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Chapter 10


Christianity Destroys the State--But Which is Most Necessary:
Christianity or the State?--There are Some who Assert the
Necessity of a State Organization, and Others who Deny it, both
Arguing from same First Principles--Neither Contention can be
Proved by Abstract Argument--The Question must be Decided by the
Stage in the Development of Conscience of Each Man, which will
either Prevent or Allow him to Support a Government Organization--
Recognition of the Futility and Immorality of Supporting a State
Organization Contrary to Christian Principles will Decide the
Question for Every Man, in Spite of any Action on Part of the
State--Argument of those who Defend the Government, that it is a
Form of Social Life, Needed to Protect the Good from the Wicked,
till all Nations and all Members of each Nation have Become
Christians--The Most Wicked are Always those in Power--The whole
History of Humanity is the History of the Forcible Appropriation
of Power by the Wicked and their Oppression of the Good--The
Recognition by Governments of the Necessity of Opposing Evil by
Force is Equivalent to Suicide on their Part--The Abolition of
State-violence cannot Increase the Sum Total of Acts of Violence--
The Suppression of the Use of Force is not only Possible, but is
even Taking Place before Our Eyes--But it will Never be Suppressed
by the Violence of Government, but through Men who have Attained
Power by Evidence Recognizing its Emptiness and Becoming Better
and Less Capable of Using Force--Individual Men and also Whole
Nations Pass Through this Process--By this Means Christianity is
Diffused Through Consciousness of Men, not only in Spite of Use of
Violence by Government, but even Through its Action,and therefore
the Suppression is not to be Dreaded, but is Brought About by the
National Progress of Life--Objection of those who Defend State
Organization that Universal Adoption of Christianity is hardly
Likely to be Realized at any Time--The General Adoption of the
Truths of Christianity is being Brought About not only by the
Gradual and Inward Means,that is, by Knowledge of the Truth,
Prophetic Insight, and Recognition of the Emptiness of Power, and
Renunciation of it by Individuals, but also by Another External
Means, the Acceptance of a New Truth by Whole Masses of Men on a
Lower Level of Development Through Simple Confidence in their
Leaders--When a Certain Stage in the Diffusion of a Truth has been
Reached, a Public Opinion is Created which Impels a Whole Mass of
Men, formerly Antagonistic to the New Truth, to Accept it--And
therefore all Men may Quickly be Brought to Renounce the use of
Violence when once a Christian Public Opinion is Established--The
Conviction of Force being Necessary Hinders the Establishment of a
Christian Public Opinion--The Use of Violence Leads Men to
Distrust the Spiritual Force which is the Only Force by which they
Advance--Neither Nations nor Individuals have been really
Subjugated by Force, but only by Public Opinion, which no Force
can Resist--Savage Nations and Savage Men can only be Subdued by
the Diffusion of a Christian Standard among them, while actually
Christian Nations in order to Subdue them do all they can to
Destroy a Christian Standard--These Fruitless Attempts to Civilize
Savages Cannot be Adduced as Proofs that Men Cannot be Subdued by
Christianity--Violence by Corrupting Public Opinion, only Hinders
the Social Organization from being What it Ought to Be--And by the
Use of Violence being Suppressed, a Christian Public Opinion would
be Established--Whatever might be the Result of the Suppression of
Use of Force, this Unknown Future could not be Worse than the
Present Condition, and so there is no Need to Dread it--To Attain
Knowledge of the Unknown, and to Move Toward it, is the Essence of

Christianity in its true sense puts an end to government. So it
was understood at its very commencement; it was for that cause
that Christ was crucified. So it has always been understood by
people who were not under the necessity of justifying a Christian
government. Only from the time that the heads of government
assumed an external and nominal Christianity, men began to invent
all the impossible, cunningly devised theories by means of which
Christianity can be reconciled with government. But no honest and
serious-minded man of our day can help seeing the incompatibility
of true Christianity--the doctrine of meekness, forgiveness of
injuries, and love--with government, with its pomp, acts of
violence, executions, and wars. The profession of true
Christianity not only excludes the possibility of recognizing
government, but even destroys its very foundations.

But if it is so, and we are right in saying that Christianity is
incompatible with government, then the question naturally presents
itself: which is more necessary to the good of humanity, in which
way is men's happiness best to be secured, by maintaining the
organization of government or by destroying it and replacing it by

Some people maintain that government is more necessary for
humanity, that the destruction of the state organization would
involve the destruction of all that humanity has gained, that the
state has been and still is the only form in which humanity can
develop. The evil which we see among peoples living under a
government organization they attribute not to that type of
society, but to its abuses, which, they say, can be corrected
without destroying it, and thus humanity, without discarding the
state organization, can develop and attain a high degree of
happiness. And men of this way of thinking bring forward in
support of their views arguments which they think irrefutable
drawn from history, philosophy, and even religion. But there are
men who hold on the contrary that, as there was a time when
humanity lived without government, such an organization is
temporary, and that a time must come when men need a new
organization, and that that time has come now. And men of this
way of thinking also bring forward in support of their views
arguments which they think irrefutable from philosophy, history,
and religion.

Volumes may be written in defense of the former view (and volumes
indeed have long ago been written and more will still be written
on that side), but much also can be written against it (and much
also, and most brilliantly, has been written--though more recently
--on this side).

