Nov 4, 2014

Wherein Is Love, Therein Is God

A Christian Story, Translated From 
Russian Language by H. P. Blavatsky

Leo Tolstoy


Editorial Note:

The following story is reproduced
from “Lucifer” magazine, December
1889 edition, pp. 310-318. It was also
published at “The Aquarian Theosophist”,
October 2003, pp. 12-20. The word “Lucifer”
means “light-bearer” and refers to the planet
Venus, “the star that brings the new day”. This
ancient term has been distorted by misinformed
Christian Theologians. As to the presence of the
Christian God in this fiction story, it must be
said that although there is no monotheistic deity,
within or outside the Universe, the word “God” can
be understood in mystical and theosophical parlance
as meaning the Universal  Law;  or as a symbol
for one’s own Atma, the seventh principle. Christ
symbolizes one’s spiritual Soul, Buddhi, the sixth
principle, also present and living in other human beings. 

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)


Once there dwelt in a city a bootmaker, Martin Avdeyitch. He lived in a small basement room with one window. The window looked on the street. Through the window one could see the people passing; though their legs alone could be seen, yet Martin Avdeyitch used to recognise the owners by their boots.

Martin Avdeyitch had lived in his room for a long while and had many acquaintances. Rare was that pair of boots in the neighbourhood that missed his hands. Some he soled, others he patched, some again he trimmed afresh, putting on occasionally a new heel or two. And often he used to see his work through the window. Of orders he had plenty, for Avdeyitch’s work was solid; he always furnished good material, putting on it no higher price than he should, and stuck punctually to his promises. Whenever sure of being ready at the time fixed, he would accept an order; if otherwise, he would never deceive a customer, but would warn him beforehand. So Avdeyitch became known and had no end of work. Avdeyitch had always been a good man, but toward old age he took to thinking more of his soul and approaching nearer his God. In the now old days, when Martin yet lived as a journeyman, he had lost his wife. A boy about three years old had been all that remained of her. Their elder children had all died.

At first Martin thought of sending his boy to the village, to live with his sister, but pitying the child, he changed his mind - “too hard for my Kapitoshka to grow up in a strange family”, he said to himself, “I’ll keep him with me.” Asking his master to discharge him, Avdeyitch went to live together with his little boy in a lodging. But God had not given him luck with children. Hardly had the child grown up sufficiently to be of help to his father, than he fell sick, burnt with fever for a week, and died. Martin buried his son and fell into despair. So much did he despair that he murmured against God. Such weariness got hold of Martin that more than once he implored God for death, and reproved Him for not taking him, an old man, instead of his beloved and only son. Avdeyitch even ceased to go to Church. Once an old village neighbour visited Avdeyitch, on his way from Troitza Monastery - a pilgrim in the eighth year of his travels. After conversing awhile Avdeyitch complained to him about his sorrows. “No desire, man of God, do I feel for life”, he said. “Death alone do I covet, and pray God for. Here am I, a hopeless man in all?”

And the Pilgrim answered:

“Thou speakest not well, Martin, for it behoves us not to judge the acts of God. It is not as we fancy but as God decrees! And if God so willed that thy son should die and thou shouldst live, therefore must it have been for the best. As to thy despairing, this is only because thou seekest to live for thine own comfort alone.”

“And for what else should one live?” asked Martin.

Quoth the old man: “For God, Martin, thou shouldst live for God. He giveth life, for Him then we should live. Once thou livest for God, thou shalt cease fretting, and life shall seem to thee but a light burden.”

After a short silence, Martin asked: 

“How should one live for God?”

Saith the old one: “As for this, Christ Himself showeth us the way. Canst thou not read? Well, buy the Evangels and read them, and thou shalt learn therein how one can live for God. It is all there.”

And these words found their way into Martin’s heart. And he went and bought a New Testament, in large print, and set himself to study it.

