Christianity of Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s interpretation of christianity that had a big influence on Ludwig Wittgenstein.


Meaning behind the chapters of this book. Tolstoy’s interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer.

  • (Note: Numbered parts of the Lord’s Prayer are the original, the lines after them are Tolstoy’s interpretation)
    1. Our father
    • Man is the son of god
    1. Who art in heaven.
    • God is eternal, spiritual source of life
    1. Hallowed by thy name.
    • Let this source of life be holy
    1. Thy kingdom come.
    • Let his power manifest in all people.
    1. Thy will be done in heaven
    • And let the eternal source’s will come to be, both in and of itself
    1. As it is on earth
    • as well as in the flesh
    1. Give us our daily bread
    • Temporal life is the food of true life.
    1. this day
    • The true life is in the present
    1. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
    • Let not the mistakes and let us forgive our debtors - delusions of the past hide the true life from us
    1. And lead us not into temptations
    • And let them not into deceptionl
    1. But deliver us from evil
    • And then there will be no evil
    1. For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory
    • And it will be your power and strength and reason

Tolstoy’s Christianity vs. Christianity of the Church

  • While Christ’s teaching may be holy, letters and verses cannot (No book can be holy form its first line to its last simply because people say it is)
    • Jesus himself did not write a book like many philosophers nor did he speak with literate and educated people like Socrates did, he spoke with mostly illiterate people
    • So about one hundred years after his death, people started to write down what they had heard of him
      • These writings were numerous and many lost and many were bad
      • So Christians had to pick some and the best they chose we refer ton as Gospels (which is a tiny bit from the entire lite)
  • For Tolstoy, Christianity is neither strictly divine revelation nor historical phenomenon. Christianity is a teaching that gives meaning to life.
  • Much of Christianity is distorted due to false interpretation
    • It started with St. Paul when he said “New Testament” and “Old Testament” and other epistles, psalms etc. are connected and when he made Jesus a God
      • Thus creating a situation when the church tries to find the least contradictory interpretation with regard to all the other revelations. Thereby not genuinely trying to explain meaning of Christ’s sermons
      • So while trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, people turn to external means such as miracles or visitations of the Holy Ghost
      • If Jesus is not God but was a great man, then his teachings are even less likely to give birth to sects
      • The teachings church propagates are their own but they ascribe their authority to Christ (because they hold three revelations: Moses’s, Jesus’s and Holy Ghost’s)
        • “Do not recognize any as your teacher, except Christ”

The importance of knowledge

  • Without knowledge there’s no life
    • Man lives only because he has knowledge
    • People who do not understand it and propose flesh as the souce of life, deprive themselves of true life
    • Jesus demonstrated the true life with his life
  • Jesus’s teaching is based on a knowledge of life which is located within us
    • No one knows external God and therefore the service to the external God cannot govern life

Jesus' transformation

  • In Judea, there was a prophet named John (John the Evangelist) who prophesised the coming of God to Earth
    • He said that if people change their lives, consider all people equal among one themselves, not harm each other but instead help one another, then God would come to earth and his kingdom would be established on earth
  • Jesus goes to the desert in order to understand the meaning of life and his relationship to the endless source of all things, God
  • Jesus recognizes he is the son in spirit
    • While withering from hunger, Jesus recognizes he cannot control the external world (the flesh) but he can control himself
    • Therefore Jesus recognizes he’s the son of almighty God not in the flesh but in the spirit (my note: without free will it could not be so)
    • We should not destroy the flesh as we were born into it so it’s father’s will and we cannot oppose it
      • You should serve the father’s will in the flesh
    • All people may be blessed no matter their flesh, heavenly powers are united with man, therefore he leaves the wilderness and began preaching to people

External worship is useless

  • People should act good no matter the day
  • The true temple of the world is between people, united in love
  • There’s no need for worshiping God in some special place instead one should serve God in deed and spirit
  • From the Bible part: “The whole matter with faith is who one considers oneself to be. Whoever considers himself to be good in his faith will not be good; and whoever considers himself to be bad in his faith will be good.” (my note: Explains Ludwig Wittgenstein’s relationship to his faith)

