CHAPTER IV III. LAW OF REPRODUCTION
1. POPULATION OF THE GLOBE -- 2. SUCCESSION AND IMPROVEMENT OF RACE -- 3. OBSTACLES TO REPRODUCTION -- 4. MARRIAGE AND CELIBACY -- 5. POLYGAMY.
Population of the Globe.
686. Is the reproduction of living beings a law of nature?
"Evidently it is; without reproduction the corporeal world would perish."
687. If the population of the globe goes on increasing as it has hitherto done, will it, in course of time, become too numerous?
"No; the Divine overruling always provides for, and maintains, equilibrium. God permits nothing useless. Man sees but a corner of the panorama of the universe, and is therefore unable to perceive the harmony of its various departments."
Succession and Improvement of Races.
688. There are at this moment upon the earth races of men who are evidently and rapidly diminishing. Will they eventually disappear from it?
"Yes; but it is because others will have taken their place, as your place will some day be taken by others."
689. Are the men now upon the earth a new creation, or the improved descendants of the primitive human beings?
"They are the same spirits; come back to improve themselves with the aid of new bodies, but who are still very far from having reached perfection. Thus the present human race, which, by its increase, tends to invade the whole earth and to replace the races that are dying out, will have its period of decrease and disappearance. It will be replaced by other and more perfect races, that will descend from the present race, as the civilized men of the present day are descended from the rough-hewn savages of the primitive periods."
690. Regarded from a purely physical point of view, are the bodies of the present race of men a special creation, or have they proceeded from the bodies of the primitive races by reproduction?
"The origin of races is hidden in the night of time; but as they all belong to the great human family, whatever may have been the primitive root of each, they have been able to form alliances with one another, and thus to produce new types."
691. What, from a physical point of view, is the distinctive and dominant characteristic of primitive races?
"The development of brute force at the expense of intellectual power. The contrary takes place at the present day; for man now acts rather through his intelligence than through his bodily strength, and yet he accomplishes a hundred-fold more than he formerly did, because he has learned to avail himself of the forces of nature, which the animals cannot do."
692. Is the improvement of the vegetable and animal races, through the applications of science, contrary to the law of nature? Would it be more conformable with that law to leave them to follow their normal course?
"It is the duty of all beings to concur, in every way, in helping forward the general progress; and man himself is employed by God as an instrument for the accomplishment of His ends. Perfection being the aim towards which everything in nature is tending, to help forward this process of improvement is to assist in working out the Divine intentions."
-- But man, in his efforts to ameliorate the races of the lower reigns, is generally moved by self-interest, and has no other aim than the increase of his personal enjoyments; does not this diminish the merit of his action?
"What matters it that his merit should be null, provided the work of progress be accomplished? It is for him to render his labor meritorious by inspiring himself with a noble motive. Besides, in effecting these ameliorations, he develops his intelligence; and it is in this way that he derives the greatest benefit from his labor."
Obstacles To Reproduction.
693. Are the human laws and customs that have been established for the purpose of placing obstacles in the way of reproduction contrary to the laws of nature?
"Whatever hinders the operations of nature is contrary to the general law."
-- But there are many species of living beings, animal and vegetable, the unlimited reproduction of which would be hurtful to other species, and would soon be destructive of the human race. Is it wrong for man to arrest their reproduction?
"God has given to man, over all the other living beings of his globe, a power which he ought to use for the general good, but not to abuse. He may regulate reproduction according to his needs; but he ought not to hinder it unnecessarily. The intelligent action of mankind is a counterpoise established by God for restoring the equilibrium of the forces of nature; and herein, again, man is distinguished from the animals, because he does this understandingly, while the animals, that also concur in maintaining this equilibrium, do so unconsciously, through the instinct of destruction which has been given to them, and which causes them, while providing for their own preservation only, to arrest the excessive development of the animal and vegetable species on which they feed, and which would otherwise become a source of danger."
694. What is to be thought of usages intended to arrest reproduction in the interest of sensuality?
"They prove the predominance of the body over the soul, and show how deeply man has plunged himself in matter."
Marriage and Celibacy
695. Is marriage, that is to say, the permanent union of two beings, contrary to the law of nature?
"It is a progress arrived at by the human race."
