are going toward it, while it depends on them whether they go or do not go, stand still, slacken 
their pace or hasten it? 

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All we can know is what we who make up mankind ought to do, and not to do, to bring about the 
coming of the kingdom of God. And that we all know. And we need only each to begin to do what we 
ought to do; we need only each live with all the light that is in us, to bring about at once the promised 
kingdom of God to which every man's heart is yearning. 



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CHAPTER 12 

CONCLUSION - REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND 

1. Chance Meeting with a Train Carrying Soldiers to Restore Order Among the Famishing Peasants - Reason of the 
Expedition - How the Decisions of the Higher Authorities are Enforced in Cases of Insubordination on Part of the Peasants - 
What Happened at Orel, as an Example of How the Rights of the Propertied Classes are Maintained by Murder and Torture - 
All the Privileges of the Wealthy are Based on Similar Acts of Violence. 

2. The Elements that Made up the Force Sent to Toula, and the Conduct of the Men Composing it - How these Men Could 
Carry Out such Acts - The Explanation is Not to be Found in Ignorance, Conviction, Cruelty, Heartlessness, or Want of 
Moral Sense - They do these Things Because they are Necessary to Support the Existing Order, which they Consider it Every 
Man's Duty to Support - The Basis of this Conviction that the Existing Order is Necessary and Inevitable - In the Upper 
Classes this Conviction is Based on the Advantages of the Existing Order for Themselves - But what Forces Men of the 
Lower Classes to Believe in the Immutability of the Existing Order, from which they Derive no Advantage, and which they 
Aid in Maintaining, Facts Contrary to their Conscience? - This is the Result of the Lower Classes being Deluded by the 
Upper, Both as to the Inevitability of the Existing Order and the Lawfulness of the Acts of Violence Needed to Maintain it - 
Deception in General - Special Form of Deception in Regard to Military Service - Conscription. 

3. How can Men Allow that Murder is Permissible while they Preach Principles of Morality, and How can they Allow of the 
Existence in their Midst of a Military Organization of Physical Force that is a Constant Menace to Public Security? - It is 
only Allowed by the Upper Classes, who Profit by this Organization, Because their Privileges are Maintained by it - The 
Upper Classes Allow it, and the Lower Classes Carry it into Effect in Spite of their Consciousness of the Immorality of the 
Deeds of Violence, the More Readily Because Through the Arrangements of the Government the Moral Responsibility for 
such Deeds is Divided among a Great Number of Participants in it, and Everyone Throws the Responsibility on Someone 
Else - Moreover, the Sense of Moral Responsibility is Lost through the Delusion of Inequality, and the Consequent 
Intoxication of Power on the Part of Superiors, and Servility on the Part of Inferiors - The Condition of these Men, Acting 
against the Dictates of their Conscience, is Like that of Hypnotized Subjects Acting by Suggestion - The Difference between 
this Obedience to Government Suggestion, and Obedience to Public Opinion, and to the Guidance of Men of a Higher Moral 
Sense - The Existing Order of Society, which is the Result of an Extinct Public Opinion and is Inconsistent with the Already 
Existing Public Opinion of the Future, is only Maintained by the Stupefaction of the Conscience, Produced Spontaneously by 
Self-interest in the Upper Classes and Through Hypnotizing in the Lower Classes - The Conscience or the Common Sense of 
such Men may Awaken, and there are Examples of its Sudden Awakening, so that one can Never be Sure of the Deeds of 
Violence they are Prepared for - It Depends Entirely on the Point that the Sense of the Unlawfulness of Acts of Violence has 
Reached, and this Sense may Spontaneously Awaken in Men, or may be Reawakened by the Influence of Men of more 
Conscience. 

4. Everything Depends on the Strength of the Consciousness of Christian Truths in Each Individual Man - The Leading Men 
of Modern Times, however, do not Think it Necessary to Preach or Practice the Truths of Christianity, but Regard the 
Modification of the External Conditions of Existence within the Limit Imposed by Governments as Sufficient to Reform the 
Life of Humanity - On this Scientific Theory of Hypocrisy, which has Replaced the Hypocrisy of Religion, Men of the 
Wealthy Classes Base their Justification of their Position - Through this Hypocrisy they can Enjoy the Exclusive Privileges 
of their Position by Force and Fraud, and Still Pretend to be Christians to One Another and be Easy in their Minds - This 
Hypocrisy Allows Men who Preach Christianity to Take Part in Institutions Based on Violence - No External Reformation of 
Life will Render it Less Miserable - Its Misery the Result of Disunion Caused by Following Lies, not the Truth - Union only 
Possible in Truth - Hypocrisy Hinders this Union, since Hypocrites Conceal from themselves and Others the Truth they 
Know - Hypocrisy Turns all Reforms of Life to Evil - Hypocrisy Distorts the Idea of Good and Evil, and so Stands in the 
Way of the Progress of Men toward Perfection - Undisguised Criminals and Malefactors do Less Harm than those who Live 
by Legalized Violence, Disguised by Hypocrisy - All Men Feel the Iniquity of our Life, and would Long Ago have 
Transformed it if it had not been Dissimulated by Hypocrisy - But Seem to have Reached the Extreme Limits of Hypocrisy, 
and we Need only Make an Effort of Conscience to Awaken as from a Nightmare to a Different Reality. 

5. Can Man Make this Effort? - According to the Hypocritical Theory of the Day, Man is not Free to Transform his Life - 
Man is not Free in his Actions, but he is Free to Admit or to Deny the Truth he Knows - When Truth is Once Admitted, it 
Becomes the Basis of Action - Man's Threefold Relation to Truth - The Reason of the Apparent Insolubility of the Problem 
of Free Will - Man's Freedom Consists in the Recognition of the Truth Revealed to him. There is no Other Freedom - 
Recognition of Truth Gives Freedom, and Shows the Path Along which, Willingly or Unwillingly by Mankind, Man Must 
Advance - The Recognition of Truth and Real Freedom Enables Man to Share in the Work of God, not as the Slave, but as 

124 



the Creator of Life - Men Need only Make the Effort to Renounce all Thought of Bettering the External Conditions of Life 
and Bend all their Efforts to Recognizing and Preaching the Truth they Know, to put an End to the Existing Miserable State 
of Things, and to Enter upon the Kingdom of God so far as it is yet Accessible to Man - All that is Needed is to Make an End 
of Lying and Hypocrisy - But then what Awaits us in the Future? - What will Happen to Humanity if Men Follow the 
Dictates of their Conscience, and how can Life go on with the Conditions of Civilized Life to which we are Accustomed? - 
All Uneasiness on these Points may be Removed by the Reflection that Nothing True and Good can be Destroyed by the 
Realization of Truth, but will only be Freed from the Alloy of Falsehood. 

6. Our Life has Reached the Extreme Limit of Misery and Cannot be Improved by any Systems of Organization - All our 
Life and all our Institutions are Quite Meaningless - Are we Doing what God Wills of us by Preserving our Privileges and 
Duties to Government? - We are put in this Position not Because the World is so Made and it is Inevitable, but Because we 
Wish it to be so, Because it is to the Advantage of Some of us - Our Conscience is in Opposition to our Position and all our 
Conduct, and the Way Out of the Contradiction is to be Found in the Recognition of the Christian Truth: Do Not to Others 
what you Would Not want Them to Do to You - As our Duties to Self Must be Subordinated to our Duties to Others, so Must 
our Duties to Others be Subordinated to our Duties to God - The Only Way Out of our Position Lies, if not in Renouncing 
our Position and our Privileges, at Least in Recognizing our Sin and not Justifying it nor Disguising it - The Only Object of 
Life is to Learn the Truth and to Act on it - Acceptance of the Position and of State Action Deprives Life of all Object - It is 
God's Will that we should Serve Him in our Life, that is, that we should Bring About the Greatest Unity of all that has Life, a 
Unity only Possible in Truth. 



I was finishing this book, which I had been working at for two years, when I happened on the 9th of 
September to be traveling by rail through the governments of Toula and Riazan, where the peasants 
were starving last year and where the famine is even more severe now. At one of the railway stations 
my train passed an extra train that was taking a troop of soldiers under the conduct of the governor of the 
province, together with muskets, cartridges, and rods, to flog and murder these same famishing peasants. 

The punishment of flogging by way of carrying the decrees of the authorities into effect has been 
more and more frequently adopted of late in Russia, in spite of the fact that corporal punishment was 
abolished by law thirty years ago. 

I had heard of this, I had even read in the newspapers of the fearful floggings that had been inflicted 
in Tchernigov, Tambov, Saratov, Astrakhan, and Orel, and of those of which the governor of Nijni- 
Novgorod, General Baranov, had boasted. But I had never before happened to see men in the process of 
carrying out these punishments. 

And here I saw the spectacle of good Russians full of the Christian spirit traveling with guns and 
rods to torture and kill their starving brethren. The reason for their expedition was as follows: 

On one of the estates of a rich landowner the peasants had common rights on the forest, and having 
always enjoyed these rights, regarded the forest as their own, or at least as theirs in common with the 
owner. The landowner wished to keep the forest entirely to himself and began to fell the trees. The 
peasants lodged a complaint. The judges in the first instance gave an unjust decision (I say unjust on the 
authority of the lawyer and governor, who ought to understand the matter), and decided the case in favor 
of the landowner. All the later decisions, even that of the senate, though they could see that the matter 
had been unjustly decided, confirmed the judgment and adjudged the forest to the landowner. He began 
to cut down the trees, but the peasants, unable to believe that such obvious injustice could be done them 
by the higher authorities, did not submit to the decision and drove away the men sent to cut down the 
trees, declaring that the forest belonged to them and they would go to the Czar before they would let 
them cut it down. 

The matter was referred to Petersburg, and the order was transmitted to the governor to carry the 
decision of the court into effect. The governor asked for a troop of soldiers. And here were the soldiers 
with bayonets and cartridges, and moreover, a supply of rods, expressly prepared for the purpose and 
heaped up in one of the trucks, going to carry the decision of the higher authorities into effect. 

The decisions of the higher authorities are carried into effect by means of murder or torture, or 
threats of one or the other, according to whether they meet with resistance or not. 

125 



In the first case, if the peasants offer resistance, the practice is in Russia, and it is the same 
everywhere where a state organization and private property exist, as follows: 

The governor delivers an address in which he demands submission. The excited crowd, generally 
deluded by its leaders, doesn't understand a word of what the representative of authority is saying in the 
pompous official language, and its excitement continues. Then the governor announces that if they do 
not submit and disperse, he will be obliged to have recourse to force. If the crowd does not disperse 
even on this, the governor gives the order to fire over the heads of the crowd. If the crowd does not even 
then disperse, the governor gives the order to fire straight into the crowd; the soldiers fire and the killed 
and wounded fall about the street. Then the crowd usually runs away in all directions, and the troops at 
the governor's command take those who are supposed to be the ringleaders and lead them off under 
escort. Then they pick up the dying, the wounded, and the dead, covered with blood, sometimes women 
and children among them. The dead they bury and the wounded they carry to the hospital. Those whom 
they regard as the ringleaders they take to the town hall and have them tried by a special court-martial. 
And if they have had recourse to violence on their side, they are condemned to be hanged. And then the 
gallows is erected. And they solemnly strangle a few defenseless creatures. This is what has often been 
done in Russia, and is and must always be done where the social order is based on force. 

But in the second case, when the peasants do submit, something quite special, peculiar to Russia, 
takes place. The governor arrives on the scene of action and delivers an harangue to the people, 
reproaching them for their insubordination, and either stations troops in the houses of the villages, where 
sometimes for a whole month the soldiers drain the resources of the peasants, or contenting himself with 
threats, he mercifully takes leave of the people, or what is the most frequent course, he announces that 
the ringleaders must be punished, and quite arbitrarily without any trial selects a certain number of men, 
regarded as ringleaders, and commands them to be flogged in his presence. 

In order to give an idea of how such things are done I will describe a proceeding of the kind that 
took place in Orel, which received the full approval of the highest authorities. 

This is what took place in Orel. Just as here in the Toula province, a landlord wanted to appropriate 
the property of the peasants and just in the same way the peasants opposed it. The matter in dispute was 
a fall of water, which irrigated the peasants' fields, and which the landowner wanted to cut off and divert 
to turn his mill. The peasants rebelled against this being done. The landowner laid a complaint before 
the district commander, who illegally (as was recognized later even by a legal decision) decided the 
matter in favor of the landowner, and allowed him to divert the watercourse. The landowner sent 
workmen to dig the conduit by which the water was to be let off to turn the mill. The peasants were 
indignant at this unjust decision, and sent their women to prevent the landowner's men from digging this 
conduit. The women went to the dykes, overturned the carts, and drove away the men. The landowner 
made a complaint against the women for thus taking the law into their own hands. The district 
commander made out an order that from every house throughout the village one woman was to be taken 
and put in prison. The order was not easily executed. For in every household there were several 
women, and it was impossible to know which one was to be arrested. Consequently the police did not 
carry out the order. The landowner complained to the governor of the neglect on the part of the police, 
and the latter, without examining into the affair, gave the chief official of the police strict orders to carry 
out the instructions of the district commander without delay. The police official, in obedience to his 
superior, went to the village and with the insolence peculiar to Russian officials ordered his policemen 
to take one woman out of each house. But since there were more than one woman in each house, and 
there was no knowing which one was sentenced to imprisonment, disputes and opposition arose. In 
spite of these disputes and opposition, however, the officer of police gave orders that some woman, 
whichever came first, should be taken from each household and led away to prison. The peasants began 
to defend their wives and mothers, would not let them go, and beat the police and their officer. This was 
a fresh and terrible crime; resistance was offered to the authorities. A report of this new offense was 
sent to the town. And so this governor - precisely as the governor of Toula was doing on that day - 

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with a battalion of soldiers with guns and rods, hastily brought together by means of telegraphs and 
telephones and railways, proceeded by a special train to the scene of action, with a learned doctor whose 
duty it was to insure that the flogging was carried out in an hygienic character. Herzen's prophecy of 
the modern Genghis Khan with his telegrams is completely realized by this governor. 

Before the town hall of the district were the soldiery, a battalion of police with their revolvers slung 
round them with red cords, the persons of most importance among the peasants, and the culprits. A 
crowd of one thousand or more people was standing round. The governor, on arriving, stepped out of 
his carriage, delivered a prepared harangue, and asked for the culprits and a bench. The latter demand 
was at first not understood. But a police constable whom the governor always took about with him, and 
who undertook to organize such executions - by no means exceptional in that province - explained that 
what was meant was a bench for flogging. A bench was brought as well as the rods, and then the 
executioners were summoned (the latter had been selected beforehand from some horse-stealers of the 
same village, as the soldiers refused the office). When everything was ready, the governor ordered the 
first of the twelve culprits pointed out by the landowner as the most guilty to come forward. The first to 
come forward was the head of a family, a man of forty who had always stood up manfully for the rights 
of his class, and therefore was held in the greatest esteem by all the villagers. He was led to the bench 
and stripped, and then ordered to lie down. 

The peasant attempted to supplicate for mercy, but seeing it was useless, he crossed himself and lay 
down. Two police constables hastened to hold him down. The learned doctor stood by, in readiness to 
give his aid and his medical science when they should be needed. The convicts spit into their hands, 
brandished the rods, and began to flog. It seemed, however, that the bench was too narrow, and it was 
difficult to keep the victim writhing in torture upon it. Then the governor ordered them to bring another 
bench and to put a plank across them. Soldiers, with their hands raised to their caps, and respectful 
murmurs of "Yes, your Excellency," hasten obediently to carry out this order. Meanwhile the tortured 
man, half naked, pale and scowling, stood waiting, his eyes fixed on the ground and his teeth chattering. 
When another bench had been brought they again made him lie down, and the convicted thieves again 
began to flog him. 

The victim's back and thighs and legs, and even his sides, became more and more covered with scars 
and wheals, and at every blow there came the sound of the deep groans that he could no longer restrain. 
In the crowd standing round were heard the sobs of wives, mothers, children, and the families of the 
tortured man and of all the others picked out for punishment. 

The miserable governor, intoxicated with power, was counting the strokes on his fingers, and never 
left off smoking cigarettes, while several officious persons hastened on every opportunity to offer him a 
burning match to light them. When more than fifty strokes had been given, the peasant ceased to shriek 
and writhe, and the doctor, who had been educated in a government institution to serve his sovereign 
and his country with his scientific attainments, went up to the victim, felt his pulse, listened to his heart, 
and announced to the representative of authority that the man undergoing punishment had lost 
consciousness, and that, in accordance with the conclusions of science, to continue the punishment 
would endanger the victim's life. But the miserable governor, now completely intoxicated by the sight 
of blood, gave orders that the punishment should go on, and the flogging was continued up to seventy 
strokes, the number that the governor had for some reason fixed upon as necessary. When the seventieth 
stroke had been reached, the governor said, "Enough! Next one!" And the mutilated victim, his back 
covered with blood, was lifted up and carried away unconscious, and another was led up. The sobs and 
groans of the crowd grew louder. But the representative of the state continued the torture. 

