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Chapter 8

Ever since, by his beloved brother's deathbed, Levin had first
glanced into the questions of life and death in the light of
these new convictions, as he called them, which had during the
period from his twentieth to his thirty-fourth year imperceptibly
replaced his childish and youthful beliefs--he had been stricken
with horror, not so much of death, as of life, without any
knowledge of whence, and why, and how, and what it was. The
physical organization, its decay, the indestructibility of
matter, the law of the conservation of energy, evolution, were
the words which usurped the place of his old belief. These words
and the ideas associated with them were very well for
intellectual purposes. But for life they yielded nothing, and
Levin felt suddenly like a man who has changed his warm fur cloak
for a muslin garment, and going for the first time into the frost
is immediately convinced, not by reason, but by his whole nature
that he is as good as naked, and that he must infallibly perish

From that moment, though he did not distinctly face it, and still
went on living as before, Levin had never lost this sense of
terror at his lack of knowledge.

He vaguely felt, too, that what he called his new convictions
were not merely lack of knowledge, but that they were part of a
whole order of ideas, in which no knowledge of what he needed was

At first, marriage, with the new joys and duties bound up with
it, had completely crowded out these thoughts. But of late,
while he was staying in Moscow after his wife's confinement, with
nothing to do, the question that clamored for solution had more
and more often, more and more insistently, haunted Levin's mind.

The question was summed up for him thus: "If I do not accept the
answers Christianity gives to the problems of my life, what
answers do I accept?" And in the whole arsenal of his
convictions, so far from finding any satisfactory answers, he was
utterly unable to find anything at all like an answer.

He was in the position of a man seeking food in toy shops and
tool shops.

Istinctively, unconsciously, with every book, with every
conversation, with every man he met, he was on the lookout for
light on these questions and their solution.

What puzzled and distracted him above everything was that the
majority of men of his age and circle had, like him, exchanged
their old beliefs for the same new convictions, and yet saw
nothing to lament in this, and were perfectly satisfied and
serene. So that, apart from the principal question, Levin was
tortured by other questions too. Were these people sincere? he
asked himself, or were they playing a part? or was it that they
understood the answers science gave to these problems in some
different, clearer sense than he did? And he assiduously studied
both these men's opinions and the books which treated of these
scientific explanations.

One fact he had found out since these questions had engrossed his
mind, was that he had been quite wrong in supposing from the
recollections of the circle of his young days at college, that
religion had outlived its day, and that it was now practically
non-existent. All the people nearest to him who were good in
their lives were believers. The old prince, and Lvov, whom he
liked so much, and Sergey Ivanovitch, and all the women believed,
and his wife believed as simply as he had believed in his
earliest childhood, and ninety-nine hundredths of the Russian
people, all the working people for whose life he felt the deepest
respect, believed.

Another fact of which he became convinced, after reading many
scientific books, was that the men who shared his views had no
other construction to put on them, and that they gave no
explanation of the questions which he felt he could not live
without answering, but simply ignored their existence and
attempted to explain other questions of no possible interest to
him, such as the evolution of organisms, the materialistic theory
of consciousness, and so forth.

Moreover, during his wife's confinement, something had happened
that seemed extraordinary to him. He, an unbeliever, had fallen
into praying, and at the moment he prayed, he believed. But that
moment had passed, and he could not make his state of mind at
that moment fit into the rest of his life.

He could not admit that at that moment he knew the truth, and
that now he was wrong; for as soon as he began thinking calmly
about it, it all fell to pieces. He could not admit that he was
mistaken then, for his spiritual condition then was precious to
him, and to admit that it was a proof of weakness would have been
to desecrate those moments. He was miserably divided against
himself, and strained all his spiritual forces to the utmost to
escape from this condition.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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