Awakin Calls » Jacob Needleman » Transcript
Jacob Needleman: Money and the Meaning of Life
Amit (Host): Today, our guest is none other than Jacob Needleman, someone who really embodies today's theme and hopefully we'll be able to dive into on, "Money and the meaning of life." We are really looking forward to it. I know I am, personally. I really want to thank all of you for joining us.
Our theme for this week is " Money and the meaning of life". Our guest today wrote that, " we as humans are uniquely beings of two natures. The material, which is focused on the world of action and doing and the spiritual or transcendent, longing for something higher greater and more inclusive of the ordinary self. He has noted that our great possibility as well as our great difficulty is how to find a relationship between the two realms in this life. From this so many different questions arise. How do concerns of fears about money and material world affect our own life and our own choices? How do you reconcile our material and spiritual needs so that you can stay grounded yet integrated and authentic in both pursuits? We are hoping to explore some of these questions not only with Jacob but also with all of you. We have a remarkable moderator today, Preeta Bansal. She is a lawyer by trade who spent some time in the private sector and in the public sector by serving under both the Clinton and the Obama administrations. She is currently a lecturer at MIT and working with their lab for social machines, determining how technology can be used for social emergence. So Preeta, thank you as well, for joining us today and for being our guide. We love to hear your thoughts as well on today's theme and have a wonderful conversation with our guest today.
Preeta (Moderator): Thanks so much Amit. I am really excited to be here and have this conversation with Jerry, who is obviously a remarkable voice for many decades. This particular topic is something that's very much been on my mind. As many of you know, I left the White house after the first term of the Obama administration. I have been a little bit footloose and fancy free since then. I put all of my tremendous household goods into storage. I put my material world aside and was able to kind of live much more simply for couple of years, living in London and now in Cambridge. I was just talking to a friend of mine who was saying that," you may feel like you are spiritually light because of this newfound foot looseness. But in fact all of your stuff is just in storage. You have just kind of put it aside. You haven't really confronted it." As I am now starting to get more permanent in Cambridge, I realize that I now have to confront my material world and my material accumulations and try and reintegrate that into what I think as more streamlined and spiritually conscious self that I have been able to pursue in the past few years. But the constant struggle between the outer world, not only the physical material but also the outward pursuits, the power, the influence and all of those kinds of things and how that interacts with the internal quest is something that I have just been very, very focused on for the past few years.
Preparing for this call, as I read Jacob's work, I just found myself gasping and writing and commenting on the margins of almost everything I read. It just so resonated with me. So I am very excited for this
Amit: Wonderful! Tell us a little a bit about Jerry and lead us right into wonderful discussion with him.
Preeta: Great! As many of you know and heard, Jacob Needleman is a one of really prominent voice in the conversation about inner life and inner possibilities of humans for more than 40 years. He is a writer, philosopher, teacher, seeker and he is someone who has written on so many subjects. Whether it's love or time or medicine or psychiatry or even the American experiments. I think as he is focused on so many of these subjects. Interestingly he has found that, embedded in our relation with money lies answers to many of the great questions in many of these realms. So excited to talk to him about that. Welcome Jerry.
Jerry: Thank you. I am very happy to be here and happy to be called Jerry.
Preeta: Great! Maybe we can just start with that. You've written about so many things, you've thought about so many things, may be you can start a little bit of conversation with us about why money is at the heart of the so many great questions of who we are?
Jerry: I long ago had the aim, when I started writing for the general public, of finding or discovering or thinking about the bridge or the relationship between the inner world and our outer world. And to see how that need enters into so many aspects of our current life in this world, in this time, in this place with this environment. We have natural and social and technological and scientific environment. There are enormous, profound questions of a time and place about relation between the socially conditioned self which sometimes people call the "ego," and this inner voice that calls to us in special moments in which we really don't know how to open up to in a way that it can enter into our outer life. You are speaking about a perennial question of human life. All the great teachings or teachers have opened up that question about the relationship between the deep inner personality or deep inner self or inner reality of what we really are, underneath all the appearances, between that and what we call either the socially conditioned self or the ego or the life of action in the world of very specific material and psychological values.
So we are really talking about two currents, two directions, two elements within a human being. One needs a bridge between the two. And to find that bridge and to create a truly authentic human life is the aim of all great spiritual philosophies and inner meaning of all the great religions of the world. I have been trying to open those questions both for myself and for others by writing about different aspects of our culture, the ones you mentioned. Ones that I've rarely seen any question opened about for the current world is the relationship between life with money and our life of search for truth. Money, as I come to understand it, anybody can agree, haunts all aspects of our life. In this current civilization is kind of unique in the way that this great social technology called money enters into every little part, corner, into every aspect of human life in a way that I believe it never has in history of humanity. So I try to write about that in a book, "Money and the Meaning of life." I came to this title without having any idea what my answer would be! And sometimes the title calls to you and says to you, "Now get to work." That's what I am happy to talk a little bit more with you.