696. What would be the effect, upon human society, of the abolition of marriage?
"A return to the life of the beasts."The free and fortuitous union of the sexes is the state of nature. Marriage is one of the first results of progress in the constitution of human society, because it establishes fraternal solidarity, being found among every people, though under different conditions. The abolition of marriage would therefore be a return to the infancy of the human race, and would place man even below certain animals that give him the example of constant unions.
697. Is the absolute indissolubility of marriage to be found in the law of nature, or is it only an ordination of human law?
"It is a human law, altogether contrary to the law of nature. But men may change their laws; those of nature are alone unchangeable."
698. Is voluntary celibacy meritorious in the sight of God?
"No; those who live single from selfish motives are displeasing to God, for they fail to perform their share of social duties."
699. Is not celibacy, on the part of some persons, a sacrifice made by them for the sake of devoting themselves more entirely to the service of humanity?
"That is a very different thing; I said 'from selfish motives'. Every sort of personal sacrifice is meritorious when it is made for a good end; and the greater the sacrifice, the greater the merit."God cannot contradict Himself, nor regard as evil what He himself has made, and therefore He cannot regard the violation of His law as meritorious. But although celibacy, in itself, is not meritorious, it may become such when the renunciation of family-joys is a sacrifice accomplished in the interests of humanity. Every sacrifice of personal interests, when made for the good of others and without any reference to self, raises him who makes it above the level of his material condition.
700. Is polygamy or monogamy most in conformity with the law of nature?
"Polygamy is a human institution, the abolition of which marks an era of social progress. Marriage, according to the intention of God, should be founded on the affection of the beings who enter into it. In polygamy there is no real affection; there is only sensuality."
701. Is the almost exact numerical equality existing between the sexes an indication of the proportions according to which they ought to be united?
"Yes; for every arrangement of nature has a specific purpose."If polygamy were in accordance with the law of nature, it ought to be possible to establish it everywhere but it would be physically impossible to do so, owing to the numerical equality of the sexes.
Polygamy must therefore be regarded as a mere custom, adapted to the present state of certain peoples, and that will gradually disappear with the progress of their social improvement.
CHAPTER V IV. THE LAW OF PRESERVATION
1. INSTINCT OF SELF-PRESERVATION -- 2. MEANS OF SELF-PRESERVATION -- 3. ENJOYMENT OF THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH -- 4. NECESSITIES AND SUPERFLUITIES -- 5. VOLUNTARY PRIVATIONS -- MORTIFICATIONS.
The Instinct of Self-Preservation.
702. Is the instinct of self-preservation a law of nature?
"Undoubtedly so. It is given to all living creatures, whatever their degree of intelligence; in some it is purely mechanical, in others it is allied to reason."
703. To what end has God given the instinct of self-preservation to all living beings?
"They are all necessary to the working out of the providential plans; and therefore God has given them the desire to live. And besides, life is a necessary condition of the improvement of beings; they feel this instinctively, without understanding it."
Means of Self-Preservation.
704. Has God, while giving to man the desire to live, always furnished him with the means of doing so?
"Yes; and if man does not always find them, it is because he does not know how to avail himself of the resources around him. God could not implant in man the love of life, without giving him the means of living; and He has accordingly endowed the earth with a capacity of production sufficient to furnish all its inhabitants with the necessities of life. It is only that which is necessary that is useful; that which is superfluous is never useful."
705. Why does not the earth always produce enough to provide mankind with the necessities of life?
"It is because man ungratefully neglects that excellent nursing-mother! Moreover, he often accuses nature of what is the result of his own unskilfulness or want of forethought. The earth would always produce the necessities of life, if men could content themselves therewith. If it does not suffice for all his wants, it is because men employ, in superfluities, what should be devoted to the supply of necessities. Look at the Arab in the desert; he always finds enough to live upon, because he does not create for himself factitious needs; but when half the products of the earth are wasted in satisfying fanciful desires, ought man to be astonished if he afterwards runs short, and has he any reason to complain if he finds himself unprovided for when a famine occurs? I repeat it; nature is not improvident, but man does not know how to regulate his use of her gifts."
706. By the term 'fruits of the earth,' should we understand merely the products of the soil?
"The soil is the original source of all other productions, which are, in reality, only a transformation of the products of the soil; for that reason, by 'fruits of the earth' are to be understood everything enjoyed by man in his corporeal life."