And it cannot be proved, as the champions of the state maintain,
that the destruction of government involves a social chaos, mutual
spoliation and murder, the destruction of all social institutions,
and the return of mankind to barbarism. Nor can it be proved as
the opponents of government maintain that men have already become
so wise and good that they will not spoil or murder one another,
but will prefer peaceful associations to hostilities; that of
their own accord, unaided by the state, they will make all the
arrangements that they need, and that therefore government, far
from being any aid, under show of guarding men exerts a pernicious
and brutalizing influence over them. It is impossible to prove
either of these contentions by abstract reasoning. Still less
possible is it to prove them by experiment, since the whole matter
turns on the question, ought we to try the experiment? The
question whether or not the time has come to make an end of
government would be unanswerable, except that there exists another
living means of settling it beyond dispute.

We may dispute upon the question whether the nestlings are ready
to do without the mother-hen and to come out of the eggs, or
whether they are not yet advanced enough. But the young birds
will decide the question without any regard for our arguments when
they find themselves cramped for space in the eggs. Then they
will begin to try them with their beaks and come out of them of
their own accord.

It is the same with the question whether the time has come to do
away with the governmental type of society and to replace it by a
new type. If a man, through the growth of a higher conscience,
can no longer comply with the demands of government, he finds
himself cramped by it and at the same time no longer needs its
protection. When this comes to pass, the question whether men are
ready to discard the governmental type is solved. And the
conclusion will be as final for them as for the young birds
hatched out of the eggs. Just as no power in the world can put
them back into the shells, so can no power in the world bring men
again under the governmental type of society when once they have
outgrown it.

"It may well be that government was necessary and is still
necessary for all the advantages which you attribute to it," says
the man who has mastered the Christian theory of life. "I only
know that on the one hand, government is no longer necessary for
ME, and on the other hand, I can no longer carry out the measures
that are necessary to the existence of a government. Settle for
yourselves what you need for your life. I cannot prove the need
or the harm of governments in general. I know only what I need
and do not need, what I can do and what I cannot. I know that I
do not need to divide myself off from other nations, and therefore
I cannot admit that I belong exclusively to any state or nation,
or that I owe allegiance to any government. I know that I do not
need all the government institutions organized within the state,
and therefore I cannot deprive people who need my labor to give it
in the form of taxes to institutions which I do not need, which
for all I know may be pernicious. I know that I have no need of
the administration or of courts of justice founded upon force, and
therefore I can take no part in either. I know that I do not need
to attack and slaughter other nations or to defend myself from
them with arms, and therefore I can take no part in wars or
preparations for wars. It may well be that there are people who
cannot help regarding all this as necessary and indispensable. I
cannot dispute the question with them, I can only speak for
myself; but I can say with absolute certainty that I do not need
it, and that I cannot do it. And I do not need this and I cannot
do it, not because such is my own, my personal will, but because
such is the will of him who sent me into life, and gave me an
indubitable law for my conduct through life."

Whatever arguments may be advanced in support of the contention
that the suppression of government authority would be injurious
and would lead to great calamities, men who have once outgrown the
governmental form of society cannot go back to it again. And all
the reasoning in the world cannot make the man who has outgrown
the governmental form of society take part in actions disallowed
by his conscience, any more than the full-grown bird can be made
to return into the egg-shell.

"But even it be so," say the champions of the existing order of
things, "still the suppression of government violence can only be
possible and desirable when all men have become Christians. So
long as among people nominally Christians there are unchristian
wicked men, who for the gratification of their own lusts are ready
to do harm to others, the suppression of government authority, far
from being a blessing to others, would only increase their
miseries. The suppression of the governmental type of society is
not only undesirable so long as there is only a minority of true
Christians; it would not even be desirable if the whole of a
nation were Christians, but among and around them were still
unchristian men of other nations. For these unchristian men would
rob, outrage, and kill the Christians with impunity and would make
their lives miserable. All that would result, would be that the
bad would oppress and outrage the good with impunity. And
therefore the authority of government must not be suppressed till
all the wicked and rapacious people in the world are extinct. And
since this will either never be, or at least cannot be for a long
time to come, in spite of the efforts of individual Christians to
be independent of government authority, it ought to be maintained
in the interests of the majority. The champions of government
assert that without it the wicked will oppress and outrage the
good, and that the power of the government enables the good to
resist the wicked."

But in this assertion the champions of the existing order of
things take for granted the proposition they want to prove. When
they say that except for the government the bad would oppress the
good, they take it for granted that the good are those who at the
present time are in possession of power, and the bad are those who
are in subjection to it. But this is just what wants proving. It
would only be true if the custom of our society were what is, or
rather is supposed to be, the custom in China; that is, that the
good always rule, and that directly those at the head of
government cease to be better than those they rule over, the
citizens are bound to remove them. This is supposed to be the
custom in China. In reality it is not so and can never be so.
For to remove the heads of a government ruling by force, it is not
the right alone, but the power to do so that is needed. So that
even in China this is only an imaginary custom. And in our
Christian world we do not even suppose such a custom, and we have
nothing on which to build up the supposition that it is the good
or the superior who are in power; in reality it is those who have
seized power and who keep it for their own and their retainers'

The good cannot seize power, nor retain it; to do this men must
love power. And love of power is inconsistent with goodness; but
quite consistent with the very opposite qualities--pride, cunning,

