by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Constance Garnett's translation in the "Quotes" section, but referred to Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation in other parts of the guide.
"And in that same instant she was horrified at what she was doing. "Where am I? What am I doing? Why?" She wanted to rise, to throw herself back, but something huge and implacable pushed at her head and dragged over her. "Lord, forgive me for everything!" she said, feeling the impossibility of any struggle. A little muzhik, muttering to himself, was working over some iron. And the candle by the light of which she ha been reading that book filled with anxieties, deceptions, grief and evil, flared up brighter than ever, lit up for her all that had once been in darkness, sputtered, grew dim, and went out for ever." (7.31.21)
Anna's final call to God to forgive her reminds us of her earlier pleas to Karenin, when she thinks she's going to die in childbirth. How do the two themes of forgiveness and religion mix and match each other throughout the novel?
"Fyodor says that Kirillov the innkeeper lives for his belly. That is clear and reasonable. None of us, as reasonable beings, can live otherwise than for our belly. And suddenly that same Fyodor says it's bad to live for the belly and that one should live for the truth, for God, and I understand him from a hint! And I (Levin) and millions of people who lived ages ago and are living now, muzhiks, the poor in spirit, and the wise men who have thought and written about it, saying the same thing in their vague language – we're all agreed on this one thing: what we should live for and what is good. I and all people have only one firm, unquestionable and clear knowledge, and this knowledge cannot be explained by reason – it is outside it, and has no causes, and can have no consequences." (8.12.6)
This is the moment of Levin's great, novel-ending religious epiphany. What is the knowledge that is clear, unquestionable, but also outside of reason? How does this "knowledge" relate to doing what is good? Where does it originate? Is this knowledge the soul, is it human nature, is it God?
"Yes, the one obvious, unquestionable manifestation of the Deity is the laws of good disclosed to the world by revelation, which I feel in myself, and by acknowledging which I do not so much unite myself as I am united, whether I will or no, with others in one community of believers called the Church. Well, but the Jews, the Mohammedans, the Confucians, the Buddhists – what are they? […] Can these hundreds of millions of people be deprived of the highest good, without which life has no meaning? […] I'm asking about the relation to the Deity of all the various faiths of mankind. I'm asking about the general manifestation of God to the whole world with all these nebulae. What am I doing? To me personally, to my heart, unquestionable knowledge is revealed, inconceivable to reason, and I stubbornly want to express this knowledge by means of reason and words." (8.19.5)
This passage seems to suggest the possibility that other faiths can also find a revelation of truth within their own belief structures. In developing his own spiritual path, how does Levin deal with organized religion? And with other religions? He seems to accept a limit on the amount that he can know, as a human being, about the deity.