One of the reasons that our technology is impeded and prevented from feeding the world properly is the failure of one of our networks—it’s an information network, and it’s called money—about which we have the most unbelievable superstitions and psychological blocks, which have been gone into at some length by Freud, who equates our valuation of money with our attitude to excrement, and a very complicated lot of complexes grow up around that. But money and our psychological attitude to money is a major obstacle to a proper development of technology, enabling it to do what it is supposed to do, that is, to save labor and to produce goods, services, and so on adequately.
So I must introduce this with a story which is entirely legendary—indeed, quite apocryphal. The great banks of the world at one time got absolutely sick of the expense and security measures involved in shipping consignments of gold from one bank to another. And so they decided that all the chief banks of the world would open offices on a certain island in the South Pacific—which was balmy and comfortable—and there they would store all the gold in the world. And they put it in great subterranean vaults reached by deep elevator shafts, and then all they had to do when one bank or one country owed gold to another was to trundle it across the street. And this was very efficient. And it went on beautifully for five or six years.
And then the presidents of the world banks got together and said, “Let’s have a convention out on this island and take our wives and families.” So, about seven years from the date of opening, all those presidents and their wives and families went out to this Pacific island, and they inspected the books. And everything was beautifully in order. Then the children said, “Oh daddy, can’t we see the gold?” They said, “Of course you may see the gold.” And they said to the managers, “Let’s take our children down to the vaults and show them our gold.” And the manager said, “Well, it’s a little bit inconvenient at this time. Perhaps the children would not really be very interested. After all, it’s just only old, plain gold.” And the president said, “Oh no, no, come, now! They’ll be thrilled! Let’s go down and see.” And there was further humming and hawing and delays. And finally it came out that, a few years before, there had been a catastrophic subterranean earthquake and all the vaults had been swallowed up and all the gold had disappeared. But so far as the bookkeeping was concerned, everything was in perfect order.
What this means, then, is that money is nothing but bookkeeping. It is figures. It is a way of measuring what you owe the community and what the community owes you. It is, of course, as you all know, a substitute for barter. If you worked on a farm and the farmer paid you in terms of ears of corn, onions, cabbages, and other vegetables, and yet you wanted a pot and pan of some kind, and you took a few vegetables over to the man who made pots and pans and you swapped. Some people used cowry shells to stand for money so that you wouldn’t have to barter and carry around all these inconvenient loads of goods. And then, of course, gold was used, because gold was rare and because gold was supposed to have a constant value.
You might ponder the question: when a banker buys gold, with what does he pay for it? The answer is a mystery called credit. Credit is bookkeeping. And as the economy of the Western world developed it was found that there was not enough gold around—if it were to remain constant in value—to exchange goods and services. You could, of course, have changed the picture by putting down the price of goods and services to keep pace with the amount of gold in circulation, but nobody will ever put down the price. There’s something in our psychology whereby prices always tend to go up. But at the same time, therefore, because the amount of gold in the world did not provide an adequate channel for the circulation of goods and services, all great industrial nations went heavily into debt. They created a thing called the national debt which, year by year, gets bigger and bigger and bigger to the horror and consternation of old-fashioned Republicans who pay their bills. But the reason for the increase of the national debt is extremely obvious. It is that, with an expanding gross national product, there needs to be more and more money—that is to say, tokens of exchange—in order to circulate the amount of goods produced, which is ever increasing.
Now, I’m not an economist—and I can refer you to the work of those who really are—but any fool can see certain extremely fundamental principles about this whole situation. And I’m speaking of the thought, today, of a man called Robert Theobald who sort of ties in with the general picture of people like McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller in having very far-out thoughts and very adventurous thoughts about what we should do about money. But he is in the following of a man like Frederick Soddy, who was a Nobel Prize chemist, who was one of the first people to think really freshly about economics. Or people like Silvio Gesell in Austria and Major Douglas in England. He’s in that following. And the proposition that he puts forward is very simple: that money is a circulation of information and in itself has no value. Gold, of course, has some value—it has some value for industry and some value for dentistry and some value for jewelry. But as a means of exchanging the goods and services of the world it is as primitive as post horses for carrying the mail. We must recognize, then, that money is a pure abstraction.