Without the aggrandizement of self and the abasement of others,
without hypocrisies and deceptions, without prisons, fortresses,
executions, and murders, no power can come into existence or be

"If the power of government is suppressed the more wicked will
oppress the less wicked," say the champions of state authority.
But when the Egyptians conquered the Jews, the Romans conquered
the Greeks, and the Barbarians conquered the Romans, is it
possible that all the conquerors were always better than those
they conquered? And the same with the transitions of power within
a state from one personage to another: has the power always passed
from a worse person to a better one? When Louis XVI. was removed
and Robespierre came to power, and afterward Napoleon--who ruled
then, a better man or a worse? And when were better men in power,
when the Versaillist party or when the Commune was in power? When
Charles I. was ruler, or when Cromwell? And when Peter III. was
Tzar, or when he was killed and Catherine was Tzaritsa in one-half
of Russia and Pougachef ruled the other? Which was bad then, and
which was good? All men who happen to be in authority assert that
their authority is necessary to keep the bad from oppressing the
good, assuming that they themselves are the good PAR EXCELLENCE,
who protect other good people from the bad.

But ruling means using force, and using force means doing to him
to whom force is used, what he does not like and what he who uses
the force would certainly not like done to himself. Consequently
ruling means doing to others what we would we would not they
should do unto us, that is, doing wrong.

To submit means to prefer suffering to using force. And to prefer
suffering to using force means to be good, or at least less wicked
than those who do unto others what they would not like themselves.

And therefore, in all probability, not the better but the worse
have always ruled and are ruling now. There may be bad men among
those who are ruled, but it cannot be that those who are better
have generally ruled those who are worse.

It might be possible to suppose this with the inexact heathen
definition of good; but with the clear Christian definition of
good and evil, it is impossible to imagine it.

If the more or less good, and the more or less bad cannot be
distinguished in the heathen world, the Christian conception of
good and evil has so clearly defined the characteristics of the
good and the wicked, that it is impossible to confound them.
According to Christ's teaching the good are those who are meek and
long-suffering, do not resist evil by force, forgive injuries, and
love their enemies; those are wicked who exalt themselves,
oppress, strive, and use force. Therefore by Christ's teaching
there can be no doubt whether the good are to be found among
rulers or ruled, and whether the wicked are among the ruled or the
rulers. Indeed it is absurd even to speak of Christians ruling.

Non-Christians, that is those who find the aim of their lives in
earthly happiness, must always rule Christians, the aim of whose
lives is the renunciation of such earthly happiness.

This difference has always existed and has become more and more
defined as the Christian religion has been more widely diffused
and more correctly understood.

The more widely true Christianity was diffused and the more it
penetrated men's conscience, the more impossible it was for
Christians to be rulers, and the easier it became for non-
Christians to rule them.

"To get rid of governmental violence in a society in which all are
not true Christians, will only result in the wicked dominating the
good and oppressing them with impunity," say the champions of the
existing order of things. But it has never been, and cannot be
otherwise. So it has always been from the beginning of the world,
WILL ALWAYS OPPRESS THEM. Cain overpowered Abel, the cunning
Jacob oppressed the guileless Esau and was in his turn deceived by
Laban, Caiaphas and Pilate oppressed Christ, the Roman emperors
oppressed Seneca, Epictetus, and the good Romans who lived in
their times. John IV. with his favorites, the syphilitic drunken
Peter with his buffoons, the vicious Catherine with her paramours,
ruled and oppressed the industrious religious Russians of their

William is ruling over the Germans, Stambouloff over the
Bulgarians, the Russian officials over the Russian people. The
Germans have dominated the Italians, now they dominate the
Hungarians and Slavonians; the Turks have dominated and still
dominate the Slavonians and Greeks; the English dominate the
Hindoos, the Mongolians dominate the Chinese.

So that whether governmental violence is suppressed or not, the
position of good men, in being oppressed by the wicked, will be

To terrify men with the prospect of the wicked dominating the good
is impossible, for that is just what has always been, and is now,
and cannot but be.

The whole history of pagan times is nothing but a recital of the
incidents and means by which the more wicked gained possession of
power over the less wicked, and retained it by cruelties and
deceptions, ruling over the good under the pretense of guarding
the right and protecting the good from the wicked. All the
revolutions in history are only examples of the more wicked
seizing power and oppressing the good. In declaring that if their
authority did not exist the more wicked would oppress the good,
the ruling authorities only show their disinclination to let other
oppressors come to power who would like to snatch it from them.

But in asserting this they only accuse themselves, say that their
power, i. e., violence, is needed to defend men from other
possible oppressors in the present or the future [see footnote].

[Footnote: I may quote in this connection the amazingly
naive and comic declaration of the Russian authorities,
the oppressors of other nationalities--the Poles, the
Germans of the Baltic provinces, and the Jews. The
Russian Government has oppressed its subjects for
centuries, and has never troubled itself about the
Little Russians of Poland, or the Letts of the Baltic
provinces, or the Russian peasants, exploited by everyone.
And now it has all of a sudden become the champion of
the oppressed--the very oppressed whom it is itself

The weakness of the use of violence lies in the fact that all the
arguments brought forward by oppressors in their own defense can
with even better reason be advanced against them. They plead the
danger of violence--most often imagined in the future--but they
are all the while continuing to practice actual violence
themselves. "You say that men used to pillage and murder in the
past, and that you are afraid that they will pillage and murder
one another if your power were no more. That may happen--or it
may not happen. But the fact that you ruin thousands of men in
prisons, fortresses, galleys, and exile, break up millions of
families and ruin millions of men, physically as well as morally,
in the army, that fact is not an imaginary but a real act of
violence, which, according to your own argument, one ought to
oppose by violence. And so you are yourselves these wicked men
against whom, according to your own argument, it is absolutely
necessary to use violence," the oppressed are sure to say to their
oppressors. And non-Christian men always do say, and think and
act on this reasoning. If the oppressed are more wicked than
their oppressors, they attack them and try to overthrow them; and
in favorable circumstances they succeed in overthrowing them, or
what is more common, they rise into the ranks of the oppressors
and assist in their acts of violence.

