on 7 February 2006
This is a book that could change your world. It is the core of Christianity, a faith stripped down to its essential truths - the Sermon on the Mount. This for Tolstoy is a way of life as far removed from 'Churchianity' as you can get, and dangerously radical just like Jesus himself. At its heart is Matthew V, verse 39, and Christ's words "Resist not evil", which led Tolstoy to a belief in absolute non-violence. This is where the Quakers are, as well as the Mennonites in America and the Doukhobors in Canada. This is what turned M K Gandhi's life upside down when he read it. It remains a powerful influence and holds a central place in the literature of pacifism. It is tough going, and this edition does contain the odd literal, but you won't be able to put it down. If more people read it and convert to its view, the world will be a more peaceful place. Order it now.
on 16 December 2005
Authors come and authors go, occasionally one will stick in the public conscience, influence humanity and be hailed as a genius. Tolstoy is obviously one of these giants. War and Peace has assumed a mythical place as the book most people have heard of and very few have read, or at least finished. Tolstoy himself turned his back on this novel but one of the books he counted as having great merit was this harmonisation of the Gospels. Evangelical it is not, even the humanist classics have published a translation, but Tolstoy endeavours to synthesise the ethical teaching of Jesus as presented by the evangelists. Many can argue over his success in achieving this, the exclusion of miracles and his decision to stick only to the ethical strand of the Gospels sticks in the gullet of many sincere Christians but the influence of this small book cannot be doubted.
Wittgenstein is arguably the greatest philosopher of the 20th century but his discovery of Tolstoy's “Gospel in Brief” during the First World War had an immense influence on his philosophy so that he became an evangelist of sorts for Tolstoy even being know as “the man with the Gospel”. Here is just one example of the greatness of this small book. It is indeed an idiosyncratic rendition of the Gospels but it contains great wisdom, is beautifully written and deserves to be read over and over by anyone interested in philosophy or even life.
on 25 April 2013
Before setting off for Turkey for two weeks in the summer of 2012, I had discovered the writings of Count Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian writer. I only knew of his work as small inspirational quotations used by various writers, but had never really been introduced to his work properly until i heard that he was a Christian Anarchist...then my ears perked up.
I was to go on to find that Tolstoy shared many of my beliefs about how the Christian church had, over the millennia, moved away from the traditional teachings of Jesus Christ. Tolstoy's book "The Kingdom of God is within you", written well over a hundred years ago, is more relevant than ever for us today. First printed in 1894 in Germany, since it was banned in his native Russia, it is the culmination of thirty years of Tolstoy's Christian anarchist beliefs.
Reading The Kingdom of Heaven is Within you below the cool shade of the palms trees outside my rented apartment in Western Turkey last year, the vision of Christ that Tolstoy put forth was the Christ I had known from my childhood, the same Christ the church rebuked me for believing in in later years. Tolstoy goes right for the jugular with his condemnation of the hypocritical church of his day, a church not unlike our own today.
As is evident in the book, Tolstoy was a pacifist, and his teachings of "The Doctrine of Non Resistance to Evil by Force" is well explained throughout the book, an example of which can be seen here...
"The Sermon on the Mount, or the Creed. One cannot believe in both. And Churchmen have chosen the latter. The Creed is taught and is read as a prayer in the churches, but the Sermon on the Mount is excluded even from the Gospel passages read in the churches, so that the congregation never hears it in church, except on those days when the whole of the Gospel is read. Indeed, it could not be otherwise. People who believe in a wicked and senseless God-- who has cursed the human race and devoted his own Son to sacrifice, and a part of mankind to eternal torment--cannot believe in the God of love."
While written over a hundred years ago, the translator Constance Garnett has done an excellent job of translating this Russian masterpiece into English, to the point where one could be inclined to believe it had been written yesterday. Yet, it loses none of it's potency to deliver one of the finest works, in my view, concerned with the teachings of Christ and the exposing of the hypocrisy within the modern day church. Tolstoy continues...
"But the Church is holy; the Church was founded by Christ. God could not leave men to interpret his teaching at random--therefore he founded the Church. All those statements are so utterly untrue and unfounded that one is ashamed to refute them. Nowhere nor in anything, except in the assertion of the Church, can we find that God or Christ founded anything like what Churchmen understand by the Church. In the Gospels there is a warning against the Church, as it is an external authority, a warning most clear and obvious in the passage where it is said that Christ's followers should "call no man master." But nowhere is anything said of the foundation of what Churchmen call the Church."
The book opened my eyes to the strange irony that our "Christian" nations are the same ones who spend so much money on military armaments, often at the expense of health care, all the while claiming to follow the pacifist "love your enemies and bless those who curse you" Jesus.
