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Full text of "Religion from Tolstoy to Camus"



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Books by Walter Kaufmann:







"RELIGION FROM TOLSTOY TO CAMUS Selected^ with an introduction and prefaces, by Walter I^ufmann Harper & Brothers, Publishers, New Tork

RELIGION FROM TOLSTOY TO CAMUS Copyright © 1961, by Walter Kaufmann. Printed in the United States of America. All rights in this book are reserved. Library of Congress catalog card number: 61-12838. Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following publishers for permission to use selections from the works indicated: THE BEACON PRESS, BOSTON: Europe and the Jews, by Malcolm Hay, copyright 1950 by The Beacon Press under the title The Foot of Pride. BENZIGER BROTHERS, INC., NEW YORK: "Aetemi Patris" by Leo XIII, in The "Summa Theo- logica" of St. Thomas Aquinas, 191 1; copyright 1947 by Benziger Brothers, Inc. BASIL BLACKWELL, OXFORD: "Gods," in PhUosophy and Psycho-analysis, by John Wisdom, 1957; copyright 1953 by Basil Blackwell. (Grateful acknowledgment is also made of Professor Wisdom's permission.) THE DEViN-ADAiR COMPANY, NEW YORK: Dogmatic Canons and Decrees by Pius IX, 1912. GROVE PRESS, INC., NEW YORK: "Reflections on the Guillotine," in Evergreen Review, Vol. I, No. 3, by Albert Camus, translated by Richard Howard, copyright 1957 t>y Grove Press, Inc. (Grateful acknowledgment is also made of permission by the French pub- lisher, Calmann-Levy, Paris.) HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK: Christian Beginnings, by Morton Scott Enslin, copyright 1938 by Harper & Brothers; Approaches to God, by Jacques Maritain, copyright 1954 by Jacques Maritain; Dynamics of Faith, by Paul Tillich, copyright 1957 by Harper & Brothers. WILLIAM HODGE & CO., LTD., EDINBURGH: The Gestapo Defied, by Martin Niemoller, copy- right 1941 by William Hodge & Co., Ltd. HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY, NEW YORK: "The Dark Side of Religion," in The Faith of a Liberal, by Morris Cohen, copyright 1946 by Henry Holt and Company. (Grateful acknowledgment is also made of the permission of Harry N. Rosenfield, Executor of the Cohen Estate.) LIVERIGHT PUBLISHING CORPORATION, NEW YORK, AND THE HOGARTH PRESS, LTD., LONDON: The Future of an Illusion, by Sigmund Freud, translated by W. D. Robson-Scott, Copyright 1928. THE MACMiLLAN COMPANY, NEW YORK: "The Conception of the Kingdom of God in the Transformation of Eschatology" by Albert Schweitzer, in The Theology of Albert Schweitzer by E. N. Mozley, copyright 1950 by A. & C. Black, Ltd., London. MCGRAW-HILL BOOK CO., INC., NEW YORK: "The Dark Side of Religion," by Morris Cohen, in Religion Today, A Challenging Enigma, copyright 1933 by Arthur L. Swift, Jr. (Grateful acknowledgment is also made of the permission of Harry N. Rosenfield. Executor of the Cohen Estate.) OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, NEW YORK: "A Reply to the Synod's Edict of Excommunication," in On Life and Essays on Religion, by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Ajdmer Maude (World Classics Edition, 1934). RouTLEDGE & KEGAN PALTL, LTD., LONDON: The Way of Man According to the Teachings of Hasidism, by Martin Buber, copyright 1950 by Martin Buber. STUDENT CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT PRESS, LTD., LONDON: Against the Stream, by Karl Barth, 1954- THE VIKING PRESS, INC., NEW YORK: The Antichrist in The Portable Nietzsche, by Fried- rich Nietzsche, selected and translated by Walter Kaufmann, copyright 1954 by The Viking Press, Inc. THE WESTON COLLEGE PRESS, WESTON, MASS.: Humani Generis by Pius XII, translated with commentary by A. C. Cotter, S.J., second edition 1952, copyright 1952 by The Weston College Press.