So that the very violence which the champions of government hold
up as a terror--pretending that except for its oppressive power
the wicked would oppress the good--has really always existed and
will exist in human society. And therefore the suppression of
state violence cannot in any case be the cause of increased
oppression of the good by the wicked.

If state violence ceased, there would be acts of violence perhaps
on the part of different people, other than those who had done
deeds of violence before. But the total amount of violence could
not in any case be increased by the mere fact of power passing
from one set of men to another.

"State violence can only cease when there are no more wicked men
in society," say the champions of the existing order of things,
assuming in this of course that since there will always be wicked
men, it can never cease. And that would be right enough if it
were the case, as they assume, that the oppressors are always the
best of men, and that the sole means of saving men from evil is by
violence. Then, indeed, violence could never cease. But since
this is not the case, but quite the contrary, that it is not the
better oppress the worse, but the worse oppress the better, and
since violence will never put an end to evil, and there is,
moreover, another means of putting an end to it, the assertion
that violence will never cease is incorrect. The use of violence
grows less and less and evidently must disappear. But this will
not come to pass, as some champions of the existing order imagine,
through the oppressed becoming better and better under the
influence of government (on the contrary, its influence causes
their continual degradation), but through the fact that all men
are constantly growing better and better of themselves, so that
even the most wicked, who are in power, will become less and less
wicked, till at last they are so good as to be incapable of using

The progressive movement of humanity does not proceed from the
better elements in society seizing power and making those who are
subject to them better, by forcible means, as both conservatives
and revolutionists imagine. It proceeds first and principally
from the fact that all men in general are advancing steadily and
undeviatingly toward a more and more conscious assimilation of the
Christian theory of life; and secondly, from the fact that, even
apart from conscious spiritual life, men are unconsciously brought
into a more Christian attitude to life by the very process of one
set of men grasping the power, and again being replaced by others.

The worse elements of society, gaining possession of power, under
the sobering influence which always accompanies power, grow less
and less cruel, and become incapable of using cruel forms of
violence. Consequently others are able to seize their place, and
the same process of softening and, so to say, unconscious
Christianizing goes on with them. It is something like the
process of ebullition. The majority of men, having the non-
Christian view of life, always strive for power and struggle to
obtain it. In this struggle the most cruel, the coarsest, the
least Christian elements of society overpower the most gentle,
well-disposed, and Christian, and rise by means of their violence
to the upper ranks of society. And in them is Christ's prophecy
fulfilled: "Woe to you that are rich! woe unto you that are full!
woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you!" For the men
who are in possession of power and all that results from it--glory
and wealth--and have attained the various aims they set before
themselves, recognize the vanity of it all and return to the
position from which they came. Charles V., John IV., Alexander I.,
recognizing the emptiness and the evil of power, renounced it
because they were incapable of using violence for their own
benefit as they had done.

But they are not the solitary examples of this recognition of the
emptiness and evil of power. Everyone who gains a position of
power he has striven for, every general, every minister, every
millionaire, every petty official who has gained the place he has
coveted for ten years, every rich peasant who has laid by some
hundred rubles, passes through this unconscious process of

And not only individual men, but societies of men, whole nations,
pass through this process.

The seductions of power, and all the wealth, honor, and luxury it
gives, seem a sufficient aim for men's efforts only so long as
they are unattained. Directly a man reaches them he sees all
their vanity, and they gradually lose all their power of
attraction. They are like clouds which have form and beauty only
from the distance; directly one ascends into them, all their
splendor vanishes.

Men who are in possession of power and wealth, sometimes even
those who have gained for themselves their power and wealth, but
more often their heirs, cease to be so eager for power, and so
cruel in their efforts to obtain it.

Having learnt by experience, under the operation of Christian
influence, the vanity of all that is gained by violence, men
sometimes in one, sometimes in several generations lose the vices
which are generated by the passion for power and wealth. They
become less cruel and so cannot maintain their position, and are
expelled from power by others less Christian and more wicked.
Thus they return to a rank of society lower in position, but
higher in morality, raising thereby the average level of Christian
consciousness in men. But directly after them again the worst,
coarsest, least Christian elements of society rise to the top, and
are subjected to the same process as their predecessors, and again
in a generation or so, seeing the vanity of what is gained by
violence, and having imbibed Christianity, they come down again
among the oppressed, and their place is again filled by new
oppressors, less brutal than former oppressors, though more so
than those they oppress. So that, although power remains
externally the same as it was, with every change of the men in
power there is a constant increase of the number of men who have
been brought by experience to the necessity of assimilating the
Christian conception of life, and with every change--though it is
the coarsest, crudest, and least Christian who come into
possession of power, they are less coarse and cruel and more
Christian than their predecessors when they gained possession of

Power selects and attracts the worst elements of society,
transforms them, improves and softens them, and returns them to

"Such is the process by means of which Christianity, in spite of
the hindrances to human progress resulting from the violence of
power, gains more and more hold of men. Christianity penetrates
to the consciousness of men, not only in spite of the violence of
power, but also by means of it.

