All external changes of life’s forms that are not founded on shifts in consciousness not only fail to improve people’s situation but, by and large, worsen it. It was not government decrees that abolished child-beating, torture and slavery, but a change in people’s consciousness that called for the necessity of these decrees. And life is only improved as far as it is based on modified consciousness; that is, to the extent that in people’s consciousness the law of violence is exchanged for the law of love. People think that if a shift in consciousness influences the forms of life, it must also work in the other way, and since it is more pleasant, easy and the effect more apparent, to direct energy at external changes, they always prefer to direct their energy not at changing consciousness but at changing forms. Therefore for the most part they are preoccupied not with the essential matter, but with some semblance of it. The external, vain and useless activity based on establishing and adapting the external forms of life shields people from the essential inner activity, which alone can improve their lives. And this superstition, more than anything else, hinders general improvement of people’s lives.
A better life can only come when the consciousness of men is altered for the better; and therefore, those who wish to improve life must direct their efforts towards changing both their own and other people’s consciousness.
Christianity, in its true meaning, and only this kind of Christianity, frees people from the slavery in which they find themselves today, and it is only this that affords men the possibility of genuine improvement in both their personal lives, and life in general.
from The Law of Love and the Law of Violence, Leo Tolstoy in “A Confession and Other Writings” (pp. 200–201) translated by Jane Kentish (Penguin Classics, 1987)
And if you are unhappy — I know you are — reflect upon what has been proposed to you here, which is not the product of my imagination merely but of the thoughts and feelings of the best minds and hearts. It provides the only way to deliver you from your unhappiness and give you the greatest good that you can get in this life.
That is what I wanted to say to you, my brothers. Before I died.
from The Law of Love and the Law of Violence (p. 101), Leo Tolstoy, translated by Mary Koutouzow Tolstoy (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970)