A Peaceful Economy
The Teaching of Rabbi Dr. Gabriel Cousens
The following is adapted from Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Creating Peace by Being Peace: The Essene Sevenfold Path (2008), Chapter 5.
Economics in the service of peace is part of peace with the community. Our modern economic thinking has some of its roots in the philosophy of Francis Bacon (1561–1626) and Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), who believed that nature is a limitless resource to be exploited to meet humanity’s personal needs. In their anthropomorphic ego-centered approach, Bacon and Hobbes believed that wealth could be defined as power over other people. In this context, they saw human life as unending competition for power. Adam Smith (1723–1790), in his classic book The Wealth of Nations, has often been quoted out of context to support this position of pure laissez-faire. Robert Nisbet, who was Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Columbia University in New York, in his book History of the Idea for Progress, pointed out that, contrary to the current historical mythology, Adam Smith was deeply sensitive to the needs of the poor and the working class. Although he was in favor of competition and free enterprise, he always tempered this view with the qualification that people observe the rule of justice. The current capitalist economists have consistently omitted the rule-of-justice aspect in their citations of Adam Smith to validate their amoral approach to economic thinking. The presence of worldwide hunger, poverty, and economic disharmony in our global village is ample evidence that this approach has not worked for the benefit of humanity on the planet. Clearly, no collective justice has been practiced. The economics of peaceful abundance, which the Essenes successfully demonstrated in their communities, was based on an economic justice for everyone. With global warming becoming a more serious problem, some corporations as well as nations such as Denmark have taken serious steps to shift their economies toward a more environmental conscious perspective.
Yet we still have to ask: Why is there so much poverty, injustice, and environmental degradation on the same planet where there is so much abundance and unparalleled riches? A significant reason is that our world economic system is not connected to a planetary morality. As soon as we take economics away from considerations of world peace, prosperity, and service to the whole, and toward the pursuit of personal self-interest, we have sown the breeding grounds of social disorder. Without peace as a consideration in economic decisions, we lack the clarity to make a distinction between useful production and services, such as day-care, affordable housing, and health care, and those areas of economic productivity that are harmful to humanity, such as the armaments industry, the junk food industry, or the tobacco industry. In 2004, the U.S. military budget was $400 billion, about 40 percent of the worldwide total military spending of $950 billion. It is estimated that an annual expenditure of just $237.5 billion for ten years would provide global health care, eliminate starvation and malnutrition, provide clean water and shelter for everyone, remove land mines, stop deforestation, prevent global warming and acid rain, dissolve the debt of the debtor nations, prevent soil erosion, produce safe and clean energy, and eliminate illiteracy. In other words, we have the ability, with a simple shift in our consciousness and within ten years, to create a world of physical peace. But it must, and does, come from changing our consciousness, which is the source of that shift. To do that we have to face our shadow and let the light guide us to the way of life that leads us to peace. Economics without morality brings chaos and war, not peace. For economics to aid in the creation of world peace, it must be organized in the service of world peace.
Conventional economics is presently in conflict not only with social needs, but also with ecological, spiritual, and commonsense needs. In conventional economics, our decisions to exploit natural resources are based on the crudest measure, the price of the commodity on the world market. The more obvious results of this policy are seen in worldwide poverty, in millions of acres of fertile topsoil becoming desert, in global warming, and destruction of the rainforests. In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development published a report entitled ‘Our Common Future.’ The commission stated:
Economics and ecology must be completely integrated in decision-making and law-making processes, not just to protect the environment, but also to protect and promote development. (Greenpeace Magazine, January-February 1989).
As economist Herman Daly once said, There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the earth as it if it were a business in liquidation.
Humanity is not in good health; it is being eaten away by the cancer of personal, national, and international separateness and greed. We are still choosing to work only for the self-centered self, family, or nation. We still seek to take wealth from those we consider outside of us, in whatever way we can. How do we overcome the fear-based greed and the thirst for power and domination that bring so much world disharmony? Through meditation and prayer we are able to go beyond ego-based fear to the direct experience of love and unity. In the condition of harmony, it is fine to seek riches because we are ready to seek them where they really are, in the gold of God Communion. We become so rich in this gold of awareness that we actually want to share our wealth with others. To realize where the real riches are and what they are is the key to creating all levels of personal, familial, national, and international peace.
When enough people experience the golden light of consciousness, international exploitation will be transformed into a new era of economic and social harmony. Then international exploitation will cease on the most fundamental level because we will have learned to keep what is necessary for our material well-being, in a consciousness of abundant simplicity, and to share the rest with our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Our economics will be in the service of peace.
