“This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” — Luke xxii. 53.
Again war. Again sufferings, necessary to nobody, utterly uncalled for; again fraud; again the universal stupefaction and brutalization of men.
Men who are separated from each other by thousands of miles, hundreds of thousands of such men (on the one hand — Buddhists, whose law forbids the killing, not only of men, but of animals; on the other hand — Christians, professing the law of brotherhood and love) like wild beasts on land and on sea are seeking out each other, in order to kill, torture, and mutilate each other in the most cruel way. What can this be? Is it a dream or a reality? Something is taking place which should not, cannot be; one longs to believe that it is a dream and to awake from it. But no, it is not a dream, it is a dreadful reality!
One could yet understand how a poor, uneducated, defrauded Japanese, torn from his field and taught that Buddhism consists not in compassion to all that lives, but in sacrifices to idols, and how a similar poor illiterate fellow from the neighborhood of Toula or Nijni Novgorod, who has been taught that Christianity consists in worshipping Christ, the Madonna, Saints, and their ikons — one could understand how these unfortunatemen, brought by the violence and deceit of centuries to recognize the greatest crime in the world — the murder of one’s brethren — as a virtuous act, can commit these dreadful deeds, without regarding themselves as being guilty in so doing.
But how can so-called enlightened men preach war, support it, participate in it, and, worst of all, without suffering the dangers of war themselves, incite others to it, sending their unfortunate defrauded brothers to fight? These so-called enlightened men cannot possibly ignore, I do not say the Christian law, if they recognize themselves to be Christians, but all that has been written, is being written, has and is being said, about the cruelty, futility, and senselessness of war. They are regarded as enlightened men precisely because they know all this. The majority of them have themselves written and spoken about this. Not to mention The Hague Conference, which called forth universal praise, or all the books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and speeches demonstrating the possibility of the solution of international misunderstandings by international arbitration — no enlightened man can help knowing that the universal competition in the armaments of States must inevitably lead them to endless wars, or to a general bankruptcy, or to both the one and the other. They cannot but know that besides the senseless, purposeless expenditure of milliards of roubles, i.e. of human labor, on the preparations for war, during the wars themselves millions of the most energetic and vigorous men perish in that period of their life which is best for productive labor (during the past century wars have destroyed fourteen million men). Enlightenedmen cannot but know that occasions for war are always such as are not worth not only one human life, but not one hundredth part of all that which is spent upon wars (in fighting for the emancipation of the negroes much more was spent than it would have cost to redeem them from slavery).
Every one knows and cannot help knowing that, above all, wars, calling forth the lowest animal passions, deprave and brutalize men. Every one knows the weakness of the arguments in favor of war, such as were brought forward by De Maistre, Moltke, and others, for they are all founded on the sophism that in every human calamity it is possible to find an advantageous element, or else upon the utterly arbitrary assertion that wars have always existed and therefore always must exist, as if the bad actions of men could be justified by the advantages or the usefulness which they realize, or by the consideration that they have been committed during a long period of time. All so-called enlightened men know all this. Then suddenly war begins, and all this is instantly forgotten, and the same men who but yesterday were proving the cruelty, futility, the senselessness of wars now think, speak, and write only about killing as many men as possible, about ruining and destroying the greatest possible amount of the productions of human labor, and about exciting as much as possible the passion of hatred in those peaceful, harmless, industrious men who by their labor feed, clothe, maintain these same pseudo-enlightened men, who compel them to commit those dreadful deeds contrary to their conscience, welfare, or faith.
Something is taking place incomprehensible and impossible in its cruelty, falsehood, and stupidity. The Russian Tsar, the same man who exhorted all the nations in the cause of peace, publicly announces that, notwithstanding all his efforts to maintain the peace so dear to his heart (efforts which express themselves in the seizing of other peoples’ lands and in the strengthening of armies for the defence of these stolen lands), he, owing to the attack of the Japanese, commands that the same shall be done to the Japanese as they had commenced doing to the Russians — i.e. that they should be slaughtered; and in announcing this call to murder he mentions God, asking the Divine blessing on the most dreadful crime in the world. The Japanese Emperor has proclaimed the same thing in relation to the Russians.
