Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVII: Of Earning, Acquiring and Expending - The Spiritual Physick
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CHAPTER XVII: Of Earning, Acquiring and Expending - Rhazes, The Spiritual Physick 
The Spiritual Physic of Rhazes, trans. Arthur J. Arberry (London: John Murray, 1950).
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Of Earning, Acquiring and Expending
Reason, our especial gift whereby we have been preferred above the other irrational animals, has made it possible for us to enjoy a good life in mutual helpfulness. Rarely do we see beasts performing a like service for each other; and we observe that the agreeable circumstances of our life are due in the main to co-operation and mutual helpfulness. But for this, we should have no advantage in the way of a pleasant life over the brute beasts. For since the beasts have not perfected any system of co-operation and intellectual assistance such as that which organizes our life, the efforts of the many do not bring benefit to the individual with them, as we observe the case to be with man.
Each one of us eats, is clothed, has shelter, and is secure; yet the individual only prosecutes one of these businesses. If he is a husbandman, he cannot be a builder; if he is a builder, he cannot be a weaver; if he is a weaver, he cannot be a warrior. In short, if you could imagine a single man living alone in a waterless desert, perhaps you would not picture him as existing at all; and even were you to imagine him alive, you would scarcely picture his life as good and agreeable, such as that of one whose needs were all amply supplied and the requirements of his striving adequately met; rather would you represent his life as wild, beastly and sordid. That is because he would lack that co-operation and mutual assistance which would confer on him a good and pleasant life and tranquillity.
When many men agree to co-operate and help each other, they parcel out the various sorts of profitable endeavour among themselves; each labours upon a single business until he achieves its complete fulfilment, so that every man is simultaneously a servant and served, toiling for others and having others toiling for him. In this way all enjoy an agreeable life and all know the blessings of plenty; even though there is a wide difference between them and an extensive variety of rank and accomplishment; nevertheless there is not one who is not served and laboured for, or whose needs are not wholly sufficed.
Having prefixed what we thought good and necessary as a prelude to this chapter, we now return to our immediate object. Since human life can only be completely and effectively organized on the basis of co-operation and mutual help, it is the duty of every man to adhere to one or other of the means of providing this assistance, and to labour to the limits of his powers and abilities to that end, avoiding at the same time the two extremes of excess and deficiency. For one of these extremes—that is, deficiency—is vile baseness and mean worthlessness, since it brings a man down to the level of a pauper and a charge upon others; while the other extreme involves labour without respite and slavery without term.
When a man desires his neighbour to give him something of his belongings without any exchange or compensation, he thereby debases himself and puts himself in the same position as one disabled by paralysis or accidental injury from earning his living. And when a man fixes no definite limit to his earning and is not prepared to restrict himself to such a limitation, the service he renders to his fellows is many times greater than their service to him, and he continues moreover in bondage and perpetual slavery; for if he labours and toils all his life to earn more than he requires for his expenses and needs and to provide an adequate capital and reserve, he is really the loser in the long run, and is both deceived and enslaved without being aware of the fact. For men take wealth as a mark and a stamp whereby it is mutually recognized how much each deserves for his labour and the toil he performs that is profitable to all. Therefore when any one man is specially distinguished for amassing tokens by his toil and labour, and does not dispose of them in ways that will yield him repose, through the labour of his fellows to supply his needs, he is really the loser and has suffered himself to be deceived and enslaved; for he will have given away his own toil and effort without obtaining in compensation any adequate provision or repose. Such a man has not bartered toil against toil and service against service; the exchange he will have received is worthless and useless; his effort and toil and provision will have yielded profit to his fellows which they will have enjoyed, whereas their provision and toil on his account will have passed him by, and his enjoyment of their produce will be far less than the worth of his deserts seeing how he has provided and laboured for them. So he will have lost out and been deceived and enslaved, as we have stated. The true object in earning is therefore to gain as much as will balance the amount of one’s expenditure, with something over to put away and keep in store against such emergencies and accidents as may prevent one from earning. The man who follows this rule in earning his living will have received in exchange toil for toil and service for service.
Now for a few words on the subject of acquisition. To acquire and store away is also one of the means necessary to the enjoyment of a good life, resting as it does upon a sound intellectual prognosis. The matter is too apparent and obvious to require an explanation; even many animals that are not rational acquire and store away. It is more proper that such animals should have a superior mental imagination compared with those that are not acquisitive; for the reason and motive for such acquisition is the picturing of a situation in which the object acquired may be lost while the need for it still remains. All the same it may be necessary to observe moderation in this, according to what we have stated in our discussion on the quantity of earning: deficiency may lead to its complete non-existence while the need still exists, as for instance with a man whose provisions are exhausted while he is in a waterless desert, while excess may have the same result as incessant toil and exhaustion, after the fashion we have described. The just medium in regard to acquisition is for a man to be able to have recourse to what he has acquired, sufficient to support him in his continuing circumstances at a time when an accident may occur preventing him from earning.
As for the man whose purpose in acquiring is to move himself out of the circumstances in which he finds himself, into a higher and grander state, and who never sets any limit on this to which he will strictly confine himself: such a man continues in perpetual toil and bondage, and lacks withal—whatever be his original state—any enjoyment or happiness in the state to which he moves, since he still goes on toiling and is never satisfied. He is always working to shift himself into another, higher state, yearning and hankering after attaching himself to yet grander circumstances. This we have stated in the chapter on envy, and we shall give a clearer and fuller explanation and account of the matter in the section following this.
The best possible acquisition, at once the most lasting, the most respectable and the securest, is a profession, especially if it be a natural and necessary one which is always and constantly in demand in every country and among all nations. Properties, precious things, treasures are not secure against the accidents of time, and therefore the philosophers have reckoned no man rich in respect of his properties, but only in regard to his profession. It is told how a certain philosopher was shipwrecked at sea, and lost all his belongings, but when he came to shore he saw on the ground the drawing of a geometrical design; and he rejoiced because he knew that he had fallen upon an island where there were learned people. He obtained wealth and a position of leadership amongst them, and remained there. Ships afterwards passed by, making for his native land, and they asked him whether there was any message they could carry for him to his people. He replied, “When you come to them, say to them, Acquire and store away that which cannot be sunk.”
As for the quantity of expenditure: we have mentioned before that the amount of earning must be equivalent to the amount of spending, with a little bit over acquired and stored away for accidents and emergencies. The amount of expenditure must therefore obviously be less than the amount of earning. All the same, a man ought not to be so moved by the inclination to acquire that he is parsimonious and cheese-paring, or so carried away by the love and pursuit of his appetites that he gives up acquiring altogether. Every man should observe moderation in this matter, according to the amount he earns, his habits of expenditure, the manner of life he has been brought up to, his actual circumstances, his position in society, and what it behoves a man like himself to acquire and store away.