Most of the following selections are complete, whether they be short stories, fables, encyclicals, essays, fairy tales, poems in prose, sermons, letters, or even a short book. All deal with religion, some with its truth, some with its relation to morality and society. The point is not to win friends for religion, or enemies, but to provoke greater thoughtfulness. Here are texts that deserve to be pondered and dis- cussed. Some of them I have criticized in other volumes; in such cases, the references are given. But in the present book nothing is included merely to be disparaged, nor is anything offered only to be praised. The hope is that those who read this book will gain a deeper understanding of religion. W. K.


Preface vii

1 . INTRODUCTION, Religion from Tolstoy to Camus i

2 . TOLSTOY. My Religion ; The Death of Ivan Ilyitch; How Much Land Does a Man Need?; A Reply to the Synod's Edict of Excommunication.

3 . DOSTOEVSKY, Rebellion and The Grand Inquisitor 757

4 . PIUS IX The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception 160 The Eiicyclical Quanta Cura 160 The Syllabus of Errors* 162 The Dogma of Papal Infallibility

5 . LEO XIII The Encyclical Aeterni Patris* 775

6 • JVIETZSCHE The Antichrist ipi

7 . CLIFFORD The Ethics of Belief* 201

8 . JAMES The Will to Believe* 221

9 . ROTCE The Problem of Job* 239

10 . WILDE The Doer of Good* 2$8 The Master* 2^9 The Nightingale and the Rose* 260 A Letter on Prison Life* 26^ * Complete ix Contents

11 . FREUD The Future of an Illusion

12 . COHEN The Dark Side of Religion*

13 . ENSLIN The New Testament

14 . NIEMOLLER The Wedding Garment* The Salt of the Earth* Gamaliel*

15. HAT Europe and the Jews

16. EARTH and BRUNNER A Correspondence*

17 . PIUS XII The Dogma of the Assumption The Encyclical Humani Generis*

18 . MARITAIN The Third Way

19 . TILLICH Symbols of Faith

20 . WISDOM Gods*

21 . SCHWEITZER The Conception of the Kingdom of God in the Transformation of Eschatology*

22 . BUBER The Way of Man according to the Teachings of Hasidism

23 . CAMUS Reflections on the Guillotine * Complete

The story of religion, whether in Biblical times or in the last three quarters of a century, is not reducible to the superficialities of the masses and the subtle- ties of priests and theologians. There are also poets and prophets, critics and martyrs. It is widely recognized that one can discuss religious ideas in connection with works of literature, but exceedingly few poets and novelists have been movers and shakers of religion. Leo Tolstoy, who was just that, has not been given the attention he deserves from students of religion. With all due respect to twentieth-century poets and novehsts who are more fashionable, it is doubtful that any of their works have the stature of Tolstoy's Resurrection. This novel does not merely illustrate ideas one might like to discuss anyway but aims rather to revise our thinking about morals and religion. To say that Tolstoy was a very great writer, or even that his stature surpassed that of any twentieth-century theologian, may be very safe and trite. But a much bolder claim is worth considering: perhaps he is more important for the history of religion during the century covered in this volume than any theologian; perhaps he has contributed more of real importance and original- ity and issues a greater challenge to us. That is why his name appears in the title of this book, and why he has been given more space than anyone else. Those who follow are a heterogeneous group, selected not to work toward some predetermined conclusion but to give a fair idea of the com- plexity of our story. The work of the theologians has been placed in perspective, no less than that of the literary figures, philosophers, and others who are not so easy to classify. Almost all the men included were "for" religion, though not the popular religion which scarcely any great religious figure has ever admired. Like the prophets and Jesus, like the Buddha and Luther, these men were critical of much that was and is fashionable; but their point was for the most part to purify religion. Only three of the twenty-three represented here wrote as critics of religion without being motivated by an underlying sympathy: Nietzsche, Freud, and Morris Cohen, No effort has been made to give proportional representation to various denominations. As it happens, Roman Catholicism and the Greek Orthodox church, Judaism, atheism, and various forms of Protestantism are all repre- sented by at least one adherent; but with the exception of the popes, these are not spokesmen. The point is not to appease everybody but to provoke thought. The men included disagree with one another on fundamental issues. Hence one cannot help disagreeing with most of them unless one refuses to think. These men did not aim to please but to make us better human beings. By wrestling with them we stand some chance of becoming more humane.

