'The Kingdom of God is Within You': Love and Humanism.
Count Leo Tolstoy as well as his great literary skill as exhibited in 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina' was of a mystic turn of mind and though at war with the church establishment to the point of excommunication was an unflinching advocate of the doctrine of Jesus Christ not to oppose evil with violence. He was an inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi. I have given here a short quotation from one of his later and much less well known works: 'The Kingdom of God is Within You'.
The Christian teaching consists in indicating to man that the essence of his soul is love, that his happiness comes not because he loves this or that man but because he loves the source of all, God, whom he recognizes in himself through love, and so this love will extend to all men and all things.
This in itself summarises well the Sufi philosophy of love and humanism. The use of the term 'humanism' on this web site may confuse some since the term is used elsewhere to express non or even anti-religious sentiment. I have therefore given below a more extensive quotation that seems to me to provide a certain rationale (in this case expressed in Christian terms) by which the mind can come to terms with the essentially universal mystical concept that actually transcends religious prejudice. It is expressed in Sufi thought more briefly as the love and service of mankind for the sake of the love of God. Tolstoy however conceptualises this in a way that satisfies the need of the 'western' mind for a more complex rationalisation. The 'great minds' of the western tradition frequently arrive by a different route close to the direct intuitions of the mystics.
An excerpt from: THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU By Leo Tolstoy Translation: Aylmer Maude: OUP: 1935.
(pages 123 - 129)
The doctrine of love of humanity alone is based on the social conception of life.
The essence of the social conception of life consists in a transference of the meaning of one’s personal life to the life of a society of individuals: family, clan, race, or State. That transference has been and is easily accomplished in its first forms - in the transference of the meaning of life from one’s own personality to that of family or clan. A transference to the race or nation is already more difficult and requires special training. And a transference of the sentiment to the State is the furthest limit of such transference. To love oneself is natural to everyone, and each man loves himself without being incited 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; one’s parents who gave one life and brought one up - is natural. And such love, though not nearly so strong as love of oneself; is met with quite often. A love of tribe or nation for one’s own sake, for personal pride, can still be met with, though it is already not so natural. Love of one’s own people who are of the same blood, the same tongue, and the same religion as oneself; is still possible, though far from being as strong as love of self or even love of family or kin. But love for a State, such as Turkey, Germany, the British Empire, Austria, or Russia, is already almost an impossible thing, and though it is zealously inculcated it does not actually exist, but is only supposed to do so. And with that aggregate man’s capacity of transferring his affection ceases, and he cannot experience any direct sentiment to such fictitious entities. The Positivists however, and all the preachers of scientific fraternity, not considering the weakening of the feeling that accompanies the widening of its object, argue further in that direction. ‘Since it was advantageous for the individual to transfer his interest to the family, the tribe, and subsequently to the nation and the State,’ they say, ‘it will be still more advantageous to transfer his interest to humanity as a whole.’ Theoretically that would certainly be advantageous. Having transferred our love and interest from our personality to our family, and from our family to our tribe or nation or State, it would be quite logical, in order to free our selves from the struggles and calamities that result from the division of humanity into nations, to transfer our love and interest to the whole of humanity and to live for humanity collectively, as men do for their family and State. That would seem to be quite logical, but it is merely a theory advanced by people who do not notice that love is a sentiment that may be felt but cannot be taught; that love moreover has an object, and that humanity is not a real object but a fictitious one. The family, the tribe, and even the State, were not invented by men but were formed spontaneously like swarms of bees or anthills, and have an actual existence. A man who loves his family for his own animal personality, knows whom he loves: Anna, Mary, John, Peter, and so on. A man who loves his kindred and is proud of them, knows that he loves all the Guelphs or all the Ghibellines a man who loves his nation knows that he loves France bounded by the Rhine and the Pyrenees, especially its principal city Paris, and its history, and so on. But what does a man love who loves humanity? There is such a thing as a State and a nation, and there is an abstract conception of humanity, but there is not and cannot be any concrete perception of humanity. Humanity? Where are its limits? Where does it end, and where does it begin? Does humanity exclude the savage, the idiot, the dipsomaniac, or the insane person? If we draw a line excluding from humanity its lowest representatives, where are we to draw that line? Shall we exclude Negroes as the Americans do, or Hindus as some Englishmen do, or Jews as some others do? Or if we include all men without exception, are we going to include only men and not the higher animals