I could go on and on about this book.I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to those who, having sensed something hypocritical in traditional Christianity's teachings, want a book to remind them of the difference between Christ's teachings and those of the Church. It would also be a very good book for those who are either thinking about eventually serving in the military who also consider themselves to be of a Christian standing, and also those who want material to convince their sons or daughters not to sign up for military life.
on 8 December 1998
Reading this book can, hopefully, change how persons think about truth and non-violence. No doubt Gandhi was overwhelmed by it (and tried to practise it). They lived in the same time. If everyone practices even an iota of the observations and yearning for truth from this book, the world would be a better place to live in. Definitely recommended for all who seek the Truth and are willing to try.
on 11 August 2013
This is a good-value version of The Kingdom of God is Within You. I was a little disappointed with Tolstoy here though. I think he makes a good argument for pacifism but he does it in a way which almost alienates the reader. His arguments are well thought out and obviously this is a classic, but I was left unpersuaded simply because of Tolstoy's position within society (i.e. his wealth).
It was a lot easier to embrace pacifism when you were in Tolstoy's privileged position. But he expects it of everyone and I think he is inconsiderate towards the personal circumstances of his readers.
However he does makes some good, succinct and challenging points and this work is worth reading.
on 30 June 2006
This book is amazing. Tolstoy takes a critical look ant the hypocrisy of society, governments, the Church and the people. It makes you realise that Christianity can be a fantastic thing to believe in, just not the way it is used today. I am not a religious person and after reading this book I understand why.
What makes this book so amazing for me is that more than 100 years after the book was written it is still so relevant to our so called modern society. We have not advanced as people and nations in the past century. We still have the same hopes and fears and we still face wars and killing. Governments still fear their people and still control them with military force.
This book is a must. If people implemented the ideas discussed the world would be a better place.
on 19 September 2005
Tolstoy was a devout Christian towards the end of his life, but had no belief in the miraculous. This book is his account of why Christianity is an excellent way of living even without all the miracles, which he says have been put into Christianity by powerful governments and other elites in order to dumb the people down; give them lies to believe in to distract them from what is really happening. Tolstoy was also a pacifist and hated the idea that God or Christ or any religious idea is used to take people into war. Christ was against violence, that is plain to see. Elites use religion to compel men to go to war. That, for Tolstoy is a terrible crime and he addresses these issues and more in this book. His central theme is sound, but as with many 19th century authors, he tends to grind on sometimes, particularly when he's making a point he feels is important. I think this book is a very valuable contribution to thinking about Christianity, even if I don't agree with it all. What is more, his anti-establishment sentiments and rejection of the miraculous events in Christianity as lies establish Tolstoy within the circle of 19th century anarchist thinkers, some claim. He never calls himself an anarchist, but certainly there are similar overtones to his work. This book is interesting from this perspective since 19th century anarchists are generally atheists. Tolstoy's political views coupled with his religious ones make for an interesting comparison.
on 12 April 2015
This book has never been proofread. It is woeful. There are mistakes on virtually every page. If you are going to buy this book then buy it from another publisher. It is a difficult and challenging book which is made far more difficult with jarring mis-prints everywhere.
As I understand it, the method of digitalising books is a process that involves photocopying physical book pages and then using type recognition software to convert the image into a digital and editable version, suitable for Kindle. (This, incidentally, is why still so many Kindle books contain errors; when software, for example, mistakes the letter 'e' as a c or an o. 'keep' becomes 'koop', or sometimes even more cryptic). In the case of this edition, it seems the person in charge of that conversion process must have popped out for a tea break, as this is just the image of the book. Complete with very inky and uneven text, and ink spots. Obviously as this has not been converted properly, it's tantamount to the view you would get reading a photocopied PDF on the Kindle. There are no clickable links to any of the chapters, nor can you change the font type or line spacing.
I have contacted Amazon about this and suggested they remove it from the website. But I doubt they will. I got a refund, and on a more thorough browsing of the site, managed to get a properly converted version for just £0.77. That will teach me for not downloading the sample first!
on 2 January 2016
Two points: Had I known the print font was so small I would not have bought this article. Evidently some publishers try to keep costs down in this way, however the size of the print font should be stated for the purchaser. (Did I miss it?)
As for the content: Tolstoy bewails Modern Times, wishes Christianity were meaningful but has no solutions to offer except to state that in his opinion the Kingdom of God is within us. So it is, but how do we reach it!! Tolstoy does not know. In the absence of any suggestions he goes on far too long, one almost senses the artistic pleasure he has in describing how bad things are and how desparately a good change is needed. Nonetheless he is in earnest, and passionate about what he finds wrong with western civilization.