Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part I: The Vision of God and Man and other Lectures
WEALTH has always proved to be a central object in the life of the world, an object towards which every mind is naturally attracted and which can solve most of the problems of life. However earthly they may seem, all things become good or bad by their use or abuse. In all ages man has made coins of gold, and there man proves again his soul's longing for light, for gold is the color of light and among metals gold reflects the light most. In the Quran it is said, 'All that we have created on earth and in heaven is for thy use,' which means: not for you to fear it or hate it or to renounce it, but to use it. It is easy for the poor to ridicule wealth and the wealthy, but once the poor man possesses wealth then the question is whether he holds it or throws it away.
We realize from this that it is important that man should learn first in his life the right use of wealth. This problem can be solved by first considering the question from all points of view, from the moral as well as from the psychological, and also from the social and political point of view: in what way wealth can be rightly acquired. The present chaotic state of the whole world is caused by the lack of this particular knowledge. Today man only knows one thing: he needs money, he must acquire money, and if he has money he must hold on to it. But still the question remains: why does he need money, how can he acquire money, and for what purpose shall he acquire it? Through lack of this knowledge both rich and poor are at a loss. The rich everywhere are anxious to hold what they have and are nervous; for if conditions go on as they are now, what will happen tomorrow? Their heart is not at rest, even with money locked up in their safe. The moneyless, striving every moment of their life to possess all that the wealthy have got, win it perhaps at the cost of the destruction of a nation or race, of a moral code, or of culture and beauty and goodness. They only think of how to achieve this and how to take the wealth away from those who now possess it, but not how far they are justified in having the wealth which belongs to another, nor what use they will make of this wealth. This fight for life has so blinded humanity today that man is intoxicated in the struggle of life. He has no time to think of anything else, yet a thorough study of the problem from all points of view is the first thing necessary, and it can be the greatest help in living a better life and in doing good to one's fellow men.
Money being the principal thing for which man toils, he should know the best way to acquire it. He must first judge his talent, his capability, his art, profession, or work. He must judge fairly, without a personal thought, what he really deserves for what he does. Everyone is blind to this. A person only thinks of what another man earns, how very rich another person is, and how good it would be if he were in his place. Today man's cry for democracy is in order to pull down another man from his high place, instead of taking enough trouble to rise to high places by his own efforts and with the justification in his own conscience of deserving that place. Whatever man earns in life, and however great and rich he becomes through it, without the development of the sense of justice he is like a blind man. Externally a wealthy man seems enviable, but in point of fact, if one only knew his true condition, one would not envy his circumstances for a moment, for they not only blind him but blind those who surround him too; he has not only enemies among his adversaries, but he has enemies among his dearest friends. He may have an enemy in his brother or sister, in his wife or child. It is not their fault; it is that wealth is blinding. When a man develops his qualification, his merit, his talent, and when by that right he earns his living, he is quite justified in demanding what he really deserves. But man cannot be very just when there arises the question of self; therefore, he must also be open to compare his idea of his qualifications with the opinion of others, and he should be ready to recognize the superiority of someone else's qualifications.
Today man, blinded by the thought of competition and rivalry, ignores the superiority of talent, merit, art, or culture in another person.
In business the honor of the word is the first lesson that every businessman should learn. Honor in business is the first commercial virtue. At the same time, to fight avarice is the duty of every businessman, and also to think of the advantage of both sides, of himself and of his customer. In modern trade, externally there is little bargaining, but the bargaining spirit still exists inwardly. Business today is a battle between buyer and seller, the one wanting to succeed at the expense of the other. Therefore it is not a business; it is a battle, and a battle mostly results in destruction. Now, after all the profiteering during the war years, is there peace in the commercial world? Every businessman is crying out with grievances, no matter to what country he may belong. This shows that in reality it is the profit of each, which is the profit of all. Whether in art, industry, labor, the professions, or commerce, one thing must be kept in view, and that is consideration for others, with an eye open for justice and fairness.
Today there is great conflict between capital and labor. The capitalists wish labor to be under their control and to work for their profit, so that they depend solely upon the power of capital. This spirit of selfishness, reacting upon the mind of the workman, revolts against the profit that the capitalist makes. The consequence is that this selfishness on both sides causes trade to dwindle. On one side the war has destroyed lives and wealth and food that nature had supplied for humanity, while the remaining destruction is caused by this dwindling. If labor absorbs all the capital, then the capital is in the hands of labor; however, the evolution of life in every direction, social, educational, moral, or religious, mostly depends on the mentality of those who are well off.
