— by Charles Eisentein (Nov 11)
The story that is ending in our time, goes much deeper than the story of money. I call this story the Ascent of Humanity. It is a story of endless growth, and the money system we have today is an embodiment of that story, enabling and propelling the conversion of the natural realm into the human realm. It began millennia ago, when humans first tamed fire and made tools; it accelerated when we applied these tools to the domestication of animals and plants and began to conquer the wild, to make the world ours. It reached its glorious zenith in the age of the Machine, when we created a wholly artificial world, harnessing all the forces of nature and imagining ourselves to be its lords and possessors. And now, that story is drawing to a close as the inexorable realization dawns that the story is not true. Despite our pretenses, the world is not really ours; despite our illusions, we are not in control of it. As the unintended consequences of technology proliferate, as our communities, our health, and the ecological basis of civilization deteriorate, as we explore new depths of misery, violence, and alienation, we enter the story’s final stages: crisis, climax, and denouement. The rituals of our storytellers are to no avail. No story can persist beyond its ending.
Just as life does not end with adolescence, neither does civilization’s evolution stop with the end of growth. We are in the midst of a transition parallel to an adolescent’s transition into adulthood. Physical growth ceases, and vital resources turn inward to foster growth in other realms.
Two key developments mark the transition from childhood to adulthood, whether on the individual or the species level. The first is that we fall in love, and this love relationship is different from that of the child to the mother. In childhood, the primary aspect of the love relationship is that of receiving. I am happy to give all I can to my children, and I want them to receive it without restraint. It is right for a child to do what is necessary to grow, both physically and mentally. A good parent provides the resources for this growth, as our Mother Earth has done for us.
So far, we humans have been children in relationship to earth. We began in the womb of hunter-gatherer existence, in which we made no distinction between human and nature, but were enwombed within it. An infant does not have a strong self-other distinction, but takes time to form an identity and an ego and to learn that the world is not an extension of the self. So it has been for humanity collectively. Whereas the hunter-gatherer had no concept of a separate “nature” distinct from “human,” the agriculturist, whose livelihood depended on the objectification and manipulation of nature, came to think of nature as a separate category. In the childhood of agricultural civilization, humanity developed a separate identity and grew large. We had our adolescent growth spurt with industry, and on the mental plane entered through Cartesian science the extreme of separation, the fully developed ego and hyperrationality of the young teenager who, like humanity in the Age of Science, completes the stage of cognitive development known as “formal operations,” consisting of the manipulation of abstractions. But as the extreme of yang contains the birth of yin, so does the extreme of separation contain the seed of what comes next: reunion.
In adolescence, we fall in love, and our world of perfect reason and perfect selfishness falls apart as the self expands to include the beloved within its bounds. A new kind of love relationship emerges: not just one of receiving, but of giving too, and of cocreating. Fully individuated from the Other, we can fall in love with it and experience a reunion greater than the original union, for it contains within it the entire journey of separation.
The first mass awakening of the new love consciousness happened in the 1960s with the birth of the environmental movement. At the pinnacle of our separation, triumphantly surveying our apparent conquest of nature, we began to notice how much she had given; we became aware of her hurts, her wounds, and we began to desire not only to take from earth, but to give to earth too, to protect and cherish her. This desire was not based on a fear of extinction-that came later-but on love. We were falling in love with the earth. In that decade, the first photographs of this planet were beamed down from orbiting satellites, and we were transformed by the planet’s beauty. To view earth from the outside was the penultimate step of separation from nature; the ultimate step was the ascension of the astronauts, physically leaving nature behind. And they fell in love with earth too. Here are the words of astronaut Rusty Schweickart:
From the moon, the Earth is so small and so fragile, and such a precious little spot in that Universe, that you can block it out with your thumb. Then you realize that on that spot, that little blue and white thing, is everything that means anything to you — all of history and music and poetry and art and death and birth and love, tears, joy, games, all of it right there on that little spot that you can cover with your thumb. And you realize from that perspective that you’ve changed forever, that there is something new there, that the relationship is no longer what it was.
The second hallmark of the transition to adulthood is an ordeal. Ancient tribal cultures had various coming-of-age ceremonies and ordeals that purposely shattered the smaller identity through isolation, pain, fasting, psychedelic plants, or other means, and then rebuilt and reincorporated it into a larger, transpersonal identity. Though we intuitively seek them out in the form of drinking, drugs, fraternity and military hazing, and so on, modern men and women usually have only a partial experience of this process, leaving us in a kind of perpetual adolescence that ends only when fate intervenes to tear our world apart. Then we can enter a wider self, in which giving comes just as naturally as receiving. Having completed the passage to adulthood, a man or woman takes full possession of his or her gifts and seeks to contribute to the good of all as a full member of the tribe.