Thus they flogged each of them up to the twelfth, and each of them received seventy strokes. They 
all implored mercy, shrieked, and groaned. The sobs and cries of the crowd of women grew louder and 
more heart-rending, and the men's faces grew darker and darker. But they were surrounded by troops, 
and the torture did not cease until it had reached the limit that had been fixed by the caprice of the 
miserable half-drunken and insane creature they called the governor. 

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The officials, officers, and soldiers not only assisted in it, but also were even partly responsible for 
the affair, since by their presence they prevented any interference on the part of the crowd. 

When I inquired of one of the governors why they made use of this kind of torture when people had 
already submitted and soldiers were stationed in the village, he replied with the important air of a man 
who thoroughly understands all the subtleties of statecraft, that if the peasants were not thoroughly 
subdued by flogging, they would begin offering opposition to the decisions of authorities again. When 
some of them had been thoroughly tortured, the authority of the state would be secured forever among 
them. 

And so that was why the Governor of Toula was going in his turn with his subordinate officials, 
officers, and soldiers to carry out a similar measure. By precisely the same means, i.e., by murder and 
torture, obedience to the decision of the higher authorities was to be secured. And this decision was to 
enable a young landowner, who had an income of one hundred thousand, to gain three thousand rubles 
more by stealing a forest from a whole community of cold and famished peasants, to spend it, in two or 
three weeks in the saloons of Moscow, Petersburg, or Paris. That was what those people whom I met 
were going to do. 

After my thoughts had for two years been turned in the same direction, fate seemed expressly to 
have brought me face to face for the first time in my life with a fact that showed me absolutely 
unmistakably in practice what had long been clear to me in theory, that the organization of our society 
rests, not as people interested in maintaining the present order of things like to imagine, on certain 
principles of jurisprudence, but on simple brute force, on the murder and torture of men. 

People who own great estates or fortunes, or who receive great revenues drawn from the class who 
are in want even of necessities, the working class, as well as all those who like merchants, doctors, 
artists, clerks, learned professors, coachmen, cooks, writers, valets, and barristers, make their living 
about these rich people, like to believe that the privileges they enjoy are not the result of force, but of 
absolutely free and just interchange of services, and that their advantages, far from being gained by such 
punishments and murders as took place in Orel and several parts of Russia this year, and are always 
taking place all over Europe and America, have no kind of connection with these acts of violence. They 
like to believe that their privileges exist apart and are the result of free contract among people; and that 
the violent cruelties perpetrated on the people also exist apart and are the result of some general judicial, 
political, or economical laws. They try not to see that they all enjoy their privileges as a result of the 
same fact that forces the peasants who have tended the forest, and who are in the direct need of it for 
fuel, to give it up to a rich landowner who has taken no part in caring for its growth and has no need of it 
whatever - the fact, that is, that if they don't give it up they will be flogged or killed. 

And yet if it is clear that it was only by means of menaces, blows, or murder, that the mill in Orel 
was enabled to yield a larger income, or that the forest that the peasants had planted became the property 
of a landowner, it should be equally clear that all the other exclusive rights enjoyed by the rich, by 
robbing the poor of their necessities, rest on the same basis of violence. If the peasants, who need land 
to maintain their families, may not cultivate the land about their houses, but one man, a Russian, 
English, Austrian, or any other great landowner, possesses land enough to maintain a thousand families, 
though he does not cultivate it himself, and if a merchant profiting by the misery of the cultivators, 
taking corn from them at a third of its value, can keep this corn in his granaries with perfect security 
while men are starving all around him, and sell it again for three times its value to the very cultivators he 
bought it from, it is evident that all this too comes from the same cause. And if one man may not buy of 
another a commodity from the other side of a certain fixed line, called the frontier, without paying 
certain duties on it to men who have taken no part whatever in its production - and if men are driven to 
sell their last cow to pay taxes that the government distributes among its functionaries, and spends on 
maintaining soldiers to murder these very taxpayers - it would appear self-evident that all this does not 
come about as the result of any abstract laws, but is based on just what was done in Orel, and which may 

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be done in Toula, and is done periodically in one form or another throughout the whole world wherever 
there is a government, and where there are rich and poor. 

Simply because torture and murder are not employed in every instance of oppression by force, those 
who enjoy the exclusive privileges of the ruling classes persuade themselves and others that their 
privileges are not based on torture and murder, but on some mysterious general causes, abstract laws, 
and so on. Yet one would think it was perfectly clear that if men, who consider it unjust (and all the 
working classes do consider it so nowadays), still pay the principal part of the produce of their labor 
away to the capitalist and the landowner, and pay taxes, though they know to what a bad use these taxes 
are put, they do so not from recognition of abstract laws of which they have never heard, but only 
because they know they will be beaten and killed if they don't do so. 

And if there is no need to imprison, beat, and kill men every time the landlord collects his rents, 
every time those who are in want of bread have to pay a swindling merchant three times its value, every 
time the factory hand has to be content with a wage less than half of the profit made by the employer, 
and every time a poor man pays his last ruble in taxes, it is because so many men have been beaten and 
killed for trying to resist these demands, that the lesson has now been learned very thoroughly. 

Just as a trained tiger, who does not eat meat put under his nose, and jumps over a stick at the word 
of command, does not act thus because he likes it, but because he remembers the red-hot irons or the fast 
with which he was punished every time he did not obey; so men submitting to what is disadvantageous 
or even ruinous to them, and considered by them as unjust, act thus because they remember what they 
suffered for resisting it. 

As for those who profit by the privileges gained by previous acts of violence, they often forget and 
like to forget how these privileges were obtained. But one need only recall the facts of history, not the 
history of the exploits of different dynasties of rulers, but real history, the history of the oppression of 
the majority by a small number of men, to see that all the advantages the rich have over the poor are 
based on nothing but flogging, imprisonment, and murder. 

One need but reflect on the unceasing, persistent struggle of all to better their material position, 
which is the guiding motive of men of the present day, to be convinced that the advantages of the rich 
over the poor could never and can never be maintained by anything but force. 

There may be cases of oppression, of violence, and of punishments, though they are rare, the aim of 
which is not to secure the privileges of the propertied classes. But one may confidently assert that in any 
society where, for every man living in ease, there are ten exhausted by labor, envious, covetous, and 
often suffering with their families from direct privation, all the privileges of the rich, all their luxuries 
and superfluities, are obtained and maintained only by tortures, imprisonment, and murder. 

The train I met on the 9th of September going with soldiers, guns, cartridges, and rods, to confirm 
the rich landowner in the possession of a small forest that he had taken from the starving peasants, 
which they were in the direst need of, and he was in no need of at all, was a striking proof of how men 
are capable of doing deeds directly opposed to their principles and their conscience without perceiving 
it. 

The special train consisted of one first-class carriage for the governor, the officials, and officers, and 
several luggage vans crammed full of soldiers. The latter, smart young fellows in their clean new 
uniforms, were standing about in groups or sitting swinging their legs in the wide-open doorways of the 
luggage vans. Some were smoking, nudging each other, joking, grinning, and laughing, others were 
munching sunflower seeds and spitting out the husks with an air of dignity. Some of them ran along the 
platform to drink some water from a tub there, and when they met the officers they slackened their pace, 
made their stupid gesture of salutation, raising their hands to their heads with serious faces as though 
they were doing something of the greatest importance. They kept their eyes on them until they had 
passed by them, and then set off running still more merrily, stamping their heels on the platform, 
laughing and chattering after the manner of healthy, good-natured young fellows, traveling in lively 
company. 

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They were going to assist at the murder of their fathers or grandfathers just as if they were going on 
a party of pleasure, or at any rate on some quite ordinary business. 

The same impression was produced by the well-dressed functionaries and officers who were 
scattered about the platform and in the first-class carriage. At a table covered with bottles was sitting 
the governor, who was responsible for the whole expedition, dressed in his half-military uniform and 
eating something while he chatted tranquilly about the weather with some acquaintances he had met, as 
though the business he was upon was of so simple and ordinary a character that it could not disturb his 
serenity and his interest in the change of weather. 

At a little distance from the table sat the general of the police. He was not taking any refreshment, 
and had an impenetrable bored expression, as though he were weary of the formalities to be gone 
through. On all sides officers were bustling noisily about in their red uniforms trimmed with gold; one 
sat at a table finishing his bottle of beer, another stood at the buffet eating a cake, and brushing the 
crumbs off his uniform, threw down his money with a self-confident air; another was sauntering before 
the carriages of our train, staring at the faces of the women. 

All these men who were going to murder or to torture the famishing and defenseless creatures who 
provide them their sustenance had the air of men who knew very well that they were doing their duty, 
and some were even proud, were 'glorying' in what they were doing. 

What is the meaning of it? 

All these people are within half an hour of reaching the place where, in order to provide a wealthy 
young man with three thousand rubles stolen from a whole community of famishing peasants, they may 
be forced to commit the most horrible acts one can conceive, to murder or torture, as was done in Orel, 
innocent beings, their brothers. And they see the place and time approaching with untroubled serenity. 

To say that all these government officials, officers, and soldiers do not know what is before them is 
impossible, for they are prepared for it. The governor must have given directions about the rods, the 
officials must have sent an order for them, purchased them, and entered the item in their accounts. The 
military officers have given and received orders about cartridges. They all know that they are going to 
torture, perhaps to kill, their famishing fellow-creatures, and that they must set to work within an hour. 

To say, as is usually said, and as they would themselves repeat, that they are acting from conviction 
of the necessity for supporting the state organization, would be a mistake. For in the first place, these 
men have probably never even thought about state organization and the necessity of it; in the second 
place, they cannot possibly be convinced that the act in which they are taking part will tend to support 
rather than to ruin the state; and thirdly, in reality the majority, if not all, of these men, far from ever 
sacrificing their own pleasure or tranquility to support the state, never let slip an opportunity of profiting 
at the expense of the state in every way they can increase their own pleasure and ease. Consequently, 
they are not acting thus for the sake of the abstract principle of the state. 

What is the meaning of it? 

Yet I know all these men. If I don't know all of them personally, I know their characters pretty 
nearly, their past, and their way of thinking. They certainly all have mothers, some of them wives and 
children. They are certainly for the most part good, kind, even tender-hearted fellows, who hate every 
sort of cruelty, not to speak of murder; many of them would not kill or hurt an animal. Moreover, they 
are all professed Christians and regard all violence directed against the defenseless as base and 
disgraceful. 

Certainly not one of them would be capable in everyday life, for his own personal profit, of doing a 
hundredth part of what the governor of Orel did. Every one of them would be insulted at the supposition 
that he was capable of doing anything of the kind in private life. 

And yet they are within half an hour of reaching the place where they may be reduced to the 
inevitable necessity of committing this crime. 

What is the meaning of it? 

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But it is not only these men who are going by train prepared for murder and torture. How could the 
men who began the whole business, the landowner, the commissioner, the judges, and those who gave 
the order and are responsible for it, the government ministers, the Czar, who are also good men, 
professed Christians, how could they elaborate such a plan and assent to it, knowing its consequences? 
The spectators even, who took no part in the affair, how could they, who are indignant at the sight of any 
cruelty in private life, even the overtaxing of a horse, allow such a horrible deed to be perpetrated? How 
was it they did not rise in indignation and bar the roads, shouting, "No; to flog and kill starving men 
because they won't let their last possession be stolen from them without resistance, that we won't 
allow!" But far from anyone doing this, the majority, even of those who were the cause of the affair, 
such as the commissioner, the landowner, the judge, and those who took part in it and arranged it, as the 
governor, the government ministers, and the Czar, are perfectly tranquil and do not even feel a prick of 
conscience. And apparently all the men who are going to carry out this crime are equally undisturbed. 

The spectators, who one would suppose could have no personal interest in the affair, looked rather 
with sympathy than with disapproval at all these people preparing to carry out this infamous action. In 
the same compartment with me was a wood merchant, who had risen from a peasant. He openly 
expressed aloud his sympathy with such punishments. "They can't disobey the authorities," he said. 
"That's what the authorities are for. Let them have a lesson! Send their fleas flying! They'll give over 
making commotions, I warrant you. That's what they want." 

What is the meaning of it? 

It is not possible to say that all these people who have provoked or aided or allowed this deed are 
such worthless creatures that, knowing all the infamy of what they are doing, they do it against their 
principles, some for pay and for profit, others through fear of punishment. All of them in certain 
circumstances know how to stand up for their principles. Not one of these officials would steal a purse, 
read another man's letter, or put up with an affront without demanding satisfaction. Not one of these 
officers would consent to cheat at cards, would refuse to pay a debt of honor, would betray a comrade, 
run away on the field of battle, or desert the flag. Not one of these soldiers would spit out the holy 
sacrament or eat meat on Good Friday. All these men are ready to face any kind of privation, suffering, 
or danger rather than consent to do what they regard as wrong. They have therefore the strength to resist 
doing what is against their principles. 

It is even less possible to assert that all these men are such brutes that it is natural and not distasteful 
to them to do such deeds. One need only talk to these people a little to see that all of them, the 
landowner even, and the judge, and the government minister and the Czar and the government, the 
officers and the soldiers, not only disapprove of such things in the depth of their soul, but suffer from the 
consciousness of their participation in them when they recollect what they imply. But they try not to 
think about it. 

One need only talk to any of these who are taking part in the affair from the landowner to the lowest 
policeman or soldier to see that in the depth of their soul they all know it is a wicked thing, that it would 
be better to have nothing to do with it, and are suffering from the knowledge. 

A lady of liberal views, who was traveling in the same train with us, seeing the governor and the 
officers in the first-class saloon and learning the object of the expedition, began, intentionally raising her 
voice so that they should hear, to abuse the existing order of things and to cry shame on men who would 
take part in such proceedings. Everyone felt awkward, none knew where to look, but no one 
contradicted her. They tried to look as though such remarks were not worth answering. But one could 
see by their faces and their averted eyes that they were ashamed. I noticed the same thing in the 
soldiers. They too knew that what they were sent to do was a shameful thing, but they did not want to 
think about what was before them. 

When the wood merchant, as I suspect insincerely only to show that he was a man of education, 
began to speak of the necessity of such measures, the soldiers who heard him all turned away from him, 
scowling and pretending not to hear. 

131 



All the men who, like the landowner, the commissioner, the government minister, and the Czar, were 
responsible for the perpetration of this act, as well as those who were now going to execute it, and even 
those who were mere spectators of it, knew that it was a wickedness, and were ashamed of taking any 
share in it, and even of being present at it. 

Then why did they do it, or allow it to be done? 

Ask them the question. And the landowner who started the affair, and the judge who pronounced a 
clearly unjust even though formally legal decision, and those who commanded the execution of the 
decision, and those who, like the policemen, soldiers, and peasants, will execute the deed with their own 
hands, flogging and killing their brothers, all who have devised, abetted, decreed, executed, or allowed 
such crimes, will make substantially the same reply. 

The authorities, those who have started, devised, and decreed the matter, will say that such acts are 
necessary for the maintenance of the existing order; the maintenance of the existing order is necessary 
for the welfare of the country and of humanity, for the possibility of social existence and human 
progress. 

Men of the poorer class, peasants and soldiers, who will have to execute the deed of violence with 
their own hands, say that they do so because it is the command of their superior authority, and the 
superior authority knows what he is about. That those who are in authority ought to be in authority, and 
that they know what they are doing, appears to them a truth of which there can be no doubt. If they 
could admit the possibility of mistake or error, it would only be in functionaries of a lower grade; the 
highest authority on which all the rest depends seems to them immaculate beyond suspicion. 

Though expressing the motives of their conduct differently, both those in command and their 
subordinates are agreed in saying that they act thus because the existing order is the order that must and 
ought to exist at the present time, and that therefore to support it is the sacred duty of every man. 

On this acceptance of the necessity and therefore immutability of the existing order, all who take 
part in acts of violence on the part of government base the argument always advanced in their 
justification. "Since the existing order is immutable," they say, "the refusal of a single individual to 
perform the duties laid upon him will effect no change in things, and will only mean that some other 
man will be put in his place who may do the work worse, that is to say, more cruelly, to the still greater 
injury of the victims of the act of violence." 

This conviction that the existing order is the necessary and therefore immutable order, which it is a 
sacred duty for every man to support, enables good men, of high principles in private life, to take part 
with conscience more or less untroubled in crimes such as that perpetrated in Orel, and that which the 
men in the Toula train were going to perpetrate. 

But what is this conviction based on? It is easy to understand that the landowner prefers to believe 
that the existing order is inevitable and immutable, because this existing order secures him an income 
from his hundreds and thousands of acres, by means of which he can lead his habitual indolent and 
luxurious life. 