The eternal spirit a.k.a. God

  • The spirit is eternal and it emanates from the Eternal, that is the source of all, and what we refer to as God (neo-platonism vibes, Plotinus)
    • The spirit is the source of our lives and must be placed higher than everything else; we must live of it
    • People can choose between the life of spirit and the death of flesh
      • The life of spirit is goodness and light
      • The mortal life of flesh is evil and darkness
      • To believe in the spirit means to perform acts of goodness; not to believe in the spirit means perform acts of evil
  • Everyone can feel this spirit residing in himself.

The five commandments

  • One should not fear being poor and despised; one must rejoice in that state so as to demonstrate what real goodness is
  • In order to fulfill father’s will, one must keep five commandmets Jesus gives:
      1. Do not provoke evil in anyone. Evil gives birth to evil
      1. Do not abandon the woman you’ve united
      1. Do not swear oaths over anything because it is impossible to promise anything since man is entirely in the hands of father
      1. Do not oppose evil with venegance. All venegance teaches is venegance. Do not judge and you will not be judged.
      1. Do not make distinctions between your homeland and that of others, all people are children of one father
  • Neither praying nor fasting is necessary
    • Praying: Father already knows what people need so there’s no need to ask him for anything
    • Fasting: Just for praise

False life

  • Since it is impossible to arrange your life according to your desires, it is better to leave all flesh behind and serve the spirit
  • Possesions which are not shared with other are nothing but unfulfilled will of the father
    • True life consists of giving what is yours to others
  • It is impossible to measure goodness by usefulness
    • The widow who gives away her last mite, gives more than the rich man who gives thousands
  • There are two temptations of the flesh: Fear and violence

Truthfulness of the teaching

  • “You do not have to believe in me as a person, just believe in the words that I speak in the name of the common father of all people. There can be no proofs of my teaching. It is light. And just as it is impossible to shine a light onto light itself, it is impossible to prove the truthfulness of truth.”

    • (Tolstoy’s interpretations of Jesus’s words)
  • “I am speaking of that same source of life which you call God and which is within people, I say that it has been, it is, and it will be, and that death does not exist for it. Any demands for proof of the truthfulness of my teaching are similar to people demanding evidence from a blind man on how and why he came to see the light. “A healed blind man, remaining the same person that he was before, could only say that he was blind, but now he sees. Exactly this and nothing more can be said by the person who did not previously understand the meaning of life, but then suddenly came to comprehend it. Such a person would only say that he previously did not know true goodness in life, but now he knows it. Like the healed blind man, who says ‘I do not know anything about the correctness of the healing or the sinfulness of the healer, nor anything about some different, better healing. I know only one thing and that is that I was blind, but now I see,’ he cannot say anything about whether it is a correct teaching, whether the one who revealed it to him is a sinner, or whether there is some other, better goodness to be known. He will just say, ‘Before I did not see the meaning of life, but now I see it and I do not know anything more than this."

    • (Tolstoy’s interpretations of Jesus’s words)
  • Believe in actions, not words.. Only by that can you see if the teaching is true
  • If you fulfill father’s will, then father is within you and you are within father

There are no power games

  • Reward and punishment do not exist for someone who understands the teaching. No one can be higher or more important than someone else. Only kings and those who serve them can think this way
  • Life is a gift of knowledge which requires fulfilment of its will
  • Live and do good in the present. Focus on the present.
  • All human power structures should be destroyed
  • Jesus’s teaching consist of loving the life that he has been given
    • Jesus’s whole teaching could be summarised as: always love people, until the end

Humans as one single tree

  • People are not seperate beings with their own will for life
    • Life is a single tree, not seperate branches
    • Whoever wants to live in according to their own will, will, like a branch torn off and die
  • Love consists of sacrificing your life your mortal life for others, there’s no other definition of love