I first learned about Charles Eisenstein when Andreea sent me a link to an article he wrote about Permaculture. It was kind of like my first date with Andreea in the sense that it took me a while to get back for a second date (not very romantic but that’s how it happened).
Since then I have taken in quite a bit of what Charles publishes including his book Sacred Economics. In the spirit of its contents the book is offered freely online for reading and or downloading. It is also available in print:
It has inspired me and I continually reference the book, Charles and his ideas. I started thinking on a similar path (to the book) 3 or 4 years ago (while still living in Israel) and began a kind of research path that I never completed. When I read this book I was thankful that Charles walked this path with breadth and depth and did so elaborately and with much care.
I would highlight three major themes in this book:
- Story: the world we perceive in is based on a (collaborative) story (we create and we can change)
- Money – Where we are
- Money – A possible future
though I was already fairly aware of the story aspect, living at Bhudeva has hammered this in to me beyond doubt. So many (seems like most) of my preconceptions about life have been challenged, dis-integrated and redirected. Beyond whatever temporary residues of knowledge or wisdom recent and new experiences may have gifted me they have left me with a sense of disillusionment. They have exposed my stories by placing them alongside a reality in which they (at best) don’t quite fit.
The story of money is a special one because it hasn’t fit for a long time … pretty much all of my conscious adult life. The more life experiences I accumulated the more I got the feeling that something about money isn’t right. Charles unveils this story quite clearly. At around the time I was reading the book, my teacher published this quote from his teacher:
“Whether or not I like it, I should know where I am. Otherwise we try to draw the line from where we are not to where we want to be. Therefore the first point must be understood and then we can go to the next point.”
TKV Desikachar France August 1983
Money is deeply embedded into our modern-day lives. We all use it, live with it, contribute to it, depend on it. Yet it seems that we don’t take the time to stop and consider what it actually is and how it relates to our lives. When and how does it help us or does it get in our way? We navigate throught life using money but doing so without understanding its nature can be counter-productive to our efforts. If you care about money then you owe it to yourself to know what it is and what is your relationship with it. Charle’s offers a clear, encompassing and fascinating perspective. I believe his perspective would stand up proudly to any intellectual scrutiny or (much needed) challenges that may be applied to it.
As for the possible future of money – here things are less clear, still fascinating but arguably speculative. It introduces a handful of ideas that offer creative solutions – some of which have been around for quite some time (though at the fringe of economic thought), others have actually been applied with success. It also offers well placed skepticism in regard to superficial alternatives that have been tried (and for the most part failed). The book did not leave me with a clear vision of a better future but with resilient hopes that such a future is possible (and in some ways already here) and with a renewed motivation to continue moving towards it.
I can say that after reading the book, almost any mainstream article I’ve read on economics since then seemed stupid. Social, finacial and political events around the world are met with futile efforts of reconciliation – a futility rooted in a misunderstanding of where we are. Their coverage in the media also seems futile, juvenile and lost.
It is becoming more and more obvious (to more and more people) that we can no longer change reality to confirm to our story of money. It is now time to admit that that story has run its course and its time to get ready for a period of unknown trasition that will inevitably (seeing as the world did not end on Dec 21, 2012) lead into a new and better story. Clinging to the existing story creates a view of gloom-and-doom. Charles shows that by relinquishing it and embracing what is actually out there (rather then what we want it to be) creates a view of hope and abundance.
I also loved the style of writing and expression in the book. It strikes a balance between mind (a scientific/academic voice) and heart (a yearning for something that the mind may choose to deny simply because it cannot yet assimilate it). The book is filled with references to sources which I spent quite a bit of time following and taking in. The book is also filled with spiritual yearning. It is well thought out and full of care. It is responsible and it is daring. Beyond its contents, it demonstrates a mode of exploration and discourse I would love to see more of in the future. It is a wonderful example of good application of intellect (as opposed to so many run-amok applications out there).
There is also this short movie which offers a glimpse into the book:
I don’t have a bible or a torah or a koran or what not in my life. There are a (very) few books which seem to transcend life, that strike a reasonable balance between what is and what may be. They bring me peace and inspiration. This is one of those books.