Men of science and of law (Messieurs Muravieff and Martens) strenuously try to prove that in the recent call of all nations to universal peace and the present incitement to war, because of the seizure of other peoples’ lands, there is no contradiction. Diplomatists, in their refined French language, publish and send out circulars in which they circumstantially and diligently prove (though they know no one believes them) that, after all its efforts to establish peaceful relations (in reality, after all its efforts to deceive other countries), the Russian Government has been compelled to have recourse to the only means for a rational solution of the question — i.e. to the murder of men. The same thing is written by Japanese diplomatists. Scientists,historians, and philosophers, on their side, comparing the present with the past, deduce from these comparisons profound conclusions, and argue interminably about the laws of the movement of nations, about the relation between the yellow and white races, or about Buddhism and Christianity, and on the basis of these deductions and arguments justify the slaughter of those belonging to the yellow race by Christians; while in the same way the Japanese scientists and philosophers justify the slaughter of those of the white race. Journalists, without concealing their joy, try to outdo each other, and, not hesitating at any falsehood, however impudent and transparent, prove in all possible ways that the Russians only are right and strong and good in every respect, and that all the Japanese are wrong and weak and bad in every respect, and that all those are also bad who are inimical or may become inimical toward the Russians — the English, the Americans; and the same is proved likewise by the Japanese and their supporters in relation to the Russians.
Not to mention the military, who in the way of their profession prepare for murder, crowds of so-called enlightened people, such as professors, social reformers, students, nobles, merchants, without being forced thereto by anything or anybody, express the most bitter and contemptuous feelings toward the Japanese, the English, or the Americans, toward whom but yesterday they were either well-disposed or indifferent; while, without the least compulsion, they express the most abject, servile feelings toward the Tsar (to whom, to say the least, they were completely indifferent), assuringhim of their unlimited love and readiness to sacrifice their lives in his interests.
This unfortunate, entangled young man, recognized as the leader of one hundred and thirty millions of people, continually deceived and compelled to contradict himself, confidently thanks and blesses the troops whom he calls his own for murder in defence of lands which with yet less right he also calls his own. All present to each other hideous ikons in which not only no one amongst the educated believes, but which unlearned peasants are beginning to abandon; all bow down to the ground before these ikons, kiss them, and pronounce pompous and deceitful speeches in which no one really believes.
Wealthy people contribute insignificant portions of their immorally acquired riches for this cause of murder or the organization of help in connection with the work of murder; while the poor, from whom the Government annually collects two milliards, deem it necessary to do likewise, giving their mites also. The Government incites and encourages crowds of idlers, who walk about the streets with the Tsar’s portrait, singing, shouting hurrah! and who, under pretext of patriotism, are licensed in all kinds of excess. All over Russia, from the Palace to the remotest village, the pastors of churches, calling themselves Christians, appeal to that God who has enjoined love to one’s enemies — to the God of Love Himself — to help the work of the devil to further the slaughter of men.
Stupefied by prayers, sermons, exhortations, by processions, pictures, and newspapers, the cannon’s flesh, hundreds of thousands of men, uniformly dressed, carrying divers deadly weapons, leaving their parents, wives,children, with hearts of agony, but with artificial sprightliness, go where they, risking their own lives, will commit the most dreadful act of killing men whom they do not know and who have done them no harm. And they are followed by doctors and nurses, who somehow imagine that at home they cannot serve simple, peaceful, suffering people, but can only serve those who are engaged in slaughtering each other. Those who remain at home are gladdened by news of the murder of men, and when they learn that many Japanese have been killed they thank some one whom they call God.
All this is not only regarded as the manifestation of elevated feeling, but those who refrain from such manifestations, if they endeavor to disabuse men, are deemed traitors and betrayers, and are in danger of being abused and beaten by a brutalized crowd which, in defence of its insanity and cruelty, can possess no other weapon than brute force.
It is as if there had never existed either Voltaire, or Montaigne, or Pascal, or Swift, or Kant, or Spinoza, or hundreds of other writers who have exposed, with great force, the madness and futility of war, and have described its cruelty, immorality, and savagery; and, above all, it is as if there had never existed Jesus and his teaching of human brotherhood and love of God and of men.
