The Material Question

‘I will only say that by the time I set myself the task of creating a definite amount of capital I had already acquired much experience and self­confidence. And therefore, when I directed all my faculties towards making money for this purpose, then—even though this aspect of human striving in itself had never been of interest to me—I carried it out in such a way that the results might have aroused the envy of even your best American dollar-business experts.

‘ I engaged in the most varied enterprises, sometimes very big ones. For instance: I carried out private and government contracts for the supply and construction of railways and roads; I opened a number of stores, restaurants and cinemas and sold them when I got them going well; I organized various rural enterprises and the driving of cattle into Russia from several countries, chiefly from Kashgar; I participated in oil-wells and fisheries; and sometimes I carried on several of these enterprises simultaneously. But the business I preferred above all others, which never required my specially devoting to it any definite time or needed any fixed place of residence, and which moreover was very profitable, was the trade in carpets and antiques of all kinds.

‘Finally, after four or five years of, so to say, feverish activity, I liquidated all my affairs; and when, near the end of the year 1913, I went to Moscow to begin to actualize in practice what I had taken upon myself as a sacred task, I had amassed the sum of a million roubles and had acquired in addition two invaluable collections, one of old and rare carpets, and the other of porcelain and what is called Chinese cloisonné.
‘It seemed then that with such a capital I would not have to think any more about financial matters, and would be free to put into practice the ideas which had already taken definite form in my consciousness and upon which my Institute would be based: namely, I wished to create around myself conditions in which a man would be continually reminded of the sense and aim of his existence by an unavoidable friction between his conscience and the automatic manifestations of his nature.

‘That was about a year before the World War.

‘In Moscow, and a little later in St. Petersburg, I arranged a series of lectures which attracted a number of intellectuals and men of science, and the circle of people interested in my ideas soon began to grow.
‘Following my general plan, I then took steps towards the creation of my Institute.