707. There are always persons who lack the means of existence, even in the midst of abundance. Who is to blame for this?
"In some cases, the selfishness which too often prevents men from being just to others; in other cases, and most often, themselves. Christ has said, 'Seek, and ye shall find;' but these words do not imply that you have only to cast your eyes on the ground in order to find all that you may desire, but rather that you must seek for what you want, and not indolently, but with ardor and perseverance, and without allowing yourselves to be discouraged by obstacles that are often only a means of putting your constancy, patience, and firmness to the proof." (534.)If civilization multiplies our needs, it also multiplies our resources and our means of existence. But it must be admitted that, in this respect, much still remains to be done; for civilization will only have accomplished its task when it shall no longer be possible for any human being to lack the necessities of life, unless through his own fault. Unfortunately, too, many persons choose a path for which nature has not fitted them, and in which they necessarily fail of success. There is room in the sunshine for every one; but on condition that each takes his own place, and not that of another. Nature cannot justly be held responsible for the results of defective social organization, nor for those of personal selfishness and ambition.
There would, however, be blindness in denying the progress which has already been accomplished in this direction among the nations which are most advanced. Thanks to the efforts of philanthropy and of science for the amelioration of the material condition of mankind, and notwithstanding the constant increase of the population of the globe, the effects of insufficient production are considerably attenuated, so that the most unfavorable years are far less calamitous than formerly. Hygiene, unknown to our forefathers, yet so essential a condition of public and individual health, is the object of constant and enlightened solicitude: asylums are provided for the unfortunate and the suffering: and every new discovery of science is made to contribute its quota to the general weal. Far as we still are from having attained to the perfection of social arrangements, what is already accomplished gives the measure of what may be done with the aid of perseverance, if men are reasonable enough to seek after solid and practical improvements, instead of wasting their energies on utopian projects that put them back instead of helping them forward.
708. Are there not social positions in which the will is powerless to obtain the means of existence, and in which the privation of the barest necessities of life is a consequence of the force of circumstances?
"Yes; but such a position is a trial which, however severe, the party who is subjected to it knew, in the spirit-state, that he would have to undergo. His merit will result from his submission to the will of God, if his intelligence does not furnish him with the means of freeing himself from his troubles. If death supervenes, he should meet it without a murmur, remembering that the hour of his deliverance is approaching, and that any yielding to despair at the last moment may cause him to lose the fruit of his previous resignation."
709. In critical situations men have been reduced to devour their fellow-men, as the only means of saving themselves from starvation. Have they, in so doing, committed a crime? And if so, is their crime lessened by the fact that it has been committed under the excitement of the instinct of self-preservation?
"I have already answered this question in saying that all the trials of life should be submitted to with courage and abnegation. In the cases you refer to there is both homicide and crime against nature; a double culpability that will receive double punishment."
710. In worlds in which the corporeal organization of living beings is of a purer nature than in the earth, do these need food?
"Yes; but their food is in keeping with their nature. Their aliments would not be substantial enough for your gross stomachs and, on the other hand, those beings could not digest your heavier food."
Enjoyments of the Fruits of the Earth.
711. Have all men a right to benefit from the products of the earth?
"That right is a consequence of the necessity of living. God cannot have imposed a duty without having given the means of discharging it."
712. Why has God attached an attraction to the enjoyment of material things?
"In order, first, to excite man to the accomplishment of his mission, and next, to try him by temptation."
-- What is the aim of temptation?
"To develop his reason, that it may preserve him from excesses."If man had only been urged to the using of the things of the earthly life by a conviction of their utility, his indifference to them might have compromised the harmony of the universe. God has therefore given him the pleasurable attractions that solicit him to the accomplishing of the views of Providence. But God has also willed, through this attraction, to try man by temptations that incite him to abuses against which his reason should protect him.
713. Has nature marked out the proper limits of corporeal satisfactions?
"Yes, limits that coincide with your needs and your well-being. When you overstep them, you bring on satiety, and thus punish yourselves."
714. What is to be thought of the man who seeks to enhance corporeal enjoyments by inventing artificial excesses?
"Think of him as a poor wretch who is to be pitied rather than envied, for he is very near death."
-- Do you mean to physical death, or to moral death?