One recalls all this to mind and looks around on what is now taking place, and one experiences horror less at the abominations of war than at that which is the most horrible of all horrors — the consciousness of theimpotency of human reason. That which alone distinguishes man from the animal, that which constitutes his merit — his reason — is found to be an unnecessary, and not only a useless, but a pernicious addition, which simply impedes action, like a bridle fallen from a horse’s head, and entangled in his legs and only irritating him.
It is comprehensible that a heathen, a Greek, a Roman, even a mediæval Christian, ignorant of the Gospel and blindly believing all the prescriptions of the Church, might fight and, fighting, pride himself on his military achievements; but how can a believing Christian, or even a sceptic, involuntarily permeated by the Christian ideals of human brotherhood and love which have inspired the works of the philosophers, moralists, and artists of our time, — how can such take a gun, or stand by a cannon, and aim at a crowd of his fellow-men, desiring to kill as many of them as possible?
The Assyrians, Romans, or Greeks might be persuaded that in fighting they were acting not only according to their conscience, but even fulfilling a righteous deed. But, whether we wish it or not, we are Christians, and however Christianity may have been distorted, its general spirit cannot but lift us to that higher plane of reason whence we can no longer refrain from feeling with our whole being not only the senselessness and the cruelty of war, but its complete opposition to all that we regard as good and right. Therefore, we cannot do as they did, with assurance, firmness, and peace, and without a consciousness of our criminality, without the desperate feeling of a murderer, who, having begun to kill his victim, and feeling in the depthsof his soul the guilt of his act, proceeds to try to stupefy or infuriate himself, to be able the better to complete his dreadful deed. All the unnatural, feverish, hot-headed, insane excitement which has now seized the idle upper ranks of Russian society is merely the symptom of their recognition of the criminality of the work which is being done. All these insolent, mendacious speeches about devotion to, and worship of, the Monarch, about readiness to sacrifice life (or one should say other people’s lives, and not one’s own); all these promises to defend with one’s breast land which does not belong to one; all these senseless benedictions of each other with various banners and monstrous ikons; all these Te Deums; all these preparations of blankets and bandages; all these detachments of nurses; all these contributions to the fleet and to the Red Cross presented to the Government, whose direct duty is (whilst it has the possibility of collecting from the people as much money as it requires), having declared war, to organize the necessary fleet and necessary means for attending the wounded; all these Slavonic, pompous, senseless, and blasphemous prayers, the utterance of which in various towns is communicated in the papers as important news; all these processions, calls for the national hymn, cheers; all this dreadful, desperate newspaper mendacity, which, being universal, does not fear exposure; all this stupefaction and brutalization which has now taken hold of Russian society, and which is being transmitted by degrees also to the masses; all this is only a symptom of the guilty consciousness of that dreadful act which is being accomplished.
Spontaneous feeling tells men that what they are doing should not be; but, as the murderer who has begun to assassinate his victim cannot stop, so also Russian people now imagine that the fact of the deadly work having been commenced is an unanswerable argument in favor of war. War has been begun, and therefore it should go on. Thus it seems to simple, benighted, unlearned men, acting under the influence of the petty passions and stupefaction to which they have been subjected. In exactly the same way the most educated men of our time argue to prove that man does not possess free will, and that, therefore, even were he to understand that the work he has commenced is evil, he can no longer cease to do it. And dazed, brutalized men continue their dreadful work.
Ask a soldier, a private, a corporal, a non-commissioned officer, who has abandoned his old parents, his wife, his children, why he is preparing to kill men whom he does not know; he will at first be astonished at your question. He is a soldier, he has taken the oath, and it is his duty to fulfil the orders of his commanders. If you tell him that war — i.e. the slaughter of men — does not conform to the command, “Thou shalt not kill,” he will say: “And how if ours are attacked — For the King — For the Orthodox faith?” (One of them said in answer to my question: “And how if he attacks that which is sacred?” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Why,” said he, “the banner.”) And if you endeavor to explain to such a soldier that God’s Commandmentis more important not only than the banner but than anything else in the world, he will become silent, or he will get angry and report you to the authorities.
Ask an officer, a general, why he goes to the war. He will tell you that he is a military man, and that the military are indispensable for the defence of the fatherland. As to murder not conforming to the spirit of the Christian law, this does not trouble him, as either he does not believe in this law, or, if he does, it is not in the law itself, but in that explanation which has been given to this law. But, above all, he, like the soldier, in place of the personal question, what should he do himself, always put the general question about the State, or the fatherland. “At the present moment, when the fatherland is in danger, one should act, and not argue,” he will say.