Avdeyitch had intended to read only on holidays, but no sooner had he begun, than he felt his soul so overjoyed that he read daily. At times he would go on reading so late at night that the oil in his lamp would be all burned out, and he still unable to tear himself away from the book. Thus Avdeyitch read every evening. And the more he read, the more it became clear to him what God expected of him, and how one should live for God; and he felt the burden on his heart becoming lighter and lighter. Hitherto when retiring to rest, he used to begin groaning and moaning for his Kapitoshka, but now his last thoughts became, “Glory to Thee,  glory, O Lord! Thy will be done.”

And now all the life of Avdeyitch was changed. Hitherto, as a Sunday offering, he used to visit the inn, to get a glass of tea, and to occasionally indulge in liquor. He, too, had drunk with casual friends; and though never enough to get drunk, yet often retired in too good humour, talking nonsense, and even shouting to, and abusing people on his way home.

But now all this had gone by; his life had become quiet and full of contentment. From morn till eve at work; and when the task was done, taking his little lamp from the hook on the wall, placing it on his table, and then getting his book from the shelf, opening it, and sitting down to read. And the more he read, the better he understood it and the lighter and happier he felt in his heart.

Once, it so happened that Martin sat up later than usual. He was reading the Gospel according to St. Luke. He had read the sixth chapter, and had come upon the verses: “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other;  and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid  not  to  take  thy shirt [1] also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Then he read those verses wherein the Lord saith:

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock; and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the sand; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.”

Read Avdeyitch these words and his soul felt overjoyed. Taking off his spectacles, he laid them on the book before him, and leaning on the table fell into deep thought. He tried to fit his life to the precepts. And then he asked himself:

“Is my house built on rock or on sand? If on rock, well and good. Aye, it is easy enough, sitting here alone to fancy that one has done everything as God commands; but forget this for a moment and there’s sin again. Nevertheless, I’ll try. Too good, not to - and may God help me!”

Thus ran his thoughts; he half rose to go to bed, but felt unwilling yet to part with the Book. So he went on reading the seventh Chapter. He read about the centurion, read all about the son of the widow, read the reply to John’s disciples and came to that place, where a Pharisee asked Jesus to eat with him; and finally read how the woman “which was a sinner” anointed His feet and washed them with her tears and how He forgave her sins. At last he came to verse 44 and began to read: “And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she hath washed my feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head; and since the time I came in, she hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but she hath anointed my feet with ointment.” And having read these verses he repeated to himself: “Gave no water for the feet, gave no kiss, nor did he anoint His head with oil….”

He took off his spectacles once more, placed them on the Book, and fell into deep thought again.

“That Pharisee, there, must have been one of my sort. I too never used to remember anyone but myself: how to indulge in tea, to sit in warmth and comfort, and no thought of others. Thought of himself only; as to his guest, no care did he feel for him. And who, that guest? Why the Lord Himself. Would He but come to me now, could I ever act as he did?”

Placing both arms on the table, Avdeyitch fell unconsciously into a half slumber.         

“Martin!” he suddenly heard, as if something had breathed near his ear.

Startled in his sleep, “Who’s here?” he cried.

Turning round he looked at the door - and saw no one. He fell asleep again. Suddenly he heard distinctly a voice saying:

“Martin, I say, Martin! look out on the street to-morrow for me. I will come.”

Then Martin awoke, arose from his chair and began to rub his eyes, not sure whether he had really heard these words, or only dreamed them. Then he turned off his lamp, and took to his bed.

On the morrow Avdeyitch arose before twilight, said his prayers, kindled his fire, put his stshy [2] and kasha [3] into the oven, made his samovar boil [4], donned his apron, and taking his seat under the window commenced his work. There sat Avdeyitch, working, but thinking all the while of what had happened. And his conclusions were two-fold: one moment he thought that it was all fancy, at another that he had heard a voice, truly. Well, he argued, such things have happened before.

