The Kingdom of God Is within You

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Overview

Published in 1884, 'The kingdom of God is within you' is perhaps Tolstoy's most significant work of non-fiction. Due to the Russian censors, it was first published in Germany, but its dominant idea of non-violence echoed across the international stage throughout the 20th century.
In essence, the book is a defence by Tolstoy of the position on non-violence he adopted in 'My Religion'; and therefore also an assault on the Orthodox Church. 'Nowhere,' says Tolstoy, 'is there evidence that God or Christ founded anything like what churchmen understand by the Church.' And in what it now proclaimed, Tolstoy believed the church was wasting its time: 'The activity of the church consists in forcing, by every means in its power, upon millions Russian people, those antiquated, time-worn beliefs which have lost all significance.'
Freshly informed by Quaker ideals of non-violence; and full of both story telling and rhetoric, here is Tolstoy calling for a change in consciousness in society. He does not accept that 'this social order, with its pauperism, famines, prisons, gallows, armies and wars, is necessary to society.' That which is, is not that which must be.
Rooted in the Sermon on the Mount, Tolstoy's Christianity is not primarily concerned with worship or salvation, but with a new way of behaving in society - behaviour informed by the pointlessness and sin of violence. Tolstoy tellingly reflects on the army at work - whether in internal repression or in national wars - and asks: 'How can you kill people when it is written in God's commandment 'Thou shall not murder?'
Gandhi was 'overwhelmed' by the book, said 'it left an abiding impression', and in time, a correspondence started between the two men. The book convinced Gandhi that Hinduism and Christianity were one and the same at their core, and informed his passive resistance first in South Africa and then India; and later, of course, that of Martin Luther King in the USA.

Simon Parke, author of The One Minute Mystic

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Editorial Reviews

Ernest J. Simmons

"A highly significant book."—Ernest J. Simmons, Leo Tolstoy
Henri Troyat

"The keystone of Tolstoy’s entire ethical structure."—Henri Troyat, Tolstoy
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557429285
  • Publisher: Wildside Press
  • Publication date: 6/15/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 759,175
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Tolstoy was born in Yasnaya Polyana, the family estate in the Tula region of Russia. The Tolstoys were a well-known family of old Russian nobility; he was connected to the grandest of Russian aristocracy. Pushkin was his fourth cousin.
He was the fourth of five children of Countess Mariya Tolstaya (Volkonskaya). Tolstoy's parents died when he was young, so he and his siblings were brought up by relatives. In 1844, he began studying law and oriental languages at Kazan University. His teachers described him as "both unable and unwilling to learn." Tolstoy left university in the middle of his studies, returned to Yasnaya Polyana and then spent much of his time in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In 1851, after running up heavy gambling debts, he went with his elder brother to the Caucasus and joined the army. Around this time, he started writing.

Biography

Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, where he spent most of his early years, together with his several brothers. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan to read Oriental Languages and later Law, but left before completing a degree. He spent the following years in a round of drinking, gambling and womanizing, until weary of his idle existence he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus in 1851.

He took part in the Crimean war and after the defence of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his literary reputation. After leaving the army in 1856 Tolstoy spent some time mixing with the literati in St Petersburg before traveling abroad and then settling at Yasnaya Polyana, where he involved himself in the running of peasant schools and the emancipation of the serfs. His marriage to Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862 marked the beginning of a period of contentment centred around family life; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy managed his vast estates, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote both his great novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).

During the 1870s he underwent a spiritual crisis, the moral and religious ideas that had always dogged him coming to the fore. A Confession (1879–82) marked an outward change in his life and works; he became an extreme rationalist and moralist, and in a series of pamphlets written after 1880 he rejected church and state, indicted the demands of flesh, and denounced private property. His teachings earned him numerous followers in Russia and abroad, and also led finally to his excommunication by the Russian Holy Synod in 1901. In 1910 at the age of eighty-two he fled from home "leaving this worldly life in order to live out my last days in peace and solitude;" he died some days later at the station master's house at Astapovo.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Books LTD.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 9, 1828
    2. Place of Birth:
      Tula Province, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      November 20, 1910
    2. Place of Death:
      Astapovo, Russia

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 49 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not resisting evil with evil

    The overall theme of the book is that Christians should not resist evil by using evil (aka force). Thus, military service, judges, jails, taxes, etc. are all aspects of society that Christians should shun.

    This message contrasts with my going-in assumptions. I've assumed the New Testament's "turn the other cheek" message was intended for personal behavior and didn't interpret it as being totally applicable for society as a whole. Thus, I've always assumed that while I should be quick to forgive, that government has the responsibility for holding lawbreakers accountable. While I still think that way, the book did challenge me to think this over.

