Profiteering and Its Cause

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The apostle to the Gentiles, writing to Timothy of those things which should be absent from the character of a bishop of the church, enumerated amongst them the love of filthy lucre. There is a directness of phrase in Paul’s language which makes it perfectly clear that he fully understood the words of the wise man before his day who declared that the love of money was the root of all evil. Now this love of money is fundamental in the human character, inasmuch as it is the expression of that fear which constitutes the belief of life in matter. There is, of course, a covetous side of man’s love of money, just as there is a sensuous element in his indulgence of it. But nevertheless it is not these things that have so enmeshed the human mind, as the human mind’s fear of the consequences of the absence of money. On the day when money became the symbol of human possession, the possession of money became a necessity of man’s very existence. He could not feed himself, or clothe himself, or house himself without money, and therefore the absence of money meant something more to him even than poverty or privation,—it meant existence its very self.

Now fear is the belief that life exists in matter. If a man did not believe that life was inherent in matter, he would not fear for the absence of those necessities which money purchases for him. As a consequence, his love of money is inherent in his very belief of being, and therefore greed becomes the expression of the fostering of this belief just as avarice is the ultimate result of an unbalanced belief in the necessity of possession. In dealing, then, with such things as avarice and greed, it has to be remembered that there is something more than the mere love of possession included in these things, since this love of possession is not only the possession of fields, and houses, and stocks, and shares, but the possession of life itself. Jesus recognized this perfectly when he related the parable of the rich man who determined to build greater barns for the bestowal of his possessions. These possessions might be expressed in cattle, and corn, and the fruits of the vine, but all these things were the mere externalized conditions of the mental beliefs of avarice, or sensuality, and so of fear in every one of its myriad forms. Consequently, when Jesus thundered out the moral of his story, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” he challenged the human belief in fear as life itself, for a man’s soul was his sensuality, his materiality, and so his very existence.

“If a man did not believe that life was inherent in matter, he would not fear for the absence of those necessities which money purchases for him.”

In considering the modern phase of greed, in a guise such as profiteering, all this strange underwold of the human character has to be taken into consideration. The rough and ready modes of overcoming a specific manifestation are not cures, but are mostly the human mind’s way of temporarily protecting itself against a fear, which in its very exaggeration has become a danger to it. It looks into itself without understanding what it sees, or knowing how to overcome what it suspects. As Mrs. Eddy so truly says, on page 186 of Science and Health: “Mortal mind is ignorant of self, or it could never be self-deceived. If mortal mind knew how to be better, it would be better. Since it must believe in something besides itself, it enthrones matter as deity.” It is a counterfeit, in other words, this mortal mind, which attempts to heal itself by means of a counterfeit. And instead of recognizing its own nothingness, and the allness of divine Mind, it sets to work to build barns to safeguard itself against its own lying beliefs, or attempts to regulate its own shortcomings by enactments which are as far removed from law as its own emotions.

Within the past few months the human mind has delivered itself up to a perfect orgy of profiteering, in other words, of greed. The legislatures of the world stand helpless before a condition of things they believe to be real. A thousand indignant denouncers of the existing conditions produce a thousand contrary panaceas. Mortal mind is endeavoring herein to be better, but only demonstrating that it does not know how. The simple fact, of course, is that you cannot overcome evil by a surrender to a belief in the reality of evil.

This does not mean that mankind is not better engaged in trying to curb the animal propensities of the world than in giving rein to them, but it does mean that all such efforts must be in the shape of palliatives, and that trying to reduce outrageous prices by Overall Clubs is perilously near attempting to abolish war by peace leagues. Again, this does not mean that the effort to prevent or to reduce war through peace leagues is not a good thing, any more than it means that it is not better to reduce prices by means of Overall Clubs than to let dishonesty run its unchecked course. But it does mean that all such methods are in the nature of doctoring effects whilst leaving the causes unaffected. This is why sickness, after generations of doctoring, even doctoring of the most devoted description, has never been overcome.

The doctor of to-day, like the priest of Cos, imagines that his symptom is his disease, so that the disease with which he is grappling is merely a phenomenon produced by a mental cause. In every case, whether of bodily sickness or morals, whether of economic or political evil, the cause is mental, and the cure must be a mental one also.

The only way, then, in which it is ultimately possible to overcome profiteering is by overcoming the belief that life is inherent in matter. In the exact proportion in which this realization is gained by mankind, mankind will lose its desire for money, because it will realize that supply is mental, just as Jesus proved it to be mental when he fed the multitude and paid the tribute money. Of what avail, then, are possessions to the man who realizes that Spirit is an unfailing source of supply? The bank, the real estate office, the stock exchange, must cease to have any attraction. The china orange of proverbial fame becomes to him just as valuable as all Lombard Street. Then the desire to profiteer must pass away, for he will realize that this desire is itself founded in his own fears, and that even if successful, it can only leave him in the position of the man who, having gained the whole world, has lost his own soul.

(Originally published in the Christian Science Sentinel, September 11, 1920)

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