The consciousness of the error in reasonable knowledge helped
me to free myself from the temptation of idle ratiocination. the
conviction that knowledge of truth can only be found by living
led me to doubt the rightness of my life; but I was saved only by
the fact that I was able to tear myself from my exclusiveness and
to see the real life of the plain working people, and to
understand that it alone is real life. I understood that if I
wish to understand life and its meaning, I must not live the life
of a parasite, but must live a real life, and — taking the
meaning given to live by real humanity and merging myself in that
life — verify it.
During that time this is what happened to me. During that
whole year, when I was asking myself almost every moment whether
I should not end matters with a noose or a bullet — all that
time, together with the course of thought and observation about
which I have spoken, my heart was oppressed with a painful
feeling, which I can only describe as a search for God.
I say that that search for God was not reasoning, but a
feeling, because that search proceeded not from the course of my
thoughts — it was even directly contrary to them — but
proceeded from the heart. It was a feeling of fear,
orphanage, isolation in a strange land, and a hope of help from
Though I was quite convinced of the impossibility of proving
the existence of a Deity (Kant had shown, and I quite understood
him, that it could not be proved), I yet sought for god, hoped
that I should find Him, and from old habit addressed prayers to
that which I sought but had not found. I went over in my mind the
arguments of Kant and Schopenhauer showing the impossibility of
proving the existence of a God, and I began to verify those
arguments and to refute them. Cause, said I to myself, is not a
category of thought such as are Time and Space. If I exist, there
must be some cause for it, and a cause of causes. And that first
cause of all is what men have called "God". And I
paused on that thought, and tried with all my being to recognize
the presence of that cause. And as soon as I acknowledged that
there is a force in whose power I am, I at once felt that I could
live. But I asked myself: What is that cause, that force? How am
I to think of it? What are my relations to that which I call
"God"? And only the familiar replies occurred to me:
"He is the Creator and Preserver." This reply did not
satisfy me, and I felt I was losing within me what I needed for
my life. I became terrified and began to pray to Him whom I
sought, that He should help me. But the more I prayed the more
apparent it became to me that He did not hear me, and that there
was no one to whom to address myself. And with despair in my
heart that there is no God at all, I said: "Lord, have
mercy, save me! Lord, teach me!" But no one had mercy on me,
and I felt that my life was coming to a standstill.
But again and again, from various sides, I returned to the
same conclusion that I could not have come into the world without
any cause or reason or meaning; I could not be such a fledgling
fallen from its nest as I felt myself to be. Or, granting that I
be such, lying on my back crying in the high grass, even then I
cry because I know that a mother has borne me within her, has
hatched me, warmed me, fed me, and loved me. Where is she — that
mother? If I have been deserted, who has deserted me? I cannot
hide from myself that someone bored me, loving me. Who was that
someone? Again "God"? He knows and sees my searching,
my despair, and my struggle."
"He exists," said I to myself. And I had only for an
instant to admit that, and at once life rose within me, and I
felt the possibility and joy of being. But again, from the
admission of the existence of a God I went on to seek my relation
with Him; and again I imagined that God — our Creator in Three
Persons who sent His Son, the Saviour — and again that God,
detached from the world and from me, melted like a block of ice,
melted before my eyes, and again nothing remained, and again the
spring of life dried up within me, and I despaired and felt that
I had nothing to do but to kill myself. And the worst of all was,
that I felt I could not do it.
Not twice or three times, but tens and hundreds of times, I
reached those conditions, first of joy and animation, and then of
despair and consciousness of the impossibility of living.
I remember that it was in early spring: I was alone in the
wood listening to its sounds. I listened and thought ever of the
same thing, as I had constantly done during those last three
years. I was again seeking God.
"Very well, there is no God," said I to myself;
"there is no one who is not my imagination but a reality
like my whole life. He does not exist, and no miracles can prove
His existence, because the miracles would be my imagination,
besides being irrational.
"But my perception of God, of Him whom I seek," I
asked myself, "where has that perception come from?"
And again at this thought the glad waves of life rose within me.
All that was around me came to life and received a meaning. But
my joy did not last long. My mind continued its work.
"The conception of God is not God," said I to myself.
"The conception is what takes place within me. The
conception of God is something I can evoke or can refrain from
evoking in myself. That is not what I seek. I seek that without
which there can be no life." And again all around me and
within me began to die, and again I wished to kill myself.
But then I turned my gaze upon myself, on what went on within
me, and I remembered all those cessations of life and
reanimations that recurred within me hundreds of times. I
remembered that I only lived at those times when I believed in
God. As it was before, so it was now; I need only be aware of God
to live; I need only forget Him, or disbelieve Him, and I died.
What is this animation and dying? I do not live when I lose
belief in the existence of God. I should long ago have killed
myself had I not had a dim hope of finding Him. I live, really
live, only when I feel Him and seek Him. "What more do you
seek?" exclaimed a voice within me. "This is He. He is
that without which one cannot live. To know God and to live is
one and the same thing. God is life."
"Live seeking God, and then you will not live without God."
And more than ever before, all within me and around me lit up,
and the light did not again abandon me.
And I was saved from suicide. When and how this change
occurred I could not say. As imperceptibly and gradually the
force of life in me had been destroyed and I had reached the
impossibility of living, a cessation of life and the necessity of
suicide, so imperceptibly and gradually did that force of life
return to me. And strange to say the strength of life which
returned to me was not new, but quite old — the same that had
borne me along in my earliest days.
I quite returned to what belonged to my earliest childhood and
youth. I returned to the belief in that Will which produced me
and desires something of me. I returned to the belief that the
chief and only aim of my life is to be better, i.e. to live in
accord with that Will. and I returned to the belief that I can
find the expression of that Will in what humanity, in the distant
past hidden from, has produced for its guidance: that is to say,
I returned to a belief in God, in moral perfection, and in a
tradition transmitting the meaning of life. There was only this
difference, that then all this was accepted unconsciously, while
now I knew that without it I could not live.
What happened to me was something like this: I was put into a
boat (I do not remember when) and pushed off from an unknown
shore, shown the direction of the opposite shore, had oars put
into my unpractised hands, and was left alone. I rowed as best I
could and moved forward; but the further I advanced towards the
middle of the stream the more rapid grew the current bearing me
away from my goal and the more frequently did I encounter others,
like myself, borne away by the stream. There were a few rowers
who continued to row, there were others who had abandoned their
oars; there were large boats and immense vessels full of people.
Some struggled against the current, others yielded to it. And the
further I went the more, seeing the progress down the current of
all those who were adrift, I forgot the direction given me. In
the very centre of the stream, amid the crowd of boats and
vessels which were being borne down stream, I quite lost my
direction and abandoned my oars. Around me on all sides, with
mirth and rejoicing, people with sails and oars were borne down
the stream, assuring me and each other that no other direction
was possible. And I believed them and floated with them. And I
was carried far; so far that I heard the roar of the rapids in
which I must be shattered, and I saw boats shattered in them. And
I recollected myself. I was long unable to understand what had
happened to me. I saw before me nothing but destruction, towards
which I was rushing and which I feared. I saw no safety anywhere
and did not know what to do; but, looking back, I perceived
innumerable boats which unceasingly and strenuously pushed across
the stream, and I remembered about the shore, the oars, and the
direction, and began to pull back upwards against the stream and
towards the whore.
That shore was God; that direction was tradition; the oars
were the freedom given me to pull for the shore and unite with
God. And so the force of life was renewed in me and I again began