It is easy to understand that the judge readily believes in the necessity of an order of things through 
which he receives a wage fifty times as great as the most industrious laborer can earn, and the same 
applies to all the higher officials. It is only under the existing regime that as governor, prosecutor, 
senator, members of the various councils, they can receive their several thousand rubles a year, without 
which they and their families would at once sink into ruin, since if it were not for the position they 
occupy they would never by their own abilities, industry, or acquirements get a thousandth part of their 
salaries. The government minister, the Czar, and all the higher authorities are in the same position. The 
only distinction is that the higher and the more exceptional their position, the more necessary it is for 
them to believe that the existing order is the only possible order of things. For without it they would not 
only be unable to gain an equal position, but would be found to fall lower than all other people. A man 
who has of his own free will entered the police force at a wage of ten rubles, which he could easily earn 
in any other position, is hardly dependent on the preservation of the existing regime, and so he may not 

132 



believe in its immutability. But a king or an emperor, who receives millions for his post, and knows that 
there are thousands of people round him who would like to dethrone him and take his place, who knows 
that he will never receive such a revenue or so much honor in any other position, who knows, in most 
cases through his more or less despotic rule, that if he were dethroned he would have to answer for all 
his abuse of power - he must believe in the necessity and even sacredness of the existing order. The 
higher and the more profitable a man's position, the more unstable it becomes, and the more terrible and 
dangerous a fall from it for him, the more firmly the man believes in the existing order, and therefore 
with the more ease of conscience can such a man perpetrate cruel and wicked acts, as though they were 
not in his own interest, but for the maintenance of that order. 

This is the case with all men in authority, who occupy positions more profitable than they could 
occupy except for the present regime, from the lowest police officer to the Czar. All of them are more 
or less convinced that the existing order is immutable, because - the chief consideration - it is to their 
advantage. But the peasants, the soldiers, who are at the bottom of the social scale, who have no kind of 
advantage from the existing order, who are in the very lowest position of subjection and humiliation, 
what forces them to believe that the existing order in which they are in their humble and 
disadvantageous position is the order that ought to exist, and that they ought to support even at the cost 
of evil actions contrary to their conscience? 

What forces these men to the false reasoning that the existing order is unchanging, and that therefore 
they ought to support it, when it is so obvious, on the contrary, that it is only unchanging because they 
themselves support it? 

What forces these peasants, taken only yesterday from the plow and dressed in ugly and unseemly 
costumes with blue collars and gilt buttons, to go with guns and sabers and murder their famishing 
fathers and brothers? They gain no kind of advantage and can be in no fear of losing the position they 
occupy, because it is worse than that from which they have been taken. 

The persons in authority of the higher orders - landowners, merchants, judges, senators, governors, 
government ministers, czars, and officers - take part in such doings because the existing order is to their 
advantage. In other respects they are often good and kind-hearted men, and they are more able to take 
part in such doings because their share in them is limited to suggestions, decisions, and orders. These 
persons in authority never do themselves what they suggest, decide, or command to be done. For the 
most part they do not even see how all the atrocious deeds they have suggested and authorized are 
carried out. But the unfortunate men of the lower orders, who gain no kind of advantage from the 
existing regime, but, on the contrary, are treated with the utmost contempt, support it even by dragging 
people with their own hands from their families, handcuffing them, throwing them in prison, guarding 
them, shooting them. 

Why do they do it? What forces them to believe that the existing order is unchanging and they must 
support it? 

All violence rests, we know, on those who do the beating, the handcuffing, the imprisoning, and the 
killing with their own hands. If there were no soldiers or armed policemen, ready to kill or outrage 
anyone as they are ordered, not one of those people who sign sentences of death, imprisonment, or 
galley- slavery for life would make up his mind to hang, imprison, or torture a thousandth part of those 
whom, quietly sitting in his study, he now orders to be tortured in all kinds of ways, simply because he 
does not see it nor do it himself, but only gets it done at a distance by these servile tools. 

All the acts of injustice and cruelty that are committed in the ordinary course of daily life have only 
become habitual because there are these men always ready to carry out such acts of injustice and cruelty. 
If it were not for them, far from anyone using violence against the immense masses who are now ill- 
treated, those who now command their punishment would not venture to sentence them, would not even 
dare to dream of the sentences they decree with such easy confidence at present. And if it were not for 
these men, ready to kill or torture anyone at their commander's will, no one would dare to claim, as all 
the idle landowners claim with such assurance, that a piece of land, surrounded by peasants, who are in 

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wretchedness from want of land, is the property of a man who does not cultivate it, or that stores of corn 
taken by swindling from the peasants ought to remain untouched in the midst of a population dying of 
hunger because the merchants must make their profit. If it were not for these servile instruments at the 
disposal of the authorities, it could never have entered the head of the landowner to rob the peasants of 
the forest they had tended, nor of the officials to think they are entitled to their salaries, taken from the 
famishing people, the price of their oppression; least of all could anyone dream of killing or exiling men 
for exposing falsehood and telling the truth. All this can only be done because the authorities are 
confidently assured that they have always these servile tools at hand, ready to carry all their demands 
into effect by means of torture and murder. 

All the deeds of violence of tyrants from Napoleon to the lowest commander of a company who fires 
upon a crowd, can only be explained by the intoxicating effect of their absolute power over these slaves. 
All force, therefore, rests on these men, who carry out the deeds of violence with their own hands, the 
men who serve in the police or the army, especially the army, for the police only venture to do their 
work because the army is at their back. 

What, then, has brought these masses of honest men, on whom the whole thing depends, who gain 
nothing by it, and who have to do these atrocious deeds with their own hands, what has brought them to 
accept the amazing delusion that the existing order, unprofitable, ruinous, and fatal as it is for them, is 
the order that ought to exist? 

Who has led them into this amazing delusion? 

They can never have persuaded themselves that they ought to do what is against their conscience, 
and also the source of misery and ruin for themselves, and all their class, who make up nine-tenths of the 
population. 

"How can you kill people, when it is written in God's commandment, 'You shall not kill'?" I have 
often inquired of different soldiers. And I always drove them to embarrassment and confusion by 
reminding them of what they did not want to think about. They knew they were bound by the law of 
God, "You shall not kill," and knew too that they were bound by their duty as soldiers, but had never 
reflected on the contradiction between these duties. The drift of the timid answers I received to this 
question was always approximately this: that killing in war and executing criminals by command of the 
government are not included in the general prohibition of murder. But when I said this distinction was 
not made in the law of God, and reminded them of the Christian duty of fraternity, forgiveness of 
injuries, and love, which could not be reconciled with murder, the peasants usually agreed, but in their 
turn began to ask me questions. "How does it happen," they inquired, "that the government (which 
according to their ideas cannot do wrong) sends the army to war and orders criminals to be executed." 
When I answered that the government does wrong in giving such orders, the peasants fell into still 
greater confusion, and either broke off the conversation or else got angry with me. 

"They must have found a law for it. The archbishops know as much about it as we do, I should 
hope," a Russian soldier once observed to me. And in saying this the soldier obviously set his mind at 
rest, in the full conviction that his spiritual guides had found a law that authorized his ancestors, and the 
czars and their descendants, and millions of men, to serve as he was doing himself, and that the question 
I had put him was a kind of hoax or conundrum on my part. 

Everyone in our Christian society knows, either by tradition or by revelation or by the voice of 
conscience, that murder is one of the most fearful crimes a man can commit, as the Gospel tells us, and 
that the sin of murder cannot be limited to certain persons, that is, murder cannot be a sin for some and 
not a sin for others. Everyone knows that if murder is a sin, it is always a sin, whoever the victims 
murdered are, just like the sin of adultery, theft, or any other. At the same time from their childhood up 
men see that murder is not only permitted, but even sanctioned by the blessing of those whom they are 
accustomed to regard as their divinely appointed spiritual guides, and see their secular leaders with calm 
assurance organizing murder, proud to wear murderous arms, and demanding of others in the name of 
the laws of the country, and even of God, that they should take part in murder. Men see that there is 

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some inconsistency here, but not being able to analyze it, involuntarily assume that this apparent 
inconsistency is only the result of their ignorance. The very grossness and obviousness of the 
inconsistency confirms them in this conviction. 

They cannot imagine that the leaders of civilization, the educated classes, could so confidently 
preach two such opposed principles as the law of Christ and murder. A simple uncorrupted youth 
cannot imagine that those who stand so high in his opinion, whom he regards as holy or learned men, 
could for any object whatever mislead him so shamefully. But this is just what has always been and 
always is done to him. It is done (1) by instilling, by example and direct instruction, from childhood up, 
into the working people, who have not time to study moral and religious questions for themselves, the 
idea that torture and murder are compatible with Christianity, and that for certain objects of state, torture 
and murder are not only admissible, but ought to be employed; and (2) by instilling into certain of the 
people, who have either voluntarily enlisted or been taken by compulsion into the army, the idea that the 
perpetration of murder and torture with their own hands is a sacred duty, and even a glorious exploit, 
worthy of praise and reward. 

The general delusion is diffused among all people by means of the catechisms or books, which 
nowadays replace them, in use for the compulsory education of children. In them it is stated that 
violence, that is, imprisonment and execution, as well as murder in civil or foreign war in the defense 
and maintenance of the existing state organization (whatever that may be, absolute or limited monarchy, 
convention, consulate, empire of this or that Napoleon or Boulanger, constitutional monarchy, commune 
or republic) is absolutely lawful and not opposed to morality and Christianity. 

This is stated in all catechisms or books used in schools. And men are so thoroughly persuaded of it 
that they grow up, live, and die in that conviction without once entertaining a doubt about it. 

This is one form of deception, the general deception instilled into everyone, but there is another 
special deception practiced upon the soldiers or police who are picked out by one means or another to do 
the torturing and murdering necessary to defend and maintain the existing regime. 

In all military instructions there appears in one form or another what is expressed in the Russian 
military code in the following words: 

Article 87. To carry out exactly and without comment the orders of a superior officer means to carry 
out an order received from a superior officer exactly without considering whether it is good or not, and 
whether it is possible to carry it out. The superior officer is responsible for the consequences of the 
order he gives. 

Article 88. The subordinate ought never to refuse to carry out the orders of a superior officer except 
when he sees clearly that in carrying out his superior officer's command, he breaks (the law of God, one 
involuntarily expects; not at all) his oath of fidelity and allegiance to the Czar. 

It is here said that the man who is a soldier can and ought to carry out all the orders of his superior 
without exception. And as these orders for the most part involve murder, it follows that he ought to 
break all the laws of God and man. The one law he may not break is that of fidelity and allegiance to the 
man who happens at a given moment to be in power. 

Precisely the same thing is said in other words in all codes of military instruction. And it could not 
be otherwise, since the whole power of the army and the state is based in reality on this delusive 
emancipation of men from their duty to God and their conscience, and the substitution of duty to their 
superior officer for all other duties. 

This, then, is the foundation of the belief of the lower classes that the existing regime so fatal for 
them is the regime that ought to exist, and that they ought therefore to support even by torture and 
murder. 

This belief is founded on a conscious deception practiced on them by the higher classes. 

And it cannot be otherwise. To compel the lower classes, which are more numerous, to oppress and 
ill-treat themselves, even at the cost of actions opposed to their conscience, it was necessary to deceive 
them. And it has been done accordingly. 

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Not many days ago I saw once more this shameless deception being openly practiced, and once more 
I marveled that it could be practiced so easily and impudently. 

At the beginning of November, as I was passing through Toula, I saw once again at the gates of the 
Zemsky Courthouse the crowd of peasants I had so often seen before, and heard the drunken shouts of 
the men mingled with the pitiful lamentations of their wives and mothers. It was the recruiting session. 

I can never pass by the spectacle. It attracts me by a kind of fascination of repulsion. I again went 
into the crowd, took my stand among the peasants, looked about and asked questions. And once again I 
was amazed that this hideous crime can be perpetrated so easily in broad daylight and in the midst of a 
large town. 

As the custom is every year, in all the villages and hamlets of the one hundred million Russians, on 
the 1st of November, the village elders had assembled the young men inscribed on the lists, often their 
own sons among them, and had brought them to the town. 

On the road the recruits have been drinking without intermission, unchecked by the elders, who feel 
that going on such an insane errand, abandoning their wives and mothers and renouncing all they hold 
sacred in order to become a senseless instrument of destruction, would be too agonizing if they were not 
stupefied with spirits. 

And so they have come, drinking, swearing, singing, fighting, and scuffling with one another. They 
have spent the night in taverns. In the morning they have slept off their drunkenness and have gathered 
together at the Zemsky Courthouse. 

Some of them, in new sheepskin pelisses, with knitted scarves round their necks, their eyes swollen 
from drinking, are shouting wildly to one another to show their courage; others, crowded near the door, 
are quietly and mournfully waiting their turn, between their weeping wives and mothers (I had chanced 
upon the day of the actual enrolling, that is, the examination of those whose names are on the list); 
others meantime were crowding into the hall of the recruiting office. 

Inside the office the work was going on rapidly. The door is opened and the guard calls Piotr 
Sidorov. Piotr Sidorov starts, crosses himself, and goes into a little room with a glass door, where the 
conscripts undress. A comrade of Piotr Sidorov's, who has just been passed for service, and come naked 
out of the revision office, is dressing hurriedly, his teeth chattering. Sidorov has already heard the news, 
and can see from his face too that he has been taken. He wants to ask him questions, but they hurry him 
and tell him to make haste and undress. He throws off his pelisse, slips his boots off his feet, takes off 
his waistcoat and draws his shirt over his head, and naked, trembling all over, and exhaling an odor of 
tobacco, spirits, and sweat, goes into the revision office, not knowing what to do with his brawny bare 
arms. 

Directly facing him in the revision office hangs in a great gold frame a portrait of the Czar in full 
uniform with decorations, and in the corner a little portrait of Christ in a shirt and a crown of thorns. In 
the middle of the room is a table covered with green cloth, on which there are papers lying and a three- 
cornered ornament surmounted by an eagle - the zertzal. Round the table are sitting the revising 
officers, looking collected and indifferent. One is smoking a cigarette; another is looking through some 
papers. At the very moment when Sidorov comes in, a guard goes up to him, places him under the 
measuring frame, raising him under his chin, and straightening his legs. 

The man with the cigarette - he is the doctor - comes up, and without looking at the recruit's face, 
but somewhere beyond it, feels his body over with an air of disgust, measures him, tests him, tells the 
guard to open his mouth, tells him to breathe, to speak. Someone notes something down. At last 
without having once looked him in the face the doctor says, "Right. Next one!" and with a weary air sits 
down again at the table. The soldiers again hustle and hurry the lad. He somehow gets into his trousers, 
wraps his feet in rags, puts on his boots, looks for his scarf and cap, and bundles his pelisse under his 
arm. Then they lead him into the main hall, shutting him off apart from the rest by a bench, behind 
which all the conscripts who have been passed for service are waiting. Another village lad like himself, 

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but from a distant province, now a soldier armed with a gun with a sharp-pointed bayonet at the end, 
keeps watch over him, ready to run him through if he should think of trying to escape. 

Meantime the crowd of fathers, mothers, and wives, hustled by the police, are pressing round the 
doors to hear whose lad has been taken, whose is let off. One of the rejected comes out and announces 
that Piotr is taken, and at once a shrill cry is heard from Piotr's young wife, for whom this word 'taken' 
means separation for four or five years, the life of a soldier's wife as a servant, often a prostitute. 

But here comes a man along the street with flowing hair and in a peculiar dress, who gets out of his 
carriage and goes into the Zemsky Courthouse. The police clear a way for him through the crowd. It is 
the 'reverend father', who has come to administer the oath. And this 'father,' who has been persuaded 
that he is specially and exclusively devoted to the service of Christ, and who, for the most part, does not 
himself see the deception in which he lives, goes into the hall where the conscripts are waiting. He 
throws round him a kind of curtain of brocade, pulls his long hair out over it, opens the very Gospel in 
which swearing is forbidden, takes the cross, the very cross on which Christ was crucified because he 
would not do what this false servant of his is telling men to do, and puts them on the lectern. And all 
these unhappy, defenseless, and deluded lads repeat after him the lie, which he utters with the assurance 
of familiarity. 

He reads and they repeat after him: 

"I promise and swear by Almighty God upon his holy Gospel," etc., "to defend," etc., and that is, to 
murder anyone I am told to, and to do everything I am told by men I know nothing of, and who care 
nothing for me except as an instrument for perpetrating the crimes by which they are kept in their 
position of power, and my brothers in their condition of misery. All the conscripts repeat these 
ferocious words without thinking. And then the so-called 'father' goes away with a sense of having 
correctly and conscientiously done his duty. And all these poor deluded lads believe that these 
nonsensical and incomprehensible words that they have just uttered set them free for the whole time of 
their service from their duties as men, and lay upon them fresh and more binding duties as soldiers. 

And this crime is perpetrated publicly and no one cries out to the deceiving and the deceived, "Think 
what you are doing; this is the basest, falsest lie, by which not bodies only, but souls too, are destroyed." 