It is customary to think of Tolstoy as a very great novelist who wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina, but who then became immersed in religion and wrote tracts. His later concerns are generally deplored, and many readers and writers wish that instead he might have written another novel of the caliber of his masterpieces. A very few of his later works are excepted: chief among these is The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, which is acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of world literature. And some of those who have read the less well-known fable, How Much Land Does a Man Need? have said that it may well be the greatest short story ever written. But these are stories. Such direct communications as My Religion, with their unmistakable and inescapable challenge, one prefers to escape by not reading them. This makes it likely that most admirers of the stories, and even of Anna Karenina, come nowhere near understanding these works — a point amply borne out by the disquisitions of literary critics.
Lionel Trilling, as perceptive a critic as we have, has said that "every object ... in Anna Karenina exists in the medium of what we must call the author's love. But this love is so pervasive, it is so constant, and it is so equitable, that it created the illusion of objectivity. . . . For Tolstoi everyone and everything has a saving grace. ... It is this moral quality, this quality of affection, that accounts for the unique illusion of reality that Tolstoi creates. It is when the novelist really loves his characters that he can show them in their completeness and contradiction, in their failures as well as in their great moments, in their triviality as well as in their charm." Three pages later: "It is chiefly Tolstoi's moral vision that accounts for the happiness with which we respond to Anna Karenina."
Happiness indeed! Love, saving grace, and affection! Surely, the opposite of all this would be truer than that! After such a reading, it is not surprising that the critic has to say, near the end of his essay on Anna Karenina (reprinted in The Opposing Self): "Why is it a great novel? Only the finger of admiration can answer: because of this moment, or this, or this. . . ." The point is not that Trilling has slipped for once, but that Anna Karenina is generally misread — even by the best of critics.
Any reader who responds with happiness to this novel, instead of being disturbed to the depths, must, of course, find a sharp reversal in Tolstoy's later work which is so patently designed to shock us, to dislodge our way of looking at the world, and to make us see ourselves and others in a new, glaring and uncomfortable, light. Even if we confine ourselves to Anna Karenina, I know of no other great writer in the whole nineteenth century, perhaps even in the whole of world literature, to whom I respond with less happiness and with a more profound sense that I am on trial and found wanting, unless it were Soren Kierkegaard.

Far from finding that Tolstoy's figures are bathed in his love and, without exception, have a saving grace, I find, on the contrary, that he loves almost none and that he tells us in so many words that what grace or charm they have is not enough to save them.

Instead of first characterizing an apparently repulsive character and then exhibiting his hidden virtues or, like Dostoevsky, forcing the reader to identify himself with murderers, Tolstoy generally starts with characters toward whom we are inclined to be well disposed, and then, with ruthless honesty, brings out their hidden failings and their self-deceptions and often makes them look ridiculous. "Why is it a great novel?" Not on account of this detail or that, but because Tolstoy's penetration and perception have never been excelled; because love and affection never blunt his honesty; and because in inviting us to sit in judgment, Tolstoy calls on us to judge our- selves. Finding that most of the characters deceive themselves, the reader is meant to infer that he is probably himself guilty of self-deception; that his graces, too, are far from saving; that his charm, too, does not keep him from being ridiculous — and that it will never do to resign himself to this.

The persistent preoccupation with self-deception and with an appeal to the reader to abandon his inauthenticity links Anna Karenina with The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, whose influence on existentialism is obvious. But in Anna Karenina the centrality of this motif has not generally been noticed.

