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Business Methods & The Result of Deceit

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(This article has also been posted under > Ethics in Theosophy)


Business Methods


In these days of keen competition, things are done and methods are adopted in business that would have astonished our forefathers. Many of these actions and methods are perfectly legitimate, and mean nothing more than the application of shrewder thought and greater cleverness to the work which has to be done; but unquestionably the boundary of what is legitimate and honorable is not infrequently overstepped, and means are employed to which the honest merchant of an earlier age would never have descended.

Indeed, there has come to be a sort of tacit understanding that business has a morality of its own, and that ordinary standards of integrity are not to be applied to it. A man at the head of a large mercantile house once said to me: ‘If I tried to do business according to the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you” – I should simply starve; I should be bankrupt in a month’. The form in which it runs in business matters is much nearer to that immortalized by David Harum: ‘Do unto the other man as he would like to do unto you, and do it first.’ And many others to whom this remark was quoted frankly agreed with him. Men who in all other respects are good and honest and honorable feel themselves bound in such matters to do as others do. “Business is business,” they say, “and the moralist who objects does not know its conditions,” and under this excuse they treat one another in business as they would never dream of treating a friend in private life, and make statements which they know to be false, even though outside of their trade they may be truthful men.

All our virtues need widening out so that they will cover a greater area. At first man is frankly selfish, and takes care only of himself. Then he widens his circle of affection and loves his family in addition to himself. Later on he extends a modified form of affection to his neighbors and his tribe, so that he will no longer rob them, though he is quite willing to join with them in robbing some other tribe or nation. Even thousands of years ago, if a dispute arose within a family the head of the family would act as arbitrator and settle it. We have now extended this as far as our neighbors or our fellow citizens in the same state. If we have a dispute with any of them, a magistrate acts as an arbitrator, in the name of the law of the land. But we have not yet reached a sufficient state of civilization to apply the same idea to [inter ed.]national quarrels, though we are just beginning to talk about doing so.

In the same way the brothers of a family stand together, in dealing with one another they will not take advantage, or state what is untrue; but we have not yet reached the level on which they will be equally honest and open with those outside of the family, in what they call business. Perhaps if a man meets another in private life or at a friend’s house, and enters into conversation with him, he would scorn to tell him a falsehood; yet let the same man enter his shop or place of business, and his ideas of what is honorable or lawful for him at once undergo a sad deterioration.

Undoubtedly, people who manage their affairs along the lines of sharp practice sometimes acquire large fortunes thereby; and those who regard life superficially, envy them for what they consider their success. But those who have accustomed themselves to look a little deeper into the underlying realities, recognize that it is not success at all- that in truth there has been no profit in such a transaction, but a very serious loss.

If man is a soul in process of evolution towards perfection, temporarily stationed here on earth in order to learn certain lessons and to achieve a certain stage of his progress, it is obvious that the only thing that matters is to learn those lessons and to make that progress. If man be in truth, as many of us know he is, a soul that lives for ever, the true interest of the man is the interest of that soul, not of the body, which is nothing but its temporary vesture; and anything that hinders the progress of that soul is emphatically a bad thing for the man, no matter how advantageous it may appear for his body.

The soul is acting through and advancing by means of his vehicles, and the physical body is only one of these, and that the lowest. Evidently, therefore, before we are able to pronounce whether any course of action is really good or bad for us, we must know how it affects all of these vehicles, and not only one of them.

Suppose that one man overreaches another in some transaction and boasts blatantly of his success and the profit which it has brought him. The student of the inner side of nature will tell him that there has been in reality no gain, but a heavy loss instead. The trickster chinks his money in his hand, and in his shortsightedness triumphantly cries: “See, here is the best of proof; here are the golden sovereigns that I have won; how can you say that I have not gained?”

The occultist will reply that the gold may do him a little good or a little harm, according to the way in which he uses it; but that a consideration of far greater importance is the effect of the transaction upon higher levels. Let us put aside altogether, for the moment, the injury done to the victim of the fraud – though, since humanity is truly a vast brotherhood, that is a factor by no means to be ignored; but let us restrict ourselves now exclusively to the selfish aspect of the action, and see what harm the dishonest merchant has done to himself.

  • Charles Webster Leadbeater

From: The Hidden Side of Things

The Result of Deceit

Two facts stand out prominently to clairvoyant sight.

First, the deceiver has had to think out his scheme of imposture; he has made a mental effort, and the result of that effort is a thought-form. Because the thought which gave it birth was guileful and ill-intentioned, that thought-form is one which cramps and sears the mental body, hindering its growth and intensifying its lower vibrations – a disaster in itself far more than counterbalancing anything whatever that could possibly happen in the physical world. But that is not all.

Secondly, this duplicity has set up a habit in the mental body. It is represented therein by a certain type of vibration, and since this vibration has been set strongly in motion it has created a tendency towards its own repetition. Next time the man’s thoughts turn towards any commercial transaction, it will be a little easier than before for him to adopt some knavish plan and it will be a little more difficult than before for him to be manly, open and honest. So that this one act of double-dealing may have produced results in the mental body which it will take years of patient striving to eliminate.

Clearly, therefore, even from the most selfish point of view, the speculation has been a bad one; the loss enormously outweighs the gain. This is a certainty – a matter not of sentiment or imagination, but of fact; and it is only because so many are still blind to the wider life, that all men do not at once see this. But even those of us whose sight is not yet open to higher worlds, should be capable of bringing logic and common sense to bear upon what our seers tell us – sufficiently at least to comprehend that these things must be so, and to take timely warning, to realize that a transaction may appear to be profitable in one direction and yet be a ruinous loss in another, and that all the factors must be taken into account before the question of profit or loss is decided.

It is clear that a student of the occult who has to engage in business needs must watch closely what are called business methods, lest the pressure of public opinion on this matter should lead him to perform or to condone actions not perfectly straightforward or consistent with true brotherhood.


– Charles Webster Leadbeater


From: The Hidden Side of Things

The Theosophical Publishing House

Adyar, Chennai

ISBN 81-7059-337-9