No one does this. On the contrary, when all have been enrolled, and they are to be let out again, the 
military officer goes with a confident and majestic air into the hall where the drunken, cheated lads are 
shut up, and cries in a bold, military voice, "Your health, my lads! I congratulate you on 'serving the 
Czar!'" And they, poor fellows (someone has given them a hint beforehand), mutter awkwardly, their 
voices thick with drink, something to the effect that they are glad. 

In the meantime the crowd of fathers, mothers, and wives is standing at the doors waiting. The 
women keep their tearful eyes fixed on the doors. They open at last, and out come the conscripts, 
unsteady, but trying to put a good face on it. Here are Piotr, Vania, and Makar trying not to look their 
dear ones in the face. Nothing is heard but the wailing of the wives and mothers. Some of the lads 
embrace them and weep with them, others make a show of courage, and others try to comfort them. 

The wives and mothers, knowing that they will be left for three, four, or five years without their 
breadwinners, weep and rehearse their woes aloud. The fathers say little. They only utter a clucking 
sound with their tongues and sigh mournfully, knowing that they will see no more of the steady lads 
they have reared and trained to help them, that they will come back not the same quiet hard-working 
laborers, but for the most part conceited and demoralized, unfitted for their simple life. 

And then all the crowd get into their sledges again and move away down the street to the taverns and 
pot-houses, and louder than ever sounds the medley of singing and sobbing, drunken shouts, and the 
wailing of the wives and mothers, the sounds of the accordion and oaths. They all turn into the taverns, 
whose revenues go to the government, and the drinking bout begins, which stifles their sense of the 
wrong that is being done them. 

For two or three weeks they go on living at home, and most of that time they are 'jaunting,' that is, 
drinking. 

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On a fixed day they collect them, drive them together like a flock of sheep, and begin to train them 
in the military exercises and drill. Their teachers are fellows like themselves, only deceived and 
brutalized two or three years sooner. The means of instruction are: deception, stupefaction, blows, and 
vodka. And before a year has passed these good, intelligent, healthy-minded lads will be as brutal 
beings as their instructors. 

I asked a young soldier, "Come, now, suppose your father were arrested and tried to make his 
escape?" 

"I should run him through with my bayonet," he answered with the foolish intonation peculiar to 
soldiers, "and if he made off, I ought to shoot him," he added, obviously proud of knowing what he must 
do if his father were escaping. 

And when a good-hearted lad has been brought to a state lower than that of a brute, he is just what is 
wanted by those who use him as an instrument of violence. He is ready; the man has been destroyed and 
a new instrument of violence has been created. And all this is done every year, every autumn, 
everywhere, through all Russia in broad daylight in the midst of large towns, where all may see it, and 
the deception is so clever, so skillful, that though all men know the infamy of it in their hearts, and see 
all its horrible results, they cannot throw it off and be free. 

When one's eyes are opened to this awful deception practiced upon us, one marvels that the teachers 
of the Christian religion and of morals, the instructors of youth, or even the good-hearted and intelligent 
parents who are to be found in every society, can teach any kind of morality in a society in which it is 
openly admitted (it is so admitted, under all governments and all churches) that murder and torture form 
an indispensable element in the life of all, and that there must always be special men trained to kill their 
fellows, and that any one of us may have to become such a trained assassin. 

How can children, youths, and people generally be taught any kind of morality - not to speak of 
teaching in the spirit of Christianity - side by side with the doctrine that murder is necessary for the 
public welfare, and therefore legitimate, and that there are men, of whom each of us may have to be one, 
whose duty is to murder and torture and commit all sorts of crimes at the will of those who are in 
possession of authority. If this is so, and one can and ought to murder and torture, there is not, and 
cannot be, any kind of moral law, but only the law that might is right. And this is just how it is. In 
reality, that is the doctrine - justified to some by the theory of the struggle for existence - which reigns 
in our society. 

And, indeed, what sort of ethical doctrine could admit the legitimacy of murder for any object 
whatever? It is as impossible as a theory of mathematics admitting that two is equal to three. 

There may be a semblance of mathematics admitting that two is equal to three, but there can be no 
real science of mathematics. And there can only be a semblance of ethics in which murder in the shape 
of war and the execution of criminals is allowed, but no true ethics. The recognition of the life of every 
man as sacred is the first and only basis of all ethics. 

The doctrine of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth has been abrogated by Christianity, because 
it is the justification of immorality, and a mere semblance of equity, and has no real meaning. Life is a 
value that has no weight or size, and cannot be compared to any other, and so there is no sense in 
destroying a life for a life. Besides, every social law aims at the amelioration of man's life. What way, 
then, can the annihilation of the life of some men ameliorate men's life? Annihilation of life cannot be a 
means of the amelioration of life; it is a suicidal act. 

To destroy another life for the sake of justice is as though a man, to repair the misfortune of losing 
one arm, should cut off the other arm for the sake of equity. 

But putting aside the sin of deluding men into regarding the most awful crime as a duty, putting 
aside the revolting sin of using the name and authority of Christ to sanction what he most condemned, 
not to speak of the curse on those who cause these 'little ones' to offend - how can people who cherish 
their own way of life, their progress, even from the point of view of their personal security, allow the 
formation in their midst of an overwhelming force as senseless, cruel, and destructive as every 

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government is organized on the basis of an army? Even the most cruel band of brigands is not so much 
to be dreaded as such a government. 

The power of every brigand chief is at least so far limited that the men of his band preserve at least 
some human liberty, and can refuse to commit acts opposed to their conscience. But, owing to the 
perfection to which the discipline of the army has been brought, there is no limit to check men who form 
part of a regularly organized government. There are no crimes so revolting that they would not readily 
be committed by men who form part of a government or army, at the will of anyone (such as Boulanger, 
Napoleon, or Pougachef) who may chance to be at their head. 

Often when one sees conscription levies, military drills and maneuvers, police officers with loaded 
revolvers, and sentinels at their posts with bayonets on their rifles; when one hears for whole days at a 
time (as I hear it in Hamovniky where I live) the whistle of balls and the dull thud as they fall in the 
sand; when one sees in the midst of a town where any effort at violence in self-defense is forbidden, 
where the sale of powder and of chemicals, where furious driving and practicing as a doctor without a 
diploma, and so on, are not allowed, thousands of disciplined troops, trained to murder, and subject to 
one man's will; one asks oneself how can people who prize their security quietly allow it, and put up 
with it? Apart from the immorality and evil effects of it, nothing can possibly be more unsafe. What are 
people thinking about? I don't mean now Christians, ministers of religion, philanthropists, and 
moralists, but simply people who value their life, their security, and their comfort. This organization, 
we know, will work just as well in one man's hands as another's. Today, let us assume, power is in the 
hands of a ruler who can be endured, but tomorrow it may be seized by a Biron, an Elizabeth, a 
Catherine, a Pougachef, a Napoleon I, or a Napoleon III. 

And the man in authority, endurable today, may become a brute tomorrow, or may be succeeded by 
a mad or imbecile heir, like the King of Bavaria or our Paul I. 

And not only the highest authorities, but all little satraps scattered over everywhere, like so many 
General Baranovs, governors, police officers even, and commanders of companies, can perpetrate the 
most awful crimes before there is time for them to be removed from office. And this is what is 
constantly happening. 

One involuntarily asks, "How can men let it go on, not from higher considerations only, but from 
regard to their own safety?" 

The answer to this question is that it is not all people who do tolerate it (some - the greater 
proportion - deluded and submissive, have no choice and have to tolerate anything). It is tolerated by 
those who only under such an organization can occupy a position of profit. They tolerate it, because for 
them the risks of suffering from a foolish or cruel man being at the head of the government or the army 
are always less than the disadvantages to which they would be exposed by the destruction of the 
organization itself. 

A judge, a commander of police, a governor, or an officer will keep his position just the same under 
Boulanger or the republic, under Pougachef or Catherine. He will lose his profitable position for certain, 
if the existing order of things that secured it to him is destroyed. And so all these people feel no 
uneasiness as to who is at the head of the organization, they will adapt themselves to anyone; they only 
dread the downfall of the organization itself, and that is the reason - though often an unconscious one - 
that they support it. 

One often wonders why independent people, who are not forced to do so in any way, the so-called 
elite of society, should go into the army in Russia, England, Germany, Austria, and even France, and 
seek opportunities of becoming murderers. Why do even high-principled parents send their boys to 
military schools? Why do mothers buy their children toy helmets, guns, and swords as playthings? 
(The peasant's children never play at soldiers, by the way). Why do good men and even women, who 
have certainly no interest in war, go into raptures over the various exploits of Skobeloff and others, and 
vie with one another in glorifying them? Why do men, who are not obliged to do so, and get no fee for 
it, devote, like the marshals of nobility in Russia, whole months of toil to a business physically 

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disagreeable and morally painful - the enrolling of conscripts? Why do all kings and emperors wear the 
military uniform? Why do they all hold military reviews, why do they organize maneuvers, distribute 
rewards to the military, and raise monuments to generals and successful commanders? Why do rich 
men of independent position consider it an honor to perform a valet's duties in attendance on crowned 
personages, flattering them and cringing to them and pretending to believe in their peculiar superiority? 
Why do men who have ceased to believe in the superstitions of the medieval Church, and who could not 
possibly believe in them seriously and consistently, pretend to believe in and give their support to the 
demoralizing and blasphemous institution of the church? Why is it that not only governments but also 
private persons of the higher classes, try so jealously to maintain the ignorance of the people? Why do 
they fall with such fury on any effort at breaking down religious superstitions or really enlightening the 
people? Why do historians, novelists, and poets, who have no hope of gaining anything by their 
flatteries, make heroes of kings, emperors, and conquerors of past times? Why do men, who call 
themselves learned, dedicate whole lifetimes to making theories to prove that violence employed by 
authority against the people is not violence at all, but a special right? One often wonders why a 
fashionable lady or an artist, who, one would think, would take no interest in political or military 
questions, should always condemn strikes of working people, and defend war; and should always be 
found without hesitation opposed to the one, favorable to the other. 

But one no longer wonders when one realizes that in the higher classes there is an unerring instinct 
of what tends to maintain and of what tends to destroy the organization by virtue of which they enjoy 
their privileges. The fashionable lady had certainly not reasoned out that if there were no capitalists and 
no army to defend them, her husband would have no fortune, and she could not have her entertainments 
and her ball-dresses. And the artist certainly does not argue that he needs the capitalists and the troops 
to defend them, so that they may buy his pictures. But instinct, replacing reason in this instance, guides 
them unerringly. And it is precisely this instinct that leads all men, with few exceptions, to support all 
the religious, political, and economic institutions that are to their advantage. 

But is it possible that the higher classes support the existing order of things simply because it is to 
their advantage? Can't they see that this order of things is essentially irrational, that it is no longer 
consistent with the stage of moral development attained by people, and with public opinion, and that it is 
fraught with perils? The governing classes, or at least the good, honest, and intelligent people of them, 
must suffer from these fundamental inconsistencies, and see the dangers with which they are threatened. 
And is it possible that all the millions of the lower classes can feel easy in conscience when they commit 
such obviously evil deeds as torture and murder from fear of punishment? Indeed, it could not be so; 
neither the former nor the latter could fail to see the irrationality of their conduct, if the complexity of 
government organization did not obscure the unnatural senselessness of their actions. 

So many instigate, assist, or sanction the commission of every one of these actions that no one who 
has a hand in them feels himself morally responsible for it. 

It is the custom among assassins to oblige all the witnesses of a murder to strike the murdered 
victim, that the responsibility may be divided among as large a number of people as possible. The same 
principle in different forms is applied under the government organization in the perpetration of the 
crimes, without which no government organization could exist. Rulers always try to implicate as many 
citizens as possible in all the crimes committed in their support. 

Of late this tendency has been expressed in a very obvious manner by the obligation of all citizens to 
take part in legal processes as jurors, in the army as soldiers, in the local government, or legislative 
assembly, as electors or members. 

Just as in a wicker basket all the ends are so hidden away that it is hard to find them, in the state 
organization the responsibility for the crimes committed is so hidden away that men will commit the 
most atrocious acts without seeing their responsibility for them. 

In ancient times tyrants got credit for the crimes they committed, but in our day the most, atrocious 
infamies, inconceivable under the Neros, are perpetrated and no one gets blamed for them. 

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One set of people has suggested, another set has proposed, a third has reported, a fourth has decided, 
a fifth has confirmed, a sixth has given the order, and a seventh set of men has carried it out. They hang, 
they flog to death women, old men, and innocent people, as was done recently among us in Russia at the 
Yuzovsky factory, and is always being done everywhere in Europe and America in the struggle with the 
anarchists and all other rebels against the existing order; they shoot and hang men by hundreds and 
thousands, or massacre millions in war, or break men's hearts in solitary confinement, and ruin their 
souls in the corruption of a soldier's life, and no one is responsible. 

At the bottom of the social scale soldiers, armed with guns, pistols, and sabers, injure and murder 
people, and compel men through these means to enter the army, and are absolutely convinced that the 
responsibility for the actions rests solely on the officers who command them. 

At the top of the scale - the Czars, presidents, government ministers, and parliaments decree these 
tortures and murders and military conscription, and are fully convinced that since they are either placed 
in authority by the grace of God or by the society they govern, which demands such decrees from them, 
they cannot be held responsible. Between these two extremes are the intermediaries who superintend 
the murders and other acts of violence, and are fully convinced that the responsibility is taken off their 
shoulders partly by their superiors who have given the order, partly by the fact that such orders are 
expected from them by all who are at the bottom of the scale. 

The authority who gives the orders and the authority who executes them at the two extreme ends of 
the state organization, meet together like the two ends of a ring; they support and rest on one another and 
enclose all that lies within the ring. 

Without the conviction that there is a person or persons who will take the whole responsibility of his 
acts, not one soldier would ever lift a hand to commit a murder or other deed of violence. 

Without the conviction that it is expected by the whole people not a single king, emperor, president, 
or parliament would order murders or acts of violence. 

Without the conviction that there are persons of a higher grade who will take the responsibility, and 
people of a lower grade who require such acts for their welfare, not one of the intermediate class would 
superintend such deeds. 

The state is so organized that wherever a man is placed in the social scale, his irresponsibility is the 
same. The higher his grade the more he is under the influence of demands from below, and the less he is 
controlled by orders from above, and vice versa. 

All men, then, bound together by state organization, throw the responsibility of their acts on one 
another, the peasant soldier on the nobleman or merchant who is his officer, and the officer on the 
nobleman who has been appointed governor, the governor on the nobleman or son of an official who is 
government minister, the government minister on the member of the royal family who occupies the post 
of Czar, and the Czar again on all these officials, noblemen, merchants, and peasants. But that is not all. 
Besides the fact that men get rid of the sense of responsibility for their actions in this way, they lose 
their moral sense of responsibility also, by the fact that in forming themselves into a state organization 
they persuade themselves and each other so continually, and so indefatigably, that they are not all equal, 
but "as the stars apart," that they come to believe it genuinely themselves. Thus some are persuaded that 
they are not simple people like everyone else, but special people who are to be specially honored. It is 
instilled into another set of men by every possible means that they are inferior to others, and therefore 
must submit without a murmur to every order given them by their superiors. 

On this inequality, above all, on the elevation of some and the degradation of others, rests the 
capacity men have of being blind to the insanity of the existing order of life, and all the cruelty and 
criminality of the deception practiced by one set of men on another. 

Those in whom the idea has been instilled that they are invested with a special supernatural grandeur 
and consequence are so intoxicated with a sense of their own imaginary dignity that they cease to feel 
their responsibility for what they do. 

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While those, on the other hand, in whom the idea is fostered that they are inferior animals, bound to 
obey their superiors in everything, fall, through this perpetual humiliation, into a strange condition of 
stupefied servility, and in this stupefied state do not see the significance of their actions and lose all 
consciousness of responsibility for what they do. 

The intermediate class, who obey the orders of their superiors on the one hand and regard 
themselves as superior beings on the other, are intoxicated by power and stupefied by servility at the 
same time and so lose the sense of their responsibility. 

One need only glance during a review at the commander-in-chief, intoxicated with self-importance, 
followed by his retinue, all on magnificent and gaily appareled horses, in splendid uniforms and wearing 
decorations, and see how they ride to the harmonious and solemn strains of music before the ranks of 
soldiers, all presenting arms and petrified with servility. One need only glance at this spectacle to 
understand that at such moments, when they are in a state of the most complete intoxication, 
commander-in-chief, soldiers, and intermediate officers alike, would be capable of committing crimes of 
which they would never dream under other conditions. 

The intoxication produced by such stimulants as parades, reviews, religious solemnities, and 
coronations, is, however, an acute and temporary condition; but there are other forms of chronic, 
permanent intoxication, to which those are liable who have any kind of authority, from that of the Czar 
to that of the lowest police officer at the street corner, and also those who are in subjection to authority 
and in a state of stupefied servility. The latter, like all slaves, always find a justification for their own 
servility, in ascribing the greatest possible dignity and importance to those they serve. 