It is introduced ironically on the third page of the novel, in the second sentence of Chapter II: "He was incapable of deceiving himself." To trace it all the way through the novel would take a book; a few characteristic passages, chosen almost at random, will have to suffice. "He did not realize it, because it was too terrible to him to realize his actual position. . . . [He] did not want to think at all about his wife's behavior, and he actually succeeded in not thinking about it at all. . . . He did not want to see, and did not see. . . . He did not want to understand, and did not understand. . . . He did not allow himself to think about it, and he did not think about it; but all the same, though he never admitted it to himself ... in the bot- tom of his heart he knew. . . ." (Modern Library ed., 238 ff.) "Kitty an- swered perfectly truly. She did not know the reason Anna Pavlovna had changed to her, but she guessed it. She guessed at something which she could not tell her mother, which she did not put into words to herself. It was one of those things which one knows but which one can never speak of even to oneself. . . ." (268) "She became aware that she had deceived herself. . . ." (279) "He did not acknowledge this feeling, but at the bottom of his heart. . . ." (334)

Here is a passage in which bad faith is specifically related to religion: "Though in passing through these difficult moments he had not once thought of seeking guidance in religion, yet now, when his conclusion corresponded, as it seemed to him, with the requirements of religion, this religious sanc- tion to his decision gave him complete satisfaction, and to some extent restored his peace of mind. He was pleased to think that, even in such an important crisis in life, no one would be able to say that he had not acted in accordance with the principles of that religion whose banner he had al- ways held aloft amid the general coolness and indifference." (335)

Later, to be sure, Anna's husband becomes reHgious in a deeper sense; but as soon as the reader feels that Tolstoy's cutting irony is giving way to affection and that the man "has a saving grace," Tolstoy, with unfailing honesty, probes the man's religion and makes him, if possible, more ridicu- lous than he had seemed before. And the same is done with Varenka: she is not presented as a hypocrite with a saving grace but as a saint — until she is looked at more closely.

Inauthenticity is not always signaled by the vocabulary of self-deception. Sometimes Tolstoy's irony works differently: "Vronsky's life was particularly happy in that he had a code of principles, which defined with unfail- ing certitude what he ought and what he ought not to do. . . . These principles laid down as invariable rules: that one must pay a cardsharper, but need not pay a tailor; that one must never tell a lie to a man, but one may to a woman; that one must never cheat anyone, but one may a husband; that one must never pardon an insult, but one may give one, and so on. These principles were possibly not reasonable and not good, but they were of unfailing certainty, and so long as he adhered to them, Vronsky felt that his heart was at peace and he could hold his head up." (361) Here, too, we en- counter a refusal to think about uncomfortable matters. Here, too, as in the passage about religion, it is not just one character who is on trial but a civilization; and while the reader is encouraged to pass judgment, he is surely expected to realize that his judgment will apply pre-eminently to himself.

Such passages are not reducible, in Trilling's words, to "this moment, or this, or this." The motifs of deception of oneself and others are absolutely central in Anna Karenina. Exoterically, the topic is unfaithfulness, but the really fundamental theme is bad faith.

Exoterically, the novel presents a story of two marriages, one good and one bad, but what makes it such a great novel is that the author is far above any simplistic black and white, good and bad, and really deals with the ubiquity of dishonesty and inauthenticity, and with the Promethean, the Faustian, or, to be precise, the Tolstoyan struggle against them.

Exoterically, the novel contains everything: a wedding, a near death, a real death, a birth, a hunt, a horse race, legitimate and illegitimate love, and Introduction: Religion from Tolstoy to Camus j- legitimate and illegitimate lack of love. Unlike lesser writers, who deal with avowedly very interesting characters but ask us in effect to take their word for it that these men are very interesting, Tolstoy immerses us compellingly in the professional experiences and interests of his characters. The sketch of Karenina working in his study, for example (Part III, Chapter XIV), is no mere virtuoso piece. It is a cadenza in which the author's irony is carried to dazzling heights, but it is also an acid study of inauthenticity.

