2011-07-26

No we can't

A comment on:
Management by Consciousness: a spirituo-technical approach, by Dr. G.P.Gupta. - Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Science, 1994 (5th ed. 2009). - 202 p.

One of these days I saw that book on someone's desk. I was very much interested in learning about different views on Sri Aurobindo's teachings. So I had a look inside. A minute later I disgustedly put it back on the desk. My god, how unconscious can one consciousness-seeking man be? At which point has self-deception entered the game? Integral yoga for managers - come on!
Here's how it would be done... or preferrably not.

"The normal human consciousness fails to see the Divine in money, and it wants to possess it for its value in fulfilling desires and the self-gratification of man's ego. Money is a higher form of the Divine in manifestation and it has a higher role to play in the life of each individual and the collectivity..." (p.83-84)

People use money for everything, not just for the satisfaction of desires, because, for them, there is no other way of achieving anything. Usually they have no clue about money's history, creation, or role in the market system. They are even more unaware of its intrinsic mechanisms. The market system, especially money, keeps us from seeing the damage done to the Earth in the process of creating wealth; it keeps us from noticing the working conditions of those who harvest, dig, produce, transport, and distribute; it makes us see a vendor as a replacable instance rather than a human being who is worth our love. With currency in your pocket it becomes much too convenient to go on with your specialized job and just purchase the stuff of which you have no clue how to achieve it any other way, like food for instance. Money lets us forget that it is not money we need, but clean water, nourishment, shelter, medicine, clothes, inner growth, and relationships.

Aside from the smoke screen created by it, we have to look at another intrinsic mechanism. The money we spend needs to be replaced somehow, and that is where wage slavery, gambling, stock speculation, stealing, and bribery are kicking in. All those sorts of behaviour which we see as hard-to-extinguish problems do not exist merely because of billions of people failing to use money properly, on a more conscious level; the whole chain of abusive actions, from ripping the Earth of its treasures, to the exploitation of each and every money-dependent person, to the alienation of the customer from the foundation of his life, to greedily hoarding money due to a subconscious fear of running short on resources - all that is triggered automatically as soon as we use money. It happens systematically because of the innate mechanisms of civilization, and especially money, no matter your intention or idea about it. In other words, making and spending money is an act of structural violence done to life.

On a third note, we have to talk about desires. Money is not merely spent on the satisfaction of desires, it actually creates them.
Having left the abundant world of local 'production' in a tribal setting (i.e. where everyone knows how to provide for all necessities) was the original sin by which we created the need for trading goods. At a later point in time money offered itself as the ideal means for simplifying trade, when we already had created an economy of scarcity. This, by the way, is the whole point of trading. You cannot sell things that are abundantly available to a potential customer, or which he can easily craft himself. Traders want both scarcity and people caught in job specialization because this means they can sell their stuff, and the scarcer that stuff is the higher the price achieved. Therefore scarcity actually gets created for the sake of establishing markets, and along with it the desire for the scarce product, while money gives customers comfortable access. The development on the food and oil markets is one current example of that. Trade with antiquities is another. Clearly dividing the world into the domains of mine and not-mine, money creates an artificial separation that renders true human unity impossible.

Money is a powerful tool in the hands of those trying to achieve power over people i.e. control over their environment. It came into existence only after our minds were separating themselves from each other and nature. A peaceful soul, at oneness with the Universe and liberated from the tyranny of the ego, has no need for global trade. It does not strive for expanding its influence by conquering markets. It is glad to just be, no matter the conditions. To withdraw from money's influence comes as a natural tendency through living a simple life.

