Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

“If you want to be happy, be happy.”

“A writer is dear and necessary for us only in the measure of which he reveals to us the inner workings of his very soul.”

“Don’t seek God in temples. He is close to you. He is within you. Only you should surrender to Him and you will rise above happiness and unhappiness.”

“Woman, you see, is an object of such a kind that study it as much as you will, it is always quite new.”

“Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking.”

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

“Let us forgive each other – only then will we live in peace.”

“If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.”

“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”

“All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.”

“He sends a cross, but He also sends the strength to bear it.”

“The only thing that we know is that we know nothing and that is the highest flight of human wisdom.”

“It is not beauty that endears, it’s love that makes us see beauty.”

“Music is the shorthand of emotion.”

“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.”

“The vocation of every man and woman is to serve other people.”

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”

“If one loves, one loves the whole person as he or she is, and not as one might wish them to be.”

“Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.”

“It is by those who have suffered that the world has been advanced.”

“War is so unjust and ugly that all who wage it must try to stifle the voice of conscience within themselves.”

“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.”

“He had heard that women often love plain ordinary men, but he did not believe it, because he judged by himself and he could only love beautiful mysterious exceptional women.”

“Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy.”

“War on the other hand is such a terrible thing, that no man, especially a Christian man, has the right to assume the responsibility of starting it.”

“History would be an excellent thing if only it were true.”

“Man discovers truth by reason only, not by faith.”

“Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them.”

“Boredom: the desire for desires.”

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

“All governments are in equal measure good and evil. The best ideal is anarchy.”

“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”

“What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness! A beautiful woman utters absurdities: we listen, and we hear not the absurdities but wise thoughts.”

“I have discovered nothing new, I have only perceived what I already knew.”

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”

“The Christian churches and Christianity have nothing in common save in name: they are utterly hostile opposites. The churches are arrogance, violence, usurpation, rigidity, death; Christianity is humility, penitence, submissiveness, progress, life.”

“Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness.”

“The earth is the general and equal possession of all humanity and therefore cannot be the property of individuals.”

“You see, if you take pains and learn in order to get a reward, the work will seem hard; but when you work… if you love your work, you will find your reward in that.”

“Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them.”

“Art is a human activity having for its purpose the transmission to others of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen.”

“He was nine years old and quite a child, but he knew his soul, it was dear to him, and he guarded it as the eyelid guards the eye, and never let anyone enter his heart without the key of love.”

“Moral perfection is beyond reach but this is the law of human life.”

“It is easier to produce ten volumes of philosophical writing than to put one principle into practice.”

“Faith is the sense of life, that sense by virtue of which man does not destroy himself, but continues to live on. It is the force whereby we live.”

“What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness.”

“A peasant dies calmly because he is not a Christian. He performs the rituals as a matter of course, but his true religion is different. His religion is nature, with which he has lived.”

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.”

“He never chooses an opinion; he just wears whatever happens to be in style.”

“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.”

“Conceit is incompatible with understanding.”

“In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.”

“True science investigates and brings to human perception such truths and such knowledge as the people of a given time and society consider most important. Art transmits these truths from the region of perception.”

“If so many men, so many minds, certainly so many hearts, so many kinds of love.”

“There is only one time that is important — NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.”

“Even in the valley of the shadow of death, two and two do not make six.”

“The means to gain happiness is to throw out from oneself like a spider in all directions an adhesive web of love, and to catch in it all that comes.”

“A leader is the wave pushed ahead by the ship.”

“I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means — except by getting off his back.”

“The educated minority, although no longer believing in the existing religious teaching, still pretend to believe.”

“Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.”

“Some mathematician has said pleasure lies not in discovering truth, but in seeking it.”

“The law condemns and punishes only actions within certain definite and narrow limits; it thereby justifies, in a way, all similar actions that lie outside those limits.”

“What an immense mass of evil must result…from allowing men to assume the right of anticipating what may happen.”

“To sin is a human business, to justify sins is a devilish business.”

“Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.”

“A human can be healthy without killing animals for food. Therefore if he eats meat he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.”

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

“There is trouble with a wife, but it’s even worse with a woman who is not a wife.”

“I am convinced that the teaching of the church is in theory a crafty and evil lie, and in practice a concoction of gross superstition and witchcraft.”

“You can’t imagine what a pleasure this complete laziness is to me: not a thought in my brain- you might send a ball rolling through it!”

“The time is fast approaching when to call a man a patriot will be the deepest insult you can offer him. Patriotism now means advocating plunder in the interest of the privileged classes of the particular State system into which we have happened to be born.”

“Was it by reason that I attained the knowledge that I must love my neighbour and not throttle him? They told me so when I was a child, and I gladly believed it, because they told me what was already in my soul. But who discovered it? Not reason!”

“We have become so accustomed to the religious lie that surrounds us that we do not notice the atrocity, stupidity and cruelty with which the teaching of the Christian church is permeated.”

“Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself, it will do more than if you paralyze it by encumbering it with remedies.”

“In saying that without the power of the state, evil men would rule over the good. It is taken for granted that the good are precisely those who at the present time have power, and the bad the same who are no subjugated.”

“Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal.”

“Before we can study the central issues of life today, we must destroy the prejudices and fallacies born of previous centuries.”

“We lost because we told ourselves we lost.”

“Why must children die? I have reached the conclusion that the only purpose in the life of every man is to strengthen love within himself, and by strengthening it within himself, to infect other people with it.”

“In this definition is contained the answer to the question as to what gives men the power to establish laws. What gives them the power to establish laws is the same thing which secures obedience to them – organized violence.”

“In order to get power and retain it, it is necessary to love power; but love of power is not connected with goodness but with qualities that are the opposite of goodness, such as pride, cunning and cruelty.”