The study of our own body functions will give us some clues about peace with humanity. How is it that the cells of our body have organized themselves in such a way that they work efficiently and harmoniously with one another to create a healthy body? As the human race, are we so out of control that we cannot do the same? As individuals, we can be likened to the individual cells that make up the human body, just as we make up the planetary human body, and if we could mimic the harmony of our cells as a planetary body, we would all enjoy health, love, and prosperity. In our body, only a cancer cell acts, as we humans do in the world body, separately, disharmoniously, and as a foreigner to the body. The natural and divine laws are played out in the microcosm of our cellular and bodily function as well as in the macrocosm of the world and universe. If we were committed enough to peace to follow these inherent laws on every level of our life, planetary peace would be a real possibility.
The reactivation of the energy of sacred commerce and the ancient merchant priesthood is an optimistic answer to the economic imbalances that exist in the world community today. Emerging out of the history of Egyptian teachings of sacred commerce, the pharaoh Akhenaton was said to have passed it on to Moses and the twelve tribes of Israel. (Specific discussions are still found in Jewish literature of the importance of doing business in a way that psychologically uplifts the person one is doing business with, as found in the Torah as well as in such current books as Jewish Ethics and Halakhah for Our Time by Basil Herring, which covers such merchant priest topics as ‘the limits of truth and deception in the marketplace.’) Merlin and King Arthur’s court in the fifth century were associated with sacred commerce, and it was reactivated by the Knights Templar as a way of life and teaching taught by the merchant priesthoods for the creation of peace and the overall uplifting of life on the planet. It can also be found in the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad. We see it worldwide today, such as in the brilliant work of Dr. Mohammad Yunus, who in 1979 founded the first micro-lending bank whose focus was loaning small amounts of money to people (mostly women) in poor rural areas. This concept has spread from Bangladesh to all over the world, and he received a Nobel Peace Prize for this great service. This is just one example of how this understanding is slowly but surely being activated today on this planet.
Sacred commerce is also connected to the rise of the conscious consumer. Best described in the new book Sacred Commerce by Ayman Sawaf and Rowan Gabrielle, it is part of overall lifestyle as opposed to a business activity solely for accumulating wealth. It is part of the growing Global Citizen Movement made up of those who choose to live world-healthful lifestyles and interact commercially either consciously or unconsciously using the principles of sacred commerce. It addresses the issues of poverty and war and helps us move from the base of the Maslow pyramid, in which survival and safety are the primary concerns, into a self-actualizing global conscious evolution, a term coined by the visionary Barbara Marx Hubbard. Conscious evolution creates the pre-conditions to act with awareness and intention to create healthy changes in all seven levels of the Sevenfold Path. It creates a conscious ability to address the chaotic conditions of today’s temporal reality. The art of the merchant priesthood is to activate and illuminate the divine gift we humans have been given for experiencing the Divine and being peace on this planet. It helps to create a spiritual and intellectual environment that is conducive to democratic principles and freedom; it also helps heal and rebalance the male-female energies to their highest alchemical octave, and enhance the sacred in all aspects of life. It helps one aspect of society from exploiting another aspect of the global community. It creates a healthy water that lifts everyone’s boat and the boats of every culture.
In Sacred Commerce, the lifestyle practice is defined as the ‘Participation of the community in the exchange of information, goods and services that contributes to the revealing of the divine (beauty, goodness, and truth) in all and where spirituality is the bottom line.
In modern times we have known only one bottom line: How much money do I make? As businesses have gotten more sophisticated, that question has multiplied to three bottom-line considerations: What is the intention? What are the means? What is the economic result? Sacred commerce adds a fourth dimension: What is the spiritual return? This becomes the most important bottom-line consideration and simultaneously redefines the meaning of profit. The merchant priests used their business relationships as a feedback system to grow personally and spiritually, especially in the area of character development and as a way to create prosperity and serve humanity. In this context, business is primarily for helping us become more loving, compassionate, caring, happy, and as a way to activate the frequencies of beauty, goodness, and truth. The world of business is a way to create meaning and value, fulfill one’s sacred design, and serve the Divine.
In this context, the King of Bhutan has created a GNH, or ‘gross national happiness,’ as a way to measure the nation’s wealth.
These changes represent a global paradigm shift in values and the rise of the global citizenry — people aware of the wider and more interconnected, interdependent world. They are also associated with the 50 million Cultural Creatives in the U.S. who have in common a call for social justice and for a more sustainable, caring world: a world of international cooperation of citizens to make the world a healthier and safer place. They are part of the growing Culture of Life and Liberation that is arising on the planet to see through the misinformation and paranoia on the way to creating a world of peace and fulfillment — a world community filled with peace, prosperity, and conscious evolution for all. The growing merchant priesthood movement is based on people choosing to become agents of goodness and in that context to choose to express their universal love as the desire to work for the good of others. They have become part of the birth of a new humanity.