CHAPTER VII VI. SOCIAL LAW
1. NECESSITY OF SOCIAL LIFE -- 2. LIFE OF ISOLATION. VOW OF SILENCE -- 3. FAMILY TIES.
Necessity of Social Life.
766. Is social life founded in nature?
"Certainly; God has made man for living in society. It is not without a purpose that God has given to man the faculty of speech and the other faculties necessary to the life of relation."
767. Is absolute isolation contrary to the law of nature?
"Yes, since man instinctively seeks society, and since all men are intended to help forward the work of progress by aiding one another."
768. Does man, in seeking society, only yield to a personal feeling, or is there, in this feeling, a wider providential end?
"Man must progress; he cannot do so alone, because, as he does not possess all faculties, he needs the contact of other men. In isolation he becomes brutified and stunted."No man possesses the complete range of faculties. Through social union men complete one another, and thus mutually secure their well-being and progress. It is because they need each other's help that they have been formed for living in society, and not in isolation.
Life of Isolation.
769. We can understand that the taste for social life, as a general principle, should be founded in nature, as are all other tastes; but why should a taste for absolute isolation be regarded as blamable, if a man finds satisfaction in it?
"Such satisfaction can only be a selfish one. There are also men who find satisfaction in getting drunk; do you approve of them? A mode of life, by the adoption of which you condemn yourselves not to be useful to any one, cannot be pleasing to God."
770. What is to be thought of those who live in absolute seclusion in order to escape the pernicious contact of the world?
"The life of such persons is doubly selfish. In avoiding one evil, they fall into another, since they forget the jaw of love and charity."
-- But if such seclusion is undergone as an expiation, through the imposing on one's self of a painful privation, is it not meritorious?
"The best of all expiations is to do a greater amount of good than you have done of evil."
771. What is to be thought of those who renounce the world in order to devote themselves to the relief of the unfortunate?
"They raise themselves by their voluntary abasement. They have the double merit of placing themselves above material enjoyments, and of doing good by fulfilling the law of labor."
-- And those who seek in retirement the tranquility required for certain kinds of labor?
"Those who live in retirement from such a motive are not selfish; they do not separate themselves from society, since their labors are for the general good."
772. What is to be thought of the vow of silence prescribed by certain sects from the very earliest times?
"You should rather ask yourselves whether speech is in nature, and why God has given it? God condemns the abuse, but not the use, of the faculties He has given. Silence, however, is useful; for, in silence you have fuller possession of yourself; your spirit is freer, and can then enter into more intimate communication with us; but a vow of silence is an absurdity. Those who regard the undergoing of such voluntary privations as acts of virtue are prompted, undoubtedly, by a good intention in submitting to them; but they make a mistake in so doing, because they do not sufficiently understand the true laws of God."The vow of silence, like the vow of isolation, deprives man of the social relations which alone can furnish him with the opportunities of doing good, and of fulfilling the law of progress.
773. Why is it that, among the animals, parents and children forget each other, when the latter no longer need the care of the former?
"The life of the animals is material life, but not moral life. The tenderness of the dam for her young is prompted by the instinct of preservation in regard to the beings born of her. When these beings are able to take care of themselves, her task is done; nature asks no more of her, and she therefore abandons them in order to busy herself with those that come afterwards."
774. Some persons have inferred, from the abandonment of the young of animals by their parents, that the ties of family, among mankind, are merely a result of social customs, and not a law of nature; what is to be thought of this inference?
"Man has another destiny than of the animals; why, then, should you always be trying to assimilate him to them? There is, in man, something more than physical wants; there is the necessity of progressing. Social ties are necessary to progress; and social ties are drawn closer by family ties. For this reason, family ties are a law of nature. God has willed that men should learn, through them, to love one another as brothers." (205.)
775. What would be the effect upon society of the relaxation of family ties?
"A relapse into selfishness."
CHAPTER VIII VII. THE LAW OF PROGRESS
1. STATE OF NATURE -- 2. MARCH OF PROGRESS -- 3. DEGENERATE PEOPLES -- 4. CIVILISATION -- 5. PROGRESS OF HUMAN LEGISLATION -- 6. INFLUENCE OF SPIRITISM UPON PROGRESS.
State of Nature.
776. Are the state of nature and the law of nature the same thing?
"No; the state of nature is the primitive state. Civilization is incompatible with the state of nature, while the law of nature contributes to the progress of the human race."The "state of nature" is the infancy of the human race, and the starting point of its intellectual and moral development. Man, being perfectible, and containing in himself the germ of his amelioration, is no more destined to live forever in the state of nature, than he is destined to live forever in the state of infancy; the state of nature is transitory, and man outgrows it through progress and civilization. The "law of nature," on the contrary, rules the human race throughout its entire career; and men improve in proportion as they comprehend this law more clearly, and conform their action more closely to its requirements.