Humanity is undergoing an analogous ordeal today. The multiple crises converging upon us are an ordeal that challenges our very identity, an ordeal that we have no assurance of even surviving. It calls forth unrealized capacities and compels us to relate to the world in a new way. The despair that sensitive people feel in the face of the crisis is part of the ordeal. Like a tribal initiate, when we as a species emerge from it, we too will join the community of all being as a full member of the “tribe” of life. Our unique capacities of technology and culture, we will turn to contribute to the good of all.
In humanity’s childhood, a money system that embodied and demanded growth, the taking of more and more from earth, was perhaps appropriate. It was an integral part of the story of Ascent. Today it is rapidly becoming obsolete. It is incompatible with adult love, with cocreative partnership, and with the graduation into the estate of a Giver that comes with adulthood. That is the deep reason why no financial or economic reform can possibly work that does not include a new kind of money. The new money must embody a new story, one that treats nature not only as a mother, but as a lover too. We will still have a need for money for a long time to come because we need magical symbols to reify our Story of the People, to apply it to the physical world as a creative template. The essential character of money will not change: it will consist of magical talismans, whether physical or electronic, through which we assign roles, focus intention, and coordinate human activity. […]
There is a personal-some might say spiritual-dimension to the metamorphosis of stories that we are entering. Today’s usury-money is part of a story of separation, in which “more for me is less for you.” That is the essence of interest: I will only “share” money with you if I end up with even more of it in return. On the systemic level as well, interest on money creates competition, anxiety, and the polarization of wealth. Meanwhile, the phrase “more for me is less for you” is also the motto of the ego, and a truism given the discrete and separate self of modern economics, biology, and philosophy.
Only when our sense of self expands to include others, through love, is that truism replaced by its opposite: “More for you is also more for me.” This is the essential truth embodied in the world’s authentic spiritual teachings, from Jesus’s Golden Rule, which has been misconstrued and should read, “As you do unto others, so also you do unto yourself,” to the Buddhist doctrine of karma. However, to merely understand and agree with these teachings is not enough; many of us bear a divide between what we believe and what we live. An actual transformation in the way we experience being is necessary, and such a transformation usually comes about in much the same way as our collective transformation is happening now: through a collapse of the old Story of Self and Story of the World, and the birth of a new one. For the self, too, is ultimately a story, with a beginning and an end. Have you ever gone through an experience that leaves you, afterward, hardly knowing who you are?
The mature, connected self, the self of interbeingness, comes into a balance between giving and receiving. In that state, whether you are a person or an entire species, you give according to your abilities and, linked with others of like spirit, you receive according to your needs.
Not coincidentally, I have just paraphrased a fundamental tenet of socialism: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” This is a good description of any gift network, whether a human body, an ecosystem, or a tribal gift culture. As I will describe, it is also a good description of a sacred economy. Its currency contributes to a very different Story of the People, of the Self, and of the World than usury-money. It is cyclical rather than exponential, always returning to its source; it encourages the protection and enrichment of nature, not its depletion; it redefines wealth as a function of one’s generosity and not one’s accumulation; it is the manifestation of abundance, not scarcity. It has the potential to recreate the gift dynamics of primitive societies on a global scale, bringing forth human gifts and directing them toward planetary needs. […]
We are here to create something beautiful; I call it “the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible.” As the truth of that sinks in, deeper and deeper, and as the convergence of crises pushes us out of the old world, inevitably more and more people will live from that truth: the truth that more for you is not less for me; the truth that what I do unto you, so I do unto myself; the truth of living to give what you can and take what you need. We can start doing it right now. We are afraid, but when we do it for real, the world meets our needs and more. We then find that the story of Separation, embodied in the money we have known, is not true and never was. Yet the last ten millennia were not in vain. Sometimes it is necessary to live a lie to its fullest before we are ready to take the next step into the truth. The lie of separation in the age of usury is now complete. We have explored its fullness, its farthest extremes, and seen all it has wrought, the deserts and the prisons, the concentration camps and the wars, the wastage of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Now, the capacities we have developed through this long journey of ascent will serve us well in the imminent Age of Reunion.
— Charles Eisentein in Sacred Economics.