Preeta: Great! So if money is such an important and central part of our life in contrast to the spiritual, is it your view that we should be moving away? Is the goal of humanity to shed the material?
Jerry: No. Not at all. That's what I think is a common, I wouldn't say misunderstanding, but a direction which might not take us where we think it will. As you mentioned, we have two natures within us, two qualities, two directions of our life. Our psychological and our external life. And money happens to be the social technology that organizes one half of our nature. Almost one half of our nature, the life of outer action, of family, of wealth, of comfort, of health, of action, of creativity in the world and the other nature is rather different. It's independent of the money nature, of the money question, of that part of ourselves that is ruled by money. The question is not to get rid of external part or deny it, but to understand it. To deeply understand it because it represents the way one half of our human nature really acts in the world underneath it all. And we need to deeply understand it. It doesn't mean to explain it away or make superficial observations about it, or judge it as bad or good. But deep understanding requires deep observation, deep study. And the quality of deep study and deep observation is a spiritual quality, not just psychological material quality or a therapeutic tool. So it boils down paradoxically, to take money more seriously rather than less seriously.
Preeta: So let's just back up there a little bit. You said money organizes half of our nature. But I know in parts of your writing that you've said that the half of our nature, has for many of us, unfortunately become the dominant focus of our desire. So half of our nature has dominated the other half so to speak. You've said part of that is, because of the intense vivid experiences we've had all in the realm of the external or material rather than the inner world. If our goal is not to shed the material, how do we bring the material back into balance? How do we re-energize the intensity of the inner world to provide something that is the other half of our nature?
Jerry: It poses great questions. At root this is the question that has always existed. Not with money so much exactly but with all other outer aspects of human life. How to find the balance between the two worlds in us? And somewhere along the line in our modern culture of the last few hundred years, let's say for now, there has been a specific kind of forgetting of the inner world. We have been drawn to great discoveries of science, great emergence of modern science some hundreds of years ago. We were drawn more and more to the applications of science. For example, technology, which is an aspect of science as applied to the outer world of materiality and all the forces and elements, safety, health, family and so on. Somewhere there was a slippage or forgetting, a gradual or sudden movement of hope of mankind, the definition even of the greatness of humanity has been in the mastery of the outer world and it's need to master the outer world in order to survive and thrive. In that sense both in the outwardly, social terms and cultural terms and inner terms there has been a slippage of acknowledgement of the centrality and the importance of the inner world. And in a way what we are asking and what you ask is the age old question. Humanity, something seems to have gone wrong. Look at the world. Yes, there is much beauty and greatness in humanity. But just look at the world today threatened by so much hatred and violence and ugliness. Something has gone wrong. The question is what went wrong and how to rebalance this. That's what you are asking, isn't it?
Jerry: What I've come to understand is before we can try to fix things, we have to begin to understand them in a way that is may be new. A new kind of observation of the source of the problem. Now, where is the source? The source is in ourselves. If we begin to see in ourselves what money really means to us, what really it is doing to us and what it can do for us. Because, sometimes it is very beneficent. But that requires a quality of self observation, set study, self understanding that is not generally available for you. It usually has to be introduced as it has been for thousands of years by men and women of higher inner development, who really know how to help people find this quality of self-knowledge.
Preeta: In your writings you say the paradoxical answer to the centrality of money in our lives and may be an imbalance of money in our lives is not to turn away from money but to actually turn toward it and observe it more carefully, that deep quality of observation.
Jerry: Absolutely. That is very rare to posses. It is fraught with possible hypocrisy. The real quality of self observation and self study is not such an easy thing. The moment we start doing that, we tend to make judgments and we tend to want to use it for our improvement and we tend to want to hide from ourselves just how we are towards money. Because the true genuine self study, genuine self-knowledge is very, very uncomfortable. Because the truth that it reveals are not truths that we are so happy to see. So first thing I would say, in addition to finding others who have the same question and who we can come together with, is, to cultivate the attitude of a warm objectivity toward ourselves. Which means no like or dislike, but to see the things as they are. That is not so easy!
Preeta: Can you give an example of somebody that might have been freed from some material focus by this intense study of self examination in their attitude toward money? Could you give a concrete example of what that means?
Jerry: What that means is that .. for example, you are a lawyer. You have no doubt seen how loving families behave particularly in cases of large wealthy families, or any family really where there is any kind of wealth, or any kind of inheritance, you yourself have no doubt seen how people behave when the will is about to be read. And how all the loving people etc. etc, how so much of this turns into struggle, conflict and selfishness and so forth. Haven't you?
Jerry: There is an example. We need to go back into our childhood perhaps and try to see how we were introduced through money, very often families' fights about money and conflicts about money. Money begins to define who we are, what we are and what we should be. When a person walks into a room, someone not very interesting looking, not very impressive and someone says he is the seventh richest man in the world, then immediately we all get respectful and say, " Oh! what a fine fellow he is and he even sings well!"