And therefore the assertion of the champions of the state, that if
the power of government were suppressed the wicked would oppress
the good, not only fails to show that that is to be dreaded, since
it is just what happens now, but proves, on the contrary, that it
is governmental power which enables the wicked to oppress the
good, and is the evil most desirable to suppress, and that it is
being gradually suppressed in the natural course of things.

"But if it be true that governmental power will disappear when
those in power become so Christian that they renounce power of
their own accord, and there are no men found willing to take their
place, and even if this process is already going on," say the
champions of the existing order, "when will that come to pass?
If, after eighteen hundred years, there are still so many eager
for power, and so few anxious to obey, there seems no likelihood
of its happening very soon--or indeed of its ever happening at

"Even if there are, as there have always been, some men who prefer
renouncing power to enjoying it, the mass of men in reserve, who
prefer dominion to subjection, is so great that it is difficult to
imagine a time when the number will be exhausted.

"Before this Christianizing process could so affect all men one
after another that they would pass from the heathen to the
Christian conception of life, and would voluntarily abandon power
and wealth, it would be necessary that all the coarse, half-savage
men, completely incapable of appreciating Christianity or acting
upon it, of whom there are always a great many in every Christian
society, should be converted to Christianity. More than this, all
the savage and absolutely non-Christian peoples, who are so
numerous outside the Christian world, must also be converted. And
therefore, even if we admit that this Christianizing process will
some day affect everyone, still, judging by the amount of progress
it has made in eighteen hundred years, it will be many times
eighteen centuries before it will do so. And it is therefore
impossible and unprofitable to think at present of anything so
impracticable as the suppression of authority. We ought only to
try to put authority into the best hands."

And this criticism would be perfectly just, if the transition from
one conception of life to another were only accomplished by the
single process of all men, separately and successively, realizing,
each for himself, the emptiness of power, and reaching Christian
truth by the inner spiritual path. That process goes on
unceasingly, and men are passing over to Christianity one after
another by this inner way.

But there is also another external means by which men reach
Christianity and by which the transition is less gradual.

This transition from one organization of life to another is not
accomplished by degrees like the sand running through the
hourglass grain after grain. It is more like the water filling a
vessel floating on water. At first the water only runs in slowly
on one side, but as the vessel grows heavier it suddenly begins to
sink, and almost instantaneously fills with water.

It is just the same with the transitions of mankind from one
conception--and so from one organization of life--to another. At
first only gradually and slowly, one after another, men attain to
the new truth by the inner spiritual way, and follow it out in
life. But when a certain point in the diffusion of the truth has
been reached, it is suddenly assimilated by everyone, not by the
inner way, but, as it were, involuntarily.

That is why the champions of the existing order are wrong in
arguing that, since only a small section of mankind has passed
over to Christianity in eighteen centuries, it must be many times
eighteen centuries before all the remainder do the same. For in
that argument they do not take into account any other means,
besides the inward spiritual one, by which men assimilate a new
truth and pass from one order of life to another.

Men do not only assimilate a truth through recognizing it by
prophetic insight, or by experience of life. When the truth has
become sufficiently widely diffused, men at a lower stage of
development accept it all at once simply through confidence in
those who have reached it by the inner spiritual way, and are
applying it to life.

Every new truth, by which the order of human life is changed and
humanity is advanced, is at first accepted by only a very small
number of men who understand it through inner spiritual intuition.
The remainder of mankind who accepted on trust the preceding truth
on which the existing order is based, are always opposed to the
diffusion of the new truth.

But seeing that, to begin with, men do not stand still, but are
steadily advancing to a greater recognition of the truth and a
closer adaptation of their life to it, and secondly, all men in
varying degrees according to their age, their education, and their
race are capable of understanding the new truths, at first those
who are nearest to the men who have attained the new truth by
spiritual intuition, slowly and one by one, but afterward more and
more quickly, pass over to the new truth. Thus the number of men
who accept the new truth becomes greater and greater, and the
truth becomes more and more comprehensible.

And thus more confidence is aroused in the remainder, who are at a
less advanced stage of capacity for understanding the truth. And
it becomes easier for them to grasp it, and an increasing number
accept it.

And so the movement goes on more and more quickly, and on an ever-
increasing scale, like a snowball, till at last a public opinion
in harmony with the new truth is created, and then the whole mass
of men is carried over all at once by its momentum to the new
truth and establishes a new social order in accordance with it.

Those men who accept a new truth when it has gained a certain
degree of acceptance, always pass over all at once in masses.
They are like the ballast with which every ship is always loaded,
at once to keep it upright and enable it to sail properly. If
there were no ballast, the ship would not be low enough in the
water, and would shift its position at the slightest change in its
conditions. This ballast, which strikes one at first as
superfluous and even as hindering the progress of the vessel, is
really indispensable to its good navigation.