It is principally through this false idea of inequality, and the intoxication of power and of servility 
resulting from it, that men associated in a state organization are enabled to commit acts opposed to their 
conscience without the least scruple or remorse. 

Under the influence of this intoxication, men imagine themselves no longer simply men as they are, 
but some special beings - noblemen, merchants, governors, judges, officers, czars, government 
ministers, or soldiers - no longer bound by ordinary human duties, but by other duties far more weighty 
- the peculiar duties of a nobleman, merchant, governor, judge, officer, czar, government minister, or 
soldier. 

Thus the landowner, who claimed the forest, acted as he did only because he fancied himself not a 
simple man, having the same rights to life as the peasants living beside him and everyone else, but a 
great landowner, a member of the nobility, and under the influence of the intoxication of power he felt 
his dignity offended by the peasants' claims. It was only through this feeling that, without considering 
the consequences that might follow, he sent in a claim to be reinstated in his pretended rights. 

In the same way the judges, who wrongfully adjudged the forest to the proprietor, did so simply 
because they fancied themselves not simply men like everyone else, and so bound to be guided in 
everything only by what they consider right, but, under the intoxicating influence of power, imagined 
themselves the representatives of the justice that cannot err; while under the intoxicating influence of 
servility they imagined themselves bound to carry out to the letter the instructions inscribed in a certain 
book, the so-called law. In the same way all who take part in such an affair, from the highest 
representative of authority who signs his assent to the report, from the superintendent presiding at the 
recruiting sessions, and the priest who deludes the recruits, to the lowest soldier who is ready now to fire 
on his own brothers, imagine, in the intoxication of power or of servility, that they are some 
conventional characters. They do not face the question that is presented to them, whether or not they 
ought to take part in what their conscience judges an evil act, but fancy themselves various conventional 
personages - one as the Czar, God's anointed, an exceptional being, called to watch over the happiness 
of one hundred million men; another as the representative of nobility; another as a priest, who has 
received special grace by his ordination; another as a soldier, bound by his military oath to carry out all 
he is commanded without reflection. 

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Only under the intoxication of the power or the servility of their imagined positions could all these 
people act as they do. 

If they were not all firmly convinced that their respective vocations of czar, government minister, 
governor, judge, nobleman, landowner, superintendent, officer, and soldier are something real and 
important, not one of them would even think without horror and aversion of taking part in what they do 
now. 

The conventional positions, established hundreds of years, recognized for centuries and by everyone, 
distinguished by special names and dresses, and, moreover, confirmed by every kind of solemnity, have 
so penetrated into men's minds through their senses, that, forgetting the ordinary conditions of life 
common to all, they look at themselves and everyone only from this conventional point of view, and are 
guided in their estimation of their own actions and those of others by this conventional standard. 

Thus we see a man of perfect sanity and ripe age, simply because he is decked out with some fringe, 
or embroidered keys on his coat tails, or a colored ribbon only fit for some gaily dressed girl, and is told 
that he is a general, a chamberlain, a knight of the order of St. Andrew, or some similar nonsense, 
suddenly become self-important, proud, and even happy, or, on the contrary, grow melancholy and 
unhappy to the point of falling ill, because he has failed to obtain the expected decoration or title. Or 
what is still more striking, a young man, perfectly sane in every other matter, independent and beyond 
the fear of want, simply because he has been appointed judicial prosecutor or district commander, 
separates a poor widow from her little children, and shuts her up in prison, leaving her children uncared 
for, all because the unhappy woman carried on a secret trade in spirits, and so deprived the revenue of 
twenty-five rubles, and he does not feel the least pang of remorse. Or what is still more amazing; a man, 
otherwise sensible and good-hearted, simply because he is given a badge or a uniform to wear, and told 
that he is a guard or customs officer, is ready to fire on people, and neither he nor those around him 
regard him as to blame for it, but, on the contrary, would regard him as to blame if he did not fire. To 
say nothing of judges and juries who condemn men to death, and soldiers who kill men by thousands 
without the slightest scruple merely because it has been instilled into them that they are not simply men, 
but jurors, judges, generals, and soldiers. 

This strange and abnormal condition of men under state organization is usually expressed in the 
following words: "As a man, I pity him; but as guard, judge, general, governor, czar, or soldier, it is my 
duty to kill or torture him." Just as though there were some positions conferred and recognized, which 
would exonerate us from the obligations laid on each of us by the fact of our common humanity. 

So, for example, in the case before us, men are going to murder and torture the famishing, and they 
admit that in the dispute between the peasants and the landowner the peasants are right (all those in 
command said as much to me). They know that the peasants are wretched, poor, and hungry, and the 
landowner is rich and inspires no sympathy. Yet they are all going to kill the peasants to secure three 
thousand rubles for the landowner, only because at that moment they fancy themselves not men but 
governor, official, general of police, officer, and soldier, respectively, and consider themselves bound to 
obey, not the eternal demands of the conscience of man, but the casual, temporary demands of their 
positions as officers or soldiers. 

Strange as it may seem, the sole explanation of this astonishing phenomenon is that they are in the 
condition of the hypnotized, who, they say, feel and act like the creatures they are commanded by the 
hypnotizer to represent. When, for instance, it is suggested to the hypnotized subject that he is lame, he 
begins to walk lame; that he is blind, and he cannot see; that he is a wild beast, and he begins to bite. 
This is the state, not only of those who were going on this expedition, but of all men who fulfill their 
state and social duties in preference to and in detriment of their human duties. 

The essence of this state is that under the influence of one suggestion they lose the power of 
criticizing their actions, and therefore do, without thinking, everything consistent with the suggestion to 
which they are led by example, precept, or insinuation. 

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The difference between those hypnotized by scientific men and those under the influence of the state 
hypnotism, is that an imaginary position is suggested to the former suddenly by one person in a very 
brief space of time, and so the hypnotized state appears to us in a striking and surprising form, while the 
imaginary position suggested by state influence is induced slowly, little by little, imperceptibly from 
childhood, sometimes during years, or even generations, and not in one person alone but in a whole 
society. 

"But," it will be said, "at all times, in all societies, the majority of persons - all the children, all the 
women absorbed in the bearing and rearing of the young, all the great mass of the laboring population, 
who are under the necessity of incessant and fatiguing physical labor, all those of weak character by 
nature, all those who are abnormally enfeebled intellectually by the effects of nicotine, alcohol, opium, 
or other intoxicants - are always in a condition of incapacity for independent thought, and are either in 
subjection to those who are on a higher intellectual level, or else under the influence of family or social 
traditions, of what is called public opinion, and there is nothing unnatural or incongruous in their 
subjection." 

And truly there is nothing unnatural in it, and the tendency of men of small intellectual power to 
follow the lead of those on a higher level of intelligence is a constant law, and it is owing to it that men 
can live in societies and on the same principles at all. The minority consciously adopts certain rational 
principles through their correspondence with reason, while the majority acts on the same principles 
unconsciously because it is required by public opinion. 

Such subjection to public opinion on the part of the unintellectual does not assume an unnatural 
character until the public opinion is split into two. 

But there are times when a higher truth, revealed at first to a few persons, gradually gains ground 
until it has taken hold of such a number of persons that the old public opinion, founded on a lower order 
of truths, begins to totter and the new is ready to take its place, but has not yet been firmly established. 
It is like the spring, this time of transition, when the old order of ideas has not quite broken up and the 
new has not quite gained a footing. Men begin to criticize their actions in the light of the new truth, but 
in the meantime in practice, through inertia and tradition, they continue to follow the principles that once 
represented the highest point of rational consciousness, but are now in flagrant contradiction with it. 

Then men are in an abnormal, wavering condition, feeling the necessity of following the new ideal, 
and yet not bold enough to break with the old established traditions. 

Such is the attitude in regard to the truth of Christianity not only of the men in the Toula train, but of 
the majority of men of our times, alike of the higher and the lower orders. 

Those of the ruling classes, having no longer any reasonable justification for the profitable positions 
they occupy, are forced, in order to keep them, to stifle their higher rational faculty of loving, and to 
persuade themselves that their positions are indispensable. And those of the lower classes, exhausted by 
toil and brutalized of set purpose, are kept in a permanent deception, practiced deliberately and 
continuously by the higher classes upon them. 

Only in this way can one explain the amazing contradictions with which our life is full, and of which 
a striking example was presented to me by the expedition I met on the 9th of September; good, peaceful 
men, known to me personally, going with untroubled tranquility to perpetrate the most beastly, 
senseless, and vile of crimes. If they did not have some means of stifling their conscience, not one of 
them would be capable of committing a hundredth part of such villainy. 

It is not that they have not a conscience that forbids them from acting thus, just as, even three or four 
hundred years ago, when people burned men at the stake and put them to the rack they had a conscience 
that prohibited it; the conscience is there, but it has been put to sleep - in those in command by what the 
psychologists call auto-suggestion; in the soldiers, by the direct conscious hypnotizing exerted by the 
higher classes. 

Though asleep, the conscience is there, and in spite of the hypnotism it is already speaking in them, 
and it may awake. 

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All these men are in a position like that of a man under hypnotism, commanded to do something 
opposed to everything he regards as good and rational, such as to kill his mother or his child. The 
hypnotized subject feels himself bound to carry out the suggestion - he thinks he cannot stop - but the 
nearer he gets to the time and the place of the action, the more the benumbed conscience begins to stir, 
to resist, and to try to awake. And no one can say beforehand whether he will carry out the suggestion 
or not - which will gain the upper hand, the rational conscience or the irrational suggestion. It all 
depends on their relative strength. 

That is just the case with the men in the Toula train and in general with everyone carrying out acts of 
state violence in our day. 

There was a time when men who set out with the object of murder and violence, to make an 
example, did not return until they had carried out their object, and then, untroubled by doubts or 
scruples, having calmly flogged men to death, they returned home and caressed their children, laughed, 
amused themselves, and enjoyed the peaceful pleasures of family life. In those days it never struck the 
landowners and wealthy men who profited by these crimes, that the privileges they enjoyed had any 
direct connection with these atrocities. But now it is no longer so. Men know now, or are not far from 
knowing, what they are doing and for what object they do it. They can shut their eyes and force their 
conscience to be still, but so long as their eyes are opened and their conscience undulled, they must all - 
those who carry out and those who profit by these crimes alike - see the importance of them. 
Sometimes they realize it only after the crime has been perpetrated, sometimes they realize it just before 
its perpetration. Thus those who commanded the recent acts of violence in Nijni-Novgorod, Saratov, 
Orel, and the Yuzovsky factory realized their significance only after their perpetration, and now those 
who commanded and those who carried out these crimes are ashamed before public opinion and their 
conscience. I have talked to soldiers who had taken part in these crimes. They always studiously turned 
the conversation off the subject, and when they spoke of it they spoke with horror and bewilderment. 
There are cases, too, when men come to themselves just before the perpetration of the crime. Thus I 
know the case of a sergeant-major who had been beaten by two peasants during the repression of 
disorder and had made a complaint. The next day, after seeing the atrocities perpetrated on the other 
peasants, he entreated the commander of his company to tear up his complaint and let off the two 
peasants. I know cases when soldiers, commanded to fire, have refused to obey, and I know many cases 
of officers who have refused to command expeditions for torture and murder. Consequently, men 
sometimes come to their senses long before perpetrating the suggested crime, sometimes at the very 
moment before perpetrating it, sometimes only afterward. 

The men traveling in the Toula train were going with the object of killing and injuring their fellow- 
creatures, but none could tell whether they would carry out their object or not. However obscure his 
responsibility for the affair is to each, and however strong the idea instilled into all of them that they are 
not men, but governors, officials, officers, and soldiers, and as such beings can violate every human 
duty, the nearer they approach the place of the execution, the stronger their doubts as to its being right, 
and this doubt will reach its highest point when the very moment for carrying it out has come. 

The governor, in spite of all the stupefying effect of his surroundings, cannot help hesitating when 
the moment comes to give final decisive command. He knows that the action of the governor of Orel 
has called down upon him the disapproval of the best people, and he himself, influenced by the public 
opinion of the circles in which he moves, has more than once expressed his disapprobation of him. He 
knows that the prosecutor, who ought to have come, flatly refused to have anything to do with it, 
because he regarded it as disgraceful. He knows, too, that there may be changes any day in the 
government, and that what was a ground for advancement yesterday may be the cause of disgrace 
tomorrow. And he knows that there is a press, if not in Russia, at least abroad, which may report the 
affair and cover him with ignominy forever. He is already conscious of a change in public opinion that 
condemns what was formerly a duty. Moreover, he cannot feel fully assured that his soldiers will at the 
last moment obey him. He is wavering, and none can say beforehand what he will do. 

145 



All the officers and functionaries who accompany him experience in greater or less degree the same 
emotions. In the depths of their hearts they all know that what they are doing is shameful, that to take 
part in it is a discredit and blemish in the eyes of some people whose opinion they value. They know 
that after murdering and torturing the defenseless, each of them will be ashamed to face his betrothed or 
the woman he is courting. And besides, they too, like the governor, are doubtful whether the soldiers' 
obedience to orders can be reckoned on. What a contrast with the confident air they all put on as they 
sauntered about the station and platform! Inwardly they were not only in a state of suffering but even of 
suspense. Indeed they only assumed this bold and composed manner to conceal the wavering within. 
And this feeling increased as they drew near the scene of action. 

And imperceptible as it was, and strange as it seems to say so, all that mass of lads, the soldiers, who 
seemed so submissive, were in precisely the same condition. 

These are not the soldiers of former days, who gave up the natural life of industry and devoted their 
whole existence to debauchery, plunder, and murder, like the Roman legionaries or the warriors of the 
Thirty Years' War, or even the soldiers of more recent times who served for twenty-five years in the 
army. They have mostly been only lately taken from their families, and are full of the recollections of 
the good, rational, natural life they have left behind them. 

All these lads, peasants for the most part, know what is the business they have come about; they 
know that the landowners always oppress their brothers the peasants, and that therefore it is most likely 
the same thing here. Moreover, a majority of them can now read, and the books they read are not all 
such as exalt a military life; there are some who point out its immorality. Among them are often free- 
thinking comrades - who have enlisted voluntarily - or young officers of liberal ideas, and already the 
first germ of doubt has been sown in regard to the unconditional legitimacy and glory of their 
occupation. 

It is true that they have all passed through that terrible, skillful education, elaborated through 
centuries, which kills all initiative in a man, and that they are so trained to mechanical obedience that at 
the word of command, "Fire! All the line! Fire!" and so on, their guns will rise of themselves and the 
habitual movements will be performed. But "Fire!" now does not mean shooting into the sand for 
amusement, it means firing on their broken down, exploited fathers and brothers whom they see there in 
the crowd, with women and children shouting and waving their arms. Here they are - one with his 
scanty beard and patched coat and plaited shoes of reed, just like the father left at home in Kazan or 
Riazan province; one with gray beard and bent back, leaning on a staff like the old grandfather; one, a 
young fellow in boots and a red shirt, just as he was himself a year ago - he, the soldier who must fire 
upon him. There, too, a woman in reed shoes and panyova, just like the mother left at home. 

Is it possible they must fire on them? And no one knows what each soldier will do at the last minute. 
The least word, the slightest allusion would be enough to stop them. 

At the last moment they will all find themselves in the position of a hypnotized man to whom it has 
been suggested to chop a log, who coming up to what has been indicated to him as a log, with the ax 
already lifted to strike, sees that it is not a log but his sleeping brother. He may perform the act that has 
been suggested to him, and he may come to his senses at the very moment of performing it. In the same 
way all these men may come to themselves in time or they may go on to the end. 

If they do not come to themselves, the most fearful crime will be committed, as in Orel, and then the 
hypnotic suggestion under which they act will be strengthened in all other men. If they do come to 
themselves, not only this terrible crime will not be perpetrated, but many also who hear of the turn the 
affair has taken will be emancipated from the hypnotic influence in which they were held, or at least will 
be nearer being emancipated from it. 

Even if a few only come to themselves, and boldly explain to the others all the wickedness of such a 
crime, the influence of these few may rouse the others to shake off the controlling suggestion, and the 
atrocity will not be perpetrated. 

146 



More than that, if a few men, even of those who are not taking part in the affair but are only present 
at the preparations for it, or have heard of such things being done in the past, do not remain indifferent 
but boldly and plainly express their detestation of such crimes to those who have to execute them, and 
point out to them all the senselessness, cruelty, and wickedness of such acts, that alone will be 
productive of good. 

That was what took place in the instance before us. It was enough for a few men, some personally 
concerned in the affair and others simply outsiders, to express their disapproval of floggings that had 
taken place elsewhere, and their contempt and loathing for those who had taken part in inflicting them, 
for a few persons in the Toula case to express their repugnance to having any share in it; for a lady 
traveling by the train, and a few other bystanders at the station, to express to those who formed the 
expedition their disgust at what they were doing; for one of the commanders of a company, who was 
asked for troops for the restoration of order, to reply that soldiers ought not to be butchers - and thanks 
to these and a few other seemingly insignificant influences brought to bear on these hypnotized men, the 
affair took a completely different turn, and the troops, when they reached the place, did not inflict any 
punishment, but contented themselves with cutting down the forest and giving it to the landowner. 

