DIVINE OR NATURAL LAW
1. CHARACTERISTICS OF NATURAL LAW -- 2. SOURCE AND KNOWLEDGE OF NATURAL LAW -- 3. GOOD AND EVIL -- 4. DIVISIONS OF NATURAL LAW.
Characteristics of Natural Law
614. What is to be understood by natural law?
"The law of nature is the law of God. It is the only rule that ensures the happiness of man, for it shows him what he should or should not do, and he only suffers because he disobeys it."
615. Is the law of God eternal?
"It is eternal and unchangeable as God Himself."
616. Can God have prescribed to mankind in one age what He has forbidden in another?
"God cannot be mistaken. Men are obliged to change their laws, because they are imperfect; but the laws of God are perfect. The harmony which regulates both the material universe and the moral universe is founded on laws established by God from all eternity."
617. What are the objects embraced by the divine laws? Have they reference to anything but our moral conduct?
"All the laws of nature are divine laws, since God is the author of all things. The seeker after science studies the laws of nature in the realm of matter; the seeker after goodness studies them in the soul, and practices them."
-- Is it given to man to fathom both these divisions of natural law?
"Yes; but a single existence does not suffice for doing this."What, indeed, are a few years for acquiring all that is necessary to constitute a perfect being, if we consider only the distance that separates the civilized man from the savage? A human life, though prolonged to its utmost possible length, is insufficient for such a work; much more is it so when cut short before its term, as is the case with so large a proportion of the human race.
Some of the divine laws regulate the movements and relations of inert matter; they are termed physical laws, and their study is the domain of science, others of these laws concern man, as considered in himself and in his relations to God and to his fellow-creatures they are termed moral laws, and regulate the life of relation as well as the life of the soul.
618. Are the divine laws the same for all worlds?
"Reason tells you that they must be adapted to the special nature of each of those various worlds, and proportioned to the degree of advancement of the beings who inhabit them."
Knowledge of Natural Law
619. Has God given to all men the means of knowing His law?
"All may know it, but all do not understand it. Those who understand it best are they who seek after goodness. All, however, will one day understand it; for the destiny of progress must he accomplished."The justice of the various incarnations undergone by each human being is evident when seen in the light of the principle just enunciated; since, in each new existence, his intelligence is more developed, and he comprehends more clearly what is good and what is evil. If everything had to be accomplished by each man in a single existence, what would be the fate of the many millions of human beings who die every day in the brutishness of the savage state, or in the darkness of ignorance, without having had the possibility of obtaining enlightenment? (177, 222.)
620. Does a spirit, before his union with the body, comprehend the law of God more clearly than after his incarnation?
"He comprehends that law according to the degree of development at which he has arrived, and preserves the intuitive remembrance of it after being united with a body; but the evil instincts of man often cause him to forget it."
621. Where is the law of God inscribed?
"In the conscience."
-- Since man carries the law of God in his conscience, where was the need of revealing it to him?
"He had forgotten and misunderstood it; God willed that it should be recalled to his memory."
622. Has God given to some men the mission of revealing His law?
"Yes, certainly. In every age there have been men who have received this mission; spirits of higher degree, who have incarnated themselves for the purpose of advancing human progress."
623. Have not those who have professed to instruct mankind sometimes made mistakes, and led them astray by false reasonings?
"Those who, not being inspired by God, have arrogated to themselves, through ambition, a mission which they had not received, may, undoubtedly, have led them into error; nevertheless, as, after all, they were men of genius, great truths are often to be found, even in the midst of the errors they taught."
624. What are the characteristics of the true prophet?
"The true prophet is an upright man who is inspired by God. He may be recognized both by his words and by his deeds. God does not employ the mouth of a liar to teach the truth."
625. What is the most perfect type that God has offered to man as his guide and model?
"Jesus."Jesus is the type of the moral perfection to which man may attain upon this earth. God offers Him to our thought as our most perfect model and the doctrine taught by Him is the purest expression of the divine law, because He was animated by the divine spirit, and was the purest being who has ever appeared upon the earth.
If some of those who have professed to instruct man in the law of God have sometimes led him astray by the inculcation of error, it is because they have allowed themselves to be swayed by sentiments of too earthly a nature, and because they have confounded the laws which regulate the conditions of the life of the soul which regulate the life of the body. Many pretended revealers have announced as divine laws what were only human laws, devised by them for serving their own passions and obtaining dominion over their fellow-men.
626. Have the divine or natural laws been revealed to men by Jesus only, and had men, before His time, no other knowledge than that given them by intuition?
