What Shall We Do? : Chapter 37
(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "The Government and all those of the upper classes near the Government who live by other people's work, need some means of dominating the workers, and find this means in the control of the army. Defense against foreign enemies is only an excuse. The German Government frightens its subjects about the Russians and the French; the French Government, frightens its people about the Germans; the Russian Government frightens its people about the French and the Germans; and that is the way with all Governments. But neither Germans nor Russians nor Frenchmen desire to fight their neighbors or other people; but, living in peace, they dread war more than anything else in the world." (From : "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)
• "It usually happens that when an idea which has been useful and even necessary in the past becomes superfluous, that idea, after a more or less prolonged struggle, yields its place to a new idea which was till then an ideal, but which thus becomes a present idea." (From : "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)
• "People who take part in Government, or work under its direction, may deceive themselves or their sympathizers by making a show of struggling; but those against whom they struggle (the Government) know quite well, by the strength of the resistance experienced, that these people are not really pulling, but are only pretending to." (From : "A Letter to Russian Liberals," by Leo Tolstoy, Au....)
But it is said to me, “You only give another narrower definition of art and science, which science does not agree with; but even this does not exclude them, and notwithstanding all you say, there still remains the scientific and art activities of men like Galileo, Bruno, Homer, Michael Angelo, Beethoven, Wagner, and other learned men and artists of lesser magnitude who have devoted all their lives to art and science.”
Usually this is said in the endeavor to establish a link, which in other cases they disown, to connect the activity of the former learned men and artists with the modern ones, trying to forget that new principle of the division of labor by reason of which art and science now occupy a privileged position.
First of all, it is not possible to establish any such connection between the former factors and the modern ones, even as the holy life of the first Christian has nothing in common with the lives of popes: thus, the activity of men like Galileo, Shakespeare, Beethoven, has nothing in common with the activities of men like Tyndal, Hugo, and Wagner. As the Holy Fathers would have denied any connection with the Popes, so the ancient factors of science would have denied any relationship with the modern ones.
Secondly, owing to that importance which art and science ascribe to themselves, they have established a very clear standard by means of which we are able to determine whether they do, or do not, fulfill their destiny; and we therefore decide, not without proofs, but according to their own standard, whether that activity which calls itself art and science has, or has not, any right thus to call itself.
Though the Egyptians or Greek priests performed mysteries known to none but themselves, and said that these mysteries included all art and science, I could not, on the ground of the asserted utility of these to the people, ascertain the reality of their science, because this said science, according to their ipse dixit, was a supernatural one: but now we all have a very clear and plain standard, excluding everything supernatural; art and science promise to fulfill the mental activity of mankind, for the welfare of society, or even of the whole of mankind. Therefore we have a right to call only such activity, art and science, which has this aim in view, and attains it. And therefore, however those learned men and artists may call themselves, who excogitate the theory of penal laws, of state laws, and of the laws of nations, who invent new guns and explosive substances, who compose obscene operas and operettas, or similarly obscene novels, we have no right to call such activity the activity of art and science, because this activity has not in view the welfare of the society or of mankind, but on the contrary is directed to the harm of men.
In like manner, however these learned men may call themselves, who in their simplicity are occupied during all their lives with the investigations of the microscopical animalcule and of telescopical and spectral phenomena; or those artists who, after having carefully investigated the monuments of old times, are busy writing historical novels, making pictures, concocting symphonies and beautiful verses, all these men, notwithstanding all their zeal, cannot, according to the definition of their own science, be called men of science or art, first because their activity in science for the sake of science, and of art for art, has not in view man's welfare; and secondly, because we do not see any results of these activities for the welfare of society or mankind.
The fact that sometimes something useful or agreeable for some men comes of their activities, by no means gives us any right, according to their own scientific definition, to consider them to be men of art and science.
In like manner, however those men may call themselves who excogitate the application of electricity to lighting, heating, and motion; or who invent some new chemical combinations, producing dynamite or fine colors; men who correctly play Beethoven's symphonies; who act on the stage, or paint portraits well, domestic pictures, landscapes, and other pictures; who compose interesting novels, the object of which is merely to amuse rich people,—the activity of these men cannot be called art and science, because this activity is not directed, like the activity of the brain in the organism, to the welfare of the whole, but is guided merely by personal gain, privileges, money, which one obtains for the inventing and producing of so-called art. Therefore this activity cannot possibly be separated from other covetous, personal activity, which adds agreeable things to life, as the activity of innkeepers, jockeys, milliners, prostitutes, and so on, because the activity of the first, the second, and the last, do not come under the definition of art and science, on the ground of the division of labor, which promises to serve for the welfare of all mankind.
The scientific definition of art and science is a correct one; but unluckily, the activity of modern art and science does not come under it. Some produce directly hurtful things, others useless things; and a third party invents trifles fit only for the use of rich people. They may all be very good persons, but they do not fulfill what they have taken upon themselves to fulfill, according to their own definition; and therefore they have as little right to call themselves men of art and science as the modern clergy, who do not fulfill their duties, have right to consider themselves the bearers and teachers of divine truth.
It is not difficult to understand why the factors of modern art and science have not fulfilled their calling, and cannot fulfill it. They do not fulfill it, because they have converted their duty into a right. The scientific and art activities, in their true sense, are fruitful only when they ignore their rights, and know only their duties. Mankind value this activity so highly, only because it is a self-denying one.
If men are really called to serve others by mental labor, they will have to suffer in performing this labor, because it is only by suffering that spiritual fruit is produced. Selfdenying and suffering are the lot and portion of a thinker and an artist, because their object is the welfare of men. Men are wretched: they suffer and go to ruin. One cannot wait and lose one's time.