If a few persons had not had a clear consciousness that what they were doing was wrong, and 
consequently influenced one another in that direction, what was done at Orel would have taken place at 
Toula. Had this consciousness been still stronger, and had the influence exerted been therefore greater 
than it was, it might well have been that the governor with his troops would not even have ventured to 
cut down the forest and give it to the landowner. Had that consciousness been stronger still, it might 
well have been that the governor would not have ventured to go to the scene of action at all; even that 
the government minister would not have ventured to form this decision or the Czar to ratify it. 

All depends, therefore, on the strength of the consciousness of Christian truth on the part of each 
individual man. 

And, therefore, one would have thought that the efforts of all men of the present day who profess to 
wish to work for the welfare of humanity would have been directed to strengthening this consciousness 
of Christian truth in themselves and others. 

But, strange to say, it is precisely those people who profess most anxiety for the amelioration of 
human life, and are regarded as the leaders of public opinion, who assert that there is no need to do that, 
and that there are other more effective means for the amelioration of men's condition. They affirm that 
the amelioration of human life is effected not by the efforts of individual men, to recognize and 
propagate the truth, but by the gradual modification of the general conditions of life, and that therefore 
the efforts of individuals should be directed to the gradual modification of external conditions for the 
better. For every advocacy of a truth inconsistent with the existing order by an individual is, they 
maintain, not only useless but injurious, since in provokes coercive measures on the part of the 
authorities, restricting these individuals from continuing any action useful to society. According to this 
doctrine all modifications in human life are brought about by precisely the same laws as in the life of the 
animals. 

Consequently, according to this doctrine, all the founders of religions, such as Moses and the 
prophets, Confucius, Lao-Tse, Buddha, Christ, and others, preached their doctrines and their followers 
accepted them, not because they loved the truth, but because the political, social, and above all economic 
conditions of the peoples among whom these religions arose were favorable for their origination and 
development. 

And therefore the chief efforts of the man who wishes to serve society and improve the condition of 
humanity ought, according to this doctrine, to be directed not to the elucidation and propagation of truth, 
but to the improvement of the external political, social, and above all economic conditions. And the 
modification of these conditions is partly effected by serving the government and introducing liberal and 
progressive principles into it, partly in promoting the development of industry and the propagation of 
socialistic ideas, and most of all by the diffusion of science. According to this theory it is of no 

147 



consequence whether you profess the truth revealed to you, and therefore realize it in your life, or at 
least refrain from committing actions opposed to the truth, such as serving the government and 
strengthening its authority when you regard it as injurious, profiting by the capitalistic system when you 
regard it as wrong, showing veneration for various ceremonies that you believe to be degrading 
superstitions, giving support to the law when you believe it to be founded on error, serving as a soldier, 
taking oaths, and lying, and lowering yourself generally. It is useless to refrain from all that; what is of 
use is not altering the existing forms of life, but submitting to them against your own convictions, 
introducing liberalism into the existing institutions, promoting commerce, the propaganda of socialism, 
and the triumphs of what is called science, and the diffusion of education. According to this theory one 
can remain a landowner, merchant, manufacturer, judge, official in government pay, officer or soldier, 
and still be not only a humane man, but also even a socialist and revolutionist. 

Hypocrisy, which had formerly only a religious basis in the doctrine of original sin, the redemption, 
and the Church, has in our day gained a new scientific basis and has consequently caught in its nets all 
those who had reached too high a stage of development to be able to find support in religious hypocrisy. 
Consequently, while in former days a man who professed the religion of the Church could take part in 
all the crimes of the state, and profit by them, and still regard himself as free from any taint of sin, so 
long as he fulfilled the external observances of his creed, nowadays all who do not believe in the 
Christianity of the Church, find similar well-founded irrefutable reasons in science for regarding 
themselves as blameless and even highly moral in spite of their participation in the misdeeds of 
government and the advantages they gain from them. 

A rich landowner - not only in Russia, but also in France, England, Germany, or America - lives on 
the rents exacted from the people living on his land, and robs these generally poverty-stricken people of 
all he can get from them. This man's right of property in the land rests on the fact that at every effort on 
the part of the oppressed people, without his consent, to make use of the land he considers his, troops are 
called out to subject them to punishment and murder. One would have thought that it was obvious that a 
man living in this way was an evil, egoistic creature and could not possibly consider himself a Christian 
or a liberal. One would have supposed it evident that the first thing such a man must do, if he wishes to 
approximate to Christianity or liberalism, would be to cease to plunder and ruin men by means of acts of 
state violence in support of his claim to the land. And so it would be if it were not for the logic of 
hypocrisy, which reasons that from a religious point of view possession or non-possession of land is of 
no consequence for salvation, and from the scientific point of view, giving up the ownership of land is a 
useless individual renunciation, and that the welfare of mankind is not promoted in that way, but by a 
gradual modification of external forms. And so we see this man, without the least trouble of mind or 
doubt that people will believe in his sincerity, organizing an agricultural exhibition, or a temperance 
society, or sending some soup and stockings by his wife or children to three old women, and boldly in 
his family, in drawing rooms, in committees, and in the press, advocating the Gospel or humanitarian 
doctrine of love for one's neighbor in general and the agricultural laboring population in particular 
whom he is continually exploiting and oppressing. And other people who are in the same position as he 
believe him, commend him, and solemnly discuss with him measures for ameliorating the condition of 
the working-class, on whose exploitation their whole life rests, devising all kinds of possible methods 
for this, except the one without which all improvement of their condition is impossible, i.e., refraining 
from taking from them the land necessary for their subsistence. (A striking example of this hypocrisy 
was the solicitude displayed by the Russian landowners last year, their efforts to combat the famine that 
they had caused, and by which they profited, selling not only bread at the highest price, but even potato 

17 

haulm at five rubles per dessiatine for fuel to the freezing peasants.) 

Or take a merchant whose whole trade - like all trade indeed - is founded on a series of trickery, by 
means of which, profiting by the ignorance or need of others, he buys goods below their value and sells 

17 About 2.8 acres. 

148 



them again above their value. One would have fancied it obvious that a man whose whole occupation 
was based on what in his own language is called swindling, if it is done under other conditions, ought to 
be ashamed of his position, and could not any way, while he continues a merchant, profess himself a 
Christian or a liberal. 

But the sophistry of hypocrisy reasons that the merchant can pass for a virtuous man without giving 
up his pernicious course of action; a religious man need only have faith and a liberal man need only 
promote the modification of external conditions - the progress of industry. And so we see the merchant 
(who often goes further and commits acts of direct dishonesty, selling adulterated goods, using false 
weights and measures, and trading in products injurious to health, such as alcohol and opium) boldly 
regarding himself and being regarded by others, so long as he does not directly deceive his colleagues in 
business, as a pattern of probity and virtue. And if he spends a thousandth part of his stolen wealth on 
some public institution, a hospital or museum or school, then he is even regarded as the benefactor of the 
people on the exploitation and corruption of whom his whole prosperity has been founded. If he 
sacrifices, too, a portion of his ill-gotten gains on a Church and the poor, then he is an exemplary 
Christian. 

A manufacturer is a man whose whole income consists of value squeezed out of the workmen, and 
whose whole occupation is based on forced, unnatural labor, exhausting whole generations of men. It 
would seem obvious that if this man professes any Christian or liberal principles, he must first of all give 
up ruining human lives for his own profit. But by the existing theory he is promoting industry, and he 
ought not to abandon his pursuit. It would even be injuring society for him to do so. And so we see this 
man, the harsh slave-driver of thousands of men, building almshouses with little gardens two yards 
square for the workmen broken down in toiling for him, and a bank, and a poorhouse, and a hospital - 
fully persuaded that he has amply expiated in this way for all the human lives morally and physically 
ruined by him - and calmly going on with his business, taking pride in it. 

Any civil, religious, or military official in government employ, who serves the state from vanity, or, 
as is most often the case, simply for the sake of the pay wrung from the harassed and toil-worn working 
classes (all taxes, however raised, always fall on labor), if he, as is very seldom the case, does not 
directly rob the government in the usual way, considers himself, and is considered by his fellows, as a 
most useful and virtuous member of society. 

A judge or a public prosecutor knows that through his sentence or his prosecution hundreds or 
thousands of poor wretches are at once torn from their families and thrown into prison, where they may 
go out of their minds, kill themselves with pieces of broken glass, or starve themselves; he knows that 
they have wives and mothers and children, disgraced and made miserable by separation from them, 
vainly begging for pardon for them or some alleviation of their sentence, and this judge or this 
prosecutor is so hardened in his hypocrisy that he and his fellows and his wife and his household are all 
fully convinced that he may be a most exemplary man. According to the metaphysics of hypocrisy it is 
held that he is doing a work of public utility. And this man who has ruined hundreds, thousands of men, 
who curse him and are driven to desperation by his action, goes to mass, a smile of shining benevolence 
on his smooth face, in perfect faith in good and in God, listens to the Gospel, caresses his children, 
preaches moral principles to them, and is moved by imaginary sufferings. 

All these men and those who depend on them, their wives, tutors, children, cooks, actors, jockeys, 
and so on, are living on the blood that by one means or another, through one set of blood-suckers or 
another, is drawn out of the working class, and every day their pleasures cost hundreds or thousands of 
days of labor. They see the sufferings and privations of these laborers and their children, their aged, 
their wives, and their sick, they know the punishments inflicted on those who resist this organized 
plunder, and far from decreasing, far from concealing their luxury, they insolently display it before these 
oppressed laborers who hate them, as though intentionally provoking them with the pomp of their parks 
and palaces, their theaters, hunts, and races. At the same time they continue to persuade themselves and 
others that they are all much concerned about the welfare of these working classes, whom they have 

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always trampled under their feet, and on Sundays, richly dressed, they drive in sumptuous carriages to 
the houses of God built in very mockery of Christianity, and there listen to men, trained to this work of 
deception, who in white neckties or in brocaded vestments, according to their denomination, preach the 
love for their neighbor who they all gainsay in their lives. And these people have so entered into their 
part that they seriously believe that they really are what they pretend to be. 

The universal hypocrisy has so entered into the flesh and blood of all classes of our modern society, 
it has reached such a pitch that nothing in that way can rouse indignation. Hypocrisy in the Greek 
means 'acting,' and acting - playing a part - is always possible. The representatives of Christ give their 
blessing to the ranks of murderers holding their guns loaded against their brothers; 'for prayer' priests, 
ministers of various Christian sects are always present, as indispensably as the hangman, at executions, 
and sanction by their presence the compatibility of murder with Christianity (a clergyman assisted at the 
attempt at murder by electricity in America) - but such facts cause no one any surprise. 

There was recently held at Petersburg an international exhibition of instruments of torture, 
handcuffs, models of solitary cells, that is to say instruments of torture worse than knouts or rods, and 
sensitive ladies and gentlemen went and amused themselves by looking at them. 

No one is surprised that together with its recognition of liberty, equality, and fraternity, liberal 
science should prove the necessity of war, punishment, customs, the censure, the regulation of 
prostitution, the exclusion of cheap foreign laborers, the hindrance of emigration, the justifiableness of 
colonization, based on poisoning and destroying whole races of men called savages, and so on. 

People talk of the time when all men shall profess what is called Christianity (that is, various 
professions of faith hostile to one another), when all shall be well-fed and clothed, when all shall be 
united from one end of the world to the other by telegraphs and telephones, and be able to communicate 
by balloons, when all the working classes are permeated by socialistic doctrines, when the trade unions 
possess so many millions of members and so many millions of rubles, when everyone is educated and all 
can read newspapers and learn all the sciences. 

But what good or useful thing can come of all these improvements, if men do not speak and act in 
accordance with what they believe to be the truth? 

The condition of men is the result of their disunion. Their disunion results from their not following 
the truth that is one, but falsehoods that are many. The sole means of uniting men is their union in the 
truth. And therefore the more sincerely men strive toward the truth, the nearer they get to unity. 

But how can men be united in the truth or even approximate to it, if they do not even express the 
truth they know, but hold that there is no need to do so, and pretend to regard as truth what they believe 
to be false? 

And therefore no improvement is possible so long as men are hypocritical and hide the truth from 
themselves, so long as they do not recognize that their union and therefore their welfare is only possible 
in the truth, and do not put the recognition and profession of the truth revealed to them higher than 
everything else. 

All the material improvements that religious and scientific men can dream of may be accomplished; 
all men may accept Christianity, and all the reforms desired by the Bellamys may be brought about with 
every possible addition and improvement, but if the hypocrisy that rules nowadays still exists, if men do 
not profess the truth they know, but continue to feign belief in what they do not believe and veneration 
for what they do not respect, their condition will remain the same, or even grow worse and worse. The 
more men are freed from privation; the more telegraphs, telephones, books, papers, and journals there 
are; the more means there will be of diffusing inconsistent lies and hypocrisies, and the more disunited 
and consequently miserable will men become, which indeed is what we see actually taking place. 

All these material reforms may be realized, but the position of humanity will not be improved. But 
only let each man, according to his powers, at once realize in his life the truth he knows, or at least cease 
to support the falsehoods he is supporting in the place of the truth, and at once, in this year 1893, we 

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should see such reforms as we do not dare to hope for within a century - the emancipation of men and 
the reign of truth upon earth. 

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 all 
real human life, and debars them from all progress toward perfection. 

Those who do evil through ignorance of the truth provoke sympathy with their victims and 
repugnance for their actions, they do harm only to those they attack; but those who know the truth and 
do evil masked by hypocrisy, injure themselves and their victims, and thousands of other men as well 
who are led astray by the falsehood with which the wrongdoing is disguised. 

Thieves, robbers, murderers, and cheats, who commit crimes recognized by themselves and 
everyone else as evil, serve as an example of what ought not to be done, and deter others from similar 
crimes. But those who commit the same thefts, robberies, murders, and other crimes, disguising them 
under all kinds of religious or scientific or humanitarian justifications, as all landowners, merchants, 
manufacturers, and government officials do, provoke others to imitation, and so do harm not only to 
those who are directly the victims of their crimes, but to thousands and millions of men whom they 
corrupt by obliterating their sense of the distinction between right and wrong. 

A single fortune gained by trading in goods necessary to the people or in goods pernicious in their 
effects, or by financial speculations, or by acquiring land at a low price the value of which is increased 
by the needs of the population, or by an industry ruinous to the health and life of those employed in it, or 
by military or civil service of the state, or by any employment that trades on men's evil instincts - a 
single fortune acquired in any of these ways, not only with the sanction, but even with the approbation 
of the leading men in society, and masked with an ostentation of philanthropy, corrupts men 
incomparably more than millions of thefts and robberies committed against the recognized forms of law 
and punishable as crimes. 

A single execution carried out by prosperous educated men uninfluenced by passion, with the 
approbation and assistance of Christian ministers, and represented as something necessary and even just, 
is infinitely more corrupting and brutalizing to men than thousands of murders committed by uneducated 
working people under the influence of passion. An execution such as was proposed by Joukovsky, 
which would produce even a sentiment of religious emotion in the spectators, would be one of the most 
perverting actions imaginable. (See vol. 4 of the works of Joukovsky.) 

Every war, even the most humanely conducted, with all its ordinary consequences, the destruction of 
harvests, robberies, the license and debauchery, and the murder with the justifications of its necessity 
and justice, the exaltation and glorification of military exploits, the worship of the flag, the patriotic 
sentiments, the feigned solicitude for the wounded, and so on, does more in one year to pervert men's 
minds than thousands of robberies, murders, and arsons perpetrated during hundreds of years by 
individual men under the influence of passion. 

The luxurious expenditure of a single respectable and so-called honorable family, even within the 
conventional limits, consuming as it does the produce of as many days of labor as would suffice to 
provide for thousands living in privation near, does more to pervert men's minds than thousands of the 
violent orgies of coarse trades-people, officers, and workmen of drunken and debauched habits, who 
smash up glasses and crockery for amusement. 

One solemn religious procession, one service, one sermon from the altar-steps or the pulpit, in which 
the preacher does not believe, produces incomparably more evil than thousands of swindling tricks, 
adulteration of food, and so on. 

We talk of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. But the hypocrisy of our society far surpasses the 
comparatively innocent hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They had at least an external religious law, the 
fulfillment of which hindered them from seeing their obligations to their neighbors. Moreover, these 

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obligations were not nearly so clearly defined in their day. Nowadays we have no such religious law to 
exonerate us from our duties to our neighbors (I am not speaking now of the coarse and ignorant persons 
who still fancy their sins can be absolved by confession to a priest or by the absolution of the Pope). On 
the contrary, the law of the Gospel that we all profess in one form or another directly defines these 
duties. Besides, the duties that had then been only vaguely and mystically expressed by a few prophets 
have now been so clearly formulated, have become such truisms, that they are repeated even by 
schoolboys and journalists. And so it would seem that men of today cannot pretend that they do not 
know these duties. 

