Levin strode along the highroad, absorbed
not so much in his thoughts (he could not yet disentangle
them) as in his spiritual condition, unlike anything
he had experienced before.
The words uttered by the peasant had
acted on his soul like an electric shock, suddenly
transforming and combining into a single whole the
whole swarm of disjointed, impotent, separate thoughts
that incessantly occupied his mind. These thoughts
had unconsciously been in his mind even when he was
talking about the land.
He was aware of something new in his
soul, and joyfully tested this new thing, not yet
knowing what it was.
“Not living for his own wants,
but for God? For what God? And could one
say anything more senseless than what he said?
He said that one must not live for one’s own
wants, that is, that one must not live for what we
understand, what we are attracted by, what we desire,
but must live for something incomprehensible, for
God, whom no one can understand nor even define.
What of it? Didn’t I understand those
senseless words of Fyodor’s? And understanding
them, did I doubt of their truth? Did I think
them stupid, obscure, inexact? No, I understood
him, and exactly as he understands the words.
I understood them more fully and clearly than I understand
anything in life, and never in my life have I doubted
nor can I doubt about it. And not only I, but
everyone, the whole world understands nothing fully
but this, and about this only they have no doubt and
are always agreed.
“And I looked out for miracles,
complained that I did not see a miracle which would
convince me. A material miracle would have persuaded
me. And here is a miracle, the sole miracle possible,
continually existing, surrounding me on all sides,
and I never noticed it!
“Fyodor says that Kirillov lives
for his belly. That’s comprehensible and
rational. All of us as rational beings can’t
do anything else but live for our belly. And
all of a sudden the same Fyodor says that one mustn’t
live for one’s belly, but must live for truth,
for God, and at a hint I understand him! And
I and millions of men, men who lived ages ago and
men living now peasants, the poor in spirit
and the learned, who have thought and written about
it, in their obscure words saying the same thing we
are all agreed about this one thing: what we must
live for and what is good. I and all men have
only one firm, incontestable, clear knowledge, and
that knowledge cannot be explained by the reason it
is outside it, and has no causes and can have no effects.
“If goodness has causes, it
is not goodness; if it has effects, a reward, it is
not goodness either. So goodness is outside the
chain of cause and effect.
“And yet I know it, and we all know it.
“What could be a greater miracle than that?
“Can I have found the solution
of it all? can my sufferings be over?” thought
Levin, striding along the dusty road, not noticing
the heat nor his weariness, and experiencing a sense
of relief from prolonged suffering. This feeling
was so delicious that it seemed to him incredible.
He was breathless with emotion and incapable of going
farther; he turned off the road into the forest and
lay down in the shade of an aspen on the uncut grass.
He took his hat off his hot head and lay propped on
his elbow in the lush, feathery, woodland grass.
“Yes, I must make it clear to
myself and understand,” he thought, looking
intently at the untrampled grass before him, and following
the movements of a green beetle, advancing along a
blade of couch-grass and lifting up in its progress
a leaf of goat-weed. “What have I discovered?”
he asked himself, bending aside the leaf of goat-weed
out of the beetle’s way and twisting another
blade of grass above for the beetle to cross over onto
it. “What is it makes me glad? What
have I discovered?
“I have discovered nothing.
I have only found out what I knew. I understand
the force that in the past gave me life, and now too
gives me life. I have been set free from falsity,
I have found the Master.
“Of old I used to say that in
my body, that in the body of this grass and of this
beetle (there, she didn’t care for the grass,
she’s opened her wings and flown away), there
was going on a transformation of matter in accordance
with physical, chemical, and physiological laws.
And in all of us, as well as in the aspens and the
clouds and the misty patches, there was a process
of evolution. Evolution from what? into what? Eternal
evolution and struggle…. As though there could
be any sort of tendency and struggle in the eternal!
And I was astonished that in spite of the utmost
effort of thought along that road I could not discover
the meaning of life, the meaning of my impulses and
yearnings. Now I say that I know the meaning
of my life: ’To live for God, for my soul.’
And this meaning, in spite of its clearness, is mysterious
and marvelous. Such, indeed, is the meaning
of everything existing. Yes, pride,” he
said to himself, turning over on his stomach and beginning
to tie a noose of blades of grass, trying not to break
“And not merely pride of intellect,
but dulness of intellect. And most of all, the
deceitfulness; yes, the deceitfulness of intellect.
The cheating knavishness of intellect, that’s
it,” he said to himself.
And 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
Then, for the first time, grasping
that for every man, and himself too, there was nothing
in store but suffering, death, and forgetfulness,
he had made up his mind that life was impossible like
that, and that he must either interpret life so that
it would not present itself to him as the evil jest
of some devil, or shoot himself.
But he had not done either, but had
gone on living, thinking, and feeling, and had even
at that very time married, and had had many joys and
had been happy, when he was not thinking of the meaning
of his life.
What did this mean? It meant
that he had been living rightly, but thinking wrongly.
He had lived (without being aware
of it) on those spiritual truths that he had sucked
in with his mother’s milk, but he had thought,
not merely without recognition of these truths, but
studiously ignoring them.
Now it was clear to him that he could
only live by virtue of the beliefs in which he had
been brought up.
“What should I have been, and
how should I have spent my life, if I had not had
these beliefs, if I had not known that I must live
for God and not for my own desires? I should
have robbed and lied and killed. Nothing of
what makes the chief happiness of my life would have
existed for me.” And with the utmost stretch
of imagination he could not conceive the brutal creature
he would have been himself, if he had not known what
he was living for.
“I looked for an answer to my
question. And thought could not give an answer
to my question it is incommensurable with
my question. The answer has been given me by
life itself, in my knowledge of what is right and
what is wrong. And that knowledge I did not
arrive at in any way, it was given to me as to all
men, given, because I could not have got it
“Where could I have got it?
By reason could I have arrived at knowing that I
must love my neighbor and not oppress him? I
was told that in my childhood, and I believed it gladly,
for they told me what was already in my soul.
But who discovered it? Not reason. Reason
discovered the struggle for existence, and the law
that requires us to oppress all who hinder the satisfaction
of our desires. That is the deduction of reason.
But loving one’s neighbor reason could never
discover, because it’s irrational.”