"I do not regard business as something evil or tainted, any more than it is so regarded in ancient spiritual India. If I did, I would not be able to receive money from X or from those of our disciples who in Bombay trade with East Africa; nor could we then encourage them to go on with their work..." (p. VII)
It's easy to put the blame on money when it comes to some of the most pressing yet persistent problems in the world. One of the reasons they have never been solved is that the root causes usually do not get addressed.
I do regard neither business nor money as the root of all evil, as people use to claim when I talk about the problems connected to it. Money is just one - though extremely harmful - phenomenon within the larger framework of civilization, which itself is the outcome of our separation from nature and each other. Confronted with money as a problem, our idea of it is not relevant in finding a solution. Without considering the essence of what it means to be a civilized human, every attempt of addressing money's unwanted "byproducts" is futile. Still, currency had a role to play in mankind's development. So, provided you're a religious or spiritual person, what do you think did the Divine have in mind when it gave us financial means?

"All depends on the spirit in which a thing is done, the principles on which it is built and the use to which it is turned... Krishna calls upon Arjuna to carry on war of the most terrible kind and by his example encourage men to do every kind of human work. Do you contend that Krishna was an unspiritual man and that his advice to Arjuna was mistaken or wrong in principle?... It is in his view quite possible for a man to do business and make money and earn profits and yet be a spiritual man, practice yoga, and have an inner life." (p. VII)
As I've explained in previous posts, and as I have pointed out above, no matter how you look at it, using money is by itself an act of structural violence. Whether you spend it with love or not, whether you purchase one thing or another, it doesn't keep Mother Earth and her inhabitants from getting physically harmed, and it sure doesn't help with your karma:

While I agree that the suffering money causes is helping us with learning important lessons about the material world, it is a totally different thing if you deliberately continue its use forever, knowing that it inflicts harm on others. The Buddha, for instance, defined a nonviolent man this way: "He does not kill nor cause to kill." Pointing at the Divine then, to me, is merely a justification for laziness with taming the ego, so one can keep on doing whatever one does.

We could discuss the nature of the force called Krishna, whether he is manlike or omnipresent or anything inbetween. Whether he even exists or not. Whether the scriptures pass on the will of the gods or if they have been made up by humans. Actually, I don't believe in any of those scriptures and the gods mentioned therein. The point is, that there is a difference between spirituality and religion, the former being based on personal experience, the latter on belief. The Mother explicitly declared that her and Sri Aurobindo's teachings were based on spirituality, not on religion. It is safe to say then that only observation allows for learning, i.e. making steps towards the divine consciousness. You may stay in business and be a moral person, no doubt. But we're not talking about simple morals here. Seriously following a path means you clearly cannot proceed 'managing' business as usual, or even expanding it, after having learned about money's intrinsic mechanisms, as that would mean to hold on to the division between the Self and the Other, and the violence connected to it.
What about money as an incentive, then?

"On the lower levels man is motivated by a desire for reward - money, fame, prestige, respect, success.
At a higher level he works out of interest. Interest is a broader, less personal, more mental motive than desire." (p.85)
When I do necessary work at home, like cleaning the room, as well as when I joyfully participate in the activities of my community, where is there a desire for reward? We do things for a reason, sure. The reason is what motivates us. In a very general sense, the good feeling after having achieved our goals could be regarded as a reward. But I disagree. The deeper reason for any activity of any living being is a need. Negative emotions arise from unmet needs. Desires express unmet needs. Violence is a manifestation of unmet needs. We want our needs to be met. In a society where this is only possible with a bundle of bucks in your hand you will do whatever is necessary to bring some of it into your possession. You work a useless job, or you start selling crap, or you act criminally just because it makes money, while urgently needed stuff does not get done when finances are low. Money becomes your sovereign lord who decides what you can and cannot do.

On 'higher' and 'lower', what does it mean anyway? I cannot help but reject the idea that some parts of the inner life of a human are more valuable than others. To me, they are just different ways of perceiving the world and dealing with it. Dependent on the situation, some means may work better than others. But they all have value in and of themselves. That's why they exist.
The same goes for life forms. From algae, to worms, to grass, to flies, to trees, to reptiles, fish, birds, and primates, all species and each individual has a role to play. The reason why fungi and humans exist at the same time is that both fulfill their purpose and that we are all important in a way. Without bacteria, most other species, and certainly homo sapiens, would disappear. Without humans... guess. So, again, what does 'higher developed' mean?