You see there is a statement like that. People with money look good, feel good, speak well and sing very well too. ( Preeta laughs)
The amount of hypocrisy is enormous. But it is possible to cure it by really looking. For example, money is like the question of sex to some extent. It was never spoken about in certain ways clearly and honestly until recently and still is very difficult. Money is a bit like that for us because we all know how important it is and how it touches everything. But we pretend that we are different towards it than we really are. So self honesty is the first step towards bridging the two natures.
Preeta: You have also written about the traditional forms of communal life that made people have the vivid experiences with the inner world. And I think you've described the family, art and learning, that they too have come into the thrall of money. It made it harder for us to access the inner life.
Jerry: Yes. That's part of the question. We all have had experiences one way or the other, in childhood may be more than other times, we've all had experiences of suddenly been totally aware of our presence in this world, and who we are and sense of I am, I exist now and sense of I'm freed of all the egoistic anxieties, cravings and so forth. We've all had moments, may be in moments of great danger, where we suddenly had to act in a way that astonishes us with our compassion or moments of great joy, watching the birth of a child so forth or moments of great disappointment or just plain moments of any old thing just walking down the street or when we are lying in our crib and our mama comes in with cookies and milk, suddenly this feeling of presence, this is the key. It is that sense that we sometimes have had... we don't know what to call them. Our culture calls them things like peak experiences or something. But, it doesn't know how to interpret them. They are experiences of something that could be cultivated, and if cultivated and if we had access to, would actually transform our life. We could become closer to becoming the kind of being we wish to be. Does it make sense to you to put it that way? We do have these moments in our life that only last a moment very often, but we do have them, of great presence.
Preeta: Right. That's very interesting when you talk about the moment of deep presence that everybody felt at one point in their life, and for many people it becomes fleeting and the question is how do you keep reconnecting with that or try to reach that? You've been at this... your quest, your own spiritual journey for decades. I am wondering what in your life or what in your upbringing prepared you or made you open to these deep questions? I mean you turned at one point in your life from medicine to philosophy to start probing these questions. I am just wondering what in your own personal life might have made you open to these?
Jerry: Well, I knew that I wanted always to be a scientist. I wanted to study biology, wanted to study life and was deeply involved in that sort of thing ever since I was child and growing up. Then when I got to college, I realized that my interest in life and living beings, medicine and chemistry, physics and astronomy especially, what I was seeing when I was looking at life is the incarnation of great ideas, great truths, great laws of the universe, not a horizontal meaningless universe with mechanical actions but a universe that is equally vast in terms of vertical purpose of meaning. I realized that when I was studying course to course in philosophy that my interest in living things was because of the embodied truth, living incarnations of the truth. And then suddenly there was this thing that appeared in my senior year at college called Zen Buddhism. And I was astonished by that material that has now become more or less familiar with people. But in those days it was totally, totally incomprehensible and totally wondrous at the same time. It touched something in me. Just pondering what great ideas of the human nature as presented by the Zen Buddhism and other spiritual teachings gave me the sense of presence or the intimation of presence or the possibility of great presence that I realized, I always hungered for. I was particularly struck by the teachings of a man named Gurdjieff, who spoke about this kind of thing and seem to offer ways and help to other people that could make one more open to it. It started with Zed Buddhism and then I had to teach. When I was teaching in the university, I was obliged to teach courses in history of our western religious traditions, which had always turned me of. I was totally allergic to that. In order to teach them I had to study it more deeply. Lo and behold ! At the heart of all those western religious teachings was the same kind of vision of the human nature, human possibility and the inner life that Zen Buddhists have taught about and Gurdjieff teachings have taught about. And that's how it all got started. But teaching philosophy as a kind of a mission to bring the hope to younger people that can appear in a person when they discover that part of themselves, which is like a great seed waiting to be developed and nourished.
Preeta: Why is it that you think that the traditional religions and the institutionalized religions have made that seed harder to find for people? I know you've written that in some of your writings.
Jerry: That's a good question and that's a question that all great genuine reformers in Judaism and Christianity and Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam etc etc have really brought back. Great reformers on the whole have tried to bring back this concentration on the development of balance between the inner and outer world. Especially, to open up the reality of the inner world. It seems to me that there has been a kind of hidden stream, hidden current. I used to think these ideas as kind of fanciful and mystical in a bad sense, and then I discovered. Yes there is! The more you look at the spiritual traditions of the world, the more you see the existence of this hidden current of inner chi that really energizes the whole tradition itself. Sometimes that gets forgotten or it becomes popularized in a way that gradually lets it sink into only the outer world. Not that the outer world is bad. Not at all. But it needs to have this other kind of understanding and emphasis which requires people of some more developed understanding to lead it. Why it sometimes gets lost and forgotten is one aspect of the age old question of what's the origin of the fall of humanity. Every tradition speaks of the loss of something, whether in the western tradition’s faith and virtue or sometimes in the eastern traditions of understanding and wisdom.
