The Kingdom of God Is Within You

The Kingdom of God Is Within You

"The Kingdom of God Is Within You" ( _ru. Царство Божие внутри вас ["Tsarstvo Bozhiye vnutri vas"] ) is the non-fiction magnum opus of Leo Tolstoy and was first published in Germany in 1894, after being banned in his home country of Russia. [citebook|title=The Cambridge Companion to Tolstoy |author=Donna Tussing Orwin|year= 2002|publisher=Cambridge University Press|url=|id=ISBN 0521520002] It is the culmination of thirty years of Tolstoy's Christian thinking, and lays out a new organization for society based on a literal Christian interpretation.


Such an argument supposes that when Christ says to turn the other cheek, he means exactly that, and is not bounded by any complicated sophistries or esoteric meanings. This reasoning leads to the following question:

If you believe that Christ meant what he said literally, this means that Christ envisioned a society based on love and tolerance, one that is completely incompatible with war and all violence.

Tolstoy takes the viewpoint that "Thou shalt not murder", and that therefore all governments who wage war are directly affronting the Christian principles that should guide all life.

The title of the book is taken from . In the book Tolstoy speaks of the principle of nonresistance when confronted by violence, as taught by Jesus (see Christian pacifism).

Tolstoy sought to separate Orthodox Russian Christianity, which was merged with the state, from what he believed was the true message of Jesus Christ, as contained in the Gospels, specifically the Sermon on the Mount.

Tolstoy presented excerpts from magazines and newspapers relating various personal experiences, and gave keen insight into the history of nonresistance as being professed by a minority of believers from the very foundation of Christianity. In particular, he confronts those who argue that such a change to a non-violent society would be disastrous with the following recourse:

quotation|“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.”
Leo Tolstoy, "The Kingdom of God is within You"

Tolstoy recounted challenges by people of all classes that his views on nonresistance were wrong, but argued that no matter how the challengers tried to attack the doctrine, its essence could not be overcome. He 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:

These words had profound influence on Mahatma Gandhi, who later used these ideas to stage a revolution in colonial India.

Tolstoy's relationship with Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi wrote in his autobiography "The Story of My Experiments with Truth" () 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. [cite book|title=The Story of My Experiments with Truth |author=Mohandas K. Gandhi|year= 1929|url=] 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", 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 circa 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; before he died, Tolstoy's last letter was to Mahatma Gandhi. [cite book|title=Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy: Letters |editor=B. Srinivasa Murthy|year= 1987|isbn= 0941910032]

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

ee also

* Christian anarchism
* Turn the other cheek
* The Sermon on the Mount
* A Letter to a Hindu
* Mahatma Gandhi (1929) "The Story of My Experiments with Truth" []
* Russian Orthodox Church


Further reading

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

External links

* [ The Kingdom of God Is Within You] - complete text available for download.
* [ The Kingdom of God Is Within You] - Free e-text English translation
* [ Tolstoy's Legacy for Mankind: A Manifesto for Nonviolence, Part 1]
* [ Tolstoy's Legacy for Mankind: A Manifesto for Nonviolence, Part 2]

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