It is very likely that man will evolve into a species even more intelligent, aware, and conscious, an explorative voyage a curious human being like me can get easily fascinated by. It makes sense to me. But that does not mean that we are generally superior to every, or any, other species. We are not masters of the Universe, we're not exempt from its laws (if such a thing exists).

Does the Universe issue currency to barter with itself? Observing something like that would help with discovering the Divine within money. As far as we know, the concept exists only in the minds of members of one single culture - our civilization. All the rest of creation, billions of years in evolution, has been achieved without coins. What does that mean for the overall role and importance of money?

"In a creative economy of modern life, the role and importance of money can not be overemphasized. Without money nothing can be achieved in material life... All socio-economic activities...depend directly upon and are determined by money... Money is a force, a lever of control and a power of possession. The index of modern (material) prosperity is money and money-power.
But money is not an unmixed blessing!...It is a source of much evil. But that is so with all material forces and powers in the world. One never thinks of eschewing fire because it burns, or water because it drowns." (p.182)
Only that it is not water's intrinsic property to drown people immediately, everytime it gets touched, and it is not fire's innate task to consume the whole world. If we are about to compare apples and pears, let's rather point at the fact that you never let a fire handle things by itself, that you keep it from burning unwanted materials like your house or your skin, that you reduce its size to the absolutely necessary, and that, after it has done its job, you finally extinguish it.
Let's then look at money and how it took over ever aspect of our existence. Don't economists and politicians constantly emphasize the self-healing abilities of the free market? Don't we buy and sell even immaterial things like time, knowledge, and music? Hasn't all that gone so far out of control that, without money, your life is in danger, and you are worth less in the eyes of others? Isn't it true that people think a moneyless man deserves his fate, for he must have been a lazy bum to get in trouble? Prosperity is for those who possess, while the decision to use money or not is not merely about freedom of choice, but about life and death.

And on another note, what do we have to achieve in material life that cannot be done by our own hands, including the hands of our friends and family? In modern life, I agree, it has taken over all kinds of activities by making it convenient for everyone to let someone else (or technology) do the job; one step later, the only way to get things done was paying for it. This is true for every society that followed Europe's path of indistrialization. In other places, like remote villages of rural Asia and Africa, in gift economies, or tribal settings, people are living on less than one Dollar a day, foraging and/or running subsistency farms. Does that mean they are poor? Does it mean they have a harder time, have less freedom, are less happy, less healthy, and that they are uncapable of sustaining themselves?
The power of possession amounts to nothing when it comes to points like inner growth, the meaning to life, fulfillment, self-realization, or the ability to survive in times of serious setbacks in trade. Burn your e-currency during a dark cold night and see how much comfort you get out of this. Try to buy enlightenment. Measure the friendliness of your friends. Can you possess wisdom? Can you feed on cash when you are lost in the middle of nowhere?

"The real solution to the ills of money that it brings in its train lies in understanding it through the mechanisms of Divinity." (p.183)
Is that true for nuclear plants as well? Can you solve the ills of radioactivity by understanding the ways of God? Then why would anyone expect exactly that to happen with something that is bearing a multiplicity of dangers?