"Have we who told you that those laws are written everywhere? All the men who have meditated upon wisdom have therefore been able to comprehend and to teach them from the remotest times. By their teachings, imperfect though they were, they have prepared the ground for the sowing of the seed. The divine laws being written in the book of nature, it has always been possible for man to know them by searching after them. For this reason, the moral precepts they consecrate have been proclaimed, in all ages, by upright men; and, for the same reason also, the elements of the moral law are to be found among every nation above the barbarian degree, although incomplete, or debased by ignorance and superstition.
627. Since the true laws of God have been taught by Jesus, what is the use of the teachings given by spirits? Have they anything more to teach us?
"The teachings of Jesus were often allegoric, and conveyed in parables; because He spoke according to the time and place in which He lived. The time has now come when the truth must be made intelligible for all. It is necessary to explain and develop the divine laws, because few among you understand them, and still fewer practice them. Our mission is to strike the eyes and ears of all, in order to confound pride, and to unmask the hypocrisy of those who assume the outward appearances of virtue and of religion as a cloak for their turpitudes. We are charged to prepare the reign of good announced by Jesus; to furnish the explanations that will render it impossible for men to continue to interpret the law of God according to their passions, or to pervert the meaning of what is wholly a law of love and of kindness."
628. Why has not the truth been always placed within reach of every one?
"Each thing can only come in its time. Truth is like light; you must be accustomed to it gradually; otherwise it only dazzles you.
"Hitherto, God has never permitted man to receive communications so full and instructive as those which he is permitted to receive at this day. There were, undoubtedly, in ancient times, as you know, individuals who were in possession of knowledge which they considered as sacred, and which they kept as a mystery from those whom they regarded as profane. You can well understand, from what you know of the laws which govern the phenomena of spirit-communication, that they received only a few fragmentary truths, scattered through a mass of teachings that were generally emblematic, and often erroneous. Nevertheless, there is no old philosophic system, no tradition, no religion, that men should neglect to study; for they all contain the germs of great truths, which, however they may seem to contradict each other perverted as they are by their mixture with various worthless accessories--may be easily coordinated, with the aid of the key that Spiritism gives you to a class of facts which have hitherto seemed to be contrary to reason, but of which the reality is irrefutably demonstrated at the present day. You should therefore not fail to make those old systems a subject of study, for they are rich in lessons, and may contribute largely to your instruction."
Good and Evil
629. What definition can be given of the moral law?
"The moral law is the rule for acting aright, that is to say, for distinguishing practically between good and evil. It is founded on the observance of the law of God. Man acts rightly when he takes the good of all as his aim and rule of action; for he then obeys the law of God."
630. How can we distinguish between good and evil?
"Good is whatever is in conformity with the law of God; and evil is whatever deviates from it. Thus, to do right, is to conform to the law of God; to do wrong, is to infringe that law."
631. Has man of himself the means of distinguishing what is good from what is evil?
"Yes, when he believes in God, and desires to do what is right. God has given him intelligence in order that he may distinguish between them."
632. As man is subject to error, may he not be mistaken in his appreciation of good and evil, and believe himself to be doing right, when, in reality, he is doing wrong?
"Jesus has said: 'Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.' The whole moral law is contained in that injunction. Make it your rule of action, and you will never go wrong."
633. The rule of good and evil, what may be called the rule of reciprocity or solidarity, cannot be applied to a man's to personal conduct towards himself. Does he find, in natural law, the rule of that conduct, and a safe guide?
"When you eat too much, it hurts you. God gives you, in the discomfort thus produced, the measure of what is necessary for you. When you exceed that measure, you are punished. It is the same with everything else. Natural law traces out for each man the limit of his needs; when he oversteps that limit he is punished by the suffering thus caused. If men gave heed, in all things, to the voice which says to them 'enough!' they would avoid the greater part of the ills of which they accuse nature."
634. Why does evil exist in the nature of things? I speak of moral evil. Could not God have created the human race in more favorable conditions?
"We have already told you that spirits are created simple and ignorant (115.). God leaves man free to choose his road; so much the worse for him if he takes the wrong one; his pilgrimage will be all the longer. If there were no mountains, man could not comprehend the possibility of ascending and descending; if there were no rocks, he could not understand that there are such things as hard bodies. It is necessary for the spirit to acquire experience; and, to that end, he must know both good and evil. It is for this purpose that souls are united to bodies." (119.)
635. The different social positions create new wants which are not the same for all men. Natural law would therefore appear not to be a uniform rule?