Thus sat Martin at his window, working less than looking out of it, and no sooner would a pair of boots of foreign make pass by then, straining his body, he would try to catch a glimpse through the window, not of the legs alone but of the face too.  There  goes the  dvornik  (porter)  in  new  felt boots [5], there comes the water-carrier, and finally an old invalid soldier of the Nicholas period, in worn-out and mended felt boots and leggings, armed with a snow-shovel, stood before the window. Avdeyitch recognised him by those leggings. Stepanitch was the old man’s name, and he lived with a neighbouring merchant, on charity. His duty was to help the porter. Stepanitch commenced to shovel away the snow from before the window; Avdeyitch looked at him and then returned to his work.

“I must have lost my senses in my old age!” laughed Avdeyitch to himself. “Stepanitch is cleaning away the snow and I am here fancying Christ is coming to visit me. I must be a doting old fool, that’s what I am.” Nevertheless, having drawn his needle through about a dozen times, Avdeyitch was again attracted to look through the window. And, having looked, he saw Stepanitch who, placing his spade against a wall, was trying to warm himself or perhaps get a rest.

“The man is old, broken down, perchance too weak even to clean off the snow”, said to himself Avdeyitch, “warm tea might be welcome to him, and, as luck has it, there’s the samovar ready to boil over.” So he stuck in his awl, rose, placed the samovar on the table, poured boiling water over the tea, and tapped with his finger on the window-pane. Stepanitch turned round and approached the window; Avdeyitch beckoned to him and went to open the door.

“Walk in and warm thyself”, he said. “Feel cold, hey?”

“Christ save us, I do, and all my bones aching!” In walked Stepanitch, shook off some snow, and, so as not to soil the floor, made a feeble attempt to wipe his feet, himself nearly falling.

“Don’t trouble to wipe; I’ll scrub it off myself; that’s our business. Come and sit down”, said Avdeyitch. “There, have some tea.” Filling two glasses, he placed one before his guest, and pouring tea out of his own glass into his saucer, proceeded to blow on it.

Stepanitch emptied his glass, turned it upside down on its saucer, and placing on it the bit of sugar he had not used [6], he rendered thanks for the tea. But he evidently longed for another glass.

“Have some more”, said Avdeyitch, filling the two glasses again, for himself and guest. Thus he talked and drank, yet never losing sight of the window.

“Art thou expecting anyone?” enquired the guest.

“Do I expect anyone? Seems queer to say - whom I keep expecting. Not that I really expect anyone, only a certain word stuck in my heart. A vision, or whatever it was, I cannot say. Hearken thou to me, brother mine. Last night I was reading the Gospel about Father Christ, all about how he suffered and how he walked on earth. Thou hast heard of it, hast thou not?”

“Aye, heard of it, we have heard”, answered Stepanitch. “But we are dark people [7] and have not been taught to read.”

“Well, then, I was reading just about this very same thing, how he walked the earth, and I read, you know, how he visited the Pharisee and the Pharisee failed to give him a reception. And I was reading this last night, thou brother mine, and, while reading, fell a-thinking. How is it that he could receive Christ, our Father, without any honours. Had this happened as an example to myself or anyone else, methinks nothing would have been too good with which to receive him. And that other one, offering no reception! Well, that’s what I kept thinking about, until I fell a-napping like. And while napping, brother mine, I heard my name called, lifted my head and heard a voice, just as if someone whispered, ‘Expect me, I’ll come to-morrow’, and that twice. Well, believe me or not, but that voice remained fixed in my head from that moment - and here I am, chiding myself for it, and still expecting Him, our Father.”

Stepanitch shook his head wonderingly and said nothing, but emptying his glass, placed it this time on its side [8], but Avdeyitch lifted it up again and poured out more tea.

“Drink more and may it give thee health. So then I think to myself, when He, the Father, walked the earth, He scorned no man, but associated more with the common people, visiting rather the simple folk and selecting his disciples out of the ranks of the poorer brethren, the same as we sinners are ourselves, journeymen and the like. ‘Whosoever shall exalt himself’, says He, ‘shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. You call Me Lord’, says He, ‘and I’, He says, ‘will wash your feet for you. If any man desire to be first, the same shall be servant of all. Because’, says He, ‘blessed are the poor, the meek and the merciful’.”

Being an old, and soft hearted fellow, Stepanitch forgot his tea. And there he sat listening, big tears running down his cheeks.