A man of the modern world who profits by the order of things based on violence, and at the same 
time protests that he loves his neighbor and does not observe what he is doing in his daily life to his 
neighbor, is like a brigand who has spent his life in robbing men, and who, caught at last, knife in hand, 
in the very act of striking his shrieking victim, should declare that he had no idea that what he was doing 
was disagreeable to the man he had robbed and was prepared to murder. Just as this robber and 
murderer could not deny what was evident to everyone, so it would seem that a man living upon the 
privations of the oppressed classes cannot persuade himself and others that he desires the welfare of 
those he plunders, and that he does not know how the advantages he enjoys are obtained. 

It is impossible to convince ourselves that we do not know that there are a hundred thousand men in 
prison in Russia alone to guarantee the security of our property and tranquility, and that we do not know 
of the law tribunals in which we take part, and which, at our initiative, condemn those who have 
attacked our property or our security to prison, exile, or forced labor, whereby men no worse than those 
who condemn them are ruined and corrupted; or that we do not know that we only possess all that we do 
possess because it has been acquired and is defended for us by murder and violence. 

We cannot pretend that we do not see the armed policeman who marches up and down beneath our 
windows to guarantee our security while we eat our luxurious dinner, or look at the new piece at the 
theater, or that we are unaware of the existence of the soldiers who will make their appearance with guns 
and cartridges at the very moment when our property is attacked. 

We know very well that we are only allowed to go on eating our dinner, to finish seeing the new 
play, or to enjoy to the end the ball, the Christmas fete, the promenade, the races or the hunt, thanks to 
the policeman's revolver or the soldier's rifle, which will shoot down the famished outcast who has been 
robbed of his share, and who looks round the corner with covetous eyes at our pleasures, ready to 
interrupt them instantly, were not the policeman and the soldier there prepared to run up at our first call 
for help. 

And therefore just as a brigand caught in broad daylight in the act cannot persuade us that he did not 
lift his knife in order to rob his victim of his purse, and had no thought of killing him, we too, it would 
seem, cannot persuade ourselves or others that the soldiers and policemen around us are not to guard us, 
but only for defense against foreign foes, and to regulate traffic and fetes and reviews; we cannot 
persuade ourselves and others that we do not know that men do not like dying of hunger, bereft of the 
right to gain their subsistence from the earth on which they live; that they do not like working 
underground, in the water, or in stifling heat, for ten to fourteen hours a day, at night in factories to 
manufacture objects for our pleasure. One would imagine it impossible to deny what is so obvious. Yet 
it is denied. 

Still, there are, among the rich, especially among the young, and among women, persons whom I am 
glad to meet more and more frequently, who, when they are shown in what way and at what cost their 
pleasures are purchased, do not try to conceal the truth, but hiding their heads in their hands, cry, "Ah! 
Don't speak of that. If it is so, life is impossible." But though there are such sincere people who even 
though they cannot renounce their fault, at least see it, the vast majority of the men of the modern world 
have so entered into the parts they play in their hypocrisy that they boldly deny what is staring everyone 
in the face. 

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"All that is unjust," they say; "no one forces the people to work for the landowners and 
manufacturers. That is an affair of free contract. Great properties and fortunes are necessary, because 
they provide and organize work for the working classes. And labor in the factories and workshops is not 
at all the terrible thing you make it out to be. Even if there are some abuses in factories, the government 
and the public are taking steps to obviate them and to make the labor of the factory workers much easier, 
and even agreeable. The working classes are accustomed to physical labor, and are, so far, fit for 
nothing else. The poverty of the people is not the result of private property in land, or of capitalistic 
oppression, but of other causes. It is the result of the ignorance, brutality, and intemperance of the 
people. And we men in authority who are striving against this impoverishment of the people by wise 
legislation, we capitalists who are combating it by the extension of useful inventions, we clergymen by 
religious instruction, and we liberals by the formation of trades unions, and the diffusion of education, 
are in this way increasing the prosperity of the people without changing our own positions. We do not 
want all to be as poor as the poor; we want all to be as rich as the rich. As for the assertion that men are 
ill treated and murdered to force them to work for the profit of the rich, that is a sophism. The army is 
only called out against the mob, when the people, in ignorance of their own interests, make disturbances 
and destroy the tranquility necessary for the public welfare. In the same way, too, it is necessary to keep 
in restraint the malefactors for whom the prisons and gallows are established. We ourselves wish to 
suppress these forms of punishment and are working in that direction." 

Hypocrisy in our day is supported on two sides: by false religion and by false science. And it has 
reached such proportions that if we were not living in its midst, we could not believe that men could 
attain such a pitch of self-deception. Men of the present day have come into such an extraordinary 
condition, their hearts are so hardened, that seeing they do not see, hearing they do not hear, and they do 
not understand. 

Men have long been living in antagonism to their conscience. If it were not for hypocrisy they could 
not go on living such a life. This social organization in opposition to their conscience only continues to 
exist because it is disguised by hypocrisy. 

And the greater the divergence between actual life and men's conscience, the greater the extension 
of hypocrisy. But even hypocrisy has its limits. And it seems to me that we have reached those limits in 
the present day. 

Every man of the present day with the Christian principles assimilated involuntarily in his 
conscience, finds himself in precisely the position of a man asleep who dreams that he is obliged to do 
something that even in his dream he knows he ought not to do. He knows this in the depths of his 
conscience, and all the same he seems unable to change his position; he cannot stop and cease doing 
what he ought not to do. And just as in a dream, his position becoming more and more painful, at last 
reaches such a pitch of intensity that he begins sometimes to doubt the reality of what is passing and 
makes a moral effort to shake off the nightmare that is oppressing him. 

This is just the condition of the average man of our Christian society. He feels that all that he does 
himself and that is done around him is something absurd, hideous, impossible, and opposed to his 
conscience; he feels that his position is becoming more and more unendurable and reaching a crisis of 
intensity. 

It is not possible that we modern men, with the Christian sense of human dignity and equality 
permeating us soul and body, with our need for peaceful association and unity between nations, should 
really go on living in such a way that every joy, every gratification we have is bought by the sufferings, 
by the lives of our brother men, and moreover, that we should be every instant within a hair' s breadth of 
falling on one another, nation against nation, like wild beasts, mercilessly destroying men's lives and 
labor, only because some benighted diplomat or ruler says or writes some stupidity to another equally 
benighted diplomat or ruler. 

It is impossible. Yet every man of our day sees that this is so and awaits the calamity. And the 
situation becomes more and more insupportable. 

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And as the man who is dreaming does not believe that what appears to him can be truly the reality 
and tries to wake up to the actual real world again, so the average man of modern days cannot in the 
bottom of his heart believe that the awful position in which he is placed and which is growing worse and 
worse can be the reality, and tries to wake up to a true, real life, as it exists in his conscience. 

And just as the dreamer need only make a moral effort and ask himself, "Isn't it a dream?" and the 
situation that seemed to him so hopeless will instantly disappear, and he will wake up to peaceful and 
happy reality, so the man of the modern world need only make a moral effort to doubt the reality 
presented to him by his own hypocrisy and the general hypocrisy around him, and to ask himself, "Isn't 
it all a delusion?" and he will at once, like the dreamer awakened, feel himself transported from an 
imaginary and dreadful world to the true, calm, and happy reality. 

And to do this a man need accomplish no great feats or exploits. He need only make a moral effort. 

But can a man make this effort? 

According to the existing theory so essential to support hypocrisy, man is not free and cannot change 
his life. 

"Man cannot change his life, because he is not free. He is not free, because all his actions are 
conditioned by previously existing causes. And whatever the man may do there are always some causes 
or other through which he does these or those acts, and therefore man cannot be free and change his 
life," say the champions of the metaphysics of hypocrisy. And they would be perfectly right if man was 
a creature without conscience and incapable of moving toward the truth; that is to say, if after 
recognizing a new truth, man always remained at the same stage of moral development. But man is a 
creature with a conscience and capable of attaining a higher and higher degree of truth. And therefore 
even if man is not free as regards performing these or those acts because there exists a previous cause 
for every act, the very causes of his acts, consisting as they do for the man of conscience of the 
recognition of this or that truth, are within his own control. 

Consequently, though man may not be free as regards the performance of his actions, he is free as 
regards the foundation on which they are performed. Just as the mechanic who is not free to modify the 
movement of his locomotive when it is in motion, is free to regulate the machine beforehand so as to 
determine what the movement is to be. 

Whatever the conscious man does, he acts just as he does, and not otherwise, only because he 
recognizes that to act as he is acting is in accord with the truth, or because he has recognized it at some 
previous time, and is now only through inertia, through habit, acting in accordance with his previous 
recognition of truth. 

In any case, the cause of his action is not to be found in any given previous fact, but in the 
consciousness of a given relation to truth, and the consequent recognition of this or that fact as a 
sufficient basis for action. 

Whether a man eats or does not eat, works or rests, runs risks or avoids them, if he has a conscience 
he acts thus only because he considers it right and rational, because he considers that to act thus is in 
harmony with truth, or else because he has made this reflection in the past. 

The recognition or non-recognition of a certain truth depends not on external causes, but on certain 
other causes within the man himself. Consequently, at times under external conditions apparently very 
favorable for the recognition of truth, one man will not recognize it, and another, on the contrary, under 
the most unfavorable conditions will, without apparent cause, recognize it. As it is said in the Gospel, 
"No man can come to me, unless the Father who has sent me draws him." That is to say, the recognition 
of truth, which is the cause of all the manifestations of human life, does not depend on external 
phenomena, but on certain inner spiritual characteristics of the man that escape our observation. 

And therefore man, though not free in his acts, always feels himself free in what is the motive of his 
acts - the recognition or non-recognition of truth. And he feels himself independent not only of facts 
external to his own personality, but even of his own actions. 

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Thus a man who under the influence of passion has committed an act contrary to the truth he 
recognizes, remains none the less free to recognize it or not to recognize it; that is, he can by refusing to 
recognize the truth regard his action as necessary and justifiable, or he may recognize the truth and 
regard his act as wrong and censure himself for it. 

Thus a gambler or a drunkard who does not resist temptation and yields to his passion is still free to 
recognize gambling and drunkenness as wrong or to regard them as a harmless pastime. In the first case 
even if he does not at once get over his passion, he gets the more free from it the more sincerely he 
recognizes the truth about it; in the second case he will be strengthened in his vice and will deprive 
himself of every possibility of shaking it off. 

In the same way a man who has made his escape alone from a house on fire, not having had the 
courage to save his friend, remains free, recognizing the truth that a man ought to save the life of another 
even at the risk of his own, to regard his action as bad and to censure himself for it, or, not recognizing 
this truth, to regard his action as natural and necessary and to justify it to himself. In the first case, if he 
recognizes the truth in spite of his departure from it, he prepares for himself in the future a whole series 
of acts of self-sacrifice necessarily flowing from this recognition of the truth; in the second case, a whole 
series of egoistic acts. 

Not that a man is always free to recognize or to refuse to recognize every truth. There are truths that 
he has recognized long before or that have been handed down to him by education and tradition and 
accepted by him on faith, and to follow these truths has become a habit, a second nature with him; and 
there are truths, only vaguely, as it were distantly, apprehended by him. The man is not free to refuse to 
recognize the first, nor to recognize the second class of truths. But there are truths of a third kind, which 
have not yet become an unconscious motive of action, but yet have been revealed so clearly to him that 
he cannot pass them by, and is inevitably obliged to do one thing or the other, to recognize or not to 
recognize them. And it is in regard to these truths that the man's freedom manifests itself. 

Every man during his life finds himself in regard to truth in the position of a man walking in the 
darkness with light thrown before him by the lantern he carries. He does not see what is not yet lighted 
up by the lantern; he does not see what he has passed that is hidden in the darkness; but at every stage of 
his journey he sees what is lighted up by the lantern, and he can always choose one side or the other of 
the road. 

There are always unseen truths not yet revealed to the man's intellectual vision, there are other truths 
outlived, forgotten, and assimilated by him, and there are also certain truths that rise up before the light 
of his reason and require his recognition. And it is in the recognition or non-recognition of these truths 
that what we call his freedom is manifested. 

All the difficulty and seeming insolubility of the question of the freedom of man results from those 
who tried to solve the question imagining man as stationary in his relation to the truth. 

Man is certainly not free if we imagine him stationary, and if we forget that the life of a man and of 
humanity is nothing but a continual movement from darkness into light, from a lower stage of truth to a 
higher, from a truth more alloyed with errors to a truth more purified from them. 

Man would not be free if he knew no truth at all, and in the same way he would not be free and 
would not even have any idea of freedom if the whole truth that was to guide him in life had been 
revealed once and for all to him in all its purity without it being mixed with error. 

Fortunately, man is not stationary in regard to truth, but every individual man as he passes through 
life, and humanity as a whole in the same way, is continually learning to know a greater and greater 
degree of truth, and growing more and more free from error. 

And therefore men are in a threefold relation to truth. Some truths have been so assimilated by them 
that they have become the unconscious basis of action, others are only just on the point of being 
revealed to him, and a third class, though not yet assimilated by him, have been revealed to him with 
sufficient clearness to force him to decide either to recognize them or to refuse to recognize them. 

These, then, are the truths that man is free to recognize or to refuse to recognize. 

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The liberty of man does not consist in the power of acting independently of the progress of life and 
the influences arising from it, but in the capacity for recognizing and acknowledging the truth revealed 
to him, and becoming the free and joyful participator in the eternal and infinite work of God, the life of 
the world; or on the other hand for refusing to recognize the truth, and so being a miserable and reluctant 
slave dragged where he has no desire to go. 

Truth not only points out the way along which human life ought to move, but reveals also the only 
way along which it can move. And therefore all men must willingly or unwillingly move along the way 
of truth, some spontaneously accomplishing the task set them in life, others submitting involuntarily to 
the law of life. Man's freedom lies in the power of this choice. 

This freedom within these narrow limits seems so insignificant to men that they do not notice it. 
Some - the determinists - consider this amount of freedom so trifling that they do not recognize it at all. 
Others - the champions of complete free will - keep their eyes fixed on their hypothetical free will and 
neglect this freedom that seemed to them so trivial. 

This freedom, confined between the limits of complete ignorance of the truth and a recognition of a 
part of the truth, seems hardly freedom at all, especially since, whether a man is willing or unwilling to 
recognize the truth revealed to him, he will be inevitably forced to carry it out in life. 

A horse harnessed with others to a cart is not free to refrain from moving the cart. If he does not 
move forward the cart will knock him down and go on dragging him with it, whether he will or not. But 
the horse is free to drag the cart himself or to be dragged with it. And so it is with man. 

Whether this is a great or small degree of freedom in comparison with the fantastic liberty we should 
like to have, it is the only freedom that really exists, and in it consists the only happiness attainable by 
man. 

And more than that, this freedom is the sole means of accomplishing the divine work of the life of 
the world. 

According to Christ's doctrine, the man who sees the significance of life in the domain in which it is 
not free, in the domain of effects, that is, of acts, has not the true life. According to the Christian 
doctrine, that man is living in the truth who has transported his life to the domain in which it is free - the 
domain of causes, that is, the knowledge and recognition, the profession and realization in life of 
revealed truth. 

Devoting his life to works of the flesh, a man busies himself with actions depending on temporary 
causes outside himself. He himself does nothing really; he merely seems to be doing something. In 
reality all the acts that seem to be his are the work of a higher power, and he is not the creator of his own 
life, but the slave of it. Devoting his life to the recognition and fulfillment of the truth revealed to him, 
he identifies himself with the source of universal life and accomplishes acts not personal, and dependent 
on conditions of space and time, but acts unconditioned by previous causes, acts that constitute the 
causes of everything else, and have an infinite, unlimited significance. 

"The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matt. 11:12) 

It is this violent effort to rise above external conditions to the recognition and realization of truth by 
which the kingdom of heaven is taken, and it is this effort of violence that must and can be made in our 
times. 

Men need only understand this, they need only cease to trouble themselves about the general 
external conditions in which they are not free, and devote one-hundredth part of the energy they waste 
on those material things to that in which they are free, to the recognition and realization of the truth that 
is before them, and to the liberation of themselves and others from deception and hypocrisy, and, 
without effort or conflict, there would be an end at once of the false organization of life that makes men 
miserable, and threatens them with worse calamities in the future. And then the kingdom of God would 
be realized, or at least that first stage of it for which men are ready now by the degree of development of 
their conscience. 

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Just as a single shock may be sufficient, when a liquid is saturated with some salt, to precipitate it at 
once in crystals, a slight effort may be perhaps all that is needed now that the truth already revealed to 
men may gain a mastery over hundreds, thousands, millions of men, that a public opinion consistent 
with conscience may be established, and through this change of public opinion the whole order of life 
may be transformed. And it depends upon us to make this effort. 