It is the same with the mass of mankind, who not individually, but
always in a mass, under the influence of a new social idea pass
all at once from one organization of life to another. This mass
always hinders, by its inertia, frequent and rapid revolutions in
the social order which have not been sufficiently proved by human
experience. And it delays every truth a long while till it has
stood the test of prolonged struggles, and has thoroughly
permeated the consciousness of humanity.

And that is why it is a mistake to say that because only a very
small minority of men has assimilated Christianity in eighteen
centuries, it must take many times as many centuries for all
mankind to assimilate it, and that since that time is so far off
we who live in the present need not even think about it. It is a
mistake, because the men at a lower stage of culture, the, men and
the nations who are represented as the obstacle to the realization
of the Christian order of life, are the very people who always
pass over in masses all at once to any truth that has once been
recognized by public opinion.

And therefore the transformation of human life, through which men
in power will renounce it, and there will be none anxious to take
their place, will not come only by all men consciously and
separately assimilating the Christian conception of life. It will
come when a Christian public opinion has arisen, so definite and
easily comprehensible as to reach the whole of the inert mass,
which is not able to attain truth by its own intuition, and
therefore is always under the sway of public opinion.

Public opinion arises spontaneously and spreads for hundreds and
thousands of years, but it has the power of working on men by
infection, and with great rapidity gains a hold on great numbers
of men.

"But," say the champions of the existing order, "even if it is
true that public opinion, when it has attained a certain degree of
definiteness and precision, can convert the inert mass of men
outside the Christian world--the non-Christian races--as well as
the coarse and depraved who are living in its midst, what proofs
have we that this Christian public opinion has arisen and is able
to replace force and render it unnecessary.

"We must not give up force, by which the existing order is
maintained, and by relying on the vague and impalpable influence
of public opinion expose Christians to the risk of being pillaged,
murdered, and outraged in every way by the savages inside and
outside of civilized society.

"Since, even supported by the use of force, we can hardly control
the non-Christian elements which are always ready to pour down on
us and to destroy all that has been gained by civilization, is it
likely that public opinion could take the place of force and
render us secure? And besides, how are we to find the moment when
public opinion has become strong enough to be able to replace the
use of force? To reject the use of force and trust to public
opinion to defend us would be as insane as to remove all weapons
of defense in a menagerie, and then to let loose all the lions and
tigers, relying on the fact that the animals seemed peaceable when
kept in their cages and held in check by red-hot irons. And
therefore people in power, who have been put in positions of
authority by fate or by God, have not the right to run the risk,
ruining all that has been gained by civilization, just because
they want to try an experiment to see whether public opinion is or
is not able to replace the protection given by authority."

A French writer, forgotten now, Alphonse Karr, said somewhere,
trying to show the impossibility of doing away with the death
penalty: "Que messieurs les assassins commencent par nous donner
l'exemple." Often have I heard this BON MOT repeated by men who
thought that these words were a witty and convincing argument
against the abolition of capital punishment. And yet all the
erroneousness of the argument of those who consider that
governments cannot give up the use of force till all people are
capable of doing the same, could not be more clearly expressed
than it is in that epigram.

"Let the murderers," say the champions of state violence, "set us
the example by giving up murder and then we will give it up." But
the murderers say just the same, only with much more right. They
say: "Let those who have undertaken to teach us and guide us set
us the example of giving up legal murder, and then we will imitate
them." And they say this, not as a jest, but seriously, because
it is the actual state of the case.

"We cannot give up the use of violence, because we are surrounded
by violent ruffians." Nothing in our days hinders the progress of
humanity and the establishment of the organization corresponding
to its present development more than this false reasoning. Those
in authority are convinced that men are only guided and only
progress through the use of force, and therefore they confidently
make use of it to support the existing organization. The existing
order is maintained, not by force, but by public opinion, the
action of which is disturbed by the use of force. So that the
effect of using force is to disturb and to weaken the very thing
it tries to maintain.

Violence, even in the most favorable case, when it is not used
simply for some personal aims of those in power, always punishes
under the one inelastic formula of the law what has long before
been condemned by public opinion. But there is this difference,
that while public opinion censures and condemns all the acts
opposed to the moral law, including the most varied cases in its
reprobation, the law which rests on violence only condemns and
punishes a certain very limited range of acts, and by so doing
seems to justify all other acts of the same kind which do not come
under its scope.

Public opinion ever since the time of Moses has regarded
covetousness, profligacy, and cruelty as wrong, and censured them
accordingly. And it condemns every kind of manifestation of
covetousness, not only the appropriation of the property of others
by force or fraud or trickery, but even the cruel abuse of wealth;
it condemns every form of profligacy, whether with concubine,
slave, divorced woman, or even one's own wife; it condemns every
kind of cruelty, whether shown in blows, in ill-treatment, or in
murder, not only of men, but even of animals. The law resting on
force only punishes certain forms of covetousness, such as robbery
and swindling, certain forms of profligacy and cruelty, such as
conjugal infidelity, murder, and wounding. And in this way it
seems to countenance all the manifestations of covetousness,
profligacy, and cruelty which do not come under its narrow

But besides corrupting public opinion, the use of force leads men
to the fatal conviction that they progress, not through the
spiritual impulse which impels them to the attainment of truth and
its realization in life, and which constitutes the only source of
every progressive movement of humanity, but by means of violence,
the very force which, far from leading men to truth, always
carries them further away from it. This is a fatal error, because
it leads men to neglect the chief force underlying their life--
their spiritual activity--and to turn all their attention and
energy to the use of violence, which is superficial, sluggish, and
most generally pernicious in its action.