“Come, have some more tea”, said Avdeyitch. But Stepanitch, crossing himself [9], rendered thanks, pushed away his glass and arose to depart.

“Thanks to thee, Martin Avdeyitch”, he said; “thou hast entertained me well and fed, both soul and body.”

“Pray thee come again; a guest is ever welcome”, replied Avdeyitch. Stepanitch departed, and Martin pouring out the last drop of tea, cleared away the tea things and sat down once more to his table under the window, to backstitch a seam. There he sat backstitching, but still looking out through the window, awaiting the Christ, thinking of Him and His doings, his head full of Christ’s various discourses.

Two soldiers passed by, one in regimental, the other in his own boots; passed the proprietor of a neighbouring house, in brightly polished overshoes, and finally the baker with his basket. All passed and vanished, and now a woman in woollen stockings and village shoes walks past the window and stops at the partition wall. Looks up at her from under the window panes Avdeyitch,  and sees an unknown female poorly clad, with a baby in her arms, placing herself with her back against the wind and trying to wrap up the baby but having nothing to wrap it in. Her garments are thin and worn. And Avdeyitch through his window, hears the child crying, and she trying, but unable, to hush him. Arose Avdeyitch, opened the door, passed up the staircase and called:

“Goody; hey, my goody!”

The woman heard him and turned round.

“Wherefore standest thou with that little child in the cold? Come into the warm room, where thon canst wrap him at thine ease. Here, come down here!” The woman looked surprised. She sees an old man in his working apron, and with spectacles on his nose inviting her into his shop. She followed him. Reaching the bottom of the landing, they entered the room, and the old man led the woman to his bed. “Sit down here, my goody, nearer to the oven - just to warm thyself and feed the baby.”

“No milk left; had nothing myself to eat since morning;” sadly muttered the woman, preparing nevertheless to feed the babe.

Shook his old head Avdeyitch, upon hearing this, went to the table, got some bread and a bowl, opened the oven-door, poured into the cup some stshy, got out from the oven a pot with kasha, but found it had not steamed up to the proper point yet, returned with the stshy alone, and placed it on the table with the bread; and taking a wiping-cloth from a hook, he laid it near the rest.

“Sit down”, says he, “and eat, my goody, and I’ll take meanwhile care of thy infant. I had babes myself - so I know how to deal with ’em.”

The woman crossing herself, went to the table and commenced eating, and Avdeyitch took her place on the bedstead near the baby, and began smacking his lips at it, but smack as he would he smacked them badly, for he had no teeth. The little child kept on crying. Then it occurred to Avdeyitch to startle it with his finger; to raise high his hand with finger uplifted, and bringing it rapidly down, right near the baby’s mouth, and as hastily withdrawing it. The finger was all black, stained with cobbler’s wax, so he would not allow the baby to take it into its mouth. The little one at last got interested in the black finger, and while looking at it, ceased crying and soon began to smile and coo. Avdeyitch felt overjoyed. And the woman went on eating, at the same time narrating who she was and whence she came.

She was a soldier’s wife, she said, whose husband had been marched off somewhere eight months before and since then had never been heard from. She was living as a cook when her baby was born, but since then, they would not keep her with it.

“And now it’s the third month that I am out of a situation”, she went on. “All I possessed is pawned for food. I offered myself as wet-nurse, but didn’t suit - was too lean, they said. Tried with the merchant’s wife, yonder, where a countrywoman is in service, and she promised to have me. I had understood it was from to-day, and so went, but was told to come next week. She lives far. I got tired out and wore him out too, the poor little soul. Thanks to our landlady, she pities the poor and keeps us for the sake of Christ under her roof. Otherwise I know not how I would have pulled through.”

Heaving a sigh, Avdeyitch asked: “And hast thou no warmer clothing?”

“Just the time, my own one, to keep warm clothing! But yesterday I pawned my last shawl for twenty copecks.”

Approaching the bed the woman took her child, and Avdeyitch, repairing to a corner in the wall, rummaged among some clothing and brought forth an old sleeveless coat.