777. Man, in the state of nature, having fewer wants, escapes many of the tribulations he creates for himself in a state of greater advancement. What is to be thought of the opinion of those who regard the former state as being that of the most perfect felicity obtainable upon the earth?
"Such felicity is that of the brute; but there are persons who understand no other. It is being happy after the fashion of the brutes. Children, too, are happier than grown-up people."
778. Could mankind retrograde towards the state of nature?
"No; mankind must progress unceasingly, and cannot return to the state of infancy. If men have to progress, it is because God so wills it; to suppose that they could retrograde towards the primitive condition would be to deny the law of progress."
March of Progress.
779. Does man contain in himself the force that impels him onward in the path of progress, or is his progress only the product of instruction?
"Man is developed of himself, naturally. But all men do not progress at the same rate, nor in the same manner; and it is thus that most advances are made to help forward the others, through social contact."
780. Does moral progress always follow intellectual progress?
"It is a consequence of the latter, but does not always follow it immediately." (192-365.) -- How can intellectual progress lead to moral progress?
"By making man comprehend good and evil; he can then choose between them. The development of free-will follows the development of the intelligence and increases the responsibility of human action."
-- How comes it, then, that the most enlightened nations are often the most perverted?
"Complete and integral progress is the aim of existence; but nations, like individuals, only reach it step by step. Until the moral sense is developed in them, they may even employ their intelligence in doing evil. Moral sense and intellect are two forces which only arrive at equilibrium in the long run." (365-751.)
781. Has man the power of arresting the march of progress?
"No; but he has sometimes that of hindering it."
-- What is to be thought of the men who attempt to arrest the march of progress, and to make the human race go backwards?
"They are wretched weaklings whom God will chastise; they will be overthrown by the torrent they have tried to arrest."Progress being a condition of human nature, it is not in the power of any one to prevent it. It is a living force that bad laws may hamper, but not stifle. When these laws become incompatible with progress, progress breaks them down with all those who attempt to hold them up and it will continue to do so until man has brought his laws into harmony with the divine justice which wills the good of all, and the abolition of all laws that are made for the strong, and against the weak.
782. Are there not men who honestly obstruct progress while believing themselves to be helping it forward, because, judging the matter from their own point of view, they often regard as "progress" what is not really such?
"Yes; there are persons who push their little pebbles under the great wheel; but they will not keep it from going on."
783. Does the improvement of the human race always proceed by slow progression?
"There is the regular slow progress that inevitably results from the force of things; but, when a people does not advance quickly enough, God also prepares for it, from time to time, a physical or moral shock that hastens its transformation."Man cannot remain perpetually in ignorance, because he must reach the goal marked out for him by Providence; he is gradually enlightened by the force of things. Moral revolutions, like social revolutions, are prepared, little by little, in the ideas of a people; they go on germinating for centuries, and at length suddenly burst forth, overthrowing the crumbling edifice of the past, which is no longer in harmony with the new wants and new aspirations of the day.
Man often perceives, in these public commotions, only the momentary disorder and confusion that affect him in his material interests; but he who raises his thoughts above his own personality admires the providential working which brings good out of evil. Such commotions are the tempest and the storm that purify the atmosphere after having disturbed it.
784. Man's perversity is very great; does he not seem to be going back instead of advancing, at least, as regards morality?
"You are mistaken. Look at the human race as a whole, and you will see that it is advancing; for it has arrived at a clearer perception of what is evil, and every day witnesses the reform of some abuse. The excess of evil is required to show you the necessity of good and of reforms."
785. What is the greatest obstacle to progress?
"Pride and selfishness. I refer to moral progress; for intellectual progress is always going on, and would even seem, at the first glance, to give redoubled activity to those vices, by developing ambition and the love of riches, which, however, in their turn, stimulate man to the researches that enlighten his mind, for it is thus that all things are linked together, in the moral world as in the physical world, and that good is brought even out of evil; but this state of things will only last for a time, and will change, as men become aware of that, beyond the circle of terrestrial enjoyments, there is a happiness infinitely greater and infinitely more lasting." (913.)There are two kinds of progress, that mutually aid one another, and yet do not proceed side by side intellectual progress, and moral progress. Among civilized peoples the first is receiving, at the present day, abundant encouragement; and it has accordingly reached a degree of advancement unknown to past ages. The second is very far from having reached the same point; although, if we compare the social usages of periods separated by a few centuries, we are compelled to admit that progress has also been made in this direction. Why, then, should the ascensional movement stop short in the region of morality any more than of intelligence? Why should there not be as great a difference between the morality of the nineteenth and the twenty-fourth centuries as between that of the fourteenth and the nineteenth? To doubt of the continuity of moral progress would be to assume either that the human race reached the summit of perfection, which would be absurd, or that it is not morally perfectible, which is disproved by experience.