“Christianity, with its doctrine of humility, of forgiveness, of love, is incompatible with the state, with its haughtiness, its violence, its punishment, its wars.”

“The religious superstition is encouraged by means of the institution of churches, processions, monuments, festivities….The so-called clergy stupefy the masses….They befog the people and keep them in an eternal condition of stupefaction.”

“The anarchists are right in everything; in the negation of the existing order, and in the assertion that, without authority, there could not be worse violence than that of authority under existing conditions. They are mistaken only in thinking that anarchy can be instituted by a violent revolution. But it will be instituted only by there being more and more people who do not require the protection of governmental power and by there being more and more people who will be ashamed of applying this power.”

“If there existed no external means for dimming their consciences, one-half of the men would at once shoot themselves, because to live contrary to one’s reason is a most intolerable state, and all men of our time are in such a state.”

“If a man earnestly seeks a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from animal food.”

“The Brahmins say that in their books there are many predictions of times in which it will rain. But press those books as strongly as you can, you can not get out of them a drop of water. So you can not get out of all the books that contain the best precepts the smallest good deed.”

“If you are content with the old world, try to preserve it, it is very sick and cannot hold out much longer. But if you cannot bear to live in everlasting dissonance between your beliefs and your life, thinking one thing and doing another, get out of the medieval whited sepulchers, and face your fears. I know very well it is not easy.”

“And whatever people might say about the time having come when young people must arrange their future for themselves, she could not believe it any more than she could believe that loaded pistols could ever be the best toys for five-year-old children.”

“Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal – that there is no human relation between master and slave.”

“Laws are rules established by men who are in control of organized violence for the non fulfillment of which those who do not fulfill them are subjected to personal injuries, the loss of liberty, and even capital punishment.”

“Laws are rules, made by people who govern by means of organized violence, for non-compliance with which the non-complier is subjected to blows, to loss of liberty, or even to being murdered.”

“I know that my unity with all people cannot be destroyed by national boundaries and government orders.”

“The poet takes the best things out of his life and puts them into his work. Hence his work is beautiful and his life bad.”

“Religious superstition consists in the belief that the sacrifices, often of human lives, made to the imaginary being are essential, and that men may and should be brought to that state of mind by all methods, not excluding violence.”

“It is true, I deny the incomprehensible Trinity, and the fable regarding the fall of man, which is absurd in our day. It is true, I deny the sacrilegious story of a God born of a virgin to redeem the race.”

“The essence of all slavery consists in taking the product of another’s labor by force. It is immaterial whether this force be founded upon ownership of the slave or ownership of the money that he must get to live.”

“The question was a fashionable one, whether a definite line exists between psychological and physiological phenomena in human activity; and if so, where it lies?”

“Only those live who do good.”

“The more is given the less people will work for themselves, and the less they work the more their poverty will increase.”

“All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do.”

“Man has received direct from God only one instrument wherewith to know himself and to know his relation to the universe – he has no other – and that instrument is reason.”

“Without knowing why I am and why I am here, life is impossible.”

“Life is a place of service, and in that service one has to suffer a great deal that is hard to bear, but more often to experience a great deal of joy. But that joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness.”

“There are people who when they meet a rival, no matter in what, at once shut their eyes to everything good in him and see only the bad. There are others who on the contrary try to discern in a lucky rival the qualities that have enabled him to success.”

“Pleasure in wealth is a fickle joy.”

“The happiness of men consists in life. And life is in labor.”

“The teaching of the church, theoretically astute, is a lie in practice and a compound of vulgar superstitions and sorcery.”

“The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God; and this can be done only by means of the acknowledgment and profession of the truth by each one of us.”

“Man lives consciously for himself, but is an unconscious instrument in the attainment of the historic, universal, aims of humanity.”

“One may say with one’s lips: ‘I believe that God is one, and also three’– but no one can believe it, because the words have no sense.”

“Church teachings are but fiction. I have knowledge of their inanity.”

“In a writer there must always be two people – the writer and the critic.”

“There was no answer except the usual answer life gives to the most complicated and insoluble questions. This answer is: carry on with your everyday affairs, that is to say, put it out of your mind.”

“We will do almost anything for the poor man, anything but get off his back.”

“If there is no higher reason–and there is none–then my own reason must be the supreme judge of my life.”

“The more everybody lives, the more life reveals to him; what was unknown becomes known.”

“The chief difference between words and deeds is that words are always intended for men for their approbation, but deeds can be done only for God.”

“Pretence about anything sometimes deceives the wisest and shrewdest man, but, however cunningly it is hidden, a child of the meanest capacity feels it and is respelled by it.”

“Man by violating his own feelings becomes cruel. And how deeply seated in the human heart is the injunction not to take life.”

“I have learned that every man lives not through care of himself, but by love.”

“But the peasants — how do the peasants die?”

“The first glass you drive in like a stake, the second flies like a crake, and after the third they fly like wee little birds.”

“There is one evident, indubitable manifestation of the Divinity, and that is the laws of right which are made known to the world through Revelation.”

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”

“Faith is the force of life.”

“If he be really and seriously seeking to live a good life, the first thing from which he will abstain will always be the use of animal food, because … its use is simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act which is contrary to the moral feeling – killing.”

“And all people live, not by reason of any care they have for themselves, but by the love for them that is in other people.”

“If only it be admitted that art may be unintelligible to any one of sound mind and yet be art, there is no reason why any circle of perverted people should not compose works tickling their own perverted feelings and comprehensible to no one but thems.”

“There are two methods of human activity — and according to which one of these two kinds of activity people mainly follow, there are two kinds of people. One use their reason to learn what is good and what is bad and they act according to this knowledge.”

“Error is the force that welds men together; truth is communicated to men only by deeds of truth.”

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