“There”, he said, “though it be a worn-out garment, still it may serve thee to wrap him up with.”

The woman looked at the coat, looked at the old man and began weeping. Avdeyitch turned away too, crawled under the bed and dragging out a trunk rummaged in it and sat down again, opposite the woman.

And the woman said: “Christ save thee, old father, it is He perchance, who sent me under thy window. I would have had my child frozen. When I left the house it was warm, and now, behold the frost is beginning. It’s He, the Father, who made thee look out of the window and take pity on hapless me.”

Smiled Avdeyitch, and said:

“Aye, it’s He who made me. It’s not to lose time, my goody,  that I keep on the look-out.”

And then Martin told the soldier’s wife also his dream, how he had heard a voice promising him that the Lord would visit him that day.

“All things are possible”, remarked the woman, and arising put on the coat, wrapped up in its folds her little one and bowing, commenced again to thank Avdeyitch.

“Accept this for the sake of Christ”, answered Avdeyitch, giving her a twenty copeck piece, to get back her shawl from the pawnshop. Once more the woman crossed her brow, and Avdeyitch crossed his, and went out to see her off.

The woman was gone. Avdeyitch ate some broth, cleaned the table, and sat down to his work again. His hands are busy, but he keeps the window in mind and no sooner a shadow falls on it than he looks up to see who goes by. Some acquaintances passed along, and some strangers likewise, but he saw nothing and no one out of the ordinary.

But suddenly, Avdeyitch sees stopping opposite his window an old woman, a fruit-seller. She is carrying a wicker basket with apples. Few remain, she must have sold them all, for, hanging across her back is a bag full of chips, got by her no doubt, at some building in construction, and which she now carries home. But the heavy bag hurts her, it seems; trying to shift it from one shoulder to the other, she drops it down on the kerb, places her wicker basket on a street post, and proceeds to pack the chips tighter in the bag.

As she is shaking the bag, there suddenly appears from behind the street corner a small boy, in a ragged cap, who seizes an apple and is in the act of disappearing unperceived, when the old woman abruptly turning round, grasps him with both hands by the coat sleeve. The boy struggles, trying to get away, but the old woman seizing him in her arms knocks off his cap and catches him by the hair. The boy cries at the top of his voice, the old woman swears. Losing no time to put away his awl, Avdeyitch throws it on the floor, makes for the door, runs up the steps, stumbles and loses his spectacles, and reaches the street. On runs Avdeyitch, on goes the old woman, shaking the small boy by his hair, cursing and threatening to drag him to the policeman; the small boy kicking and denying: “I did not take thine apple; why shouldst thou beat me, let go!” Then Avdeyitch endeavoured to separate them, and taking the boy by the hand, said:

“Let him go, babooshka (grandmother), forgive him for the sake of Christ.”

“I’ll forgive him so that he won’t forget it till the next switches! I’ll take the rascal to the police.” And Avdeyitch began to entreat the old woman.

“Let him go, babooshka”, he said. “He won’t do it again. Let go, for Christ’s sake!”

The old woman let the boy go, who prepared to run away, but now Avdeyitch would not let him.

“Beg granny’s pardon”, he said, “and don’t do it again. I saw thee take the apple.” The boy burst into tears and begged the old woman to forgive him.

“Now, that’s right. And there, have the apple now.” And Avdeyitch, taking an apple out of the basket, gave it to the small boy. “I’ll pay thee for it, grandmother”, said he to the old woman.

“Thou wilt spoil the dirty urchins”, said the woman. “His best reward should be of such a nature that he could not lie on his back for a week.”

“Nay, nay, mother”, said Avdeyitch, “not so. This may be according to our law, but it is not according to the law of God. If he deserves flogging for a stolen apple, then what should be the punishment for our sins?”

The old woman was silent.

And Avdeyitch told the old woman the parable about the Lord who loosed his servant and forgave him his debt, the servant going forthwith and laying his hands on his debtor, throttling him and casting him into prison. The old woman stood and listened, and the boy stood and listened. “God commands that we should forgive our brothers their trespasses”, said Avdeyitch, “that the same should be done unto us. Forgive all, let alone an unreasoning child.”

