THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 3, January, 1952
(Pages 125-128; Size: 12K)
(Number 9 of a 10-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 10 articles have the same name.]


"Neither a borrower nor a lender be; / For loan oft loseth both itself and friend. / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry."--Shakespeare
THE economy of Nature is the orderly expression or manifestation of three great powers, -- creation, preservation and destruction, or regeneration. The economy of nations and civilizations rests upon a similar trinity, particularized as production, distribution, and consumption. In the prudent administration of a family, or of the life of a single individual, the triune scheme is seen in work, frugality, and sharing. Whenever any one of these sides of the triangle is neglected or misused, balance is upset. This does not mean that all three aspects of a power must be equally operative at one and the same time, for there are cycles of creation just as there are cycles of destruction. There are times when it is appropriate for man to work and produce, and there are periods for resting and distributing. But in the perfectly balanced organism, all three powers of the Godhead must be present functionally, if not in actu. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are necessary parts of every plan.

Much of the economic framework of our civilization is based upon the practice of lending and borrowing. This is true not only of big business, of industry, and of commerce in general, but also of family and private life in the easy-payment plan of installments. But is this condition a healthy one toward which we may point with pride and satisfaction? Is it the result of co-operative work with Nature, or is it an abuse of some phase of natural economy? Might it not be that the man who finds himself bankrupt, and dependent upon others for support, is one who has either failed to work or has neglected, at some point in his cycle, the principle of preservation or thrift? And perchance the man who lends, at interest, knows not the creed of Shiva, the Sacrificer, Regenerator, Sharer.

It is easy to justify acts of lending and borrowing, to assure one's self that in so doing he is either helping a "needy soul," or is being helped himself. But is this necessarily true? One may well question whether money always renders real help. The Karma of the individual to whom the loan is made is to be considered. Is his burden thereby lessened? Is he assisted in this way if he has a tendency to sloth, a neglect of frugality, a disregard of the principle of husbandry? Well and good to feel the desire to help, lest the spirit of brotherhood and charity perish from the face of the earth, but equally important is a knowledge of what help really is. It might be that in lending money to a friend, we are actually interfering, quite unconsciously to ourselves, with the Divine Law in its work of effecting an adjustment in the person's life -- an adjustment moreover which can be achieved in no other way than through suffering, poverty and want. The Law of Karma does not punish. In bringing trial or difficulty into the life of an individual, it acts as justice, free of evil design, or of any purpose of inflicting injury. Karma is the impersonal law of man's own soul, working always for good -- however painful the experience may seem to be.

"Loan oft loseth both itself and friend." Yet, how many individuals, knowing this to be true, have the courage of the Soul's own law, to decline a loan to an irresponsible friend? Lest we give the appearance of unbrotherliness, we weaken and yield, forgetting that the truest form of brotherhood and helpfulness is oftentimes shown in frank dealing, in the spiritual position of the man who has the courage to say "No." Yet such is the nature of modern friendship that it can seldom stand the test of frank dealing, and is often measured by the extent to which it is possible to make a "touch," as the saying goes.

"He who goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing." Not only does borrowing bring added care for the property of other people -- it destroys self-reliance in the man himself. In the light of good judgment, lack of funds may well serve as an indication to the individual that something is wrong in the course he pursues, that the step he plans is either false or premature, or that he is going in debt, not for need but to satisfy a personal desire. Perhaps wisdom would say that unless all the principal factors in a contemplated move are present, one would better wait, and create in himself a feeling of satisfaction with things as they are -- at least until such time that the ways open up for natural change. Borrowing, moreover, never solves problems, but only puts off the day of reckoning. The man who borrows gambles with the future. For who knows what tomorrow will bring? Where is the person who can say with certainty that when the time for paying back a loan comes he will be in better circumstance than he is at the present moment? The impulse to borrow indicates an unwillingness on the part of men to face their present situations squarely. Afraid to take inventory of ourselves, we poultice our ailments with a loan, upon the uncertain prospects of tomorrow. Oh for the courage to give up extravagant desires and to live within the limit of one's means!

The growth and success of money-lending agencies have grown out of the realization on the part of individuals that borrowing and lending among friends is a dangerous practice, that in the final analysis it does not pay. Inspired not by the motive of helping others, but of realizing an interest on the dollar, loan agencies take advantage of the human frailty of unthriftiness, of the uncontrolled desire for things. Hence usury -- the pounds of flesh exacted in payment by the Shylocks of modern times. And banks and agencies have found by experience that people who begin the practice of borrowing are likely to remain regular customers. The habit once commenced has a tendency to repeat, so that some remain debtors for the balance of their lives.

Under high and wise social conditions there would never be need for lending and borrowing, or for the humiliating experience of going into debt. Nor would there be any feeling of possession. Consider the social structure of some of the South American aborigines, and of the Red Indians of the United States. Members of their communities never held the possessive attitude toward anything that they had. Everything was the property of the tribe. If one family or individual happened to be in need, someone else who had more than enough supplied it -- not as a loan, with interest compounded, but as a sharing, the rightful due of a fellow man. One reason perhaps why we, as a people, find ourselves in debt is because we seek to possess, because we have been brought up with a false conception of independence, of ownership, of separateness. For to the extent that any person thinks he is separate and can own something for himself, just to that extent does he cut himself off from the Whole -- bringing in time a condition of need. Possessiveness always brings indebtedness. As Mr. Judge says:

"Remember this, that you own not one thing in this world. Your wife is but a gift, your children are but loaned to you. All else you possess is given to you only while you use it wisely. Your body is not yours, for Nature claims it as her property."
To reflect a moment upon the bounty of Mother Nature, upon the fact that without her gifts man could not remain on earth, is to sense the beneficence of gratitude and indebtedness for the untold blessings one receives through the bond of human brotherhood -- to the farmer for growing food, to the miner for digging coal, to the electrician for having mastered his craft, for the thousand-and-one benefits we daily accept at the hands of others without giving the matter a thought. Can it be that nothing is due in return? Is it possible that Nature's Law will permit a man to continue his path of selfish borrowing without recompense or retribution?

The only legitimate borrowing and lending, in the highest sense of the term, are the loans we receive from nature and the gifts that are offered in return. The universal principle of reciprocity, the natural wheel of give and take, which is inherent in all life, provideth sustenance to every living creature that exists upon the face of the earth. But, according to The Bhagavad-Gita: "He who doth not keep this wheel already set in motion revolving liveth in vain, O Son of Bharata." Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, on the highest spiritual plane of being, keep the wheel in motion through Creation, Preservation and Destruction, or Regeneration, thus sustaining the economy of Nature as a whole. Man's is the task to do the same thing in his own sphere -- through work, frugality, and sacrifice.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Altruism is an integral part of self-development. But we have to discriminate. A man has no right to starve himself to death that another man may have food, unless the life of that man is obviously more useful to the many than is his own life. But it is his duty to sacrifice his own comfort, and to work for others if they are unable to work for themselves. It is his duty to give all that which is wholly his own and can benefit no one but himself if he selfishly keeps it from others. Theosophy teaches self-abnegation, but does not teach rash and useless self-sacrifice, nor does it justify fanaticism. 


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In the wreck of noble lives,
Something immortal still survives.
(Part 10 of a 10-part series)

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