Ask the diplomatists, who, by their deceits, prepare wars, why they do it. They will tell you that the object of their activity is the establishment of peace between nations, and that this object is attained, not by ideal, unrealizable theories, but by diplomatic action and readiness for war. And, just as the military, instead of the question concerning one’s own action, place the general question, so also diplomatists will speak about the interests of Russia, about the unscrupulousness of other Powers, about the balance of power in Europe, but not about their own position and its activities.
Ask the journalists why, by their writings, they incite men to war; they will say that wars in general are necessary and useful, especially the present war, and they will confirm this opinion of theirs by misty patrioticphrases, and, just like the military and diplomatist, to the question why he, a journalist, a particular individual, a living man, acts in a certain way, he will speak about the general interests of the nation, about the State, civilization, the white race. In the same way, all those who prepare war will explain their participation in that work. They will perhaps agree that it would be desirable to abolish war, but at present this is impossible. At present they as Russians and as men who occupy certain positions, such as heads of the nobility, representatives of local self-government, doctors, workers of the Red Cross, are called upon to act and not to argue. “There is no time to argue and to think of oneself,” they will say, “when there is a great common work to be done.” The same will be said by the Tsar, seemingly responsible for the whole thing. He, like the soldier, will be astonished at the question, whether war is now necessary. He does not even admit the idea that the war might yet be arrested. He will say that he cannot refrain from fulfilling that which is demanded of him by the whole nation, that, although he does recognize that war is a great evil, and has used, and is ready to use, all possible means for its abolition — in the present case he could not help declaring war, and cannot help continuing it. It is necessary for the welfare and glory of Russia.
Every one of these men, to the question why he, so and so, Ivan, Peter, Nicholas, whilst recognizing as binding upon him the Christian law which not only forbids the killing of one’s neighbor but demands that one should love him, serve him, why he permits himself to participate in war; i.e. in violence, loot,murder, will infallibly answer the same thing, that he is thus acting in the name of his fatherland, or faith, or oath, or honor, or civilization, or the future welfare of the whole of mankind — in general, of something abstract and indefinite. Moreover, these men are always so urgently occupied either by preparation for war, or by its organization, or discussions about it, that in their leisure time they can only rest from their labors, and have not time to occupy themselves with discussions about their life, regarding such discussions as idle.
Men of our Christian world and of our time are like a man who, having missed the right turning, the further he goes the more he becomes convinced that he is going the wrong way. Yet the greater his doubts, the quicker and the more desperately does he hurry on, consoling himself with the thought that he will arrive somewhere. But the time comes when it becomes quite clear that the way along which he is going will lead to nothing but a precipice, which he is already beginning to discern before him.
In such a position stands the Christian humanity of our time. It is perfectly evident that, if we continue to live as we are now living, guided in our private lives, as well as in the life of separate States, by the sole desire of welfare for ourselves and for our State, and will, as we do now, think to ensure this welfare by violence, then, inevitably increasing the means of violence of one against the other and of State against State, we shall, first, keep subjecting ourselves moreand more, transferring the major portion of our productiveness to armaments; and, secondly, by killing in mutual wars the best physically developed men, we must become more and more degenerate and morally depraved.
That this will be the case if we do not alter our life is as certain as it is mathematically certain that two non-parallel straight lines must meet. But not only is this theoretically certain in our time; it is becoming certain not only to thought, but also to the consciousness. The precipice which we approach is already becoming apparent to us, and the most simple, non-philosophizing, and uneducated men cannot but see that, by arming ourselves more and more against each other and slaughtering each other in war, we, like spiders in a jar, can come to nothing else but the destruction of each other.
A sincere, serious, rational man can no longer console himself by the thought that matters can be mended, as was formerly supposed, by a universal empire such as that of Rome or of Charles the Great, or Napoleon, or by the mediæval spiritual power of the Pope, or by Holy Alliances, by the political balance of the European Concert, and by peaceful international tribunals, or, as some have thought, by the increase of military strength and the newly discovered powerful weapons of destruction.