A thinker and an artist will never sit on the heights of Olympus, as we are apt to imagine: he must suffer in company with men in order to find salvation or consolation. He will suffer because he is constantly in anxiety and agitation; he might have found out and told what would give happiness to men, might have saved them from suffering; and he has neither found it out nor said it, and to-morrow it may be too late—he may die. And therefore suffering and self-sacrifice will always be the lot of the thinker and the artist.
He who is brought up in an establishment where learned men and artists are created (but, in reality, they create only destroyers of art and science), and who obtains a diploma, and is well provided for, for life, will not become a thinker or an artist, but he who would gladly abstain from thinking, and from expressing that which is ingrafted in his soul, but which he dare not overlook, being drawn to it by two irresistible powers,—his own inward impulse and the wants of men.
Thinkers and artists cannot be sleek, fat men, enjoying themselves in self-conceit. Spiritual and mental activity and their expressions are really necessary for others, and are the most difficult of men's callings,—a cross, as it is called in the gospel.
The only one certain characteristic of the presence of a calling is this self-denying,—the sacrifice of one's self in order to manifest the power ingrafted in man for the benefit of others. To teach how many insects there are in the world, and to observe the spots on the sun, to write novels and operas, can be done without suffering; but to teach men their welfare, which entirely consists in self denial and in serving others, and to express this teaching powerfully, cannot be done without self-denial.
The Church existed in her purity as long as her teachers endured patiently and suffered; but as soon as they became fat and sleek, their teaching activity ended. “Formerly,” say the people, “priests were of gold, and chalices of wood; now chalices are of gold, and priests of wood.” It was not in vain that Jesus Christ died on a cross: it is not in vain that sacrifice and suffering conquer every thing.
As for our art and sciences, they are provided for: they have diplomas, and everybody only thinks about how to provide still better for them; that is, to make it impossible for them to serve men. A true art and a true science have two unmistakable characteristics,—the first, an interior one, that a minister of art or science fulfills his calling, not for the sake of gain, but with self-denial; and the second, an exterior one, that his productions are intelligible to all men, whose welfare he is aiming at.
Whatever men may consider to be their destiny and welfare, science will be the teacher of this destiny and welfare, and art the expression of this teaching. The laws of Solon, of Confucius, are science; the teachings of Moses, of Christ, are science; the temples in Athens, the psalms of David, church worship, are art: but finding out the fourth dimension of matter, and tabulating chemical combinations, and so on, have never been, and never will be, science.
The place of true science is occupied, in our time, by theology and law; the place of true art is occupied by the church and state ceremonies, in which nobody believes, and which are not considered seriously by anybody; while that which with us is called art and science, is only the production of idle minds and feelings desirous to stimulate similarly idle minds and feelings, and unintelligible and dumb for the people, because they have not their welfare in view.
Since we have known the lives of men, we have always and everywhere found a ruling false doctrine, calling itself science, which does not show men the true meaning of life, but rather hides it from them.
So it was among the Egyptians, the Indians, the Chinese, and partially among the Greeks (sophists); and among the mystics, Gnostics, and cabalists; in the Middle Ages, in theology, scholasticism, alchemy; and so on down to our days. How fortunate indeed we are to be living in such a peculiar time, when that mental activity which calls itself science is not only free from errors, but, we are assured, is in a state of peculiar progress! Does not this good fortune come from the fact that man can not and will not see his own deformities? While of the sciences of theologians, and that of cabalists, nothing is left but empty words, why should we be so particularly fortunate?
The characteristics of our times and of former times are quite similar; there is the same self-conceit and blind assurance that we only are on the true way, and that only with us true knowledge begins; there are the same expectations that we shall presently discover something very wonderful; and there is the same exposure of our error, in the fact that all our wisdom remains with us, while the masses of the people do not understand it, and neither accept nor need it. Our position is a very difficult one, but why should we not look it in the face?
It is time to come to our senses, and to look more closely to ourselves. We are, indeed, nothing but scribes and Pharisees, who, sitting in Moses' seat, and having the key of the kingdom of God, do not enter themselves, and refuse entrance to others.
We, priests of art and science, are most wretched deceivers, who have much less right to our position than the most cunning and depraved priests ever had.
For our privileged position, there is no excuse whatever: we have taken up this position by a kind of swindling, and we retain it by deceit. Pagan priests, the clergy, Russian as well as Roman Catholic, however depraved they may have been, had rights to their position, because they professed to teach men about life and salvation. And we, who have cut the ground from under their feet, and proved to men that they were deceivers, we have taken their place, and not only do not teach men about life, we even acknowledge that there is no necessity for them to learn. We suck the blood of the people, and for this we teach our children Greek and Latin grammars so that they also may continue the same parasitic life which we are living.
We say, There have been castes, we will abolish them. But what means the fact that some men and their children work, and other men and their children do not work?
Bring a Hindu who does not know our language, and show him the Russian and the European lives of many generations, and he will recognize the existence of two important definite castes of working-people and of non-working people as they are in existence in his own country. As in his country, so also among us, the right of not working is acquired through a peculiar initiation which we call art and science, and education generally.
It is this education, and the perversions of reason associated with it, that have brought to us this wonderful folly, whence it has come to pass that we do not see what is so plain and certain. We are eating up the lives of our brethren, and consider ourselves to be Christians, humane, educated, and quite in the right.
From : Gutenberg.org
No comments so far. You can be the first!
<< Last Work in What Shall We Do?
Current Work in What Shall We Do?
Next Work in What Shall We Do? >>
All Nearby Works in What Shall We Do?