"Those different positions are in nature, and according to the law of progress; they do not invalidate the unity of natural law, which applies to everything."The conditions of a man's existence vary according to times and places hence arise for him different wants and social positions corresponding to those wants. Since this diversity is in the order of things, it must be consonant with the law of God; and this law is nonetheless one in principle. It is for reason to distinguish between real wants and wants that are factitious or conventional.
636. Are good and evil absolute for all men?
"The law of God is the same for all; but evil resides especially in the desire for its commission. Good is always good, and evil is always evil, whatever a man's position may be; the difference is in the degree of his responsibility."
637. When a savage, yielding to his instinctive desire feeds on human flesh, is he guilty in so doing?
"I have said that the essence of evil is in the will; therefore a man is more or less guilty according to his light."Circumstances modify the relative intensity of good and of evil. A man often commits faults that are nonetheless reprehensible for being the consequence of the social position in which he is placed; but his responsibility is proportioned to the means he possesses of distinguishing between right and wrong. Thus the enlightened man who commits a mere injustice is more culpable in the sight of God than the ignorant savage who abandons himself to his instincts of cannibalism.
638. Evil seems, sometimes, to be a consequence of the force of things. Such is, for instance, in some cases, the necessity of destruction, even to the extent of taking the life of a fellow-creature. Can it be said that, in such cases, there is violation of the law of God?
"Evil, in such cases, is nonetheless evil, although necessary; but this necessity disappears in proportion as the soul becomes purified by passing from one existence to another; and man is then all the more culpable when he does wrong, because he comprehends more clearly the character of his action."
639. The evil we do is often the result of the position that has been made for us by other men; where, in such a case, lies the greatest amount of culpability?
"With those who have been the cause of the wrong-doing. Thus the man who has been led into evil, by the position that his fellow-creatures have made for him, is less guilty than those who have caused him to go astray, for each has to suffer the penalty, not only of the evil he has done, but of that which he has caused another to do."
640. Is he who profits by another's wrongdoing, even though he took no part in its commission, as guilty as though he had taken part in it?
"Yes; to take advantage of a crime is to take part in it. He would, perhaps, have shrunk from committing the evil deed, but if, the deed being done, he takes advantage of it, it is equivalent to doing it, and proves that he would have done it himself, if he could, or if he dared."
641. Is it as reprehensible to desire to do an evil deed as to do it?
"That is as the case may be. Voluntarily to resist the desire to do wrong, especially when there is a possibility of gratifying that desire, is virtuous; but he, who has only not done the wrong thing because the opportunity was wanting, is as guilty as though he had done it."
642. In order to be acceptable in the sight of God, and to insure our future happiness, is it sufficient not to have done evil?
"No; it is necessary for each to have done good also, to the utmost limits of his ability; for each of you will have to answer, not only for all the evil he has done, but also for all the good which he has failed to do."
643. Are there persons who, through their position, have no possibility of doing good?
"There are none who cannot do some good; the selfish alone find no opportunity of so doing. The mere fact of being in relation with other human beings suffices to furnish the opportunity of doing good, and every day of your lives provides this possibility for every one who is not blinded by selfishness. For doing good is not restricted to the giving of alms, but also comprehends being useful to the full extent of your power, whenever your assistance may be needed."
644. Is it not sometimes the case that the situation in which a man finds himself placed has a good deal to do with leading him into vice and crime?
"Yes, but that situation is itself a part of the trial which has been chosen by his spirit in the state of freedom; he has elected to expose himself to its temptations, in order to acquire the merit of resistance."
645. When a man is plunged, so to say, in an atmosphere of vice, does not the impulsion to evil become, for him, almost irresistible?
"The impulsion is strong, but not irresistible, for you sometimes find great virtues in an atmosphere of vice. Those who thus remain virtuous in the midst of incitements to evil are spirits who have acquired sufficient strength to resist temptation, and who, while thus testing that strength, fulfill the mission of exercising a beneficial influence on those around them."
646. Is the meritoriousness of virtuous action measured by the conditions under which that action has been accomplished? In other words, are there different degrees of meritoriousness in doing right?
"The meritoriousness of virtuous action depends on the difficulty involved in it; there would be no merit in doing right without self-denial and effort. God counts the sharing of his morsel of bread by the poor man, as of a higher merit than the giving of his superfluity by the rich one. Jesus told you this in His parable of the widow's mite."