It is impossible to organize a universal empire or republic, consisting of European States, as different nationalities will never desire to unite into one State. To organize international tribunals for the solution of international disputes? But who will imposeobedience to the decision of the tribunal upon a contending party who has an organized army of millions of men? To disarm? No one desires it or will begin it. To invent yet more dreadful means of destruction — balloons with bombs filled with suffocating gases, shells, which men will shower upon each other from above? Whatever may be invented, all States will furnish themselves with similar weapons of destruction. And cannon’s flesh, as after cold weapons it submitted to bullets, and meekly exposed itself to shells, bombs, far-reaching guns, mitrailleuses, mines, so it will also submit to bombs charged with suffocating gases scattered down upon it from balloons.
Nothing shows more evidently than the speeches of M. Muravieff and Professor Martens about the Japanese war not contradicting The Hague Peace Conference — nothing shows more obviously than these speeches to what an extent, amongst the men of our time, the means for the transmission of thought — speech — is distorted, and how the capacity for clear, rational thinking is completely lost. Thought and speech are used for the purpose, not of serving as a guide for human activity, but of justifying any activity, however criminal it may be. The late Boer war and the present Japanese war, which can at any moment pass into a universal slaughter, have proved this beyond all doubt. All anti-military discussions can as little contribute to the cessation of war as the most eloquent and persuasive considerations addressed to fighting dogs as to its being more advantageous to divide the piece of meat over which they are struggling than to mutilate each other and lose the piece of meat,which will be carried away by some passing dog not joining in the fight. We are dashing on toward the precipice, cannot stop, and we are approaching its edge.
For every rational man who reflects upon the position in which humanity is now placed and upon that which it is inevitably approaching, it cannot but be obvious that there is no practical issue out of this position, that one cannot devise any combination or organization which would save us from the destruction toward which we are inevitably rushing. Not to mention the economical problems which become more and more complex, those mutual relations between the States arming themselves against each other and at any moment ready to break out into wars clearly point to the certain destruction toward which all so-called civilized humanity is being carried. Then what is to be done?
Two thousand years ago John the Baptist and then Jesus said to men: The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; (μετανοεῖτε) bethink yourselves and believe in the Gospel (Mark i. 15); and if you do not bethink yourselves you will all perish (Luke xiii. 5).
But men did not listen to them, and the destruction they foretold is already near at hand. And we men of our time cannot but see it. We are already perishing, and, therefore, we cannot leave unheeded that — old in time, but for us new — means of salvation. We cannot but see that, besides all the other calamities which flowfrom our bad and irrational life, military preparations alone and the wars inevitably growing from them must infallibly destroy us. We cannot but see that all the means of escape invented by men from these evils are found and must be found to be ineffectual, and that the disastrous position of the nations arming themselves against each other cannot but go on advancing continually. And therefore the words of Jesus refer to us and our time more than to any time or to any one.
Jesus said, “Bethink yourselves” — i.e. “Let every man interrupt the work he has begun and ask himself: Who am I? From whence have I appeared, and in what consists my destiny? And having answered these questions, according to the answer decide whether that which thou doest is in conformity with thy destiny.” And every man of our world and time, that is, being acquainted with the essence of the Christian teaching, needs only for a minute to interrupt his activity, to forget the capacity in which he is regarded by men, be it of Emperor, soldier, minister, or journalist, and seriously ask himself who he is and what is his destiny — in order to begin to doubt the utility, lawfulness, and reasonableness of his actions. “Before I am Emperor, soldier, minister, or journalist,” must say to himself every man of our time and of the Christian world, “before any of these, I am a man — i.e. an organic being sent by the Higher Will into a universe infinite in time and space, in order, after staying in it for an instant, to die — i.e. to disappear from it. And, therefore, all those personal, social, and even universal human aims which I may place before myself and which are placed before me by men are all insignificant, owing tothe shortness of my life as well as to the infiniteness of the life of the universe, and should be subordinated to that higher aim for the attainment of which I am sent into the world. This ultimate aim, owing to my limitations, is inaccessible to me, but it does exist (as there must be a purpose in all that exists), and my business is that of being its instrument — i.e. my destiny, my vocation, is that of being a workman of God, of fulfilling His work.” And having understood this destiny, every man of our world and time, from Emperor to soldier, cannot but regard differently those duties which he has taken upon himself or other men have imposed upon him.