"To both."The man who, in pursuit of corporeal satisfactions, seeks an enhancement of those satisfactions in any kind of excess, places himself below the level of the brute, for the brute goes no farther than the satisfaction of a need. He abdicates the reason given to him by God for his guidance: and the greater his excesses, the more dominion does he give to his animal nature over his spiritual nature. The maladies and infirmities, often occasioning death, that are the consequences of excess in the satisfaction of any corporeal attraction, are also punishments for thus transgressing the law of God.
Necessities and Superfluities.
715. How can men know the limit of what is necessary?
"Wise men know it by intuition; others learn it through experience, and to their cost."
716. Has not nature traced out the limit of our needs in the requirements of our organization?
"Yes, but man is insatiable. Nature has indicated the limits of his needs by his organization; but his vices have deteriorated his constitution, and created for him wants that are not real needs."
717. What is to be thought of those who monopolize the productions of the earth, in order to procure for themselves superfluities, at the expense of others who lack the necessities of life?
"They forget the law of God, and will have to answer for the privations they have caused others to endure."There is no absolute boundary-line between the necessary and the superfluous. Civilization has created necessities that do not exist for the savage and the spirits who have dictated the foregoing precepts do not mean to assert that civilized men should live like the savage. All things are relative; and the function of reason is to determine the part to be allotted to each. Civilization develops the moral sense, and, at the same time, the sentiment of charity, which leads men to give to each other mutual support. Those who live at the expense of other men's privations monopolize the benefits of civilization for their own profit they have only the varnish of civilization, as others have only the mask of religion.
718. Does the law of self-preservation make it our duty to provide for our bodily wants?
"Yes; without physical health and strength, labor is impossible."
719. Is it blamable in a man to seek after the comforts and enjoyments of corporeal life?
"The desire of corporeal well-being is natural to man. God only prohibits excess, because excess is inimical to preservation; He has not made it a crime to seek after enjoyment, if that enjoyment be not acquired at another's expense, and if it be not of a nature to weaken either your moral or your physical strength."
720. Are voluntary privations, in view of a voluntary expiation, meritorious in the sight of God?
"Do good to others, and you will thereby acquire more merit than is to be acquired by any self-imposed privations."
-- Is any voluntary privation meritorious?
"Yes; the self-privation of useless indulgences, because it loosens man's hold on matter, and elevates his soul. What is meritorious is resistance to the temptation that solicits to excess or to indulgence in what is useless; it is the cutting down even of your necessities, that you may have more to give to those who are in want. If your privations are only a vain pretence, they are a mere mockery."
721. At every period in the past, and among all peoples, there have been men who have lived a life of ascetic mortification; is such a life meritorious from any point of view?
"Ask yourselves to whom such a life is useful, and you will have the reply to your question. If such a life is only for him who leads it, and if it prevents him from doing good to others, it is only a form of selfishness, whatever the pretext with which it is colored. True mortification, according to the dictates of Christian charity, is to impose privation and labor upon yourselves for the good of others."
722. Is there any foundation in reason for the abstinence from certain aliments practiced among various peoples?
"Whatever man can eat without injury to his health is permitted to him. Legislators may have prohibited certain aliments for some useful end, and, in order to give greater weight to their prohibitions, have represented them as emanating from God."
723. Is the use of animal food by man contrary to the law of nature?
"With your physical constitution, flesh is useful for nourishing flesh; without this kind of sustenance man's strength declines. The law of preservation makes it a duty for man to keep up his health and strength, that he may fulfill the law of labor. He should therefore feed himself according to the requirements of his organization."
724. Is there any merit in abstinence from any particular kind of food, animal or other, when undergone as an expiation?
"Yes, if undergone for the sake of others; but God cannot regard as meritorious any abstinence that does not impose a real privation, and that has not a serious and useful aim. This is why we say that those whose fasting is only apparent are hypocrites." (720.)
725. What is to be thought of the mutilation of the bodies of men or of animals?
"What is the use of asking such a question? Ask yourselves, once for all, whether a thing is or is not useful. What is useless cannot be pleasing to God, and what is hurtful is always displeasing to Him. Be very sure that God is only pleased with the sentiments that raise the soul towards Him. It is by practicing His law, and not by violating it, that you can shake off your terrestrial matter."
726. If the sufferings of this world elevate us through the manner in which we bear them, are we elevated by those which we voluntarily create for ourselves?