786. History shows us many peoples who, after having been subjected to shocks that have overthrown their nationality, have relapsed into barbarism. What progress has there been made in such cases?
"When your house threatens to fall about your ears, you pull it down, in order to build another, stronger and more commodious; but, until the latter is built, there is trouble and confusion in your dwelling.
"Comprehend this also: you are poor and live in a hovel; you become rich, and quit the hovel to live in a palace. Then comes a poor devil, such as you formerly were, and takes possession of the hovel you have quitted; and he is a gainer by the move, for he was previously altogether without shelter. Learn from this that the spirits now incarnated in the people that you call 'degenerate' are not those who composed that people in the time of its splendor; those spirits, being of advanced degree, have gone to reside in nobler habitations, and have progressed, while others less advanced have taken their vacated places, which they too will vacate in their turn."
787. Are there not races that, by their nature, are incapable of progress?
"Yes, but they are day by day becoming annihilated corporeally."
-- What will be the future fate of the souls that animate those races?
"They, like all others, will arrive at perfection by passing through other existences. God deprives no one of the general heritage."
-- The most civilized men may, then, have been savages and cannibals?
"You, yourself, have been such, more than once, before becoming what you now are."
788. The various peoples are collective individualities, that pass, like individuals, through infancy, manhood, and decrepitude. Does not this truth, attested by history, seem to imply that the most advanced peoples of this century will have their decline and their end, like those of antiquity?
"Those peoples that only live the life of the body, those whose greatness is founded only upon physical force and territorial extension, are born, grow, and die, because the strength of a people becomes exhausted like that of a man; those whose selfish laws are opposed to the progress of enlightenment and of charity die, because light kills darkness, and charity kills selfishness. But there is for nations, as for individuals, the life of the soul; and those whose laws are in harmony with the eternal laws of the Creator will continue to live, and will be the guiding-torch of the other nations."
789. Will progress ultimately unite all the peoples of the earth into a single nation?
"No, not into a single nation; that is impossible, because the diversities of climate give rise to diversities of habits and of needs that constitute diverse nationalities, each of which will always need laws appropriate to is special habits and needs. But charity know nothing of latitudes, and makes no distinction between the various shades of human color; and when the law of God shall be everywhere the basis of human law, the law of charity will be practiced between nation and nation as between man and man, and all will then live in peace and happiness, because no one will attempt to wrong his neighbor, or to live at his expense."The human race progresses through the progress of individuals, who gradually become enlightened and improved, and who, when they constitute a majority, obtain the upper hand, and draw the rest forward. Men of genius arise from time to time and give an impulse to the work of advancement; and men having authority, instruments of God, effect in the course of a few years what the race, left to itself, would have taken several centuries to accomplish.
The progress of nations renders still more evident the justice of reincarnation. Through the efforts of its best men, a nation is made to advance intellectually and morally; and the nation thus advanced is happier both in this world and in the next. But during its slow passage through successive centuries, thousands of its people have died every day. What will be the fate of those who have thus fallen on the way? Does their relative inferiority deprive them of the happiness reserved for those who came later? Or will their happiness be always proportioned to that inferiority? The divine justice could not permit so palpable an injustice. Through the plurality of existences, the same degree of happiness is obtainable by all, for no one is excluded from the heritage of progress. Those who have lived in a period of barbarism, come back in a period of civilization among the same people or among another one; and all are thus enabled to profit by the ascensional movement of the various nations of the earth, from the benefits of which movement they are excluded by the theory which assumes that there is only a single life for each individual. Another difficulty presented by the theory referred to may be conveniently examined in this place. According to that theory, the soul is crested at the same time as the body; so that, as some men are more advanced than others, it follows that God creates for some men souls more advanced than the souls He creates for other men. But why this favoritism? How can one man, who has lived no longer than another man, often not so long, have merited to be thus endowed with a soul of a quality superior to that of the soul which has been given to that other man?
