Last week, during one of my Q&A sessions, a participant asked me if I had read Leo Tolstoy’s The Gospel in Brief. Who? What? I ordered it immediately. Highlighter working overtime, I picked out this amazing passage:
Never, since the time of Arius, has the affirmation of any dogma arisen from any other cause than the desire to condemn a contrary belief as false. It is the supreme degree of pride and ill will [Malvolio] to others to assert that a particular dogma is a divine revelation proceeding from the Holy Ghost: the highest presumption because nothing more arrogant can be said than that the words spoken by me are uttered through me by God; and the greatest ill will because the avowal of oneself as in possession of the sole indubitable truth implies an assertion of the falsity of all who disagree. Yet that is just what all the Churches say, and from this alone flows and has flowed all the evil which has been committed and still is committed in the world in the name of religion.
Tolstoy, The Gospel in Brief, Page 10
The purpose of Shakespeare’s Holy Grail is partly about revealing how Shakespeare is putting to rights the misunderstanding and injustice done in Christ’s name. This tract of protestation from Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, is truly a vote of empathy and support for this very same cause.
Tolstoy was a Russian writer who, like Shakespeare, is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. Unlike Shakespeare, Tolstoy received nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906 and for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902 and 1909. Also, unlike Shakespeare’s more covertly heretical works, The Gospel in Brief was banned in Tolstoy’s native Russia.
Also unlike Shakespeare, as far as I can tell, Tolstoy sought the truth mainly in the Gospels. Shakespeare, as you’ll soon see, extracted the juice of the whole fruit from the core of Genesis to the outer skin of Revelation. Indeed, how can we understand what Jesus really did until we understand why he had to come in the first place?
To do that, you have to be ready. As Hamlet said, ‘The readiness is all.’ But all are not ready. Are you? Are you ready to go on a quest for the Holy Grail? Are you ready to be blissfully happy?
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