The Kingdom of God Is within You: Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion but as a New Theory of Life

By Leo Tolstoy; Constance Garnett | Go to book overview

Foreword By Martin Green

You have in your hands one of those rare books that carry a direct message from the writer to the reader. And the message carries a charge, emotional and moral, that can in some people ignite an explosion of the heart and mind. It did so in one very notable case when an English translation was sent to a Hindu barrister in Natal, South Africa, in 1894. (It is worth noting that, the year before, the book had been suppressed on publication in its native country as being dangerous to church and state but had been translated immediately into English, with two versions appearing in 1894.)

That barrister was, of course, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, later the Mahatma of India, but at that moment only a timid young man, ill at ease in his profession and ineffective in the rest of his life. Reading The Kingdom of God Is within You "overwhelmed" him, he said in his autobiography. "Before the independent thinking, profound morality, and the truthfulness of this book, all the books given me by Mr Coates seemed to pale into insignificance."fwrd1 (Mr. Coates was a Quaker who lent him books in an effort to convert him to Christianity.) In Gandhi the book certainly ignited an explosion; and its impact on others around him spread like the bombardment of particles in an atomic pile, so that before the chain reaction was over, the British Empire was blown open and India was a free country, under the aegis of nonviolence.

However, for most readers of 1984, and for casual readers of any date, the experience is not likely to be so vivid. At least if you begin with page one and read conscientiously every word, you may soon be yawning and riffling the pages to come. This is a book that should be begun at the end. The Conclusion is the chapter to read first; there you will find Tolstoy's writing at its most brilliant, and there you will feel yourself caught up in his passion of indignation against the

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