Let each of us only try to understand and accept the Christian truth that in the most varied forms 
surrounds us on all sides and forces itself upon us; let us only cease from lying and pretending that we 
do not see this truth or wish to realize it, at least in what it demands from us above all else; only let us 
accept and boldly profess the truth to which we are called, and we should find at once that hundreds, 
thousands, millions of men are in the same position as we, that they see the truth as we do, and dread as 
we do to stand alone in recognizing it, and like us are only waiting for others to recognize it also. 

Only let men cease to be hypocrites, and they would at once see that this cruel social organization, 
which holds them in bondage, and is represented to them as something stable, necessary, and ordained 
of God, is already tottering and is only propped up by the falsehood of hypocrisy, with which we, and 
others like us, support it. 

But if this is so, if it is true that it depends on us to break down the existing organization of life, have 
we the right to destroy it, without knowing clearly what we shall set up in its place? What will become 
of human society when the existing order of things is at an end? 

"What shall we find the other side of the walls of the world we are abandoning? 

"Fear will come upon us - a void, a vast emptiness, freedom - how are we to go forward not 
knowing where we are going, how face loss, not seeing hope of gain?... If Columbus had reasoned thus 
he would never have weighed anchor. It was madness to set off upon the ocean, not knowing the route, 
on the ocean on which no one had sailed, to sail toward a land whose existence was doubtful. By this 
madness he discovered a new world. Doubtless if the peoples of the world could simply transfer 
themselves from one furnished mansion to another and better one - it would make it much easier; but 
unluckily there is no one to get humanity's new dwelling ready for it. The future is even worse than the 
ocean - there is nothing there - it will be what men and circumstances make it. 

"If you are content with the old world, try to preserve it; it is very sick and cannot hold out much 
longer. But if you cannot bear to live in everlasting dissonance between your beliefs and your life, 
thinking one thing and doing another, get out of the medieval whitewashed sepulchers, and face your 
fears. I know very well it is not easy. 

"It is not a little thing to cut one's self off from all to which a man has been accustomed from his 
birth, with which he has grown up to maturity. Men are ready for tremendous sacrifices, but not for 
those that life demands of them. Are they ready to sacrifice modern civilization, their manner of life, 
their religion, and the received conventional morality? 

"Are we ready to give up all the results we have attained with such effort, results of which we have 
been boasting for three centuries; to give up every convenience and charm of our existence, to prefer 
savage youth to the senile decay of civilization, to pull down the palace raised for us by our ancestors 
only for the pleasure of having a hand in the founding of a new house, which will doubtless be built long 
after we are gone?" (Herzen, vol. 5 p. 55.) 

Thus wrote almost half a century ago the Russian writer, who with prophetic insight saw clearly 
then, what even the most unreflecting man sees today: the impossibility of life continuing on its old 
basis, and the necessity of establishing new forms of life. 

It is clear now from the very simplest, most commonplace point of view, that it is madness to remain 
under the roof of a building that cannot support its weight, and that we must leave it. And indeed it is 
difficult to imagine a position more wretched than that of the Christian world today, with its nations 
armed against one another, with its constantly increasing taxation to maintain its armies, with the hatred 
of the working class for the rich ever growing more intense, with the Damocles sword of war forever 
hanging over the heads of all, ready every instant to fall, certain to fall sooner or later. 

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Hardly could any revolution be more disastrous for the great mass of the population than the present 
order or rather disorder of our life, with its daily sacrifices to exhausting and unnatural toil, to poverty, 
drunkenness, and profligacy, with all the horrors of the war that is at hand, which will swallow up in one 
year more victims than all the revolutions of the century. 

What will become of humanity if each of us performs the duty God demands of us through the 
conscience implanted within us? Won't harm come if, being wholly in the power of a master, I carry 
out, in the workshop erected and directed by him, the orders he gives me, strange though they may seem 
to me who does not know the Master's final aims? 

But it is not even this question, "What will happen?" that agitates men when they hesitate to fulfill 
the Master's will. They are troubled by the question how to live without those habitual conditions of life 
that we call civilization, culture, art, and science. We feel ourselves all the burdensomeness of life as it 
is; we see also that this organization of life must inevitably be our ruin, if it continues. At the same time 
we want the conditions of our life that arise out of this organization - our civilization, culture, art, and 
science - to remain intact. It is as though a man, living in an old house and suffering from cold and all 
sorts of inconvenience in it, knowing, too, that it is on the point of falling to pieces, should consent to its 
being rebuilt, but only on the condition that he should not be required to leave it - a condition that is 
equivalent to refusing to have it rebuilt at all. 

"But what if I leave the house and give up every convenience for a time, and the new house is not 
built, or is built on a different plan so that I do not find in it the comforts to which I am accustomed?" 
But seeing that the materials and the builders are here, there is every likelihood that the new house will, 
on the contrary, be better built than the old one. And at the same time, there is not only the likelihood 
but also the certainty that the old house will fall down and crush those who remain within it. Whether 
the old habitual conditions of life are supported, or whether they are abolished and altogether new and 
better conditions arise; in any case, there is no doubt we shall be forced to leave the old forms of life that 
have become impossible and fatal, and must go forward to meet the future. "Civilization, art, science, 
culture, will disappear!" Yes, but all these we know are only various manifestations of truth, and the 
change that is before us is only to be made for the sake of a closer attainment and realization of truth. 
How then can the manifestations of truth disappear through our realizing it? These manifestations will 
be different, higher, better, but they will not cease to be. Only what is false in them will be destroyed; 
all the truth there was in them will only be stronger and more flourishing. 

Take thought, oh, men, and have faith in the Gospel, in whose teaching is your happiness. If you do 
not take thought, you will perish just as the men perished, slain by Pilate, or crushed by the tower of 
Siloam; as millions of men have perished, slayers and slain, executing and executed, torturers and 
tortured alike, and as the man foolishly perished, who filled his granaries full and made ready for a long 
life and died the very night that he planned to begin his life. Take thought and have faith in the Gospel, 
Christ said eighteen hundred years ago, and he says it with even greater force now that the calamities 
foretold by him have come to pass, and the senselessness of our life has reached the furthest point of 
suffering and madness. 

Nowadays, after so many centuries of fruitless efforts to make our life secure by the pagan 
organization of life, it must be evident to everyone that all efforts in that direction only introduce fresh 
dangers into personal and social life, and do not render it more secure in any way. 

Whatever names we dignify ourselves with, whatever uniforms we wear, whatever priests we anoint 
ourselves before, however many millions we possess, however many guards are stationed along our 
road, however many policemen guard our wealth, however many so-called criminals, revolutionists, and 
anarchists we punish, whatever exploits we have performed, whatever states we may have founded, 
fortresses and towers we may have erected - from Babel to the Eiffel Tower - there are two inevitable 
conditions of life, confronting all of us, which destroy its whole meaning: (1) death, which may at any 
moment pounce upon each of us; and (2) the transitory nature of all our works, which so soon pass away 
and leave no trace. Whatever we may do - found companies, build palaces and monuments, or write 

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songs and poems - it is all temporary. Soon it passes away, leaving no trace. And therefore, however 
we may conceal it from ourselves, we cannot help seeing that the significance of our life cannot lie in 
our personal fleshly existence, the prey of incurable suffering and inevitable death, nor in any social 
institution or organization. Whoever you may be who are reading these lines, think of your position and 
of your duties - not of your position as landowner, merchant, judge, emperor, president, government 
minister, priest, or soldier, which has been temporarily allotted you by men, and not of the imaginary 
duties laid on you by those positions, but of your real position in eternity as a creature who at the will of 
Someone has been called out of unconsciousness after an eternity of non-existence to which you may 
return at any moment at His will. Think of your duties - not your supposed duties as a landowner to 
your estate, as a merchant to your business, as emperor, government minister, or official to the state, but 
of your real duties - the duties that follow from your real position as a being called into life and 
endowed with reason and love. 

Are you doing what He demands of you who has sent you into the world, and to whom you will soon 
return? Are you doing what He wills? Are you doing His will, when as landowner or manufacturer you 
rob the poor of the fruits of their toil, basing your life on this plunder of the workers, or when, as judge 
or governor, you ill treat men, sentence them to execution, or when as soldiers you prepare for war, 
killing, and plunder? 

You will say that the world is so made that this is inevitable, and that you do not do this of your own 
free will, but because you are forced to do so. But can it be that you have such a strong aversion to 
men's sufferings, ill treatment, and murder, that you have such an intense need of love and co-operation 
with your fellows that you see clearly that only by the recognition of the equality of all, and by mutual 
services, can the greatest possible happiness be realized; that your head and your heart, the faith you 
profess, and even science itself tell you the same thing, and yet that in spite of it all you can be forced by 
some confused and complicated reasoning to act in direct opposition to all this; that as landowner or 
capitalist you are bound to base your whole life on the oppression of the people; that as emperor or 
president you are to command armies, that is, to be the head and commander of murderers; or that as 
government official you are forced to take from the poor their last pence for rich men to profit and share 
them among them selves; or that as judge or juryman you could be forced to sentence erring men to ill 
treatment and death because the truth was not revealed to them, or above all, for that is the basis of all 
the evil, that you could be forced to become a soldier, and renouncing your free will and your human 
sentiments, could undertake to kill anyone at the command of other men? 

It cannot be. 

Even if you are told that all this is necessary for the maintenance of the existing order of things, and 
that this social order with its pauperism, famines, prisons, gallows, armies, and wars is necessary to 
society; that still greater disasters would ensue if this organization were destroyed; all that is said only 
by those who profit by this organization, while those who suffer from it - and they are ten times as 
numerous - think and say quite the contrary. And at the bottom of your heart you know yourself that it 
is not true, that the existing organization has outlived its time, and must inevitably be reconstructed on 
new principles, and that consequently there is no obligation upon you to sacrifice your sentiments of 
humanity to support it. 

Above all, even if you allow that this organization is necessary, why do you believe it to be your 
duty to maintain it at the cost of your best feelings? Who has made you the nurse in charge of this sick 
and moribund organization? Not society nor the state nor anyone; no one has asked you to undertake 
this; you who fill your position of landowner, merchant, czar, priest, or soldier know very well that you 
occupy that position by no means with the unselfish aim of maintaining the organization of life 
necessary to men's happiness, but simply in your own interests, to satisfy your own covetousness or 
vanity or ambition or indolence or cowardice. If you did not desire that position, you would not be 
doing your utmost to retain it. Try the experiment of ceasing to commit the cruel, treacherous, and base 
actions that you are constantly committing in order to retain your position, and you will lose it at once. 

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Try the simple experiment, as a government official, of giving up lying, and refusing to take a part in 
executions and acts of violence; as a priest, of giving up deception; as a soldier, of giving up murder; as 
landowner or manufacturer, of giving up defending your property by fraud and force; and you will at 
once lose the position that you pretend is forced upon you, and that seems burdensome to you. 

A man cannot be placed against his will in a situation opposed to his conscience. 

If you find yourself in such a position it is not because it is necessary to anyone whatever, but simply 
because you wish it. And therefore knowing that your position is repugnant to your heart and your head, 
and to your faith, and even to the science in which you believe, you cannot help reflecting upon the 
question whether in retaining it, and above all trying to justify it, you are doing what you ought to do. 

You might risk making a mistake if you had time to see and retrieve your fault, and if you ran the 
risk for something of some value. But when you know beyond all doubt that you may disappear any 
minute, without the least possibility either for yourself or those you draw after you into your error, of 
retrieving the mistake, when you know that whatever you may do in the external organization of life it 
will all disappear as quickly and surely as you will yourself, and will leave no trace behind, it is clear 
that you have no reasonable ground for running the risk of such a fearful mistake. 

It would be perfectly simple and clear if you did not by your hypocrisy disguise the truth that has so 
unmistakably been revealed to us. 

Share all that you have with others, do not heap up riches, do not steal, do not cause suffering, do not 
kill, do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you, all that has been said not eighteen 
hundred, but five thousand years ago, and there could be no doubt of the truth of this law if it were not 
for hypocrisy. Except for hypocrisy men could not have failed, if not to put the law in practice, at least 
to recognize it, and admit that it is wrong not to put it in practice. 

But you will say that there is the public good to be considered, and that on that account one must not 
and ought not to conform to these principles; for the public good one may commit acts of violence and 
murder. It is better for one man to die than that the whole people perish, you will say like Caiaphas, and 
you sign the sentence of death of one man, of a second, and a third; you load your gun against this man 
who is to perish for the public good, you imprison him, you take his possessions. You say that you 
commit these acts of cruelty because you are a part of the society and of the state; that it is your duty to 
serve them, and as landowner, judge, emperor, or soldier to conform to their laws. But besides 
belonging to the state and having duties created by that position, you belong also to eternity and to God, 
who also lays duties upon you. And just as your duties to your family and to society are subordinate to 
your superior duties to the state, in the same way the latter must necessarily be subordinated to the duties 
dictated to you by the eternal life and by God. And just as it would be senseless to pull up the telegraph 
posts for fuel for a family or society and thus to increase its welfare at the expense of public interests, in 
the same way it is senseless to do violence, to execute, and to murder to increase the welfare of the 
nation, because that is at the expense of the interests of humanity. 

Your duties as a citizen must be subordinated to the superior obligations of the eternal life of God, 
and cannot be in opposition to them. As Christ's disciples said eighteen centuries ago, "Whether it is 
right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you yourselves judge," (Acts 4:19) and, "We 
ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29) 

It is asserted that, in order that the unstable order of things, established in one corner of the world for 
a few men, may not be destroyed, you ought to commit acts of violence that destroy the eternal and 
immutable order established by God and by reason. Can that possibly be? 

And therefore you must reflect on your position as landowner, manufacturer, judge, emperor, 
president, government minister, priest, or soldier, which is bound up with violence, deception, and 
murder, and recognize its unlawfulness. 

I do not say that if you are a landowner you are bound to give up your lands immediately to the poor; 
if a capitalist or manufacturer, your money to your workpeople; or that if you are a czar, government 
minister, official, judge, or general, you are bound to renounce immediately the advantages of your 

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position; or if a soldier, on whom all the system of violence is based, to refuse immediately to obey in 
spite of all the dangers of insubordination. 

If you do so, you will be doing the best thing possible. But it may happen, and it is most likely, that 
you will not have the strength to do so. You have relations, a family, subordinates, and superiors; you 
are under an influence so powerful that you cannot shake it off; but you can always recognize the truth 
and refuse to tell a lie about it. You need not declare that you are remaining a landowner, manufacturer, 
merchant, artist, or writer because it is useful to mankind; that you are governor, prosecutor, or czar, not 
because it is agreeable to you, because you are used to it, but for the public good; that you continue to be 
a soldier, not from fear of punishment, but because you consider the army necessary to society. You can 
always avoid lying in this way to yourself and to others, and you ought to do so; because the one aim of 
your life ought to be to purify yourself from falsehood and to confess the truth. And you need only do 
that and your situation will change directly of itself. 

There is one thing, and only one thing, in which it is granted to you to be free in life, all else being 
beyond your power: that is to recognize and profess the truth. 

And yet simply from the fact that other men as misguided and as pitiful creatures as yourself have 
made you soldier, czar, landowner, capitalist, priest, or general, you undertake to commit acts of 
violence obviously opposed to your reason and your heart, to base your existence on the misfortunes of 
others, and above all, instead of filling the one duty of your life, recognizing and professing the truth, 
you feign not to recognize it and disguise it from yourself and others. 

And what are the conditions in which you are doing this? You who may die any instant, you sign 
sentences of death, you declare war, you take part in it, you judge, you punish, you plunder the working 
people, you live luxuriously in the midst of the poor, and teach weak men who have confidence in you 
that this must be so, that the duty of men is to do this, and yet it may happen at the very moment when 
you are acting thus that a bacterium or a bull may attack you and you will fall and die, losing forever the 
chance of repairing the harm you have done to others, and above all to yourself, in uselessly wasting a 
life that has been given you only once in eternity, without having accomplished the only thing you ought 
to have done. 

However commonplace and out of date it may seem to us, however confused we may be by 
hypocrisy and by the hypnotic suggestion that results from it, nothing can destroy the certainty of this 
simple and clearly defined truth. No external conditions can guarantee our life, which is attended with 
inevitable sufferings and infallibly terminated by death, and which consequently can have no 
significance except in the constant accomplishment of what is demanded by the Power that has placed us 
in life with a sole certain guide - the rational conscience. 

That is why that Power cannot require of us what is irrational and impossible: the organization of 
our temporary external life, the life of society, or of the state. That Power demands of us only what is 
reasonable, certain, and possible: to serve the kingdom of God, that is, to contribute to the establishment 
of the greatest possible union between all living beings - a union possible only in the truth; and to 
recognize and to profess the revealed truth, which is always in our power. 

"But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be given to 
you." (Matt. 6:33) 

The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity by contributing to the establishment of the kingdom of 
God, which can only be done by the recognition and profession of the truth by every man. 

"The kingdom of God does not come with outward show; neither shall they say, 'Look here!' or, 
'Look there!' for behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-21) 



THE END 



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