The old woman shook her head and sighed.

“That’s so, that’s so”, she said, “but children have become too unruly now-a-days.”

“Just why we old people should teach them better!” said Avdeyitch.

“I say so, too”, replied the old woman. “I had seven of them, myself, but only one daughter is left to me out of them all.” And the old woman began telling where and how she lived with her daughter, and the number of grandchildren she had.  “See”, she went on, “my strength is almost gone, and still I work, pitying the chicks, for my grandchildren are very good and none love me better than they. As to Aksyutka, she won’t leave my arms for anyone. ‘Granny, dear granny, my heart’ …. says she.” And the old woman softened entirely. “Of course, that’s a child’s doings. God be with him”, she added, looking at the boy.

As she prepares to hoist the bag of chips on her back, the little boy, making up, says: “Let me carry it, granny, for you; I am going your way.” Shook her head reflectively the old one, nodded and placed the load on the boy’s back.

And both went along the street, the old woman actually forgetting to ask Avdeyitch for the price of her apple. Avdeyitch stood looking at them and kept listening to their dying voices, as they went on holding converse together.

Having seen them off, Avdeyitch returned to his room, found his spectacles on the steps unbroken, picked up his awl and sat at his work once more. After working for a little time he could no longer thread the bristles through the holes, and saw the lamp-lighter passing on his way to light the street lanterns.

“Time to light my lamp”, he thought; so he trimmed it, hooked it on to the wall and continued his work. One boot was now ready; he turned it on all sides and examined it; it was all right. He gathered his tools, brushed off the parings, put away the bristles, stray bits and strings, took down his lamp, placed it on the table and got from the shelf his Gospels. He tried to open the book on the page which he had marked the night before with a bit of morocco leather, but it opened at another place. And no sooner had Avdeyitch opened it than he remembered his last night’s dream. And no sooner did it come back to him than it seemed to him as if someone moved about behind him, softly shuffling his feet. Turns round our Avdeyitch, and sees something like people standing in the dark corner - men of whom he is yet unable to say who they are. And the voice whispers into his ear:

“Martin! Hey, Martin. Knowest thou me not?”

“Know whom?” cried Avdeyitch.

“Me”, said the voice, “it is I.” And out from the dark corner emerged Stepanitch, smiled, vanished cloud-like, and was no more.

“And that is I”, said the same voice, the woman with the little child coming out of the dark corner; and the woman smiled and the little child cooed, and they too were gone. “And that is I”, said the voice, followed by the old woman and the little boy with the apple, and both smiled and forthwith vanished too.

And great joy crept into Martin’s heart, and making the sign of the cross he put on his spectacles and began reading there where the Book had opened. And on the top of the page he read:

“For I was hungered and ye gave me meat, I was thirsty and ye gave me drink, I was a stranger and ye took me in.” And further down the page he read:

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” (Matth. xxv.)

And Avdeyitch knew that his dream had not deceived him, but that on that day the Saviour had indeed come to visit him, and that he had indeed received Him.


[1] In the Slavonian text the word is “shirt”, not “coat”, as in the English texts.

[2] Cabbage broth.

[3] Thick porridge of buck-wheat.

[4] Brass tea-urn to boil water in.

[5] Valenki, thick felt boots without soles.

[6] Though they drink tea immoderately, the lower classes of Russia do not sugar it, but bite a piece off from a lump which serves them for several glasses, the guest leaving his remaining piece in the manner described.

[7] The Russian peasant, and the lower classes call themselves “dark” or ignorant people. They also often use the plural pronoun “we” instead of the pronoun “I” when speaking of themselves.

[8] An act of politeness, denoting that he had enough tea.

[9] Making the sign of the cross, which people in Russia do before and after every meal.


Read Tolstoy’s tale “The Story of Alcoholic Drinks”. Also translated by H. P. Blavatsky, it can be found in our associated websites.


In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.