many of whom are superior to the lowest specimens of the human race? `We do not know humanity as the highest object, we do not know its limits. Humanity is a fiction and it is impossible to love it. It would indeed be very advantageous if men could love humanity just as they love the family. It would be very advantageous to replace a competitive organization of human activity, of groups and individuals, by a universal organization of each for all and all for each as the Communists talk of doing. Only there are no motives for it. The Positivists, the Communists, and all the apostles of fraternity on scientific principles, advocate an extension to the whole of humanity of the love men feel for themselves, their families, and their country. They forget that the love they are discussing is a personal love, that can extend in a rarefied form to the family and in a still more rarefied form to a man’s native country, but which disappears as it extends to an artificial State (such as Austria, the British Empire, or Turkey), and which we cannot even conceive of in relation to the whole of humanity, which is an absolutely mystical conception. ‘A man loves himself (his animal personality), he loves his family and even his native country. Why should he not also love the human race? It would be so good if he did! And incidentally that very thing is inculcated by Christianity.’ So think the Positivist, Communist, and Socialist advocates of fraternity. It would indeed be very good, but it is quite impossible because the love based on the personal or social conception of life cannot go beyond the love of country. The mistake these people make is to overlook the fact that the social understanding of life on which the love of family and of nation is based, rests on love of self, and that this love grows weaker and weaker as it is extended from personality to family, tribe, nationality, and State, till in the State it reaches the extreme limit beyond which it cannot go. The necessity of extending the sphere of love is unquestionable. But that very necessity of extending its object indefinitely, destroys its possibility, and proves the insufficiency of personal human love. And here the advocates of Positivist, Communist, and Socialist fraternity propose to draw upon Christian love to support this human love which has proved unreliable—but they want the fruit without the root. They propose love of humanity alone without a love of God. But such love cannot exist. There is no motive for it. Christian love results only from a Christian understanding of life, in which the meaning of life consists in the love and service of God. By a natural transition from the love of self, to family, tribe, nation, and State, the social conception of life has led men to consciousness of the necessity of a love for humanity, a conception having no definite limits and merging into all that exists. Why has this conception, which evokes no feeling in man, led to a contradiction the social understanding of life cannot solve? Only the Christian teaching in its full significance solves it, by giving a new meaning to life. Christianity recognizes love of self, of family, of the nation, and of humanity, and not of humanity only but of all that lives and exists. It recognizes the necessity of an endless extension of the sphere of love. But it finds the object of this love not outside itself in aggregates of individuals - the family, the race, the State, humanity, or the whole external world—but in itself, in a divine personality the essence of which is that very love which the animal personality, through consciousness of its own perishable nature, is brought to feel the need of widening. The difference between the Christian teaching and those which preceded it, is this: The social doctrine said: ‘Live contrary to your nature (meaning only the animal nature), subduing it to the external law of the family, the society, and the State.’ Christianity says: ‘Live in accord with your nature (meaning your divine nature); do not subject it to anything—either to your own or to another’s animal nature—and you will attain just what you are striving to attain by subjecting your external nature to external laws.’ The Christian teaching brings man to the elementary consciousness of himself: not of himself as an animal but of himself as God – the divine spark of himself; a son of God of the same nature as the Father but confined in an animal husk. And the consciousness of himself as such a son of God, whose chief quality is love, also satisfies all those demands for an extension of the sphere of love to which the man of’ a social conception of life has been brought. There, with an ever widening and widening of the sphere of love for the salvation of the personality, love was a necessity and adapted itself to certain objects— self; family, society, and humanity. With the Christian outlook on life, love is not a necessity to be adapted to anything but is the essential nature of man’s soul. Man does not love because it is advantageous for him to love this man or those men, but because love is the essence of his soul - because he cannot help loving. The Christian teaching consists in indicating to man that the essence of his soul is love, that his happiness comes not because he loves this or that man but because he loves the source of all, God, whom he recognizes in himself through love, and so this love will extend to all men and all things. In that lies the fundamental difference between the Christian teaching and that of the Positivists and all the non-Christian theorists of universal fraternity.
This should not be taken to imply agreement on our part with every aspect of Tolstoy's writing although his primary thesis of the centrality of Love concurs with our own belief. Our thanks to a web site member Mikail Clarke for locating and sending this reference.