There is a side issue of the present state of affairs, which is its natural consequence, and that is the difference between the circumstances of a man who works with his hands and those of one who works with his head. Today, as conditions are, an intellectual man has the greatest struggle to live, and if they continue thus it will mean the ruination of the intellect in general, and instead of evolving the world will naturally go backward. The answer to the question whether the work of the hands deserves more wages than the work of the head, depends on whether the hand rules the mind or the mind rules the hand. Just now man is going from bad to worse. Doctors, professors, thinkers, teachers, poets and learned people have hardly enough money to live on, as labor demands higher wages than intellect does. Unions of workmen have spread all over the world, and in this way the conflict between the intellectual and the labor world becomes sharper every day.
Now the question is, what can the solution of this problem be? Can the workman be at the same time a capitalist? Can a man who works with his hands not be a thinker at the same time? The answer will be: not necessarily, since for everything certain conditions are necessary. If the workman is a capitalist he is no longer a workman. While working, if he is going over his accounts in his mind he will spoil his work. Can a man of action be a man of thought at the same time? This is difficult too. Can a man be running after trains and buses and write poetry at the same time? For poetry he wants tranquility of mind, comfort, ease. What is possible is this one thing; that the workman should have every opportunity to become a capitalist. In this way he could know both; how to be a workman and how to be a capitalist. The man who works with his hands should have the opportunity to develop intellectually. Every working man should be given a chance, so that if he has the faculty in him to become a thinking man he may grow up to become a thinking man, and so that he will not die at his work.
There are two methods of progress, one right and the other wrong. The right way is to give equal opportunity to each to rise to his highest ideal; and the wrong way is when a man, revolted by present conditions, pulls down another who seems to him on any kind of eminence in the life of the world, so as to bring everyone down to the same level. This latter idea of equality can be pictured as a piano of which the strings are loosened to the same tone, perhaps of the lowest key. When each key sounds the same note, it cannot be a piano any more.
The present tendency of man seems to be to try to pull another down instead of himself rising to the place where the other is. It takes a long time to build, but it takes only a moment to destroy a thing. It is the rising to the height which is difficult; it is not difficult to walk down the slope. Man today seems to seek the way of least resistance; to strive to rise needs patience and perseverance. Thus in order to become equal with others he wants to pull the others down to his own level.
There is a great deal of talk going on in the world just now about communism. Yet if communism is devoid of a spiritual ideal, it could be only a change of condition on the surface. The extreme principles which man wishes to introduce in the form of communism may have the effect of destroying individual beauty and culture. There is more uniformity to be seen in the West than in the East. No doubt it has worked to the great advantage of the West, but at the sacrifice of individual progress; no thoughtful person can deny this. Great personages in any country of the East or West have become so by their individualistic progress, and it is the law of uniformity, which hampers the progress of an individual. It also hampers the progress of art in all its forms, in architecture, in music, in poetry; for the majority pulls the minority back from progress. Under present conditions the man above is enjoying his place, and he tries in every way to prevent others from rising to his pedestal. The man who stands below is therefore waiting for every opportunity to pull him down.
A world where such a conflict exists between classes cannot promise harmony, order and peace; and a definite change is necessary in the attitude of both classes. The struggle between the higher and the middle class is a story of the past; it hardly exists any more. Today's conflict is between what is called the intellectual man and the working man. The solution to this problem is that every community should provide adequately for the five principal needs of every individual: food, clothes, a roof, education, and medicine. It is intolerable to think that many are dying without food and clothes. If humanity would open its eyes to the most critical moment that has ever come to the world, the solution of this problem would become its first task.
Now the question is, how can this be arranged? It might be conveniently provided if only those who have an income higher than what is necessary to live comfortably would give half of this to the community; and if those who leave their property to their children would leave half of this property for the benefit of the community. Otherwise if this question is not considered, the present revolt of the average man will end in violence and the destruction of art, morals, religion, beauty, and culture.
When religion decays, when materialism reigns, and when commercialism pervades all the world, it is then that man overlooks the fact of how he acquires his wealth, and his only object is to become wealthy. It is then that all manner of unhappiness breeds in the multitude and among individuals. Man is not only a child in his childhood, but he remains a child in many things all through life. There are things that man can digest, and there are things he cannot digest; it depends from what source they come. The Prophet calls wealth that can be digested Halal, and the wealth that cannot be digested he calls Haram. It is not the particular aspect of wealth that is digestible or indigestible, it is the attitude with which man has acquired it. It makes a great difference whether one acquires it honestly or dishonestly, honorably or dishonorably, by force or by work.