Division of Natural Law
647. Is the whole of the law of God contained in the rule of love of the neighbor laid dawn by Jesus?
"That rule certainly contains all the duties of men to one another; but it is necessary to show them its various applications, or they will continue to neglect them, as they do at the present day. Besides, natural law embraces all the circumstances of life, and the rule you have cited is only a part of it. Men need precise directions; general precepts are too vague, and leave too many doors open to human interpretations."
648. What do you think of the division of natural law into ten parts, namely, the laws of adoration, labor, reproduction, preservation, society, equality, liberty, justice, love, and charity?
"The division of the law of God into ten parts is that of Moses, and may be made to include all the circumstances of life, which is the essential point. You may therefore adopt it, without its being held to have any absolute value, any more than the various other systems of classification which depend on the aspect under which the subject is considered. The last of those parts is the most important; because the law of charity includes all the others, and it is therefore through the observance of this law that mankind advances most rapidly in spiritual life."
CHAPTER II I. THE LAW OF ADORATION
1. AIM OF ADORATION -- 2. EXTERNAL ACTS OF ADORATION -- 3. LIFE OF CONTEMPLATION -- 4. PRAYER -- 5. POLYTHEISM -- 6. SACRIFICES.
Aim of Adoration
649. In what does adoration consist?
"In the elevation of the thought towards God. Through adoration the soul draws nearer to Him."
650. Is adoration the result of an innate sentiment, or the product of exterior teaching?
"Of an innate sentiment, like the belief in the Divinity. The consciousness of his weakness leads man to bow before the Being who can protect him."
651. Are there peoples entirely without the sentiment of adoration?
"No; for there never was a people of atheists. All feel that there is, above them, a supreme Being."
652. May adoration be regarded as having its source in natural law?
"It is included in natural law, since it is the result of a sentiment innate in man; for which reason it is found among all peoples, though under different forms."
External Acts of Adoration
653. Are external manifestations essential to adoration?
"True adoration is in the heart. In all your actions remember that the Master's eyes is always upon you."
-- Are external acts of worship useful?
"Yes, if they are not a vain pretence. It is always useful to set a good example; but those who perform acts of worship merely from affectation and for the sake of appearances, and whose conduct belies their seeming piety, set a bad example rather than a good one, and do more harm than they imagine."
654. Does God accord a preference to those who worship Him according to any particular mode?
"God prefers those who worship Him from the heart, with sincerity, and by doing what is good and avoiding what is evil, to those who fancy they honor Him by ceremonies which do not render them any better than their neighbors.
"All men are brothers, and children of God; He calls to Him all who follow His laws, whatever may be the form under which they show their obedience.
"He who has only the externals of piety is a hypocrite; he whose worship is only a pretence, and in contradiction with his conduct, sets a bad example.
"He who professes to worship Christ, and who is proud, envious, and jealous, who is hard and unforgiving to others, or ambitious of the goods of earth, is religious with the lips only, and not with the heart. God, who sees all things, will say to him, 'He who knows the truth, and does not follow it, is a hundredfold more guilty in the evil he does than the ignorant savage, and will he treated accordingly in the day of retribution.' If a blind man runs against you as he goes by, you excuse him; but if the same thing is done by a man who sees, you complain, and with reason.
"Do not ask, then, if any form of worship be more acceptable than another; for it is as though you asked whether it is more pleasing to God to be worshipped in one tongue rather than in another. Remember that the hymns addressed to Him can reach Him only through the door of the heart."
655. Is it wrong to practice the external rites of a religion in which we do not heartily believe, when this is done out of respect for those with whom we are connected, and in order not to scandalize those who think differently from us?
"In such a case, as in many others, it is the intention that decides the quality of the act. He whose only aim, in so doing, is to show respect for the belief of others, does no wrong; he does better than the man who turns them into ridicule, for the latter sins against charity. But he who goes through with such practices simply from interested motives, or from ambition, is contemptible in the sight of God and of men. God could not take pleasure in those who only pretend to humiliate themselves before Him, in order to attract the approbation of their fellow-men."
656. Is worship performed in common preferable to individual worship?
"When those who sympathize in thought and feeling are assembled together, they have more power to attract good spirits to them. It is the same when they are assembled for worshipping God. But you must not therefore conclude that private worship is less acceptable; for each man can worship God in his own thought."
Life of Contemplation.
657. Have men who give themselves up to a life of contemplation, doing nothing evil, and thinking only of God, any special merit in His eyes?
"No, for if they do nothing evil, they do nothing good; and besides, not to do good is, in itself, evil. God wills that His children should think of Him; but He does not will that they should think only of Him, since He has given men duties to discharge upon the earth. He who consumes his life in meditation and contemplation does nothing meritorious in the sight of God, because such a life is entirely personal and useless to mankind; and God will call him to account for the good he has failed to do." (640.)