"Money is a universal force derived, like other forces from the Divine. But, like every other force, it is appropriated and perverted by the beings of darkness and is used to serve and satisfy their own ends... For a harmonious progressive and luminous life on earth money, like all material means, is indispensible and none should plead for its extinction from earthly life." (p.184)
Again, as shown above, certain characteristics of money imply the hurt of its user and the user's wider environment. The only pervert element about it is the idea we could 'manage' the damage it causes by throwing even more money at something. We have to learn that everything we do comes at a price in 'kind', the loss of health, of beauty, of species, of sanity, of relationships, or even life, and no sort of control can stop that.
Like money itself, the concept of management (control), which encompasses sub-concepts like security, separation, preservation, and all the rest of it, is tightly interwoven with the fabric of civilization. We cannot solve any problem sustainably without going back to the foundations of civilization: the erroneous thought that man stands outside, above nature, and follows different rules than the rest of creation; that it is man's ability, right, and duty to improve on nature; that we got to make sure we get our will; that this new, cultural, creation of ours can do it safer, more persistent, bigger, faster, and generally better than the Universe itself.
Compared to the 'primitive' state humanity has been in during three million years of human evolution, so-called ingenuity has improved on exactly nothing, as far as I see it (o.k., apart from the iPod...); the Golden Age is still lurking 'just around the corner'. Half of mankind dieing early because of expropriation by the other half of mankind, of which millions die early due to civilizational diseases, traffic accidents, pollution, suicide, capital crimes, war.

Everyone who gave up the rat race after money can tell that his/her life effortlessly became more luminous, peaceful and harmoneous, leaving more space for inner growth, artistry, and yogic dedication to their activities. It works almost automatically. Experiences like these show the way to a brighter future, without the need for putting money on an altar, or blaming its negative effects on occult powers. As we use money, we are buying its innate consequences. Why point fingers at outside forces? Who are those mysterious creatures of darkness supposed to be? True spirituality knows nothing about any such evildoers, but tremendously more about the responsibility of each conscious being for its own happiness.
So let's have a look at the conceptual foundations of management by consciousness.

On p.83, the author quotes from Sri Aurobindo's words:
"Money is the visible sign of a universal force, and this force in its manifestation on earth works on the vital and physical planes and is indispensible to the fullness of the outer life. In its origin and its true action it belongs to the Divine" (Sri Aurobindo in: The Mother)
Then he proceeds quoting The Mother:
"...money is meant to increase the wealth, the prosperity and the productiveness of a group, a country, or, better, of the whole earth." (The Mother)
Most religious and spiritual traditions originally ask for a reduction in the use of money, even keeping it at arm's length. They speak about living a simple life. They do so for a reason. Intuitively or consciously, wise men of the past held a knowledge we'd better give a second thought. We have to ask ourselves the questions why they, and our intuition as well, shy away from currency.
Having made my experiences for some decades, noticing how money issues prevented humane behaviour, reasonable action, or urgent responses to challenges over and over again, I studied its functioning in society as a whole as well as in the hands of individuals. I came to the conclusion that I had to find ways how to reduce its influence on my life. I don't pretend I already made it out. In a world the lion's share of which has been taken over by the monetary system, this is hardly a trivial task.
I am still using money, only that I, following a tendency toward simplification, reduced the scale tremendously, with the intention to remove it completely from my life. I take steps into that direction, irregardable of Sri Aurobindo's ideas, because believing in old scriptures, gurus, or divine authorities simply isn't enough.
I don't want to diminish Sri Aurobindo's or The Mother's reputation. There is so much wisdom in what they have said. But like all religions of the world, and unlike every serious spiritual tradition, they hold up the flag of civilization, with its belief in human superiority and its fixation on growth, expansion, and ascent. The origins of civilization and money's life cycle may have been hidden to them. Maybe that's why they didn't question the so-called need for money. For them, it was just part of the given setup; for me it's the key to our culture's destructive behaviour. I find it obvious that removing money from my life, putting the ego in its proper place, and getting conscious about things that actually matter, go hand in hand.

If you say, "No dynamic spirituality can afford to put a ban on money, for that will mean leaving the money-power in the hands of the vital forces on the one hand and on the other paralysing the material world by poverty." (p.187), these lines give evidence enough to claim that basic facts of economic mechanisms haven't been understood. If you rely on outside sources to get supplied with stuff you need, you become dependent on the hands of the above so-called vital forces. A constant flow of money (including surplus gains and interest) runs from you to the supplyers, helping them to accumulate even more, and supporting their exploitation of both resources and human labour. At the same time, keeping up this cycle of consumption forces you to 'make' money. Being dependent on deliveries for money, the latter becomes your foremost concern, and in the end you will do anything to get a grip on it. That's when your spirituality gets spoiled and you become a companion in the destruction of life.

