All human institutions minister to some social need, past or present, notwithstanding that their overdevelopment unfailingly detracts from the worthwhileness of the individual in that personality is overshadowed and initiative is diminished. Man should control his institutions rather than permit himself to be dominated by these creations of advancing civilization. Human institutions are of three general classes:
- The institutions of self-maintenance. These institutions embrace those practices growing out of food hunger and its associated instincts of self-preservation. They include industry, property, war for gain, and all the regulative machinery of society. Sooner or later the fear instinct fosters the establishment of these institutions of survival by means of taboo, convention, and religious sanction. But fear, ignorance, and superstition have played a prominent part in the early origin and subsequent development of all human institutions.
- The institutions of self-perpetuation. These are the establishments of society growing out of sex hunger, maternal instinct, and the higher tender emotions of the races. They embrace the social safeguards of the home and the school, of family life, education, ethics, and religion. They include marriage customs, war for defense, and home building.
- The institutions of self-gratification. These are the practices growing out of vanity proclivities and pride emotions; and they embrace customs in dress and personal adornment, social usages, war for glory, dancing, amusement, games, and other phases of sensual gratification. But civilization has never evolved distinctive institutions of self-gratification.
These three groups of social practices are intimately interrelated and minutely interdependent, the one upon the other. On Urantia they represent a complex organization which functions as a single social mechanism.
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