The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and the power to serve others.
In Leo Tolstoy’s short story “What Men Live By,” an impoverished shoemaker encounters a naked man freezing to death on a Russian winter night. It turns out that the naked man is an angel who disobeyed God. He had been ordered by God to take the soul of a dying woman, but his action would have left two orphaned children; the angel did not want to carry out his instruction. The woman died anyway, and the angel was banished from heaven until he could find answers to three questions on earth: What is given to men? What is not given to men? What do men live by?
Through the ...