The Material Question

‘And so, at an early age, I was already well equipped and able to earn sufficient money to provide for my immediate needs. However, as I had come to be interested, when still quite young, in those abstract questions which lead to an understanding of the sense and aim of life, and gave all my time and attention to this, I did not direct my capacities for earning money towards that self-sufficing aim of existence on which, owing to abnormal education, all the “conscious” and instinctive strivings of contemporary people, and particularly of you Americans, are concentrated. I turned to earning money only from time to time, and only in so far as it was needed for my ordinary existence, and to enable me to accomplish whatever was necessary for attaining the aim I had set myself.

‘Coming from a poor family and not being materially secure, I had to resort rather often to earning this indeed despicable and maleficent money for unavoidable needs. However, the process itself of earning money never took much of my time, because, owing to the resourcefulness and common sense developed in me by correct education, I was already in all these life matters what might be called an expert, cunning old blade.

‘As a very characteristic illustration of my capabilities in this direction I will relate an episode in my life when one day just offhand, for a small wager, I opened a very original workshop.

‘The details of this episode will perhaps somewhat lengthen my present recital; nevertheless I think that, thanks to this marvellous liqueur—marvellous, by the way, because it was not made in the usual conditions established on earth, but at sea on an old barge off the coast of America—it will not seem too long or boring to you.

‘Well then, it was not long before the last big expedition through the Pamir region and India organized by the society we had formed called the “Community of Truth Seekers”, of which I had been a member from the very beginning.

‘About two years before the departure of this expedition, the members of the community decided to make their rallying-point the town of Chardzhou in the Transcaspian region. All those intending to participate in the expedition were to meet there on the second of January of the year 1900, and from there first of all to move up along the course of the river Amu Darya.

‘As quite a lot of time remained before this date, but not enough for a long journey, I, being then in Alexandropol on one of my customary short visits with my family, did not go far away as I usually did after spending the time I had reserved for them, but stayed on in the Caucasus, dividing my time between Alexandropol and Baku.