But the theory of the unity of existence presents a still graver difficulty. A nation, in the course of a thousand years, passes from barbarism to civilization. If all men lived a thousand years, we could understand that, in this period, they would have the time to progress; but many die every day, at all ages, and the people of the earth are incessantly renewed, so that every day we see them appear and disappear. Thus, at the end of a thousand years, no trace remains in any country of those who were living in it a thousand years before. The nation, from the state of barbarism in which it was, has become civilized--but what is it that has thus progressed? Is it the people who were formerly barbarian? But they died long ago. Is it the newcomers? But if the soul is created at the same time with the body, it follows that their souls were not in existence during the period of barbarism; and we should therefore be compelled to admit that the efforts made to civilize a people have the power, not to work out the improvement of souls that are created imperfect, but to make God create souls of a better quality than these which He created a thousand years before.
Let us compare this theory of progress with the one now given by spirits. The souls that come into a nation in its period of civilization have had their infancy, like all the others, but they have lived already, and have brought with them the advancement resulting from progress previously made; they come into it, attracted by a state of things with which they are in sympathy, and which is suited to their present degree of advancement, so that the effect of the efforts to civilize a people is not to cause the future creation of souls of a better quality, but to attract to that people souls that have already progressed, whether they have already lived among that people, or whether they have lived elsewhere. And the progress accomplished by each people, when thus explained, furnishes also the key to the progress of the human race in its entirety, by showing that when all the peoples of the earth shall have reached the same level of moral advancement, the earth will be the resort of good spirits only, who will live together in fraternal union, and all the bad spirits who now infest it, finding themselves out of place among the others, and repelled by them, will go away, and will seek in lower worlds the surroundings that suit them, until they have rendered themselves worthy of coming back into our transformed and happier world. The theory commonly received leads also to this other consequence, namely, that the labor of social amelioration is profitable only to present and future generations; its result is null for the generations of the past, who made the mistake of coming into the world too soon, and who have to get on as they can, weighted as they are through the faults of their barbarian epoch. According to the, doctrine now set forth by spirits, the progress accomplished by later generations is equally beneficial to the generations that preceded them, and who, re-living upon the earth under improved conditions, are thus enabled to improve themselves in the focus of civilization. (222.)
790. Is civilization a progress, or, according to some philosophers, a decadence, of the human race?
"A progress, but incomplete. Mankind does not pass suddenly from infancy to the age of reason."
-- Is it reasonable to condemn civilization?
"You should condemn those who misuse it, rather than condemn the work of God."
791. Will civilization be eventually purified, so that the evils caused by it will disappear?
"Yes, when man's moral nature shall be as fully developed as his intelligence. The fruit cannot come before the flower."
792. Why does not civilization produce at once all the good it is capable of producing?
"Because men are not as yet either ready or disposed to obtain that good."
-- May it not be also because in creating new wants it excites new passions?
"Yes, and because all the faculties of a spirit do not progress together; everything takes time. You cannot expect perfect fruit from a civilization that is still incomplete." (751-780.)
793. By what signs shall we know when a civilization has reached its apogee?
"You will know it by its moral development. You believe yourselves to be considerably advanced, because you have made great discoveries and wonderful inventions, because you are better lodged and better clothed than the savages; but you will only have the right to call yourselves 'civilized' when you have banished from your society the vices that dishonor it, and when you live among yourselves like brothers, practicing Christian charity. Until then, you are merely enlightened nations, having traversed only the first phase of civilization"Civilization has its degrees like everything else. An incomplete civilization is a state of transition which engenders special evils unknown to the primitive state; but it nonetheless constitutes a natural and necessary progress, which brings with it the remedy for the evils it occasions. In proportion as civilization becomes perfected, it puts an end to the ills it has engendered, and these ills disappear altogether with the advance of moral progress.
Of two nations which have reached the summit of the social scale, that one may be called the most advanced in which is found the smallest amount of selfishness, cupidity, and pride; in which the habits are more moral and intellectual than material; in which intelligence can develop itself most freely; in which there is the greatest amount of kindness, good faith, and reciprocal benevolence and generosity; in which the prejudices of caste and of birth are the least rooted, for those prejudices are incompatible with the true love of the neighbor; in which the laws sanction no privilege, and are the same for the lowest as for the highest; in which justice is administered with the least amount of partiality; in which the weak always finds support against the strong; in which human life, beliefs, and opinions are most respected; in which there is the smallest number of the poor and the unhappy; and, finally, in which every man who is willing to work is always sure of the necessities of life.
Progress of Human Legislation.
794. Would the laws of nature be sufficient for the regulation of human society, without the help of human laws?
"If the laws of nature were properly understood, and if men were willing to practice them, they would be sufficient. But society has its exigencies, and requires the cooperation of special laws."