Money rightfully earned must certainly bring peace, but money earned by causing pain to another, by ruining the life of another, by dishonesty or by injustice, man cannot digest. It is not a question of having wealth; it is a question of living happily with wealth. Today the average man has no education of that kind. He toils through the day and looks for his wages in the evening. Perhaps he goes to church once a week, but this education still remains to be given. The man with wealth has so many things with which to occupy his life that he hardly thinks about these things. Yet the life of a wealthy person is perhaps more unhappy than that of a working man. At the root of this whole question a psychological secret lies hidden; how did one earn one's wealth?
Now coming to the use of wealth, there is a door to man's heart; it is either closed or open. When he holds a thing and says, 'This is mine,' he closes the door to his heart; but when he shares his goods with others and says, 'This is yours as well as mine,' this opens his heart. We must learn consideration for others; it does not matter whether they are rich or poor. We may have only one slice of bread, but when there is another sitting by our side we share that slice with him. By doing this, even if our bodily appetite remains unsatisfied, our heart is filled with joy to think that we shared our happiness with another. It is this spirit which is necessary just now to change the condition of the world, not political and commercial disputes. We must be awakened to the main truth, that the happiness and peace of each can only be the happiness and peace of all.
'The one who earned and used what he has earned, had gained. The one who earned and collected and departed, has lost, 'says Sadi. We learn from this that it is not only important to earn money, it is of greater importance to know how to use it. There are many in this world who possess wealth and yet are unhappy; they cannot profit by it themselves, nor can they benefit anyone else. The one who earns money and keeps it in the safe is not the possessor of that money; he is the doorkeeper of his treasure.
There are four different ways of spending money; by extravagance, by profiteering, by using it, and by saving it. No one can judge another man for his way of using money, but everyone can judge himself for the method he employs in using what money he possesses. It is not necessary for a man to be rich in order to show these tendencies; even a poor man can be extravagant.
Extravagance has three forms. One is caused by ignorance: a simple man who does not know the value of money spends his pearls for pebbles. Another form of extravagance is when a man who is in charge of another person's money spends it without any qualms; he thinks that anyhow it is not his property. The third form of extravagance occurs when a man has no control over his will and is attracted by anything that appeals to his weakness; he then spends more than he should. But the one who is master over his will, who is a lover of beauty and generous of heart, even if he spent his last penny for his ideal he cannot be called extravagant, for he is the master. He who is not able to spend what he possesses is the servant of his wealth; he does not know life.
When a person demands more than the things he possesses are worth, when he wants to make more profit than he is really justified in making, when he strays away from fairness in his business dealings, that is profiteering. Although for the moment it may seem a profit, yet sooner or later it must end in a loss. That is because selfishness and injustice are plagues, and they are likely to spread. Thus a man who makes an excessive profit from one person will then be brought in contact with someone else who is cleverer than he, and who will try to make a still larger profit from him. This is not only a theory; it is the normal condition nowadays. The present state of trade and business is working more or less to the disadvantage of every nation.
The normal way of using money is to understand life's needs and necessities, and to preserve a right proportion between the earning and spending of money. One thing should always be kept in mind, and that is the thought that one does not exist alone; the world is beside one. Of course everybody is not in a position to help the world, but to think about it even for a few moments every day can awaken the spirit of beneficence, which is generally asleep in the heart of man.
No doubt charity begins at home. One's first duty is to consider those who depend upon one. He, who has no consideration for those who depend upon him, while perhaps being generous to others, certainly lacks a great virtue in life. Surely, as it is taught in the Bible, one's neighbor should be considered. Neighbor means friend, relative, fellow country-men; and as long as one does not stop at this but extends one's consideration still further and reaches humanity, then there is no doubt that one progresses in life, in whatever condition one may be.
Saving certainly is a consideration, but there is a limit to it. In some cases saving is wise, but in other cases it is avarice. It is a fact that the great gifts given to charitable works in the world mostly come from those who were wise enough to save. It depends whether one saves with a good intention, or only from a tendency to save. This tendency comes from consideration for tomorrow. From the practical point of view this consideration is necessary, and the philosophy of Omar Khayyam, to forget about tomorrow, only means to give up the extra worry and anxiety about tomorrow, as one also learns from the teachings of Christ, where he points to the lilies of the field. This teaching should not make a man careless, especially in the conditions of life today, but it should relieve a man who has nothing to save from the worry and anxiety about tomorrow.