"The only sufferings that can elevate you are those which come upon you naturally, because they are inflicted by God. Voluntary sufferings count for nothing when they are not useful to others. Do you suppose that those who shorten their lives by superhuman hardships, like the bonzes, fakirs, and fanatics of various sects, advance their progress thereby? Why do they not rather labor for the good of their fellow-creatures? Let them clothe the naked; let them comfort those who mourn; let them work for the infirm; let them impose privations upon themselves for the sake of the unfortunate and the needy; and their life will be useful, and pleasing to God. When your voluntary sufferings are undergone only for yourselves, they are mere selfishness; when you suffer for others, you obey the law of charity. Such are the precepts of Christ."
727. If we ought not to create for ourselves voluntary sufferings that are of no use to others, ought we to endeavor to ward off from ourselves those which we foresee, or with which we are threatened?
"The instinct of self-preservation has been given to all beings to guard them against dangers and sufferings. Flagellate your spirit, and not your body; mortify your pride; stifle the selfishness that eats into the heart like a devouring worm; and you will do more for your advancement than you could do by any amount of macerations out of keeping with the age in which you are living."
CHAPTER VI V. THE LAW OF DESTRUCTION
1. NECESSARY DESTRUCTION AND UNJUSTIFIABLE DESTRUCTION -- 2. DESTRUCTIVE CALAMITIES -- 3. WAR -- 4. MURDER -- 5. CRUELTY -- 6. DUELLING -- 7. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT.
Necessary Destruction and Unjustifiable Destruction.
728. Is destruction a law of nature?
"It is necessary that all things should be destroyed that they may be re-born and regenerated; for what you call destruction is only a transformation, the aim of which is the renewing and amelioration of living beings."
-- The instinct of destruction would seem, then, to have been given to living beings for providential purposes?
"God's creatures are the instruments which He uses for working out His ends. Living beings destroy each other for food; thus maintaining equilibrium in reproduction, which might otherwise become excessive, and also utilizing the materials of their external envelopes. But it is only this envelope that is ever destroyed, and this envelope is only the accessory, and, not the essential part, of a thinking being; the essential part is the intelligent principle which is indestructible, and which is elaborated in the course of the various metamorphoses that it undergoes."
729. If destruction be necessary for the regeneration of beings, why does nature surround them with the means of self-preservation?
"In order that their destruction may not take place before the proper time. Destruction that occurs too soon retards the development of the intelligent principle. It is for this reason that God has given to each being the desire to live and to reproduce itself."
730. Since death is to lead us to a better life, and since it delivers us from the ills of our present existence, and is therefore to be rather desired than dreaded, why has man the instinctive horror of death which causes him to shrink from it?
"We have said that man should seek to prolong his life in order to accomplish his task. To this end God has given him the instinct of self-preservation, and this instinct sustains him under all his trials; but for it, he would too often abandon himself to discouragement. The inner voice, which tells him to repel death, tells him also that he may yet do something more for his advancement. Every danger that threatens him is a warning that bids him make a profitable use of the respite granted to him by God; but he, ungrateful, gives thanks more often to his 'star' than to his Creator."
731. Why has nature placed agents of destruction side by side with the means of preservation?
"We have already told you that it is in order to maintain equilibrium, and to serve as a counterpoise. The malady and the remedy are placed side by side."
732. Is the need of destruction the same in all worlds?
"It is proportioned to the more or less material state of each world; it ceases altogether in worlds of higher physical and moral purity. In worlds more advanced than yours, the conditions of existence are altogether different."
733. Will the necessity of destruction always exist for the human race of this earth?
"The need of destruction diminishes in man in proportion as his spirit obtains ascendancy over matter. Consequently, you see that intellectual and moral development is always accompanied by a horror of destruction."
734. Has man, in his present state, an unlimited right of destruction in regard to animals?
"That right is limited to providing for his food and his safety; no abuse can be a matter of right."
735. What is to be thought of destruction that goes beyond the limits of needs and of safety; of hunting, for instance, when it has no useful aim, and is resorted to from no other motive than the pleasure of killing?
"It is a predominance of bestiality over the spiritual nature. All destruction that goes beyond the limits of your needs is a violation of the law of God. The animals only destroy according to the measure of their necessities; but man, who has free-will, destroys unnecessarily. He will be called to account for thus abusing the freedom accorded to him; for, in so doing, he yields to evil instincts from which he ought to free himself."
736. Are those peoples especially meritorious who, in regard to the taking of animal life, carry their scrupulousness to excess?
