IV. LAW OF PRESERVATION
Instinct of Self-Preservation - Means of Self-Preservation - Enjoying the Fruits of the Earth - Necessary and Superfluous Things - Voluntary Deprivations – Mortification
Instinct of Self-Preservation
702. Is the instinct of self-preservation a law of nature?
“Of course. Regardless of intelligence, it is given to all living creatures.
In some it is purely mechanical, while in others it is associated
703. Why has God given the instinct of self-preservation to all living creatures?
“God has given them the desire to live to carry out the designs
of Providence. Furthermore, life is necessary for the improvement of
beings. All living beings feel it instinctively, without understanding it.”
Means of Self-Preservation
704. In giving humans the desire to live, has God always provided them with
the means of doing so?
“Yes, and if they do not always find the means, it is because they do
not understand them. God would not instill the love of life in humankind
without giving them the means to live, and God has created Earth
so that it is able to produce sufficient means for all its inhabitants. Only
that which is necessary is useful, while superfluous are never useful.”
705. Why is it that the Earth does not always produce enough to provide the
human race with what is necessary to live?
“Because human beings are ungrateful and neglect to make fruitful
use of Earth’s bounty! Nevertheless, she is an excellent mother.
They often accuse nature of what is truly the direct consequence of
their own nearsightedness. If human beings could simply be content
with what is necessary, the Earth would always provide it. If it does not
provide for all their wants, it is because humanity use Earth’s resources
to supply luxuries when they should be setting them aside to supply
necessities instead. Look at the example of Arabs in the desert. They always find enough to survive, because they do not create artificial
needs. When half of the Earth’s products are squandered in gratifying
impulsive wishes and demands, should humans be astonished when
they run out, and do they have any reason to complain if they are poorly
equipped when scarcity strikes? I repeat: nature is not careless, but
humans do not know how to control their use of her bounty.”
706. Should we understand the ‘fruits of the Earth’ to mean the products
of the soil?
“The soil is the fundamental source of all other products, which
are only transformed versions of the products of the soil. As such, the
term ‘fruits of the Earth’ should be understood to mean anything that
human beings enjoy in their physical lives.”
707. There are always individuals who lack the means to survive, despite
living surrounded by abundance. Who should be blamed for this?
“At the selfishness of humans, who too often prevents them to do
what they need. Next, and most often, the individuals themselves are
to blame. Christ said, ‘Seek, and you shall find but these words do
not imply that all you have to do is look down on the ground to find
anything that you may want. You must search for what you want
passionately and with perseverance, without being discouraged by
obstacles that are often only a means of testing your determination,
patience, and resolve.” (See no. 534)
While civilization increases our needs, it also increases our
resources and means of survival. However, we must confess
that there is much that still needs to be done. Civilization will
achieve its task only when human beings no longer lack the
necessities of life, unless this is through no fault other than
their own. Unfortunately, many individuals choose the wrong
path and, because nature has not intended it for them, they
fail – that is when they lack the intelligence to succeed. There
is room for everyone, but each person must assume his or her
own place, and not that of another. Nature cannot fairly be
held responsible for the effects of a flawed social organization,
nor for those of personal selfishness and ambition.
We would have to be blind, however, if we did not acknowledge
the progress that has already been accomplished in this
direction among the most advanced nations. Philanthropy and
science have focused on the betterment of humankind and despite
an increasing global population; they have managed to
minimize the effects of insufficient production dramatically.
Today, the most unfavorable years of an economic cycle are far
less disastrous than in the past.
For example, hygiene, which is a critical point for public and
individual health, and of which our ancestors had little or no
knowledge, is a constant subject of scientific research and investigation.
Likewise, refuge is provided for the unfortunate
and suffering, and every new scientific discovery is made to
contribute to the general well-being of all. May it be said that
we have attained perfection? Oh, certainly not. But what has
been accomplished is just a glimpse of what may be done, with
perseverance. Human beings must focus on seeking practical
improvements, instead of wasting their energy on idealistic
projects that set them back rather than pushing them forward.
708. Are there any social situations in human life when the will is incapable
of obtaining the means of existence, and in that case, the deprivation of the
most fundamental necessities is a consequence of such circumstances?
“Yes, but this would be a trial that the spirit was aware of having
to endure. The merit of individuals involved in such a trial will be
based on their surrendering to God’s will, if their intelligence does not
free them from their troubles. If death occurs, they should accept it
without complaint, remembering that their hour of true freedom has
arrived, and that yielding to despair at the last minute, no matter how little,
may cause them to lose the reward of their prior resignation.”
709. When, during extreme crisis, where human beings are forced to consume
the flesh of other human beings to survive, are they committing
a crime? If so, does the fact their action is based on an instinct of self-preservation
lessen the crime?
“I have already responded by saying that there is more merit in
undergoing life’s trials with courage and resignation. In these cases,
human beings resort to both homicide and commit a crime against
nature. This results in dual culpability that receives dual atonement.”
710. In worlds where the physical makeup of living beings is purer than on
Earth, do these beings need food?
“Yes, but their food matches their nature. Their food would not
be enough for your basic stomachs and those beings could not digest
your heavier food.”
Enjoying the Fruits of the Earth
711. Do all human beings have a right to enjoy the fruits of the Earth?
“This right is a direct corollary of the need to live. God does not
impose a duty without providing the means of carrying it out.”
712. Why has God made using material things attractive?
“For two reasons, first to motivate human beings to accomplish
their mission, and second, to test them by temptation.”
a) What is the purpose of temptation?
“To develop human reason, so that it may safeguard humankind
If human beings are pressed to use physical things based on
their value or usefulness alone, their indifference could have
compromised the harmony of the universe. For that reason,
God has given humans enjoyable attractions that lead them to
carrying out Divine plans. God uses these attractions to also test
them with temptations that cause them to commit actions that
their human reason should protect them against.
