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'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.


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
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.

JMZ April 14th 2004

P.S. a letter from Count Tolstoy to Mahatma Gandhi concerning non-violence has been published on the
internet and is available at

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.