They make the same mistake as men who, trying to set a steam
engine in motion, should turn its wheels round with their hands,
not suspecting that the underlying cause of its movement was the
expansion of the steam, and not the motion of the wheels. By
turning the wheels by hand and by levers they could only produce a
semblance of movement, and meantime they would be wrenching the
wheels and so preventing their being fit for real movement.

That is just what people are doing who think to make men advance
by means of external force.

They say that the Christian life cannot be established without the
use of violence, because there are savage races outside the pale
of Christian societies in Africa and in Asia (there are some who
even represent the Chinese as a danger to civilization), and that
in the midst of Christian societies there are savage, corrupt,
and, according to the new theory of heredity, congenital
criminals. And violence, they say, is necessary to keep savages
and criminals from annihilating our civilization.

But these savages within and without Christian society, who are
such a terror to us, have never been subjugated by violence, and
are not subjugated by it now. Nations have never subjugated other
nations by violence alone. If a nation which subjugated another
was on a lower level of civilization, it has never happened that
it succeeded in introducing its organization of life by violence.
On the contrary, it was always forced to adopt the organization of
life existing in the conquered nation. If ever any of the nations
conquered by force have been really subjugated, or even nearly so,
it has always been by the action of public opinion, and never by
violence, which only tends to drive a people to further rebellion.

When whole nations have been subjugated by a new religion, and
have become Christian or Mohammedan, such a conversion has never
been brought about because the authorities made it obligatory (on
the contrary, violence has much oftener acted in the opposite
direction), but because public opinion made such a change
inevitable. Nations, on the contrary, who have been driven by
force to accept the faith of their conquerors have always remained
antagonistic to it.

It is just the same with the savage elements existing in the midst
of our civilized societies. Neither the increased nor the
diminished severity of punishment, nor the modifications of
prisons, nor the increase of police will increase or diminish the
number of criminals. Their number will only be diminished by the
change of the moral standard of society. No severities could put
an end to duels and vendettas in certain districts. It spite of
the number of Tcherkesses executed for robbery, they continue to
be robbers from their youth up, for no maiden will marry a
Tcherkess youth till he has given proof of his bravery by carrying
off a horse, or at least a sheep. If men cease to fight duels,
and the Tcherkesses cease to be robbers, it will not be from fear
of punishment (indeed, that invests the crime with additional
charm for youth), but through a change in the moral standard of
public opinion. It is the same with all other crimes. Force can
never suppress what is sanctioned by public opinion. On the
contrary, public opinion need only be in direct opposition to
force to neutralize the whole effect of the use of force. It has
always been so and always will be in every case of martyrdom.

What would happen if force were not used against hostile nations
and the criminal elements of society we do not know. But we do
know by prolonged experience that neither enemies nor criminals
have been successfully suppressed by force.

And indeed how could nations be subjugated by violence who are led
by their whole education, their traditions, and even their
religion to see the loftiest virtue in warring with their
oppressors and fighting for freedom? And how are we to suppress
by force acts committed in the midst of our society which are
regarded as crimes by the government and as daring exploits by the

To exterminate such nations and such criminals by violence is
possible, and indeed is done, but to subdue them is impossible.

The sole guide which directs men and nations has always been and
is the unseen, intangible, underlying force, the resultant of all
the spiritual forces of a certain people, or of all humanity,
which finds its outward expression in public opinion.

The use of violence only weakens this force, hinders it and
corrupts it, and tries to replace it by another which, far from
being conducive to the progress of humanity, is detrimental to it.

To bring under the sway of Christianity all the savage nations
outside the pale of the Christian world--all the Zulus, Mandchoos,
and Chinese, whom many regard as savages--and the savages who live
in our midst, there is only ONE MEANS. That means is the
propagation among these nations of the Christian ideal of society,
which can only be realized by a Christian life, Christian actions,
and Christian examples. And meanwhile, though this is the ONE
ONLY MEANS of gaining a hold over the people who have remained
non-Christian, the men of our day set to work in the directly
opposite fashion to attain this result.

To bring under the sway of Christianity savage nations who do not
attack us and whom we have therefore no excuse for oppressing, we
ought before all things to leave them in peace, and in case we
need or wish to enter into closer relations with them, we ought
only to influence them by Christian manners and Christian
teaching, setting them the example of the Christian virtues of
patience, meekness, endurance, purity, brotherhood, and love.
Instead of that we begin by establishing among them new markets
for our commerce, with the sole aim of our own profit; then we
appropriate their lands, i. e., rob them; then we sell them
spirits, tobacco, and opium, i. e., corrupt them; then we
establish our morals among them, teach them the use of violence
and new methods of destruction, i, e., we teach them nothing but
the animal law of strife, below which man cannot sink, and we do
all we can to conceal from them all that is Christian in us.
After this we send some dozens of missionaries prating to them of
the hypocritical absurdities of the Church, and then quote the
failure of our efforts to turn the heathen to Christianity as an
incontrovertible proof of the impossibility of applying the truths
of Christianity in practical life.