Preeta: I am curious, as we are talking about the money, I'm curious about your views about the gift economy. There’s movement from some groups and people to push away from a transaction based view of capitalism. Do you have a sense of how you foster, or whether it is even worth trying to foster generosity or gifitivism?
Jerry: Yes. I think there are some ideas there that could be put into practice. I know all of you are doing it in ways that are really wonderful. Anybody can ask themselves what have been the most meaningful moments of our lives. Many of us would say, they were moments of giving. Moments of getting away from me, me, me and opening up to you, you, you. And when I open up to you more and give more to you, suddenly, amazingly "I" appears. Suddenly it's no longer me but "I". And that "I" is a piece of Divinity, is a piece of the Buddha nature, is a piece of true consciousness. So putting it all in a nutshell, which is much easier to say than to live, is that human nature is built to give. We want to get for ourselves, but only if in the long run the aim is to give. That may sound a little sentimental but it's hard, tough, real, wonderful truth about what a human being is. Because we are here on earth in the vast ecosystem of the universe of reality, you have to ask why human beings are on earth and just the usual mechanistic answer is really not very intelligent. We are here for something. We need to develop what we are. And that is beings that can care and give what's needed when it's needed.
Preeta: Of course, when I think of give, and I think of the Servicespace model giving. The times of giving that have been the most overwhelming for me have been when I’ve not necessarily given money but when I've given entirely of myself and of my heart and soul and all of my energy into helping someone get out of the difficult situation.
Jerry: Absolutely. I'm sure lot of people would echo that too. There is something in the heart of part of what you are saying, if I understand it is that, something accessible, fundamental quality that only human beings have, that is designated by the word attention. Just to give our attention to another person. I think what you are speaking about, is rooted in the quality of attention that you are able to give to other people. Don't you think?
Preeta: Absolutely. It's funny because when I think of giving money, that can be satisfying, but it's not nearly as satisfying as giving of oneself. Giving money is giving reified form of your attention in the past. You earned something or got the money because of something you gave your attention to in the past and then you are passing it on to somebody else. But that's not as satisfying as giving someone in the present, your attention right now.
Jerry: Well that's right, exactly. But at the same time when you give the money onto the right need, you are also at that moment giving the attention of the heart to the other person. The heart has it's own attention. It's not the same as the attention the mind.
Preeta: That's a great point. I know very closely connected to your sense of money and the primacy of money in organizing one half of our nature, you have also written quite a bit about the problem of time. I wonder if you could touch a little bit about that.
Jerry: It's so related to the culture we are in now, technological culture , the capitalist culture, the paradox that wonderful inventions of the last 200 hundred years or so bring. So many have come into our life under the banner of saving time. Making things easier. Saving time. You'll have more time etc. The result is that nobody has any time anymore. What happened to all the inventions to save time? They are eating up all our time. Our outer activity is becoming more complex, more power oriented, more things we can do and explosion of so called external power over the world, over material things, over nature and diminished sense of what we are. Diminished contact with what we are. So how many of the great inventions or technologies of the past and the present have created two problems for every one they've solved.
Preeta: In terms of the relationship with time and money, there are some people, more enlightened people will say, " I just want to spend my time doing what I want to do. I will focus on the things the things I love and the money will follow." I wonder what your view is of that mindset?
Jerry: I think there is just enough miracle in that attitude to give great credence to it. Money does behave in miraculous but often in chance ways that look purposeful and sometimes they are. But you know, getting what you want is only good if what you want corresponds to some deeper purpose in your life. I tell my class, " Would you be envious if someone could get money enough to get everything they want and they spent it on opium?" No, you would feel sorry for that person. It depends on what you really want. It's important to really look at it. Is it to codify the illusions that you have about what's good and what's bad? It has to be somewhere linked to truth.
Preeta: Right, but if you are expressing what you are by what you are doing, so if you are doing what you want or feel you have tapped into your inner consciousness, whatever it is, you are not really thinking about the material. You are just doing what feels right.
Jerry: What feels right could be in the end not really what was right. There is such thing as truth and not only satisfaction. God forbid I should sermonize, but this gets into questions of ultimate value. What a human being is? What really brings fulfillment? It's not pleasure. It's meaning. Someone might say, " well pleasure itself is meaningful." There are different kinds pleasure. And we all know that. We are answering very great traditional philosophical question and that question itself can be transformative. In other words when you really are trying to live great deep eternal question and not be in a hurry to answer it, the question itself becomes alive and opens up your heart as well as your mind.
Preeta: What I found liberating and I'm speaking for myself is that you don't have to turn away from the material. As we are struggling to bring more our spiritual and authentic self into the conversation in our own lives, I found something very comforting about the fact that the goal of life is not necessarily to turn entirely away form the material. The goal of life is very much be aware of and reconcile yourself to the material and by observing it, that in itself is a spiritual act.