"The way to win", how John Michael so perfectly put it in one of his recent articles, "is not to play the game." Working from inside the system, trying to make it more "just", "green", "democratic", or "spiritual" won't change the tiniest bit of its path towards consuming every last bit of the earth. It consumes the Earth because we consume all sorts of stuff in the name of progress, independent of how we look at it. This is how it works.
Becoming aware of the origins of money and being conscious about its impact on the functioning of the economy and the human psyche means that you'll never again be friends with it. As money is the fruit of separation, its nature is to disconnect its users from the source of the goods and services purchased by it.
If you believe that you can sleep with the devil as long as only you take care you withdraw before he's coming, you will have a rude awakening when you discover that he got you by your ass - like all the world today believing in the fairytale of endless growth is going to have their doomsday when vital resources of the global economy will eventually be used up.

To sum it up, the "root of all evil" lies not within currency itself, but in the larger framework called civilization, a construct which is based on materialistic, divisive thinking. We cannot possibly solve money-related problems by spending it consciously, only by changing our world view on the deepest level. To bring such a shift about, we can start on the material level by withdrawing from money making and spending, in order to live a simple sustainable life that gives us space for the necessary inner shift; we may as well start with cleaning our mind in the first place, so the deceptions and temptations of civilization loose their power over us and go away, along with the "need" to spend money.

I fully accept that people have all kinds of views on money. My truth is not the only truth there is to this subject. But the ideas given in the above mentioned book are deceptive in a way. They might wake the impression we could continue our o-so-comfortable way of consuming goods and services without, at some point, having to pay the bill attached to it.
We can't.
I thought you might like to know; I'm equally ok if you don't.

2011-07-18

Aufstieg kommt vor dem Fall

In diesen Minuten lädt die deutsche Fassung von "The Ascent of Humanity", Charles Eisensteins Buch über die Krise unserer Zivilisation, hoch und ich bin sehr froh, dass wir es noch vor dem nächsten großen Knall geschafft haben.
Wir, das sind Eike Richter und ich in unserer Rolle als Übersetzer. Selten habe ich solch reibungslose Zusammenarbeit erlebt wie zwischen uns beiden. Dankeschön von meiner Seite also an meinen Kollegen und natürlich an den Autor, aus dessen Buch ich ja schon mehrfach zitiert habe. Ich muss es, glaube ich, nicht nochmals wegen seiner treffenden Analyse und seiner brauchbaren Vorschläge anpreisen.

2011-07-06

Zwischenruf

Da ich mich schon einen Monat lang nicht mehr gemeldet habe, wird es Zeit für ein Lebenszeichen. Wie angekündigt bin ich mehr mit Leben als mit Schreiben beschäftigt. Der Artikel, an dem ich seit fast als drei Wochen arbeite - er dreht sich um den bewussten Umgang mit Geld - ist inzwischen sieben Seiten lang und inhaltlich weitgehend vollständig. Er befriedigt mich jedoch noch nicht vollends. Womöglich lasse ich ihn erst ein Weilchen ruhen, bevor ich nochmals drübergehe.
Für heute muss es ein Gedanke zum folgenden, vor einem Jahr entdeckten und nun wieder ausgegrabenen Zitat tun:
"If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it is not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever." (XIV.Dalai Lama in an interview with John Avedon)
Was auch immer kommen mag, wir werden uns damit abfinden müssen. Die Wirklichkeit kann sehr schmerzen, wenn sie sich von unseren Wünschen unterscheidet. Doch ist dies nicht einem grausamen Universum geschuldet, sondern in der Unangemessenheit unserer Vorstellungen begründet. Darum schaue ich zuversichtlich nach vorn. Auf was auch immer wir zusteuern, es wird folgerichtig aus unserer Gegenwart erwachsen; und darum wird es notwendig sein; und darum wird es gut sein.