585. What do you think of the splitting of the natural world into three kingdoms, or even two classes of inorganic and organic beings? Some add the human species as a fourth class. Which of these divisions is preferable?
“They are all sound, depending upon your point of view. From a material perspective, they are only inorganic and organic beings, while from the moral perspective, there are four levels.”
Clear features distinguish these four levels, although their extremes seem to blend into each other:
Inert matter, makes up the mineral kingdom possesses mechanical force only;
Plant made up of inert matter, are endowed with life;
Animals made up of inert matter as well are endowed with life, and have a limited instinctive intelligence that gives them the consciousness of their existence and individuality;
Lastly, human beings, possessing all that is found in plants and animals, are above all the other classes due to unlimited superior intelligence that makes them aware of their future, the perception of things that are beyond the physical realm, and the knowledge of God.
586. Are plants conscious of their existence?
“No, they do not think. They only possess organic life.”
587. Do plants feel anything? Do they feel pain when they are damaged or dismembered?
“Plants receive the physical impressions that act upon matter, but they have no perceptions. Without perceptions, they do not feel pain.”
588. Is the force that attracts plants to each other independent of their will?
“Yes, because they do not think. It is a mechanical force of matter acting on matter, which they cannot resist it.”
589. Some plants, such as the touch-me-not and the Venus fytrap, have movements that demonstrate great sensitivity and even a sort of will, particularly in the case of the latter whose leaves capture the fy that lands on it and even seem to set a trap to kill it. Are these plants endowed with the faculty of thought? Do they have a will and do they form an intermediate class between the vegetable and animal kingdoms? Are they transition points from the one to the other?
“Everything in nature is in transition, due to the very fact that everything is different and connected. Plants do not think, and therefore have no will. From the oyster that opens its shell to all the zoophytes, they only have a blind natural instinct and do not think.”
The human body provides us with examples of similar movements that take place without any participation of the will, such as the digestive and circulatory systems. The pylorus closes upon contact with certain substances, as if denying them entry. This is the same action as that of the touch-me-not, the movements of which do not necessarily imply perception, much less will.
590. Do plants have an instinct of self-preservation that leads them to seek out what may be useful and avoid what would cause them harm?
“You may call it a sort of instinct, but that depends on your defnition of the word. It is purely mechanical. When you see two bodies unite in chemical operations, it is because there is an affnity between them, but you do not call that instinct.”
591. In higher worlds, are the plants of a more perfect nature like all other beings?
“Everything in those worlds is more perfect, but plants are always plants, animals are always animals, and human beings are always human beings.”