658. Is prayer acceptable to God?
"Prayer is always acceptable to God when dictated by the heart, for the intention is everything in His sight; and the prayer of the heart is preferable to one read from a book, however beautiful it may be, if read with the lips rather than with the thought. Prayer is acceptable to God when it is offered with faith, fervor, and sincerity; but do not imagine that He will listen to that of the vain, proud, or selfish man, unless it be offered as an act of sincere repentance and humility."
659. What is the general character of prayer?
"Prayer is an act of adoration. To pray to God is to think of Him, to draw nearer to Him, to put one's self in communication with Him. He who prays may propose to himself three things: to praise, to ask, and to thank."
660. Does prayer make men better?
"Yes; for he who prays with fervor and confidence has more strength for withstanding the temptations of evil, and for obtaining from God the help of good spirits to assist him in so doing. Such help is never refused when asked for with sincerity."
-- How is it that persons who pray a great deal are sometimes very unamiable, jealous, envious, and harsh, wanting in benevolence and forbearance, and even extremely vicious?
"What is needed is not to pray a great deal, but to pray aright. Such persons suppose that all the virtue of prayer is in its length, and shut their eyes to their own defects. Prayer, for them, is an occupation, a means of passing their time, but not a study of themselves. In such cases, it is not the remedy that is inefficacious, but the mode in which it is employed."
661. Is there any use in asking God to forgive us our faults?
"God discerns the good and the evil: prayer does not hid faults from His eyes. He who asks of God the forgiveness of his faults, obtains that forgiveness only through a change of conduct. Good deeds are the best prayers, for deeds are of more worth than words."
662. Is there any use in praying for others?
"The spirit of him who prays exercises an influence through his desire to do good. By prayer, he attracts to himself good spirits who take part with him in the good he desires to do."We possess in ourselves, through our thought and our will, a power of action that extends far beyond the limits of our corporeal sphere. To pray for others is an act of our will. If our will be ardent and sincere, if calls good spirits to the aid of the party prayed for, and thus helps him by the suggestion of good thoughts, and by giving him the strength of body and of soul which he needs. But, in his case also, the prayer of the heart is everything; that of the lips is nothing.
663. Can we, by praying for ourselves, avert our trials, or change their nature?
"Your trials are in the hands of God, and there are some of them that must be undergone to the very end; but God always takes account of the resignation with which they are borne. Prayer calls to your help good spirits who give you strength to bear them with courage, so that they seem to you less severe. Prayer is never useless when it is sincere, because it gives you strength, which is, of itself, an important result. 'Heaven helps him who helps himself,' is a true saying. God could change the order of nature at the various contradictory demands of His creatures; for what appears to be a great misfortune to you, from your narrow point of view, and in relation to your ephemeral life on the earth, is often a great blessing in relation to the general order of the universe; and, besides, of how many of the troubles of his life is man himself the author, through his short-sightedness or through his wrong-doing! He is punished in that wherein he has sinned. Nevertheless, your reasonable requests are granted more often than you suppose. You think your prayer has not been heeded, because God has not worked a miracle on your behalf; while, in fact. He has really assisted you, but by means so natural that they seem to you to have been the effect of chance or of the ordinary course of things. And, more often still, He suggests to your minds the thought of what you must do in order to help yourselves out of your difficulties."
664. Is it useful to pray for the dead, and for suffering spirits, and, if so, in what way can our prayers soften or shorten their sufferings? Have they the power to turn aside the justice of God?
"Prayer can have no effect upon the designs of God; but the spirit for whom you pray is consoled by your prayer, because you thus give him a proof of interest, and because he who is unhappy is always comforted by the kindness which compassionates his suffering. On the other hand, by your prayer, you excite him to repentance, and to the desire of doing all that in him lies to become happy; and it is this way that you may shorten the term of his suffering, provided that he, on his side, seconds your action by that of his own will. This desire for amelioration, excited by your prayer in the mind of the suffering spirit, attracts to him spirits of higher degree, who come to enlighten him, console him, and give him hope. Jesus prayed for the sheep that have gone astray; thereby showing you that you cannot, without guilt, neglect to do the same for those who have the greatest need of your prayers."
665. What is to be thought of the opinion which rejects the idea of praying for the dead because it is not prescribed in the gospel?