    Another interesting aspect to the book is that Tolstoy embraces the Sermon on the Mount as the crux of the New Testament. Though he embraces these particular teachings, he doesn't believe in heaven and hell; and that Christ's death on the cross was needed so that He could take our punishment in our stead. In short, he believed only parts of the Bible.

    One last item of interest... Tolstoy also made the case that Christianity is a natural evolution for humans. Humans started out only caring for themselves, their families, then their tribes and towns, and then their nation. Christianity is the natural next phase because it will help people to care for all mankind. The fact that Jesus may have actually walked the face of the earth, may have been the Son of God, and may have made eternity in heaven possible were, according to Tolstoy, not the real reasons for the advent of Christianity. I think Tolstoy missed the obvious.

    I'm glad I read this book. This book influenced Ghandi and I believe wise to study different view points. I believe those who read this book will find the experience a "rounding" one.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2005

    This book changed my life

    After reading this book, it became clear to me: Jesus doesn't want us killing one another, not for any reason, not for any purpose, not ever. I applied for discharge from the Army as a Conscientious Objector soon afterwards. Don't expect the book to be pure literary genius, but do expect to find your heart touched - or perhaps (as it was in my case), pierced.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Profound and moving essay by a genius on justice

    I have read two of Tolstoy's other masterpieces in "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina." For all the brilliant prose in these two works of penultimate genius, to really understand the heart of the novelist writing about his society, these essays lend powerful insight. The essays begin as Tolstoy rides a train with soldiers sent to beat Russian peasants who have lodged a complaint against a rich landowner bent upon cutting down a forest, with which serfs had always enjoyed common rights, for the profit in the timber. After a judge's unjust verdict in favor of the landowner, after the serfs send packing the men who appeared to cut their timber, the landowner requests government troops to enforce the unjust verdict by beating the serfs to death with rods packed onboard the train. Tolstoy examines this great chain of injustice from the rich landowner's arrogance and greed, to the government judge's feeble acquiesence to power, to the soldiers' blind obedience to administer the famished serfs' inhumane punishment and asks why any of this must play out as it does. How often has this great chain of injustice perpetuated itself upon humanity? Does this chain not define and insitutionalize the greatest instances of inhumanity in the course of history? Tolstoy asks earnestly why each of the players in the administration of this injustice just doesn't try to make a true "moral effort." Why doesn't the rich landowner recognize his own arrogance and greed and duty to the serfs? Why doesn't the government intercede and stand up to the landowner's will to power? Why don't the soldiers refuse to administer mindlessly this injustice? Why must famished, diseased and half-dead peasants be beaten to death as they simply try to survive? Who wins in this oft repeated scenario? Not a dead soul. Tolstoy's argument is that we have the ethical wherewithal at every level to stand-up to such injustice and he makes the argument as a wealthy Russian landowner, former soldier and provincial adminsitrator with great influence upon the tsar. In other words he is fully qualified by virtue of experience to argue this case and he makes it with a profundity and simplicity which is inspiring. "There is one thing, and only one thing, in which it is granted to you to be free in life, all else being beyond your power: that is to recognize and profess the truth." Tolstoy's thesis is that the Power to do this exists within every person and that it is the divine responsibility of each of us to exercise this power for the good and happiness of humanity. Tolstoy sees a threefold relationship of man to truth: "Some truths have been so assimilated by them that they become the unconscious basis of action, others are just only on the point of being revealed and a third class, though not yet assimilated by him, have been revealed to him with sufficient clearness to force him to decide either to recognize them or refuse to recognize them." Tolstoy urges mankind simply to make a moral effort and he advises that the happiness open to mankind is available only if and when we do so. Why don't we make more of a moral effort? There is great wisdom in this work which I urge you, despite the daunting title, to read as it is wisdom from a century and a half ago, that no generation of humanity may need more than our own right now.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2009

    The Kingdom of God is Within You

    The book challenges the Christian to think about her/his participation in and support of a government whose policies are not always consistent with Christian values. I highly recommend the book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2013

    Amazing grace

    Discover a great artist's personal view of what Christianity should be.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    Maplenight

    Tries to stop the blood coming from her wound before slashing dontlives throat back and running off.

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2011

    recommend

    This is a great book. A different look at Christanity.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    SIENNAPAW

    HELP IM LOCKED OUT OF MOST BOOKS!!!

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2012

    Wher are they!

    I will fight tooth and claw to rescue our kits! Burningstar

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2012

    Riverpaw

    You donrt have to like hom

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2012

    Kit

    "Get away from me." She started kicking

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2012

    Kit

    SHE Growls

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2012

    Lightningpaw to Moonscar

    "You cant tell them what to do!" She said.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2012

    Kit

    So....dont you go tp starclan Amerkit

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    DontLive

    Slits maplenights throat.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 19, 2010

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    Posted January 23, 2010

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    Posted May 19, 2012

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    Posted September 14, 2009

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    Posted October 3, 2011

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