Usury and Inadequacy
I was recently walking my dog in the neighborhood one evening and ran into some neighbors also out enjoying the beautiful evening. In the course of catching up, they told me their son and his fiancé had a baby, but not a home. They haven’t been able to afford living on their own and creating their own home for their family. Something that in our generation would be unheard of. This kind of story is becoming a more and more common one in our society: one that most of us are aware of,because it is in the media, is college graduates not finding jobs in their fields, or even jobs at all after graduation, yet saddled with huge student loans, which are really mortgages on their lives. Imagine if you were willing and able to take of yourself, but couldn’t find a job. Something we believed was unthinkable in our western world. What would this do to a person? Imagine the deficiency and inadequacy with which they would be faced in such a situation.
I have written about the unsustainability and inequality of our money system, both in previous blogs and in my book, but I recently heard a talk on KPFA radio in Berkeley by David Hawkes, Professor of English at Arizona State University, that added a whole new perspective on money: as a symbol, but one that has been coupled with usury with devastating consequences. The program, Money, Finance and the Power of Symbols, described how money has taken on an escalating subjective power. What follows is what I heard he was saying:
Money is a symbol of our labor, which has the feature of exchangeability. We have taken our subjective lives and turned them into an objective commodity. That is fine and understandable as long as we use the exchange for other things of use for us, other productive and useful items. Usury (interest) changes those dynamics and takes something that was objective and makes it subjective, with it’s own needs, desires, and interests which contradict the needs and desires of people.
He gives the example of how the profit motive will move a factory to Mexico where peoples’ interests have been sacrificed to the interests and needs of capital. Money has become more important than people. Money was not intended to be the end value, but to be an exchange value for goods and services. I have spoken about this is as the creation of a Planet Financial instead of a Planet Real, where money is more important than something creative and productive and tangible, where our stock markets are casinos, and banks invest in unregulated intangible derivatives and not real assets. As David says, we have become slaves, selling our lives for money. We have become alienated from ourselves, with psychological and spiritual effects.
So what have been the psychological and spiritual effects of usury?
David describes how usury has been considered immoral and evil throughout history, including in the philosophy of Aristotle who considered it immoral, unethical, and unnatural. Although usury is considered unethical in philosophy, our money system is based on it. Our money system gives us the right to pursue our rational self-interest: it’s okay to be greedy and avaricious. It makes appearance more important than our soul, our Being, and the consequences are that we are more material. Like money is just a representation, our society has become “pure representation with no underlying essence, no ultimate truth” or what David calls “depthless signs”. This is a new perspective on our material society. I have spoken about our material society in my book and in previous blogs from the perspective of the Patriarchy (Bringing the Feminine Back Into Our Money System), or instinctual lust for more is better, or the belief that we are separate entities (Money-Animal Soul-Culture of Self) among others.
But there is another effect I want to talk about right now, which is the creation of a society where people feel inadequate and deficient, and, as I have described above, the increasing inability to sustain our lives and possibly even our ecology. One of the strongest and most tenacious ego defenses we have is to avoid feeling inadequate or deficient. The tendency is to attempt to function out of fear, anger and worry which causes body contractions and an energy the ego uses which feels active, speedy, agitated, and unsettled. The attempt is to “do” something to get out of the situation and in extremes can even feel like you are fighting for your life. But that is a misunderstanding of what is actually the source of inadequacy and deficiency. Spiritual teacher, A.H. Almaas, in his book, The Pearl Beyond Price, says this ” Inadequacy is primarily due to abandoning Being and identifying with the body (the psychophysical organism), and looking at life and living it only from this perspective.” and “To live according to the ego perspective is to live a life that supports inadequacy”. Why is that? Because the ego is disconnected from real resources of Beingness and thus by definition is deficient. When we take ourselves to be ego individuals, we cannot be free of inadequacy, and thus most individuals feel inadequate and helpless, and even hopeless. So it is not about money, but about consciousness. The world is being called toward more consciousness, and the squeeze of the money system is putting pressure on ego inadequacy to wake up to our deeper spiritual nature, our Beingness. When you let go of identifying with the ego, the power and solidity of Being can arise and support us in our true accomplishments and work. When we make contact with our Being, we can have the feeling of being grown-up and capable and choosing the life we want to live. We will better know what are the right actions to take.
The ego identity lives on the material surface of life just like our money system. Money has become a symbol of freedom- we think more money will be liberating- but we haven’t recognized it actually separates us from truth and ultimate reality and the recognition that true freedom comes not from more money, but from realization of who we truly are. David Hawkes and I both believe that the recent world money crisis is waking people up to the problems of usury and a market economy and, like he says, “if we all stopped believing in it, it would just disappear”. The question he asks is “will we have the revelation to do away with it before it does away with us”. My hope is that the economic pressures we are experiencing will move us to look within, and to meet our Beingness, our true nature. That is the source of revelation. And the end of inadequacy.