Review by David Skelhon
Every now and then, a really trans-formative book comes along – one that challenges beliefs and opens readers to new ideas. Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein is one of those books.
Charles Eisenstein explains that we are experiencing the death throws of an economic system that has brought us some great benefits but at terrible cost. Many of us have been born into this system and know no other. We have been taught a story about money which we have unconsciously internalised without questioning its ethics or consequences.
One result of adopting this story is the need for endless growth originating from a money system that is based on debt and interest. It is a system that breeds artificial scarcity, because to put it simply, there is never enough money in the system to repay the interest on the cumulative debt.
It is a system that can only seem to work if there is economic growth and that ultimately entails the conversion of more and more “gifts” from the Earth – the sacred commonwealth of all humans and indeed all life – into private and corporate ownership for profit. When growth slows, the system collapses, because all the debt can never be repaid – there is never enough money in the system to allow for that, so there will always be losers. It also leads to a “more for you is less for me” culture.
Eisenstein also talks about the innate and insatiable human tendency to hoard money, rather than allow it to flow freely. This is being brought sharply into focus as the divide between rich and poor deepens and the ultimate outcome is exploitation, environmental degradation, war and human misery. He postulates what would happen if we went to a system of zero or negative interest. This actually is not a new concept and has sound roots in history and other cultures, and may form part of the solution.
The author makes it clear that he does not think that money is the root of all evil, rather the problem is in the way we have chosen to use it – the story we have taught ourselves – that is responsible for the misery we are creating. Money plays a vital and necessary role in the complex human interactions of the modern world but he believes we need to change that story.
Certainly, conspiracy theorists my be disappointed by this book because Eisenstein – whilst he acknowledges that they may have some basis and bad things do happen out there – realises that much good energy can be wasted pursuing them. Rather, he encourages the reader to look at things that can be done at the local level to facilitate a return to a kinder, more gift based system where the sacred gifts of the Earth – our birthrights – are respected.
The author is under no illusion that these changes are going to happen overnight, and there possibly will be years of pain before we put our house in order, but the real magic of the book is that it leaves the reader with the impression that these changes must and will happen. Indeed, the process is already underway and ultimately our very survival depends on it.
Sacred Economics is not a cold, factual, academic work – it is non-the-less well researched and referenced. Its real power comes from Eisenstein’s from-the-heart honesty. I found that it resonated with me and more importantly, challenged me at the same time, exposing long held beliefs about money and wealth that I discovered I could well do without. Its twenty-four chapters are not light reading but I consider the concepts so important that I have no doubt I will be dipping back into it again and again.
I will leave the last words to Eisenstein; “A primary goal of this book is to align the logic of the mind with the knowing of the heart: to illuminate not only what is possible but how to get there.”
The book is available in paperback or as an eBook In keeping with the author’s philosophy, it can also be read on-line for free. http://charleseisenstein.net/