795. What is the cause of the instability of human laws?
"In times of barbarism the laws were made by the strongest, who framed them to their own advantage. It has therefore become necessary to modify them, as men have acquired a clearer comprehension of justice. Human laws will become more stable in proportion as they approach the standard of true justice, that is to say, in proportion as they are made for all, and become identified with natural law."Civilization has created for man new wants, and these wants are relative to the social state he has made for himself. He has found it necessary to regulate by human laws the rights and duties appertaining to this state; but, influenced by his passions, he has often created rights and duties that are merely imaginary, that are contrary to natural law, and that every nation effaces from its code in proportion as it progresses. Natural law is immutable and the same for all; human law is variable and progressive; It alone could consecrate, in the infancy of human societies, the right of the strongest.
796. Is not the severity of penal legislation a necessity in the present state of society?
"A depraved state of society requires severe laws, but your laws, unhappily, aim rather at punishing wrong-doing when done, than at drying-up the fountainhead of wrong-doing. It is only education that can reform mankind; when that is done, you will no longer require laws of the same severity."
797. How can the reform of human laws be brought about?
"It will be brought about by the force of things, and by the influence of the men of greater advancement who lead the world onward in the path of progress. It has already reformed many abuses, and it will reform many more. Wait!"
Influence of Spiritism on Progress.
798. Will Spiritism become the general belief, or will its acceptance remain confined to the few?
"It will certainly become the general belief, and will mark a new era in the history of the human race, because it belongs to the natural order of things, and because the time has come for it to be ranked among the branches of human knowledge. It will nevertheless have to withstand a good many violent attack--attacks that will be prompted rather by interest than by conviction, for you must not lose sight of the fact that there are persons whose interest is to combat this belief, some from self-conceit, others from worldly considerations; but its opponents, finding themselves in a decreasing minority, will at length be obliged to rally to the general opinion, on pain of rendering themselves ridiculous."Ideas are only transformed in the long run, never suddenly. Erroneous ideas become weakened in the course of successive generations, and finish by disappearing, little by little, with those who professed them, and who are replaced by other individuals imbued with new ideas, as is the case in regard to political principles. Look at paganism: there is certainly no one, in our day, who professes the religious ideas of pagan times; and yet, for several centuries after the advent of Christianity, they left traces that could only be effaced by the complete renovation of the races who held them. It will be the same with Spiritism; it will make considerable progress, but there will remain, during two or three generations, a leaven of incredulity that only time will be able to destroy. Nevertheless, its progress will be more rapid than that of Christianity, because it is Christianity itself that opens the road for it, and furnishes its basis and support. Christianity had to destroy; Spiritism has only to build up.
799. In what way can Spiritism contribute to progress?
"By destroying materialism, which is one of the sores of society, and thus making men understand where their true interest lies. The future life being no longer veiled by doubt, men will understand more clearly that they can insure the happiness of their future by their action in the present life. By destroying the prejudices of sects, castes, and colors, it teaches men the large solidarity that will, one day, unite them as brothers."
800. Is it not to be feared that Spiritism may fail to triumph over the carelessness of men and their attachment to material things?
"To suppose that any cause could transform mankind as by enchantment would show a very superficial knowledge of human nature. Ideas are modified little by little, according to the differences of individual character, and several generations are needed for the complete effacing of old habits. The transformation of mankind can therefore only be effected in the course of time, gradually, and by the contagion of example. With each new generation, a part of the veil is melted away; Spiritism is come to dissipate it entirely. But, meantime, if it should do no more than cure a man of a single defect, it would have led him to take a step forward, and would thus have done him great good, for the taking of this first step will render all his subsequent steps easier."
801. Why have not spirits taught, from the earliest times, what they are teaching at the present day?
"You do not teach to children what you teach to adults, and you do not give to a new-born babe the food which he could not digest; there is a time for all things. Spirits have taught many things that men have not understood or have perverted, but that they are now capable of understanding aright. Through their teaching in the past, however incomplete, they have prepared the ground to receive the seed which is now about to fructify."
802. Since Spiritism is to mark a progress on the part of the human race, why do not spirits hasten this progress by manifestations so general and so patent as to carry conviction to the most incredulous?
"You are always wanting miracles; but God sows miracles by handfuls under your feet, and yet you still have men who deny their existence. Did Christ Himself convince His contemporaries by the prodigies He accomplished? Do you not see men, at this day, denying the most evident of facts, though occurring under their very eyes? Have you not among you some who say that they would not believe, even though they saw? No; it is not by prodigies that God wills to bring men back to the truth; He wills, in His goodness, to leave to them the merit of convincing themselves through the exercise of their reason."