"Christ has said, to all mankind, 'Love one another.' This injunction implies, for all men, the duty of employing every possible means of testifying their affection for each other; but without entering into any details in regard to the manner of attaining that end. If it be true that nothing can turn aside the Creator from applying, to every action of every spirit, the absolute justice of which He is the type, it is nonetheless true that the prayer you address to Him, on behalf of a suffering spirit for whom you feel affection or compassion, is accepted by Him as a testimony of remembrance that never fails to bring relief and consolation to the sufferer. As soon as the latter manifests the slightest sign of repentance, but only then, help is sent to him; but he is never allowed to remain in ignorance of the fact that a sympathizing heart has exerted itself on his behalf, and, is always left under the consoling impression that this friendly intercession has been of use to him. Thus your intervention necessarily induces a feeling of gratitude and affection, on his part, to the friend who has given him this proof of kindness and of pity; and the mutual affection enjoined upon all men by Christ will thereby have been developed or awakened between you and him. Both of you will thus have obeyed the law of love and union imposed on all the beings of the universe; that Divine law which will usher in the reign of unity that is the aim and end of a spirit's education."
666. May we pray to spirits?
"You may pray to good spirits as being the messengers of God, and the executants of His will; but their power, which is always proportioned to their elevation, depends entirely on the Master of all things, without whose permission nothing takes place. For this reason, prayers addressed to them are only efficacious if accepted by God."
667. How is it that polytheism, although it is false, is nevertheless one of the most ancient and wide-spread of human beliefs?
"The conception of the unity of God could only be, in the mind of man the result of the development of his ideas. Incapable, in his ignorance, of conceiving of an immaterial being, without a determinate form, acting upon matter, man naturally attributed to Him the attributes of corporeal nature, that is to say, a form and a face; and thenceforth everything that appeared to surpass the proportions of an ordinary human intelligence was regarded by him as a divinity. Whatever he could not understand was looked upon by him as being the work of a supernatural power; and, from that assumption, to the belief in the existence of as many distinct powers as the various effects which he beheld but could not account for, there was but a step. But there have been, in all ages, enlightened men who have comprehended the impossibility of the world's being governed by this multitude of powers, without a supreme over-ruling direction, and who have thus been led to raise their thought to the conception of the one sole God"
668. As phenomena attesting the action of spirits have occurred in all ages of the world, and have thus been known from the earliest times, may they not have helped to induce a belief in the plurality of gods?
"Undoubtedly; for, as men applied the term god to whatever surpassed humanity, spirits were, for them, so many gods. For this reason, whenever a man distinguished himself among all others by his actions, his genius, or an occult power incomprehensible by the vulgar, he was made a god of, and was worshipped as such after his death." (603.)The word god, among the Ancients, had a wide range of meaning. It did not, as in our days, represent the Master of Nature, but was a generic term applied to all beings who appeared to stand outside of the pale of ordinary humanity and, as the manifestations that have since been known as "spiritist" had revealed to them the existence of incorporeal beings acting as one of the elementary powers of nature, they called them gods, just as we call them spirits. It is a mere question of words; with this difference, however, that, in their ignorance, purposely kept up by those whose interests it served, they built temples and raised altars to them, making them offerings which became highly lucrative for the persons who had charge of this mode of worship whereas, for us, spirits are merely creatures like ourselves, more or less advanced, and having cast off their earthly envelope. If we carefully study the various attributes of the pagan divinities, we shall easily recognize those of the spirits of our day, at every degree of the scale of spirit-life, their physical state in worlds of higher advancement, the part taken by them in the things of the earthly life, and the various properties of the perispirit.
Christianity, in bringing its Divine light to our world, has taught us to refer our adoration to the only object to which it is due. But it could not destroy what is an element of nature; and the belief in the existence of the incorporeal beings around us has been perpetuated under various names. Their manifestations have never ceased; but they have been diversely interpreted, and often abused under the veil of mystery beneath which they were kept, while religion has regarded them as miracles, the incredulous have looked upon them as jugglery; but, at the present time, thanks to a more serious study of the subject, carried on in the broad daylight of scientific investigation, the doctrine of spirit-presence and spirit-action, stripped of the superstitious fancies by which it had been obscured for ages, reveals to us one of the sublimest and most important principles of nature.
669. The custom of offering human sacrifices dates from the remotest antiquity. How can mankind have been led to believe that such an enormity could be pleasing to God?