Jerry: Right. Material can be good when it serves what is good. Money is good when it serves what is good. Money is bad when it serves what is bad. It's wonderful to have a lot of money left, but what is it doing for others, for your immediate environment for anything . That's why I say, the study of money, the study of our actual relation to money, our actual behavior with money is the first step toward our freedom from the illusion of money.
Preeta: As a constitutional lawyer I have to segway a little bit before I open up to your work on democracy which I find amazingly fascinating. You have written this wonderful book called " American Soul: Redisocovering the Wisdom of the Founders". I guess you wrote it at a time where there is a lot of frustration about America and American values in the world. And you went back and looked at all the founding fathers and looked at our system of government and institutions and came to what you consider the beauty of the American experiment, the beauty of the American imagination, but also calling upon us to do the inner work of democracy. I wonder if you can talk a little bit about what you see as the difference between the institutions of the government and the internal work of governance.
Jerry: Well. American democracy was founded also on a realistic vision of human nature, and to be able, in a very broad, deep sense. to listen to each other and think together and not depend on some external source to tell us what to do. But in order to have the external freedom, which we can call liberty, which is so important. But liberty without inner freedom ultimately can be hollow, not evil but a kind of empty thing. And we have a lot of people in the name of liberty running around and doing stupid things. Running around and doing even hurtful things or imaginary things. We have an entire nation or entire world submerged in illusions that can be very dangerous and very hurtful and destructive.
So I think many of the founders have been the students of ancient traditions and spiritual teachings in their own way. They looked upon virtue as not just doing goody good things but as inner development. Jefferson said that he can't imagine that there can be any real happiness without virtue. Now- a days the word virtue has become kind of "pressy." But for someone like Jefferson, virtue and inner development mean that the good qualities of human mind are able to harmonize all of the neutral impulses, which without any governing quality from within, tend to become selfish and destructive. There is, what I call, a second democracy that was developing in this country and we lost it. We started to loose sight of it. To be a truly democratic self, democratic citizen, you have to be able to be open to another person, to be open to the needs of the society around you. And that means in the first place, to be able to listen. To listen to each other in my mind, is the first work of a democratic human being. And we see how rare that is. In the literature of the founding fathers, Madison, Jefferson and even Washington and Franklin, you will see the inner world one way or the other being strongly put forward. So democracy isn't just an outer organization but an inner call, in providing the space and the freedom and the protection of people to search for conscience is the fundamental aspect of democracy. If the search for conscience is forgotten, American democracy will just be another empire.
Preeta: When we think of American government, we think kind of 18th century institutions like liberal democracy, very much founded upon a strong state, a certain view of human nature. I guess I am contrasting that with Gandhian or the Thoreauvian vision that the state is something that actually shouldn't exist. That self determination and self governance are the aims. I contrast that with the Federalist paper 51, where the American founding fathers said that, " If men were angels, no government would be necessary." And what is government at all but a reflection of human nature. Basically they say that ambition must be made to counteract ambition. They have this kind of view of human nature asdeeply egoistic and say basically that you need government to address that. I wonder what you think about that in contrast to the Gandhian, Thoreauvian vision, who say that outsourcing of governance is not the way to go and we should be pushed to improve our own moral natures.
Jerry: It's not so simple. People governing themselves, if we have no help, no protection… Yes, if we all were sort of more or less saintly it would be great. Maybe Gandhi and Thoreau were more or less saintly. But how about the guy next door? We need to have protection. When we need to have protection, we need to have things that are not so saintly as possibilities. It's a great compromise. Compromise in this sense is a valuable word. It represents something which takes the truth of two sides which all by themselves contradict each other. That happens all the time in our life. We all the time are happy to compromise in a good sense, not just to betray our ideals but to see how each side has two contradictory courses and each has it's own truth that needs to be acknowledged. Perhaps Gandhi and Thoreau say we need to be free of this bad government. Now that's a truism. I think it's dangerous to say such thing because that could result in more chaos and violence.
Preeta: Obviously there is a continuum. The original founding fathers focused more on government of negative constraints. Freedom from.. and our government has moved into a more positive role of providing for people in their lives. I wonder if you think that we have gone too far.
Jerry: One of the thrusts of the founding of this country was to put up a structure. This is where capitalism begins with great vision. We made the distinctions between interests and desires. We have money as the main motive of the businesses and economic progress, social progress. These are interests in people. People want be wealthy. People want to have property. People want to raise families well. People want to be remembered etc ,etc. Those are the interests. They are not necessarily the cravings or passions which would be considered dangerous. In other words, to put it very bluntly, it would be good to have a social life in which it was not profitable to have war. Who wants to go to war if it ruins the business? That may sound crass. But it's putting a realistic possibility in the world. World that is safe for money in a way craving is not open to it, then liberty can be maximized. But if we just maximize liberty and don't take into account the fallen nature of human being, the undeveloped nature of human beings, if we truly are idealistic about that then we are asking for more trouble.