713. Has nature indicated the clear limits of pleasures?
“Yes, limits that coincide with your needs. Excess leads to gluttony
and you end up punishing yourselves.”
714. What should we think of those who seek to enhance their pleasure in all
sorts of excesses?
“Such individuals should be pitied rather than envied because they
are very close to death.”
a) Physical or moral death?
Those who seek an enhancement of physical satisfactions in
any kind of excess place themselves below animals, because
even animals stop at the satisfaction of a need. They relinquish
the reason given to them by God for their guidance, and the
greater their excesses the more power they give to their animal
nature over their spiritual nature. Diseases, illnesses and death
itself are the consequences of excess. They also serve as atonements
for transgressing God’s law.
Necessary and Superfluous Things
715. How can human beings know the limit of what is necessary?
“Wise men and women know by intuition, while many others learn
through experience and at their own expense.”
716. Has nature outlined the limit of our needs in the requirements of our
“Yes, but human beings are insatiable. Nature has indicated the limits
of their needs by their physical makeup, but their vices have changed
their structure and created wants that are not real needs.”
717. What should we think of those who in order to secure excess, hoard
the goods of the Earth to the detriment of others who lack what is necessary
“They overlook God’s law, and will have to answer for the poverty
they have caused others to suffer.”
There is no finite boundary between what is necessary and what
is superfluous. Civilization has created necessities that do not
exist for savages. The spirits who have dictated the aforementioned
principles are not saying that civilized human beings
should live as savages do. Everything is relative, and reason
must determine how things should be divided. Civilization develops
both the moral sense and the sentiment of charity, which
leads people to support one another mutually. Those who live
at the expense of others, depriving them of even the barest
necessities and hoarding the benefits of civilization for their
own profit, only wear the mask of civilization, just as others only
wear the mask of religion.
Voluntary Deprivations – Mortifications
718. Does the law of self-preservation require us to provide for our bodily wants?
“Yes, labor is impossible without strength and health.”
719. Are human beings at fault for seeking well-being?
“Well-being is a natural desire. God only prohibits excess, because
excess is detrimental to survival. God has not made it a crime to seek
well-being, if that well-being is not acquired at another’s expense and
if it does not weaken your moral or physical strength.”
720. Are voluntary deprivations, meant to serve as a voluntary atonement,
laudable in God’s eyes?
“Do good to others, and you will acquire more merit.”
a) Is any voluntary deprivation laudable?
“Yes, the self-deprivation of useless indulgences, because it weakens
the hold that matter has on human beings, and elevates their soul.
Resistance to the temptation that solicits excess or indulgence in what
is useless is praiseworthy. Equally commendable is cutting back on
your necessities so that you have more to give to those in need. If your
deprivations are only a vain pretense, they are a derision.”
721. Throughout the course of time and among all populations, there have
been those who have lived a life of ascetic mortification. Is an ascetic life
“Ask yourselves to whom such a life is useful, and you will have
the answer to your question. If such a life only serves the person
who leads it and it prevents that person from doing good, it is a
form of selfishness, regardless of the pretext it hides behind. True
mortification, according to Christian charity, is to impose self-deprivation
and work upon yourself for the benefit of others.”
722. Is there any virtue in abstaining from eating certain foods, as practiced
among various religious or ethnic groups?
“Whatever you can eat without harming your health is permitted.
Legislators may have prohibited certain foods for a useful purpose
and portrayed them as emanating from God to give these regulations
723. Does the consumption of animal flesh by human beings contradict
“With your physical makeup, flesh nourishes flesh, and without
this kind of sustenance human strength declines. The law of self-preservation
requires humans to keep up their strength and health to fulfill
the law of labor. They should, therefore, eat according to the requirements
of their bodies.”
724. Is there any merit in abstaining from any particular kind of food when
suffered as a form of penance?
“Yes, if suffered for the sake of others. However, God cannot regard
any mortification as laudable if it is not a serious and useful deprivation.
This is why we say that those who practice superficial self-deprivation
are hypocrites.” (See no. 720)
725. What should we think of the mutilation of the bodies of humans
“What is the purpose of such a question? Ask yourselves whether
something is useful or not. What is useless displeases God, and what
is hurtful disappoints the purpose of creation. Rest assured that God
only appreciates sentiments that elevate the soul. It is by practicing
Divine Law, and not by violating it, that you can shake off your material
726. If the suffering of this world elevates us, depending on how we bear it,
are we elevated by that which we voluntarily create for ourselves?
“You can only be elevated by natural suffering, because they come
from by God. Voluntary suffering is worthless when it is not useful to others. Do you think that those who shorten their lives by superhuman
hardships, as practiced by the bonzes, fakirs, and fanatics of various religious
groups, advance their progress by doing so? They should spend
their time focused on doing good for their fellow human beings. They
should clothe the naked, comfort those who cry, work for the disabled,
and deprive themselves for the sake of the unfortunate, and then their
lives will be useful and pleasing to God. When your experience voluntary
suffering for yourself alone, it is selfishness. When you suffer for
others, it is charity. These are the commandments of Christ.”
727. Since we should not create voluntary suffering for ourselves that serves
no purpose for others, should we protect ourselves from that which we can
anticipate or that which threatens us?
“The instinct of self-preservation has been given to all beings to
serve as a safeguard against danger and suffering. Chastise your spirit
and not your body, mortify your pride, and stifle the selfishness that
like a snake devours your heart. By doing this, you will do more for
your development than any amount of mortifications, which are no
longer appropriate for the time period in which you are living.