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A Confession

Part 12




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 someone.

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 to
live.