“Before I was crowned, recognized as Emperor,” must the Emperor say to himself: “before I undertook to fulfil the duties of the head of the State, I, by the very fact that I live, have promised to fulfil that which is demanded of me by the Higher Will that sent me into life. These demands I not only know, but feel in my heart. They consist, as it is expressed in the Christian law, which I profess, in that I should submit to the will of God, and fulfil that which it requires of me, that I should love my neighbor, serve him, and act towards him as I would wish others to act towards me. Am I doing this? — ruling men, prescribing violence, executions, and, the most dreadful of all, — wars. Men tell me that I ought to do this. But God says that I ought to do something quite different. And, therefore, however much I may be told that, as the head of the State, I must direct acts of violence, the levying of taxes, executions and, above all, war, that is, the slaughter of one’s neighbor, I do not wish to and cannot do these things.”
So must say to himself the soldier, who is taught that he must kill men, and the minister, who deemed it his duty to prepare for war, and the journalist who incited to war, and every man, who puts to himself the question, Who is he, what is his destination in life? And the moment the head of the State will cease to direct war, the soldier to fight, the minister to prepare means for war, the journalist to incite thereto — then, without any new institutions, adaptations, balance of power, tribunals, there will of itself be destroyed that hopeless position in which men have placed themselves, not only in relation to war, but also to all other calamities which they themselves inflict upon themselves.
So that, however strange this may appear, the most effective and certain deliverance of men from all the calamities which they inflict upon themselves and from the most dreadful of all — war — is attainable, not by any external general measures, but merely by that simple appeal to the consciousness of each separate man which, nineteen hundred years ago, was proposed by Jesus — that every man bethink himself, and ask himself, who is he, why he lives, and what he should and should not do.
The evil from which men of our time are suffering is produced by the fact that the majority live without that which alone affords a rational guidance for human activity — without religion; not that religion which consists in belief in dogmas, in the fulfilment of rites which afford a pleasant diversion, consolation, stimulant, but that religion which establishes the relation of manto the All, to God, and, therefore, gives a general higher direction to all human activity, and without which people stand on the plane of animals and even lower than they. This evil which is leading men to inevitable destruction has manifested itself with special power in our time, because, having lost all rational guidance in life, and having directed all efforts to discoveries and improvements principally in the sphere of technical knowledge, men of our time have developed in themselves enormous power over the forces of nature; but, not having any guidance for the rational adaptation of this power, they naturally have used it for the satisfaction of their lowest and most animal propensities.
Bereft of religion, men possessing enormous power over the forces of nature are like children to whom powder or explosive gas has been given as a plaything. Considering this power which men of our time possess, and the way they use it, one feels that considering the degree of their moral development men have no right, not only to the use of railways, steam, electricity, telephones, photography, wireless telegraphs, but even to the simple art of manufacturing iron and steel, as all these improvements and arts they use only for the satisfaction of their lusts, for amusement, dissipation, and the destruction of each other.
Then, what is to be done? To reject all these improvements of life, all this power acquired by humanity — to forget that which it has learnt? This is impossible, however perniciously these mental acquisitions are used; they still are acquisitions, and men cannot forget them. To alter those combinations of nations which have been formed during centuries and to establish newones? To invent such new institutions as would hinder the minority from deceiving and exploiting the majority? To disseminate knowledge? All this has been tried, and is being done with great fervor. All these imaginary methods of improvement represent the chief methods of self-oblivion and of diverting one’s attention from the consciousness of inevitable perdition. The boundaries of States are changed, institutions are altered, knowledge is disseminated; but within other boundaries, with other organizations, with increased knowledge, men remain the same beasts, ready any minute to tear each other to pieces, or the same slaves they have always been, and always will be, while they continue to be guided, not by religious consciousness, but by passions, theories, and external influences.
Man has no choice; he must be the slave of the most unscrupulous and insolent amongst slaves, or else the servant of God, because for man there is only one way of being free — by uniting his will with the will of God. People bereft of religion, some repudiating religion itself, others recognizing as religion those external, monstrous forms which have superseded it, and guided only by their personal lusts, fear, human laws, and, above all, by mutual hypnotism, cannot cease to be animals or slaves, and no external efforts can extricate them from this state; for only religion makes a man free. And most of the people of our time are deprived of it.