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Posted December 14, 2006

Book: Leo Tolstoy: Spiritual Writings
Selected with an Introduction by Charles E. Moore
Orbis Books. Maryknoll NY. 2006. Pp. 207

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was the author of such classics as War and Peace and Anna Karenina. In mid-life, however, he underwent a deep moral and spiritual crisis that led him back to the gospels in an effort to conform his life to the spirit of Christ. This volume focuses on his “spiritual writings — autobiographical reflections on his journey of faith, commentaries on the gospels, and essays on the essence of Christianity.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Truth That Sets Free

Every person, somewhere during his life, finds himself in regard to truth in the position of one 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 which is hidden in the darkness. Yet at every stage of his journey he sees what is lighted up by the lantern, and he can always choose one side of the road or the other.

All the difficulty and seeming insolubility of the question of freedom results from trying to solve the question by imagining our situation as being stationary in our relation to truth. We are certainly not free if we imagine ourselves being stationary, and if we forget that our life is 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.

We would not be free if we knew no truth at all, and in the same way we would not be free and would not even have the notion of freedom if the whole truth, which was to guide us in life, had been revealed once and for all to us in all its purity. But we are not stationary in regard to truth. Each of us is passing through life, and we are continually confronted with learning to know a greater and greater degree of truth, and growing more and more free from error.

Our liberty 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 us, and becoming the joyful participator in the eternal and infinite work of God in the world. Failing this, and refusing to recognize the truth, we become a miserable and reluctant slave dragged where we have no desire to go.

Truth not only points out the way along which we ought ot move, but reveals the only way in which to move. And therefore all of us must willingly or unwillingly move along the way of truth, some spontaneously accomplishing the task set us in life, others submitting involuntarily to the law of life. Our freedom lies in the power of this choice. And more than that, this freedom is the sole means of accomplishing the divine work of the life of the world — The Kingdom of God is within you.

Table of Contents:

1. The quest for meaning

Ashamed to live.

Is this Life?

A confession

I, like the thief

The truth that sets free

The miller

Death comes knocking

Why is this?

Killing conscience

What must be done?

Stop, look, consider!

2. The law of love

Living water

The deeds of love

The key to the Gospels

The new way

Notes for soldiers

Do unto others

Is this human nature?

Who is suffering

What’s the government to do?

3. Prophetic forays

4. The life of faith

5. Maxims and musings