So I am not saying that Gandhi was too idealistic, or Thoreau. I just mean they were opposing of, especially Thoreau was opposing government as you said, turn from enabling to forcing or compelling things in a certain way that's against liberty. Particularly politics is not a place where you get final answers to questions. Politics is a system of developing conversations and listening. It's what it is meant to be. People come together with intelligence and relatively, relatively, good will and listen to each other and propose temporary solutions that have to be continually revised and looked at and redefined and revitalized. That’s the life of government of America. It's not going to have final institutionalized freedom. But we have the power, we have the ability and we have the devices at this moment. Still the Government has to keep examine things. If we don't want to examine and listen them we are doomed.
Preeta: Thank you. This has been remarkably illuminating and interesting conversation about how by turning towards material, by turning towards the external and doing with an attitude of deep awareness and deep consciousness we actually transcend it. The answer is not to run away from the material but to actually face it and be aware of it and do it with deep attention and deep consciousness.
Jerry: Yes. Exactly.
Kozo: Hi Jerry. I just want to thank you for this powerful conversation. In Hawaiin, the word for property and business is Kuleana. Kuleana is the same word they use for responsibility. Like being responsible for your family and tribe and to the land. Business and spirituality are combined. It's actually combined in this idea of debt. Like you are in debt to your family to be good. You are in debt to the land to be righteous. And it's also seen in Native American Potlatch where debt is seen as a good thing almost. In the west Debt is horrible. Nobody wants to be in debt. You want to have a huge surplus so you are never in debt. I’m wondering if that's where we went wrong. We've moved away from indebtedness that brings us together as a community
Jerry: Absolutely. That's a beautiful way of putting it. We've moved away from It. Money originally was a means of sharing what's necessary for each other. As a piece of social technology it made sharing more feasible more possible. To pay with money, dollars, coins, pieces of paper certificates instead of carrying your goat into the public places. It was a social technology, a technology of responsibility I think is the way you would put it . What do you think? It's an invention to enable responsibility
Kozo: Even in the language of money, there are phrases like "you forgive a debt", "You make a covenant", "you have a grace period", "you are granted a loan". There is almost hidden markers that tell us that this is a spiritual practice. It's a spiritual practice to forgive a debt. It's a spiritual practice to give somebody grace in terms of finance.
Jerry: Absolutely. Absolutely. Something takes place inside people who exploit that which you said for their own egoistic purposes so that something in the inner quality of people has been slipping. What you are saying is the beauty, the grace, the joy of giving or forgiving has slipped away from most people, especially on a grand scale for business. It's an inner problem. Not a problem of external organization. It has to be also accompanied by inner development. So there needs to be some kind of organization or community where the main value is the inner growth, inner presence. Don't you think?
Kozo: Definitely. It's an opportunity to delve not that inner growth. I think the spiritual people who avoid the money issue, they are missing a great opportunity to delve deeper into it.
Jerry: The problem becomes hypocritical. Don't you think? Many people who are spiritual or artists try to ignore it. Money is not important. You cannot ignore at this point in our culture. You cannot ignore it. You have to take it seriously one way or the other. It's a fantasy to say, "I don't care about money. I just care about this or that thing." That is a completely unlivable at this point.
Kozo: Yeah. Delusional!
Jerry: Delusional. That's the best word for it. You just putting your responsibility on someone else or else you are just going to ruin yourself.
Kozo: Thank you so much!
Amit: Thank you very much. What a wonderful question and dialogue there!
Lyn L. writes in and says, " As I move forward in my journey, which has been much more awakened in the past few years, I keep bumping into other travelers who have had very full and complex journeys. Who feel they never experienced unconditional love. In your little book on Love, I think you identified the New Testament text, 1 corinthians13 as perhaps a characterization of this type of love. Can you give any other examples of other texts from other traditions which help characterize unconditional love? Where does this type of giving fit with the type of giving you are describing we are built to do?
Jerry: Unconditional love! I think we have moments of that sometimes and may be even more with a pet or an animal. It's hard with a human being. And yet we have moments of that. In my opinion, kinds of levels of love that people have, I don't think is always necessary to have spiritual element in it. But love itself is a spiritual capacity. When it is really pure, when it's not egoistic, when it's not hidden exploiting of some kind, when it's not just for me, me, me, then it's a quality of more developing consciousness. It's part of what conscience means. Buddhist compassion is a very good example of unconditional love toward fellow beings. What I am speaking spiritually here, is unconditioned love toward myself. Towards all my needs, all my illusions, all my problems, all my pain, all my possibilities. In my opinion, we cannot on the whole have compassion, which is another word for unconditional love, unless we have a glimpse of it toward our own self, our own aspects or our own directions, our own idiosyncrasies. To be fully human is to develop the capacity to have intentional love or conscious love or unconditional love.