When Tolstoy speaks of death — "I had forgotten — death" (413; cf. 444) — and, later, gives a detailed account of the death of Levin's brother (571-93), this is not something to which one may refer as "this moment, or this, or this," nor merely a remarkable anticipation of The Death of Ivan Ilyitch: it is another essential element in Tolstoy's attack on inauthenticity. What in Anna Karenina, a novel of about one thousand pages, is one crucial element, becomes in The Death of Ivan Ilyitch the device for focusing the author's central message in a short story. And confronted with this briefer treatment of the same themes, no reader is Kkely to miss the point and to respond with "happiness."

All the passages cited so far from Anna Karenina come from the first half of the book, and they could easily be multiplied without going any further. Or, turning to Part V, one could point to the many references to dread and boredom, which, in the twentieth century, are widely associated with existentialism, and which become more and more important as the novel progresses. Or one could trace overt references to self-deception through the rest of the book: "continually deceived himself with the theory . . ." (562); "this self-deception" (587); "deceived him and them- selves and each other" (590); and so forth. Or one could enumerate other anticipations of existentialism, like the following brief statement which summarizes pages and pages of Jaspers on extreme situations (Grenzsitua- tionen): "that grief and this joy were alike outside all the ordinary con- ditions of life; they were loopholes, as it were, in that ordinary life through which there came glimpses of something sublime. And in the contemplation of this sublime something the soul was exalted to inconceivable heights of which it had before had no conception, while reason lagged behind, unable to keep up with it." (831 f.) Instead, let us turn to the end of the novel.

"Now for the first time Anna turned that glaring light in which she was seeing everything on to her relations with him, which she had hitherto avoided thinking about." (887) Thus begins her final, desperate struggle for honesty. On her way to her death she thinks "that we are all created to be miserable, and that we aU know it, and all invent means of deceiving each other." (892) Yet Tolstoy's irony is relentless — much more savage, cruel, and hurtful than that of Shaw, who deals with ideas or types rather than with individual human beings. Tolstoy has often been compared with Homer — by Trilling among many others — but Homer's heroes are granted Introduction: Religion from Tolstoy to Camus 6 a moment of truth as they die; they even see into the future. Not Anna, though numerous critics have accused the author of loving her too much — so much that it allegedly destroys the balance of the novel. Does he really love her at all? What she sees "distinctly in the piercing light" (888) is wrong; she deceives herself until the very end and, instead of recognizing the conscience that hounds her, projects attitudes into Vronsky that in fact he does not have. Like most readers, she does not understand what drives her to death, and at the very last moment, when it is too late, "she tried to get up, to drop backwards; but something huge and merciless struck her on the head and rolled her on her back."

Did Tolstoy love her as much as Shakespeare loved Cleopatra, when he lavished all the majesty and beauty he commanded on her suicide? Anna's death quite pointedly lacks the dignity with which Shakespeare allows even Macbeth to die. She is a posthumous sister of Goethe's Gretchen, squashed by the way of some Faust or Levin, a Goethe or a Tolstoy. Her death, like Gretchen's, is infinitely pathetic; in spite of her transgression she was clearly better than the society that condemned her; but what matters ultimately is neither Gretchen nor Anna but that in a world in which such cruelty abounds Faust and Levin should persist in their "darkling aspira- tion."

Their aspirations, however, are different. Faust's has little to do with society or honesty; his concern is pre-eminently with self-realization. Any social criticism implicit in the Gretchen tragedy is incidental. Tolstoy, on the other hand, was quite determined to attack society and bad faith, and when he found that people missed the point in Anna Karenina he resorted to other means. But there are passages in Anna Karenina that yield to nothing he wrote later, even in explicitness.

Here is a passage that comes after Anna's death. It deals with Levin. "She knew what worried her husband. It was his unbelief. Although, if she had been asked whether she supposed that in the future life, if he did not believe, he would be damned, she would have had to admit that he would be damned, his unbelief did not cause her unhappiness. And she, confessing that for an unbeliever there can be no salvation, and loving her husband's soul more than anything in the world, thought with a smile of his unbelief, and told herself that he was absurd." (912)

