The Kingdom of God Is Within You

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The 1st English edition of The Kingdom of God Is Within You.

The Kingdom of God Is Within You (Russian: Царство Божие внутри вас [Tsarstvo Bozhiye vnutri vas]) is a non-fiction book written by Leo Tolstoy. A philosophical treatise, the book was first published in Germany in 1894 after being banned in his home country of Russia.[1] It is the culmination of thirty years of Tolstoy's Christian anarchist thinking, and lays out a new organization for society based on a literal Christian interpretation.

Reasoning[edit]

The 1st edition of The Kingdom of God Is Within You, 1894.

The title of the book is taken from Luke 17:21. In the book Tolstoy speaks of the principle of non-violent resistance when confronted by violence, as taught by Jesus Christ. When Christ says to turn the other cheek, Tolstoy asserts that Christ means to abolish violence, even the defensive kind, and to give up revenge. Tolstoy rejects the interpretation of Roman and medieval scholars who attempted to limit its scope.

“How can you kill people, when it is written in God’s commandment: ‘Thou shalt not murder’?”

Tolstoy took the viewpoint that all governments who waged war are an affront to Christian principles. As the Russian Orthodox Church was—at the time—an organization merged with the Russian state and fully supporting state's policy, Tolstoy sought to separate its teachings from what he believed to be the true gospel of Christ, specifically the Sermon on the Mount.

Tolstoy advocated non-violence as a solution to nationalist woes and as a means for seeing the hypocrisy of the church. In reading Jesus' words in the Gospels, Tolstoy notes that the modern church is a heretical creation:

“Nowhere nor in anything, except in the assertion of the Church, can we find that God or Christ founded anything like what churchmen understand by the Church.”

Tolstoy presented excerpts from magazines and newspapers relating various personal experiences, and gave keen insight into the history of non-resistance from the very foundation of Christianity, as being professed by a minority of believers. In particular, he confronts those who seek to maintain status quo:

“That this social order with its pauperism, famines, prisons, gallows, armies, and wars is necessary to society; that still greater disaster would ensue if this organization were destroyed; all this is said only by those who profit by this organization, while those who suffer from it – and they are ten times as numerous – think and say quite the contrary.”

Tolstoy's relationship with Mohandas Gandhi[edit]

Mohandas K. Gandhi and other residents of Tolstoy Farm, South Africa, 1910

Mohandas Gandhi wrote in his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Part II, Chapter 15) that this book "overwhelmed" him and "left an abiding impression." Gandhi listed Tolstoy's book, as well as John Ruskin's Unto This Last and the poet Shrimad Rajchandra (Raychandbhai), as the three most important modern influences in his life.[2] Reading this book opened up the mind of the world-famous Tolstoy to Gandhi, who was still a young protester living in South Africa at the time.

In 1908 Tolstoy wrote, and Gandhi read, A Letter to a Hindu,[3] which outlines the notion that only by using love as a weapon through passive resistance could the native Indian people overthrow the colonial British Empire. This idea ultimately came to fruition through Gandhi's organization of nationwide non-violent strikes and protests during the years c. 1918-1947. In 1909, Gandhi wrote to Tolstoy seeking advice and permission to republish A Letter to a Hindu in his native language, Gujarati. Tolstoy responded and the two continued a correspondence until Tolstoy's death in 1910. The letters concern practical and theological applications of non-violence, as well as Gandhi's wishes for Tolstoy's health. Tolstoy's last letter was to Mohandas Gandhi.[4]

Many consider The Kingdom of God is Within You to be a key text for Tolstoyan, Christian anarchist, and nonviolent resistance movements worldwide.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Donna Tussing Orwin (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Tolstoy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-52000-2. 
  2. ^ Mohandas K. Gandhi (1929). The Story of My Experiments with Truth. 
  3. ^ Parel, Anthony J. (2002), "Gandhi and Tolstoy", in M. P. Mathai, M. S. John, Siby K. Joseph, Meditations on Gandhi : a Ravindra Varma festschrift, New Delhi: Concept, pp. 96–112, retrieved 2012-09-08 
  4. ^ B. Srinivasa Murthy, ed. (1987). Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy: Letters. ISBN 0-941910-03-2. 
  5. ^ Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. p. 19. "[Tolstoy] wrote countless essays and books on the topic, but the most often cited one among anarchists is The Kingdom of God Is within You." 

Further reading[edit]

  • Milivojevic, D. Leo Tolstoy and the Oriental Religious Heritage. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

External links[edit]