His brother Sergei Ivanovich advised him to read the theological works of Khomiakov. Levin read the second volume of Khomiakov's works, and in spite of the elegant, epigrammatic, polemic style which at first repelled him, he was impressed by the doctrine of the church he found in them. He was struck at first by the idea that the apprehension of divine truths had not been vouchsafed to man, but to a corporation of men bound together by love - to Church. What delighted him was the thought how much easier it was to believe in a still existing living Church, embracing all the beliefs of men, and having God at its head, and therefore holy and infallible, and from it to accept the faith in God, in the creation, the fall, the redemption, than to begin with God, a mysterious, faraway God, the creation, etc. But afterward, on reading a Catholic writer's history of the Church, and then a Greek orthodox writer's history of the Church, and seeing that the two Churches, in their very conception infallible, each deny the authority of the other, Khomiakov's doctrine of the Church lost all its charm for him, and this edifice crumbled into dust like the philosophers' edifices.
All that spring he was not himself, and went through fearful moments of horror.
`Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life's impossible;and that I can't know, and so I can't live,' Levin said to himself.
`In infinite time, in infinite matter, in infinite space, is formed a bubble organism, and that bubble lasts a while and bursts, and that bubble is Me.'
It was an agonizing error, but it was the sole logical result of ages of human thought in that direction.
This was the ultimate belief on which all the systems elaborated by human thought, in almost all their ramifications, rested. It was the prevalent conviction, and of all other explanations Levin had unconsciously, not knowing when or how, chosen it, as the clearest at any rate, and made it his own.
But it was not merely a falsehood, it was the cruel jeer of some wicked power, some evil, hateful power, to whom one could not submit.
He must escape from this power. And the means of escape every man had in his own hands. He had but to cut short this dependence on evil.
And there was one means - death.
And Levin, a happy father and a man in perfect health, was several times so near suicide that he hid the cord, lest he be tempted to hang himself, and was afraid to go out with his gun, for fear of shooting himself.
But Levin did not shoot himself, and did not hang himself; he went on living.
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TOLSTOY: Anna Karenina Part 8, Chapter 10[Previous Chapter] [Table of Contents] Chapter 10 When Levin thought what he was and what he was living for, he could find no answer to the questions and was reduced to despair; but when he left off questioning himself about it, it seemed as though he knew both what he was and what he was living for, acting and living resolutely and without hesitation; even in these latter days he was far more decided and unhesitating in life than he had ever been.
When he went back to the country at the beginning of June, he went back also to his usual pursuits. His agriculture, his relations with the peasants and the neighbors, the care of his household, the management of his sister's and brother's property, of which he had the direction, his relations with his wife and kindred, the care of his child, and the new beekeeping hobby he had taken up that spring, filled all his time.
These things occupied him now, not because he justified them to himself by any sort of general principles, as he had done in former days;on the contrary, disappointed by the failure of his former efforts for the general welfare, and too much occupied with his own thought and the mass of business with which he was burdened from all sides, he had completely given up thinking of the general good, and he busied himself with all this work simply because it seemed to him that he must do what he was doing - that he could not do otherwise.
In former days - almost from childhood, and increasingly up to full manhood - when he had tried to do anything that would be good for all, for humanity, for Russia, for the whole village, he had noticed that the idea of it had been pleasant, but the work itself had always been incoherent, that then he had never had a full conviction of its absolute necessity, and that the work that had begun by seeming so great, had grown less and less, till it vanished into nothing. But now, since his marriage, when he had begun to confine himself more and more to living for himself, though he experienced no delight at all at the thought of the work he was doing, he felt a complete conviction of its necessity, saw that it succeeded far better than in old days, and that it kept on growing more and more.
Now, involuntarily it seemed, he cut more and more deeply into the soil like a plough, so that he could not be drawn out without turning aside the furrow.
To live the same family life as his father and forefathers - that is, in the same condition of culture - and to bring up his children in the same, was incontestably necessary. It was as necessary as dining when one was hungry; and to do this, just as it was necessary to cook dinner, it was necessary to keep the mechanism of agriculture at Pokrovskoe going so as to yield an income. Just as incontestably as it was necessary to repay a debt was it necessary to keep the patrimonial estate in such a condition that his son, when he received it as a heritage, would say `Thank you' to his father as Levin had said `Thank you' to the grandfather for all he had built and planted. And to do this it was necessary to look after the land himself, not to let it, and to breed cattle, manure the fields, and plant timber.