The Material Question

‘The most comical result was that the shop-owners, having learned of the metamorphosis of their old corsets, were obliged, in view of the great demand for them, to buy them back from me, with, as is said, gnashing of teeth, but now not for ten or twenty kopeks, but at the price of three and a half roubles a corset.

‘In order to give you an idea of the outcome of all this, I need only say that I bought up and sold in the towns of Krasnovodsk, Kizil-Arvat, Ashkhabad, Merv, Chardzhou, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent more than six thousand corsets.

‘A material profit out of all proportion to the scale of the enterprise was achieved not merely owing to the ignorance and naïveté of the local, so to say, “variegated” inhabitants, or even to my well-developed astuteness and resourceful adaptability to all kinds of situations, but chiefly owing to my merciless attitude towards those weaknesses, present in me as in everyone, which, through repetition, form in man what is called laziness.

‘It is interesting to note that, during that period, a change in the functioning of my common presence took place, inexplicable from the standpoint of ordinary science and repeated more than once in the course of my life. This was a change in the regulation of the tempo of the in­coming and out­going of energy which enabled me to sleep scarcely at all for several weeks, and even for months, yet at the same time to manifest an activity which, far from being reduced, was on the contrary even more intense than usual.

‘The last time this state reappeared I was so interested in this phenomenon that it became for me, that is, for my self-cognizing parts, a question of equal significance to that of certain other questions which had arisen in me long before and the solution of which had, from then on, been the aim and sense of my life.

‘I even intend, after arranging matters connected with the fundamental programme of the Institute, and when I shall again have the possibility of devoting half my time to my subjective interests, to give first place to the elucidation of this question.

‘This as yet incomprehensible particularity of the general function­ing of my organism may be seen very clearly in the situation which existed during the period I am describing.