A Confession by Leo Tolstoy

At the age of 26 he started to mix with poets and writers and share with them a role that was bestowed upon them at the time of faith in “evolution”; the role of teaching people. “This faith in the meaning of poetry and in the evolution of life was a religion and I was one of its priests…..for a considerable length of time I lived in this faith without doubting its validity.”

He began to doubt the sincerity of his circle when he noticed that each group term themselves as “the finest and most useful teachers” and “others teach falsely”. Something very deep in him was telling him that if ever someone was carrying such a great mission of “teaching people” he should not seek personal esteem as first priority. But still he shared with them their “genuine, sincere concern” of “how to gain as much money and fame as possible” by writing books and journals. When he remembers this stage in his life Tolstoy says,

At the time we were all convinced that we must talk and talk and write and publish as quickly as possible, and as much as possible, and that this was all necessary for the good of mankind. And thousands of us, contradicting and abusing one another, published and wrote with the aim of teaching others. Failing to notice that we knew nothing, that we did not know the answer to the most basic question of life — what is good and what is evil — we all spoke at the same time, never listening to one another. At times we indulged and praised each other in order to be indulged and praised in return, at other times we grew angry and shrieked at each other, just as if we were in a madhouse.