"Their sentiment in regard to this matter, though laudable in itself, being carried to excess, becomes an abuse in its turn; and its merit, moreover, is neutralized by abuses of many other sorts. That sentiment, on their part, is the result of superstitious fear, rather than of true gentleness."
737. What is the aim of God in visiting mankind with destructive calamities?
"To make men advance more quickly. Have we not told you that destruction is necessary to the moral regeneration of spirits, who accomplish a new step of their purification in each new existence? In order to appreciate any process correctly, you must see its results. You judge merely from your personal point of view, and you therefore regard those inflictions as calamities, because of the temporary injury they cause you; but such upsettings are often needed in order to make you reach more quickly a better order of things, and to effect, in a few years, what you would otherwise have taken centuries to accomplish." (744.)
738. Could not God employ other methods than destructive calamities for effecting the amelioration of mankind?
"Yes; and He employs them every day, for He has given to each of you the means of progressing through the knowledge of good and evil. It is because man profits so little by those other means, that it becomes necessary to chastise his pride, and to make him feel his weakness."
-- But the good man succumbs under the action of these scourges, as does the wicked; is this just?
"During his earthly sojourn, man measures everything by the standard of his bodily life; but, after death, he judges differently, and feels that the life of the body, as we have often told you, is a very small matter. A century in your world is but the length of a flash in eternity, and therefore the sufferings of what you call days, months, or years, are of no importance; let this be a lesson for your future use. Spirits are the real world, pre-existent to, and surviving, everything else; they are the children of God, and the object of all His solicitude; and bodies are only the disguises under which they make their appearances in the corporeal world. In the great calamities that decimate the human race, the sufferers are like an army that, in the course of a campaign, sees its clothing tattered, worn out, or lost. The general is more anxious about his soldiers than about their coats."
-- But the victims of those scourges are nonetheless victims?
"If you considered an earthly life as it is in itself, and how small a thing it is in comparison with the life of infinity, you would attach to it much less importance. Those victims will find, in another existence, an ample compensation for their sufferings, if they have borne them without murmuring."Whether our death be the result of a public calamity or of an ordinary cause, we are nonetheless compelled to go when the hour of our departure has struck: the only difference is that, in the former case, a greater number go away at the same time.
If we could raise our thoughts sufficiently high to contemplate the human race as a whole, and to take in the whole of its destiny at a glance, the scourges that now seem so terrible would appear to us only as passing storms in the destiny of the globe.
739. Are destructive calamities useful physically notwithstanding the temporary evils occasioned by them?
"Yes, they sometimes change the state of a country, but the good that results from them is often one that will be felt by future generations."
740. May not such calamities also constitute for man a moral trial, compelling him to struggle with the hardest necessities of his lot?
"They are always trials, and, as such, they furnish him with the opportunity of exercising his intelligence, of proving his patience and his resignation to the will of God, and of displaying his sentiments of abnegation, disinterestedness, and love for his neighbor, if he be not under the dominion of selfishness."
741. Is it in man's power to avert the scourges that now afflict him?
"Yes, a part of them; but not as is generally supposed. Many of those scourges are the consequence of his want of foresight; and, in proportion as he acquires knowledge and experience, he becomes able to avert them, that is to say, he can prevent their occurrence when he has ascertained their cause. But, among the ills that afflict humanity, there are some, of a general nature, which are imposed by the decrees of Providence, and the effect of which is felt, more or less sensibly, by each individual.
"To these, man can oppose nothing but his resignation to the divine will, though he can, and often does, aggravate their painfulness by his negligence."In the class of destructive calamities resulting from natural causes, and independently of the action of man, are to be placed pestilence, famine, inundations, and atmospheric influences fatal to the productions of the earth. But has not man already found, in the applications of science, in agricultural improvements, in the rotation of crops, in the study of hygienic conditions, the means of neutralizing, or at least of attenuating, many of these disasters? Are not many countries, at the present day, preserved from terrible plagues by which they were formerly ravaged? What, then, may not man accomplish for the advancement of his material well-being, when he shall have learned to make use of all the resources of his intelligence, and when he shall have added, to the care of his personal preservation, the large charity that interests itself in the well-being of the whole human race? (107.)