Caller: I can't thank you enough of your wisdom and incredibly insightful observation. My question was largely answered by the previous dialogue. I read "Lost Christianity." As such I just wanted to say that I found eastern orthodoxy vis-a-vis that book. I've since visited some places that are monastic and related to eastern orthodoxy and found that the notion of that book has come alive for me. And I want to thank you so much.
Jerry: Oh! I am very glad to hear that. It means a lot to me.
Caller: It meant so much to me because the monastic traditional eastern orthodoxy and the idea of the power of silence and the power of inner prayer of the heart, the Jesus prayer, have come alive. It juxtaposes against all the distractions in life we have today with technology and television. The further we go down the path of technology as you said so poignantly, trying to save time the more aids we find ourselves involved with, the further we get from our humanity in so many ways. Simple is better. The wisdom you impart in that book! I just want to thank you.
Jerry: Thank you so much for that. That means a great deal to me.
Amit: Thank you very much. I can feel that gratitude deep in your heart. I appreciate you sharing it on the call with Jerry and all of us
Jayashree wrote in and she has a couple of questions for you: How does one observe money deeply? How exactly do you take money seriously? What is that method? Practically what is that we can do?
Jerry: First of all, cultivate the attitude toward oneself. For the moment forget about the money. Cultivate the attitude toward oneself of warm objectivity. Just looking at one's manifestations without liking or disliking them. That is much harder to do than it sounds. Once you begin to cultivate that you may find other people who are also trying to do that kind of thing and you can come together and share. For example, money is too hard to start with. It's full of traps if you try to observe it. But observe very simple things about yourself. Particularly physical things about how you sit, how you eat, how you walk. Then you begin to develop this witness that can accompany you. That is fragile at the beginning. It's very fragile very tentative at the beginning. But we have that possibility. Once you get into some kind of community or friends, I would say philosophical friends who can begin to try this kind thing and read some good books about it. There are people out there who are trying this. Then may be you can turn your attention to a little bit more toward money which is very hard to see calmly and dispassionately. So I can't give you a simple thing to say to do right away. But first one has to develop a taste for this deep observation of things that one can observe like habits of the body and so forth. Then turn to money. The book I wrote about money may be a good start and then you can email me or something like that and I can make further suggestions. Sorry, I can't be more developed on this question than I have been.
Amit: Thank you. We have a caller Sophia, who is a seeker, who has chosen to leave behind certain games and learned how to look genuinely at herself. One of the first steps in balancing those two worlds, material and spiritual, was really self honesty. So it resonated when you said that self honesty is being that step first. She asked what are the next few steps?
Jerry : (Laughs )The next few steps are more of self honesty ( laughs). Because when you really take more steps of self honesty, you begin to suspect a very, very, deep inner interesting question. Listen carefully to this. Because the self that is being honest can grow. And what it's honest about, the things you are seeing are very important. But more important than all of them is the seer. The more you can be honest with yourself with some help and guidance that's available, the more you realize, it's the seer. It's that part of you which is seeing, which is not judging which is compassionate warm objective interest toward yourself, that capacity is growing. When that capacity really begins to grow, you begin to feel, yes, this is more "me" than my ordinary self is. The questioner and the question become the answer. I can give you those miraculous statements at the moments. Drop me a note we can see where we can go from there.
Amit: I want to dive a little bit deeper on that, Jerry. As you are peeling back that layer, you are doing that self honesty.. for me it seems very much like peeling that onion and there is more and more layers as you go deeper and deeper. One of the things that I have noticed with my own journey is that, as I start doing this I start to feel good about myself. Whether it's confidence or ego that starts to arrive. And what ends up happening, and I confidently feel that it's my ego that does this, hat lens somehow turns away from me and then turns toward other people. I try to use the same lens. So and so is like this or they are not spiritual enough. And all of a sudden the work that I have been doing .. I end up taking dirt putting back on everything that I cleared away. How do you work through that?
Jerry: You receive that as the truth about yourself. This is an important observation about yourself. Moments come, as you rightly say, the ego comes in through the back door. The ego is very clever. But you can be honest about that . See that impression yourself , as exploiting or misapplying. Is that what you are saying? You are speaking of such a thing as that, aren't you?
Jerry: That becomes a truth about yourself that humbles you rather than that makes you feel arrogant or superior or something. You see how fragile the honesty you have was? Now that honesty has been exploited by, what the earlier fathers of the desert would call, "the devil". We don't want to call that word. It's close to ego or the outer self. When you see that, you become a little bit quieter. A little bit more humble and more in need of Truth. The more you feel the need of Truth the more the Truth comes to you. You do need help. You do need friends, what I call philosophical friends, who can share this whole thing with you.