"In the first place, through their not having comprehended God as being the source of all goodness. Among primitive peoples, matter predominates over spirit. Their moral qualities not being yet developed, they give themselves up to the instincts of brutality. In the next place, the men of the primitive periods naturally considered that a living creature must be much more valuable in the sight of God than any merely material object; and this consideration led them to immolate, to their divinities, first animals, and afterwards men, because, according to their false ideas, they thought that the value of a sacrifice was proportioned to the importance of the victim. In your earthly life, when you wish to offer a present to any one, you select a gift, the costliness of which is proportioned to the amount of attachment or consideration that you desire to testify to the person to whom you offer it. It was natural that men who were ignorant of the nature of the Deity should do the same."
-- The sacrificing of animals, then, preceded that of human beings?
"Such was undoubtedly the case."
-- According to this explanation, the custom of sacrificing human beings did not originate in mere cruelty?
"No; but in a false idea as to what would be acceptable to God. Look, for instance, at the story of Abraham. In later times men have still farther debased this false idea by immolating their enemies, the objects of their own personal animosity. But God has never exacted sacrifices of any kind; those of animals, no more than those of men. He could not be honored by the useless destruction of His own creations."
670. Have human sacrifices, when offered with a pious intention, ever been pleasing to God?
"No, never; but God always weighs the intention which dictates any act. Men, being ignorant, may have believed that they were performing a laudable deed in immolating their fellow-beings; and, in such a case, God would accept their intention, but not their deed. The human race, in working out its own amelioration, naturally came to recognize its error, and to abominate the idea of sacrifices that ought never to have entered into enlightened minds. I say 'enlightened,' because, however dense the veil of materiality in which they were enveloped, their free-will sufficed, even then, to give them a glimmering perception of their origin and their destiny, and many among them already understood, by intuition, the wickedness they were committing, but which they nonetheless accomplished for the gratification of their passions."
671. What should be thought of the wars styled "religious?" The sentiment that induces a nation of fanatics to exterminate the greatest possible number of those who do not share their belief, with a view to rendering themselves acceptable to God, would seem to proceed from the same source as that which formerly led them to immolate their fellow-creatures as sacrifices.
"Such wars are stirred up by evil spirits; and the men who wage them place themselves in direct opposition to the will of God, which is, that each man should love his brother as himself. Since all religions, or rather all peoples, worship the same God, whatever the name by which they call Him, why should one of them wage a war of extermination against another, simply because its religion is different, or has not yet reached the degree of enlightenment arrived at by the aggressor? Not to believe the word of Him who was sent by God and animated by His spirit is excusable on the part of peoples who neither saw Him nor witnessed the acts performed by Him; and, at all events, how can you hope that they will hearken to His message of peace, when you try to force it upon them by fire and sword? It is true that they have to be enlightened, and that it is your duty to endeavor to teach them the doctrine of Christ; but this must be done by persuasion and gentleness; not by violence and bloodshed. The greater number among you do not believe in the communication we have with certain mortals; how could you expect that strangers should believe your assertions in regard to this fact, if your acts belied the doctrine you profess?"
672. Was the offering of the fruits of the earth more acceptable in the sight of God than the sacrificing of animals?
"It must evidently be more agreeable to God to be worshipped by the offering of the fruits of the earth, than by that of the blood of victims. But I have already answered your question in telling you that God's judgment is directed to the intention, and that the outward fact is of little importance in His sight. A prayer, sent up from the depths of the heart, is a hundredfold more agreeable to God than all the offerings you could possibly make to Him. I repeat it, the intention is everything; the fact, nothing."
673. Might not these offerings be rendered more agreeable to God by consecrating them to the relief of those who lack the necessities of life, and, in that case, might not the sacrificing of animals, accomplished in view of a useful end, be as meritorious as it is the reverse when subserving no useful end, or profiting only to those who are in need of nothing? Would there not be something truly pious in consecrating to the poor the first-fruits of all that God grants to us upon the earth?
"God always blesses those who do good; to help the poor and afflicted is the best of all ways of honoring Him. I do not mean to say that God disapproves of the ceremonies you employ in praying to Him; but a good deal of the money thus spent might be more usefully employed. God loves simplicity in all things. The man who attaches more importance to externals than to the heart is a narrow-minded spirit; how, then, could it be possible for God to regard a form as of any importance in comparison with the sentiment of which it is the expression?"
CHAPTER III II. THE LAW OF LABOUR
1. NECESSITY OF LABOUR -- 2. LIMIT OF LABOUR. REST
Necessity of Labor.
674. Is the necessity of labor a law of nature?
"That labor is a law of nature, and is proved by the fact that it is a necessity, and that civilization obliges man to perform a greater amount of labor, because it increases the sum of his needs and of his enjoyments."