Tolstoy's interest in indicting bad faith does not abate with Anna's death: it is extended to Kitty's religion and to Russian patriotism. But in the end Levin's unbelief is modified without any abandonment of the quest for honesty. "He briefly went through, mentally, the whole course of his ideas during the last two years, the beginning of which was the clear confronting of death at the sight of his dear brother hopelessly ill." (926) And then his outlook is changed, but not, as some critics have said, into "the effacing of the intellect in a cloud of happy mysticism" {Encyclopaedia Introduction: Religion from Tolstoy to Camus 7 Britannic a, nth ed.); far from it. The religious position intimated here is articulated with full force in the works reprinted in the present volume. Neither here nor there can I find any "effacing of the intellect" nor even what Trilling, at the end of his essay, calls "the energy of animal intelligence that marks Tolstoi as a novelist." What awes me is perhaps the highest, most comprehensive, and most penetrating human intelligence to be found in any great creative writer anywhere.

These remarks about Anna Karenina should suffice to relate The Death of Ivan llyitch and How Much Land Does A Man Need?, My Religion, and Tolstoy's reply to his excommunication, to his previous work. They show that he was not a great writer who suddenly abandoned art for tracts, and they may furnish what little explanation the writings reprinted here re quire. The world has been exceedingly kind to the author of War and Peace, but it has not taken kindly to the later Tolstoy. The attitude of most readers and critics to Tolstoy's later prose is well summarized by some of our quo- tations from Anna Karenina: "He did not want to see, and did not see. . . . He did not want to understand, and did not understand. . . . He did not allow himself to think about it, and he did not think about it. . . ."

What is true of most readers is not true of all. The exceptions include, above all, Mahatma Gandhi, whose gospel of nonviolence was flatly op- posed to the most sacred traditions of his own religion. The Bhagavadgita, often called the New Testament of India, consists of Krishna's admonition of Aryuna, who wants to forswear war when his army is ready for battle; and Krishna, a god incarnate, insists that Aryuna should join the battle, and that every man should do his duty, with his mind on Krishna and the transitoriness of all the things of the world and not on the consequences of his actions. The soldier should soldier, realizing that, ultimately, this world is illusory and he who thinks he slays does not really slay. It would be a gross understatement to say that Gandhi owed more to Tolstoy than he did to Hinduism.

Among philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose influence on British and American philosophy after World War II far exceeded that of any other thinker, had the profoundest admiration for Tolstoy; and when he inherited his father's fortune, he gave it away to live simply and austerely. But his philosophy and his academic influence do not reflect Tolstoy's impact.

Martin Heidegger, on the other hand, owes much of his influence to what he has done with Tolstoy. The central section of his main work, Being and Time, deals at length with death. It contains a footnote (original ed., 1927, p. 254): "L. N. Tolstoy, in his story. The Death of Ivan llyitch, has presented the phenomenon of the shattering and the collapse of this 'one dies.' " "One dies" refers to the attitude of those who admit that one dies, but who do not seriously confront the fact that they themselves will die. In the chapter on "Death" in my The Faith of a Heretic I have tried to show in some detail how "Heidegger on death is for the most part an un-acknowledged commentary on The Death of Ivan Ilyitch"… also how Tolstoy's story is far superior to Heidegger's commentary. And one of the mottos of my book comes from Tolstoy's Reply to the Synod's Edict of Excommunication.

This Reply is relevant to the misleading suggestion that Anna Karenina is a Christian tragedy. First of all, Anna Karenina is not a tragedy. Not only is it a novel in form; it is essentially not a tragedy that ends in a catastrophe but an epic story that continues fittingly after Anna's death to end with Levin's achievement of more insight. Secondly, it is rather odd to hold up as an example of what is possible within Christianity a man formally excommunicated, a writer whose views have not been accepted by any Christian denomination — a heretic.

Tolstoy drew his inspiration in large measure from the Gospels. His intelligence and sensitivity were of the highest order. And whether we classify him as a Christian or a heretic, his late writings remain to challenge every reader who is honestly concerned with the New Testament or, generally, with religion. We shall return to Tolstoy again and again in the following pages. Other writers one can take or leave, read and forget. To ignore Tolstoy means impoverishing one's own mind; and to read and forget him is hardly possible.

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