913. What vice may we label as the root of the others?
“Selfishness, as we have repeatedly told you. Every wrongdoing can be traced back to selfishness. Study all the vices, and you will see that selfishness is at the root of them all. You will never succeed in eradicating them until, you attack them at their root, only then you have destroyed the selfishness that is their cause. All your efforts should be focused on this end, as selfishness is the plague of human society. All those who attempt to reach moral excellence must uproot every selfish feeling from their hearts, because it is incompatible with justice, love and charity; it offsets all other qualities.”
914. As it is rooted in personal interest, it seems to be very difficult to entirely remove selfishness from the human heart. Is it possible?
“As human beings become enlightened in regard to spiritual things, they attach less value to material things. As they free themselves from the shackles of matter, they reform the human institutions that foster selfishness. This is accomplished through education.”
915. As selfishness is inherent to the human race, will it not always be an obstacle to the reign of absolute goodness on Earth?
“Selfishness is your greatest evil, but it belongs to the spirits incarnated on Earth who are of an inferior nature and not to the entirety of the human race. Consequently, those spirits, in purifying themselves through successive lives, shed their selfishness like all their other impurities. Are there none among you who have rid themselves of selfishness, and who practice charity on Earth? There are more than you think, but they are not well-known because virtue does not seek to bask in the spotlight. If one individual like this exists, why should there not be ten? If there are ten, why should there not be one thousand, and so on?”
916. Selfishness increases with the civilization that seems to strengthen and intensify it. How can the cause destroy the effect?
“The greater the wickedness the more hideous it is. Selfishness has to do a vast amount of harm, so that you may understand how crucial the need is to eradicate it. When human beings overcome selfishness, they will live like brothers and sisters by mutually helping each other through a sense of solidarity. The strong will then support the weak, rather than oppress them, and no one will lack the necessities of life because everyone will obey the law of justice. This reign of good is what the spirits are responsible for preparing.” (See no. 784)
917. How can we overcome selfishness?
“Of all human imperfections, selfishness is the most difficult to uproot. It is influenced by matter, from which human beings, still too close to their origin, have not yet been able to break loose, as human laws, society and education all support it. Selfishness will be gradually weakened as your moral life gains dominance over your material life, through the knowledge that Spiritism gives you regarding the reality of your future life, stripped of allegories and metaphors. When Spiritism is properly understood and identified with beliefs and habits of humankind, it will transform all your customs, traditions and social relations. Selfishness is based on the importance you attribute to your own personality. Spiritism makes you look at everything from such an elevated standpoint that all sense of individuality is lost in confronting this immensity. Spiritism battles selfishness by destroying self-importance and revealing its true nature.”
“Human beings often become selfish by experiencing the selfishness of others, which makes them feel the need to put themselves on the defensive. Seeing that others think of themselves and not of you causes you to think of yourself rather than others. Charity and fraternity must become the basis of all social institutions, the legal relations between nations and individuals. Only then will individuals think less of their own personal interests, because they will realize that others have thought of them. Humankind will then experience the upright influence of example and contact. Amidst the present deluge of selfishness, considerable virtue is needed for human beings to sacrifice their own interests for the sake of others, and those who make such a sacrifice often receive little gratitude for such restraint. Those who possess this virtue are welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven with open arms, while those who have thought only of themselves will be cast aside on judgment day, and left to suffer in loneliness.” (See no. 785) Fénelon
Praiseworthy efforts are being put forward to help advance the progress of humanity. Kind and charitable thoughts are encouraged, stimulated and honored now more than at any other time in history, and yet selfishness continues to plague society. It is a social disease that affects everyone, of which everyone is more or less the victim, and should be fought like any other epidemic. To this end, we must emulate the methodology of a skilled physician and begin by tracing the disease to its origin. We must seek out, in every division of human society, from families to nations, from the hut to the palace, all the obvious and obscure causes and influences that sustain and foster selfishness. Once the causes of the disease are established, the remedy presents itself spontaneously through the combined efforts of all, and the virus is destroyed gradually. The cure may take a long time, because the causes are numerous, but it is not impossible. That being said, it can only be successful by getting to the root of the evil; that is, through education. Not the education that aims only to educate people; but the one that also aims to make them moral individuals.
Proper education is the key to moral progress. When the art of training the moral nature of human beings is as easily understood as the art of training the intellect, a corrupt nature can be straightened out just like a crooked sapling. However, this practice demands a great deal of tact, experience, and profound observation. It is a huge mistake to assume that possessing scientific knowledge alone is enough to enable the teacher to exercise it successfully. If we study, for instance, the lives of children, whether rich or poor, and note all the bad influences that act upon their weaknesses from the moment of their birth, taking into account the ignorance and negligence of those who are responsible for the upbringing of these children, and the improper means employed in moralizing them, it is no wonder to find so much wrong in the world.. If the same skill and care is given to the training of the moral nature as to that of the intellect, human beings would discover that if there are obstinate natures, there are also, in a greater number than you might think, those who require only the proper cultivation in order to yield good fruit. (See no. 872)
Human beings want to be happy and this natural desire prompts them to work tirelessly to improve their condition on Earth, and seek out the causes of their ills in order to address them. When they understand thoroughly that selfishness stimulates pride, ambition, greed, envy, hatred and jealousy and causes constant distress, that it brings trouble to all social relations, provokes conflict, destroys confidence, turns friends into enemies, and forces each individual to remain constantly on the defense against each other, then they will also see that this vice is incompatible with both happiness and security. The more they suffer from selfishness, the more intensely they feel the need to fight it, just as they fight diseases, dangerous animals, and every other source of disaster. They are compelled to act as such out of their own best interest. (See no. 784) Selfishness is the source of all vices, just as charity is the source of all virtues. Destroying one while developing the other should be the goal for all those who seek to guarantee happiness in the present life and in the next.