Amit: I have found that, at times going through that process, either it stopped me and I end up focusing that lens and saw the truth about myself or at other times I say at least I uncovered that truth about myself.
Jerry: Exactly. You have uncovered about it and you feel kind of slight feeling of remorse. That is the heart of Christianity, the heart of every great tradition. When you feel the great need of help from another level, at that point the other level sometimes comes to you. Either through a person or through a book or some other thing you couldn't expect. This is not a path of one triumph after another. Rilke has a beautiful poem about it. We grow by being defeated by ever greater beings. In other words the path of seeing and being able to bear what you see, opens your heart much more to receiving help that's probably all around us without our knowing it.
Aryae: Jerry, as I am listening to you, one of the questions that comes to my mind has to do with how I want to deal with non profit organization and money in that context. Recently I closed down my business and decided to take my elder years to find ways to be of service. And I had friends who were making similar kind transition in their lives, who were going into work in various non-profit organizations. They would say to me, " Hey, I know how to get to this foundation and get lots of money from them or this group of donors etc." I found myself, from own preference withdrawing from that and say, " That's not what I want to do. I want to operate in the gift economy." And lo and behold I wound up at Servicespace. But I'm curious because it seems like there is a lot of good that gets done by organizations that go out and ask people for money and then find ways to channel that money. But I find for myself, when I tried to get involved there, I just get caught up in all the noise and static of the money conversation. I don't want to spend my life asking people for money. I am wondering what your thoughts and guidelines are about money and organizations that want to do well with it, but wind up spending most of their energies going out and dealing with money?
Jerry: Well, I think you find a way to do what's necessary in order to raise money, in order to do good with it to help other people. The conversations that you hear or the difficulty you need to face in this business of non-profit… Inwardly you don't have to be noisy. Inwardly you don't have to listen to noise. Is that what you are saying? That there is all kinds of very ordinary chaos in the not for profit world?
Aryae: What I felt as I sort of explored this for myself is that so many people who are working as volunteers in the not for profit world with good intentions to assist people in various parts the world, how they wind up spending their time is asking other people for money and strategizing and dealing with marketing and issues about money, rather than whatever it was the purpose they intended in the first place.
Jerry: If you think you are swallowed by that and no longer committed to the purity of the original intention, then that's something you would want to avoid. But that's not because of the external things. Something internally.. you don't have to get swallowed.. that's probably what's happening. That's part the material you are dealing with. An artist has to deal with material things. He has to deal with finding easels and framing and all the rest of it. if he gets lost in this and forgets what his real aim is.. may be just as artist has paint as material and sculptor has stones, may be you have this activity of asking people for money. It could be a sacred work. If we are not distracted, swallowed by it or resentful toward it, it could be seen as part of the work. You can't expect the material that you are working on to love you.
Aryae: So you are saying, there, as it is with elsewhere, it's about the internal work and the consciousness that one brings to what one encounters.
Jerry: Yeah. May be someone who is really searching for that consciousness in the midst of that what you are describing, that would have an action that you probably might not have been aware of. May be you have a certain presence, a certain seriousness you keep to yourself while all the rambling is going on, may be you can have an affect you can't predict. Does that make sense to you?
David Doan: Are you the same Jacob Needleman who wrote "Lost Christianity"? If you are, it's a wonderful book. Someone said that, "thinking is a fine servant and a terrible master." I think the same is true about money. I agree with you that it's important for us to use money and technology and not be enslaved or controlled by them. How do you find that balance between that?
Jerry: Well. If you can find some friends who can get together and take it seriously and begin to discover other people who can be of help to you. There is no one thing to say. You can't have one sentence answer to that. I could suggest a few things if people want to send me an e-mail. You have the question. That's the beginning. How not be swallowed by the world? How can we be in the world, as they say, but not of it? You have to bring your meditation, if you do something like that, into the board room, into the conversations with other people, the work of listening and all that kind of thing. There are ways of studying your own life that will actually make a difference.
Albert : Thank you for co-creating this community of opportunity. Jerry would you feel comfortable sharing one of your own personal discoveries or your process regarding your own examination in the evolution your relationship with money and how it altered your living, perhaps an example when you were early on in this process?
Jerry: Well, it's something I've written about. What I can say would be a little bit too personal to say it on the phone and on the air waves and so forth and so. A little bit too personal. If you will let me have sometime to ponder I can answer you by e-mail.
Amit: Absolutely. Jerry, thank you so much. It's been an incredible call. I am sure as you've heard from many of the individuals that wrote in or called in, it's been received with great enthusiasm. I know that Preeta and I are just honored to be a part of it. I really appreciate you taking part of your Saturday to spend it with us. How can we, as the larger Servicespace community support you and support your work?
Jerry: I think this is doing it. Having this conversation with the world you are in touch with is for me a great gift for which I'm very, very grateful to you, and to Preeta and to Nipun. It's a wonderful thing you've done for me.
Amit: Glad to have you be a part of it!
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