742. What is the cause that impels man to war?
"The predominance of the animal nature over the spiritual nature, and the desire of satisfying his passions. In the barbaric state, the various peoples know no other right than that of the strongest; and their normal condition is, therefore, that of war. As men progress, war becomes less frequent, through their avoidance of the causes which lead to it; and when it becomes inevitable, they wage it more humanely."
743. Will wars ever cease on the earth?
"Yes; when men comprehend justice, and practice the law of God; all men will then be brothers."
744. What has been the aim of Providence in making war necessary?
"Freedom and progress."
-- If war is destined to bring us freedom, how does it happen that its aim and upshot are so often the subjugation of the people attacked?
"Such subjugation is only momentary, and is permitted in order to weary the nations of servitude, and thus to urge them forward more rapidly."
745. What is to be thought of him who stirs up war for his own profit?
"Such an one is deeply guilty, and will have to undergo many corporal existences in order to expiate all the murders caused by him; for he will have to answer for every man who has been killed for the satisfaction of his ambition."
746. Is murder a crime in the sight of God?
"Yes, a great crime; for he who takes the life of his fellow-man cuts short an expiation or a mission; hence the heinousness of his offence."
747. Are all murders equally heinous?
"We have said that God is just; He judges the intention rather than the deed."
748. Does God excuse murder in cases of self-defense?
"Only absolute necessity can excuse it; but if a man can only preserve his life by taking that of his aggressor, he ought to do.
749. Is a man answerable for the murders he commits in war?
"Not when he is compelled to fight; but he is answerable for the cruelties he commits, and he will be rewarded for his humanity."
750. Is parricide or infanticide the greater crime in the sight of God?
"They are equally great; for all crime is crime."
751. How is it that the custom of infanticide prevails among peoples of considerable intellectual advancement, and is even recognized as allowable by their laws?
"Intellectual development is not always accompanied by moral rectitude. A spirit may advance in intelligence, and yet remain wicked; for he may have lived a long time without having improved morally, and gained knowledge, without acquiring moral purification."
752. Is the sentiment of cruelty connected with the instinct of destruction?
"It is the instinct of destruction in its worst form, for, though destruction is sometimes necessary, cruelty never is; it is always the result of an evil nature."
753. How comes it that cruelty is the dominant characteristic of the primitive races?
"Among the primitive races, as you call them, matter has the ascendancy over spirit. They abandon themselves to the instincts of the brute; and as they care for nothing but the life of the body, they think only of their personal preservation, and this generally renders them cruel. And besides, peoples, whose development is still imperfect, are under the influence of spirits equally imperfect, with whom they are in sympathy, until the coming among them of some other people, more advanced than themselves, destroys or weakens that influence."
754. Is cruelty a result of the absence of the moral sense?
"Say that the moral sense is not developed, but do not say that it is absent; for its principle exists in every man, and is this sense which, in course of time, renders beings kind and humane. It exists, therefore, in the savage; but in him it is latent, as the principle of the perfume is in the bud, before it opens into the flowers."All faculties exist in man in a rudimentary or latent state; they are developed according as circumstances are more or less favorable to them. The excessive development of some of them arrests or neutralizes that of others. The undue excitement of the material instincts stifles, so to say, the moral sense; as the development of the moral sense gradually weakens the merely animal-faculties.
755. How is it that, in the midst of the most advanced civilization, we sometimes find persons as cruel as the savages?
"Just as, on a tree laden with healthy fruit, you may find some that are withered. They may be said to be savages who have nothing of civilization about them but the coat; they are wolves who have strayed into the midst of the sheep. Spirits of low degree, and very backward, may incarnate themselves among men of greater advancement, in the hope of advancing themselves; but, if the trial be too arduous, their primitive nature gets the upper hand."
756. Will the society of the good be one day purged of evildoers?
"The human race is progressing. Those who are under the dominion of the instinct of evil, and who are out of place among good people, will gradually disappear, as the faulty grain is separated from the good when the wheat is threshed; but they will be born again under another corporeal envelope, and, as they acquire more experience, they will arrive at a clearer understanding of good and evil. You have an example of this in the plants and animals which man has discovered the art of improving, and in 311 THE SPIRITS BOOK which he develops new qualities. It is only after several generations that the improvement becomes complete. This is a picture of the different existences of each human being."
757. Can dueling be considered as coming under the head of lawful self-defense?
"No; it is murder, and an absurdity worthy of barbarians. When civilization is more advanced and more moral, men will see that dueling is as ridiculous as the combats which were formerly regarded as the 'judgment of God.'"