675. Ought we to understand by "labor" only occupations of a material nature?
"No; the spirit labors like the body. Every sort of useful occupation is a labor."
676. Why is labor imposed upon mankind?
"It is a consequence of his corporeal nature. It is an expiation, and, at the same time, a means of developing his intelligence. Without labor man would remain in the infancy of intelligence. This is why he is made to owe his food, his safety, and his well-being entirely to his labor and activity. To him who is too weak in body for the rougher kinds of work, God gives intelligence to make up for it; but the action of the intelligence is also a labor."
677. Why does nature herself provide for all the wants of the animals?
"Everything in nature labors. The animals labor as really as you do, but their work, like their intelligence, is limited to the care of their own preservation; and this is why labor, among them, does not lead to progress, while, among men, it has a double aim, namely, the preservation of the body, and the development of thought, which is also a necessity for him, and which raises him continually to a higher level. When I say that the labor of the animals is limited to the care of their preservation, I mean that this is the aim which they propose to themselves in working. But they are also, unconsciously, and while providing only for their material needs, agents that second the views of the Creator; and their labor nonetheless concurs to the working out of the final end of nature, although you often fail to discover its immediate result."
678. In worlds more advanced than the earth, is man subjected to the same necessity of labor?
"The nature of the labor is always relative to that of the wants it supplies; the less material are those wants, the less material is the labor. But you must not suppose that man, in those worlds, remains inactive and useless; idleness would be a torture instead of a benefit."
679. Is he who possesses a sufficiency of worldly goods for his subsistence enfranchised from the law of labor?
"From material labor perhaps, but not from the obligation of rendering himself useful according to his means, and of developing his own intelligence and that of others, which is also a labor. If the man, to whom God has apportioned a sufficiency of means for insuring his corporeal existence, be not constrained to win his bread by the sweat of his brow, the obligation of being useful to his fellow-creatures is all the greater in his case, because the portion appointed to him gives him a greater amount of leisure for doing good."
680. Are there not men who are incapable of working at anything whatever, and whose existence is entirely useless?
"God is just; He condemns only him who is voluntarily useless; for such a one lives upon the labor of others. He wills that each should make himself useful according to his faculties. (643.)
681. Does the law of nature impose upon children the obligation of laboring for their parents?
"Certainly it does, just as it imposes on parents the duty of laboring for their children. For this reason God has given a place in nature to the sentiment of filial and paternal affection, in order that the members of a family may be led, by their mutual affection, to aid each other reciprocally--a duty which is too often lost sight of in your present state of society."
Limit of Labor--Rest.
682. Rest being a necessity after labor, is it not a law of nature?
"Undoubtedly it is. Rest serves to restore the bodily powers and is also necessary in order to give a little more freedom to the mind, enabling it to raise itself above matter."
683. What is the limit of labor?
"The limit of strength; but God leaves man at liberty to decide this point for himself."
684. What is to be thought of those who misuse their authority by imposing too heavy a labor on their inferiors?
"They commit one of the worst of crimes. Every man exercising authority is answerable for any excess of labor imposed by him on those who are under his orders, for he thereby transgresses the law of God." (273.)
685. Has man a right to repose in old age?
"Yes; he is only obliged to labor according to his strength."
-- But what resource is there for the old man who needs to work in order to support himself, and yet is unable to do so?
"The strong should work for the weak; where family-help is not to be had, society should supply its place. Such is the law of charity."To say that it is necessary for man to work is not to make a complete statement of the subject for it is also necessary that he who has to get his bread by labor should be able to find occupation, and this is far from being always the case, whenever the suspension of labor becomes general, it assumes the proportions of a famine. Economic science seeks a remedy for this evil in the equilibrium of production and consumption: but this equilibrium, supposing it to be attainable, will always be subject to intermittences, and during these intervals the laborer must live. There is an element of the question which has not been sufficiently considered, namely, education, not merely the education of the intellect, not even that of the moral nature as given by books, but that which consists in the formation, of characters and habits; for education is the totality of the habits acquired. When we consider how great a mass of individuals are thrown each day into the torrent of population, abandoned, without principles or curb, to the impulsions of their animal instincts, can we wonder at the disastrous consequences thence resulting? When the art of education shall be rightly understood and practiced, each man will bring into the sphere of daily life habits of order and forethought for himself and for those dependent on him, and of respect for what is worthy of being respected; and these habits will enable him to traverse periods of difficulty with greater ease. Disorder and improvidence are social sores that can only be cured by education rightly understood; the generalization of such education is the starting-point and essential element of social well-being, the only pledge of security for all.