It is just the same with the so-called criminals living in our
midst. To bring these people under the sway of Christianity there
is one only means, that is, the Christian social ideal, which can
only be realized among them by true Christian teaching and
supported by a true example of the Christian life. And to preach
this Christian truth and to support it by Christian example we set
up among them prisons, guillotines, gallows, preparations for
murder; we diffuse among the common herd idolatrous superstitions
to stupefy them; we sell them spirits, tobacco, and opium to
brutalize them; we even organize legalized prostitution; we give
land to those who do not need it; we make a display of senseless
luxury in the midst of suffering poverty; we destroy the
possibility of anything like a Christian public opinion, and
studiously try to suppress what Christian public opinion is
existing. And then, after having ourselves assiduously corrupted
men, we shut them up like wild beasts in places from which they
cannot escape, and where they become still more brutalized, or
else we kill them. And these very men whom we have corrupted and
brutalized by every means, we bring forward as a proof that one
cannot deal with criminals except by brute force.

We are just like ignorant doctors who put a man, recovering from
illness by the force of nature, into the most unfavorable
conditions of hygiene, and dose him with the most deleterious
drugs, and then assert triumphantly that their hygiene and their
drugs saved his life, when the patient would have been well long
before if they had left him alone.

Violence, which is held up as the means of supporting the
Christian organization of life, not only fails to produce that
effect, it even hinders the social organization of life from being
what it might and ought to be. The social organization is as good
as it is not as a result of force, but in spite of it.

And therefore the champions of the existing order are mistaken in
arguing that since, even with the aid of force, the bad and non-
Christian elements of humanity can hardly be kept from attacking
us, the abolition of the use of force and the substitution of
public opinion for it would leave humanity quite unprotected.

They are mistaken, because force does not protect humanity, but,
on the contrary, deprives it of the only possible means of really
protecting itself, that is, the establishment and diffusion of a
Christian public opinion. Only by the suppression of violence
will a Christian public opinion cease to be corrupted, and be
enabled to be diffused without hindrance, and men will then turn
their efforts in the spiritual direction by which alone they can

"But how are we to cast off the visible tangible protection of an
armed policeman, and trust to something so intangible as public
opinion? Does it yet exist? Moreover, the condition of things in
which we are living now, we know, good or bad; we know its
shortcomings and are used to it, we know what to do, and how to
behave under present conditions. But what will happen when we
give it up and trust ourselves to something invisible and
intangible, and altogether unknown?"

The unknown world on which they are entering in renouncing their
habitual ways of life appears itself as dreadful to them. It is
all very well to dread the unknown when our habitual position is
sound and secure. But our position is so far from being secure
that we know, beyond all doubt, that we are standing on the brink
of a precipice. If we must be afraid let us be afraid of what is
really alarming, and not what we imagine as alarming.

Fearing to make the effort to detach ourselves from our perilous
position because the future is not fully clear to us, we are like
passengers in a foundering ship who, through being afraid to trust
themselves to the boat which would carry them to the shore, shut
themselves up in the cabin and refuse to come out of it; or like
sheep, who, terrified by their barn being on fire, huddle in a
corner and do not go out of the wide-open door.

We are standing on the threshold of the murderous war of social
revolution, terrific in its miseries, beside which, as those who
are preparing it tell us, the horrors of 1793 will be child's
play. And can we talk of the danger threatening us from the
warriors of Dahomey, the Zulus, and such, who live so far away and
are not dreaming of attacking us, and from some thousands of
swindlers, thieves, and murderers, brutalized and corrupted by
ourselves, whose number is in no way lessened by all our
sentences, prisons, and executions?

Moreover this dread of the suppression of the visible protection
of the policeman is essentially a sentiment of townspeople, that
is, of people who are living in abnormal and artificial
conditions. People living in natural conditions of life, not in
towns, but in the midst of nature, and carrying on the struggle
with nature, live without this protection and know how little
force can protect us from the real dangers with which we are
surrounded. There is something sickly in this dread, which is
essentially dependent on the artificial conditions in which many
of us live and have been brought up.

A doctor, a specialist in insanity, told a story that one summer
day when he was leaving the asylum, the lunatics accompanied him
to the street door. "Come for a walk in the town with me?" the
doctor suggested to them. The lunatics agreed, and a small band
followed the doctor. But the further they proceeded along the
street where healthy people were freely moving about, the more
timid they became, and they pressed closer and closer to the
doctor, hindering him from walking. At last they all began to beg
him to take them back to the asylum, to their meaningless but
customary way of life, to their keepers, to blows, strait
waistcoats, and solitary cells.

This is just how men of to-day huddle in terror and draw back to
their irrational manner of life, their factories, law courts,
prisons, executions, and wars, when Christianity calls them to
liberty, to the free, rational life of the future coming age.

People ask, "How will our security be guaranteed when the existing
organization is suppressed? What precisely will the new
organization be that is to replace it? So long as we do not know
precisely how our life will be organized, we will not stir a step

An explorer going to an unknown country might as well ask for a
detailed map of the country before he would start.

If a man, before he passed from one stage to another, could know
his future life in full detail, he would have nothing to live for.
It is the same with the life of humanity. If it had a programme of
the life which awaited it before entering a new stage, it would be
the surest sign that it was not living, nor advancing, but simply
rotating in the same place.

The conditions of the new order of life cannot be known by us
because we have to create them by our own labors. That is all
that life is, to learn the unknown, and to adapt our actions to
this new knowledge.

That is the life of each individual man, and that is the life of
human societies and of humanity.

Leo Tolstoy

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