758. Can dueling be considered as murder on the part of him who, knowing his own weakness, is pretty sure of being killed?
"In such a case it is suicide."
-- And when the chances are equal, is it murder or suicide?
"It is both."In all cases, even in those in which the chances are equal, the duelist is guilty; in the first place, because he makes a cool and deliberate attack on the life of his fellow-man, and in the second place, because he exposes his own life uselessly, and without benefit to any one.
759. What is the real nature of what is called the point of honor in the matter of duels?
"Pride and vanity; two sores of humanity."
-- But are there not cases in which a man's honor is really at stake, and in which a refusal to fight would be an act of cowardice?
"That depends on customs and usages; each country and each century has a different way of regarding such matters. But when men are better, and more advanced morally, they will comprehend that the true point of honor is above the reach of earthly passions, and that it is neither by killing, nor by getting themselves killed, that they can obtain reparation for a wrong."There is more real greatness and honor in confessing our wrongdoing if we are in the wrong, or in forgiving if we are in the right; and, in all cases, in despising insults which cannot touch those who are superior to them.
760. Will capital punishment disappear some day from human legislation?
"Capital punishment will, most assuredly, disappear in course o£ time; and its suppression will mark a progress on the part of the human race. When men become more enlightened, the penalty of death will be completely abolished throughout the earth; men will no longer require to be judged by men. I speak of a time which is still a long way ahead of you."The social progress already made still leaves much to be desired, but it would be unjust towards modern society not to recognize a certain amount of progress in the restrictions which, among the most advanced nations, have been successively applied to capital punishment, and to the crimes for which it is inflicted. If we compare the safeguards with which the law, among those nations, surrounds the accused, and the humanity with which he is treated even when found guilty, with the methods of criminal procedure that obtained at a period not very remote from the present, we cannot fail to perceive that the human race is really moving forwards on a path of progress.
761. The law of Preservation gives man the right to preserve his own life; does he not make use of that same right when he cuts off a dangerous member from the social body?
"There are other means of preserving yourselves from a dangerous individual than killing him; and besides, you ought to open the door of repentance for the criminal, and not to close it against him."
762. If the penalty of death may be banished from civilized society, was it not a necessity in times of less advancement?
"Necessity is not the right word. Man always thinks that a thing is necessary when he cannot manage to find anything better, in proportion as he becomes enlightened, he understands more clearly what is just or unjust, and repudiates the excesses committed, in times of ignorance, in the name of justice."
763. Is the restriction of the number of the cases in which capital punishment is inflicted an indication of progress in civilization?
"Can you doubt its being so? Does not your mind revolt on reading the recital of the human butcheries that were formerly perpetrated in the name of justice, and often in honor of the divinity; of the tortures inflicted on the condemned, and even on the accused, in order to wring from him, through the excess of his sufferings, the confession of a crime which, very often, he had not committed? Well, if you had lived in those times, you would have thought all this very natural; and, had you been a judge, you would probably have done the same yourself. It is thus that what seemed to be right at one period seems barbarous at another. The divine laws alone are eternal; human laws change as progress advances; and they will change again and again, until they have been brought into harmony with the laws of God."
764. Jesus said, "He that take the sword shall perish by the sword." Are not these words the consecration of the principle of retaliation? and is not the penalty of death, inflicted on a murderer, an application of this principle?
"Take care! You have mistaken the meaning of these words, as of many others. The only righteous retaliation is the justice of God; because it is applied by Him. You are all, at every moment, undergoing this retaliation, for you are punished in that wherein you have sinned, in this life or in another one. He who has caused his fellow-men to suffer will be placed in a situation in which he himself will suffer what he caused them to endure. This is the true meaning of the words of Jesus; for has He not also said to you, 'Forgive your enemies,' and has He not taught you to pray that God may forgive you your trespasses as you forgive those who have trespassed against you, that is to say, exactly in proportion as you have forgiven? Try to take in the full meaning of those words."
765. What is to be thought of the infliction of the penalty of death in the name of God?
"It is a usurpation of God's place in the administration of justice. Those who act thus show how far they are from comprehending God, and how much they still have to expiate. Capital punishment is a crime when applied in the name of God, and those who inflict it will have to answer for it as for so many murders."