I was on a television show a little while ago with Ted Sorensen and Raymond Moley, and they were having a long, long discussion which sounded like something that goes on in a smoke-filled back room of party bosses, where they were talking about the prospects for Republican-Democratic parties in 1968. And then they got onto the question of automation, and the problems of unemployment that it was making, and the difficulties of transferring workers from this to that when they were only trained for this. Finally I said, “The trouble with you gentlemen is you still think money is real.” And they looked at me and sort of said, “Hahahaha, someone who doesn’t think money is real! Everybody knows money is money and it’s very important!” But it just isn’t real at all, because it has the same relationship to real wealth—that is to say, to actual goods and services—that words have to meaning; that words have to the physical world. And as words are not the physical world, money is not wealth. It only is an accounting of available energy; economic energy.
Now, what happens, then, when you introduce technology into production—you produce enormous quantities of goods by technological methods. But at the same time you put people out of work. You can say, “Oh, but it always creates more jobs. There will always be more jobs.” Yes, but lots of them will be futile jobs. They will be jobs making every kind of frippery and unnecessary contraption, and one will also at the same time have to beguile the public into feeling that they need and want these completely unnecessary things that aren’t even beautiful. And therefore, an enormous amount of nonsense employment and busywork—bureaucratic and otherwise—has to be created in order to keep people working. Because we believe, as good Protestants, that the devil finds work for idle hands to do. But the basic principle of the whole thing has been completely overlooked: that the purpose of the machine is to make drudgery unnecessary. And if we don’t allow it to achieve its purpose we live in a constant state of self-frustration.
So then if a given manufacturer automates his plant and dismisses his labor force, and they have to operate on a very much diminished income—say, some sort of dole—the manufacturer suddenly finds that the public does not have the wherewithal to buy his products. And therefore, he has invested in this expensive automative machinery to no purpose. And therefore, obviously, the public has to be provided with the means of purchasing what the machines produce. People say, “That’s not fair! Where’s the money going to come from? Who’s gonna pay for it?” The answer is: the machine. The machine pays for it. Because the machine works for the manufacturer and for the community.
This is not saying, you see—this is not the statist communist idea that you expropriate the manufacturer and say you can’t own and run this factory anymore, it is owned by the government. It is only saying that the government or the people have to be responsible for issuing to themselves sufficient credit to circulate the goods they are producing, and have to balance the measuring standard of money with the gross national product. That means that taxation is obsolete. Completely obsolete. It ought to go the other way. Theobald points out that every individual should be assured of a minimum income. Now, you see, that absolutely horrifies most people. They say, “All these wastrels, these people who are out of a job because they’re really lazy.” See? “Giving them money?” Yeah. Because otherwise the machines can’t work. They come to a blockage.
This was the situation of the Great Depression when, here, we were still—in a material sense—a very rich country, with plenty of fields and farms and mines and factories; everything going. But suddenly—because of a psychological hang-up, because of a mysterious mumbo-jumbo about the economy, about the banking—we were all miserable and poor, starving in the midst of plenty. Just because of a psychological hang-up. And that hang-up is that money is real, and that people ought to suffer in order to get it. But the whole point of the machine is to relieve you of that suffering. It is ingenuity. You see we are, psychologically, back in the 17th century and technically in the 20th. And here comes the problem.
So what we have to find out how to do is to change the psychological attitude to money and to wealth, and furthermore to pleasure, and furthermore to the nature of work. And this is a formidable problem. It requires the best brains in public relations, in propaganda, in all that kind of thing; in all the media—television, radio, newspapers, everything—to try to get across a message to the vast general public about what money is. You see, the difficulty is this: when the public suspects that the money that is being issued—the dollar bills being issued by the government—are only paper, and stand only for paper, they start putting up prices. So you get an inflationary situation where the more paper money there is, the higher and higher and higher the prices go. Which is a very stupid psychological maneuver. And people have to be persuaded. The least effective way of persuading people is passing laws, but they have to be persuaded, somehow, not to put up the prices, but to play fair with each other and keep some sort of standard correspondence between how much is produced and how much credit is issued.
So this goes very deep into us. It goes deep, deep, deep into a problem we have about guilt. I wonder often if there’s any relationship between guilt and gold; that the love of money is the root of evil. It’s a very true saying. Because, you see, I was saying yesterday that the difference between having a job and having a vocation is that a job is some unpleasant work you do in order to make money—with the sole purpose of making money. And there are plenty of jobs because there is still a certain amount of dirty work that nobody wants to do and that, therefore, they will pay someone to do it. There is, essentially, less and less of that kind of work because of mechanization. But if you do a job with the sole purpose of making money, you are absurd! Because if money becomes the goal—and it does when you work that way—you begin increasingly to confuse it with happiness or with pleasure. Yes, one can take a whole handful of crisp dollar bills and practically water your mouth over them, but this is this kind of a person who is confused like a Pavlov dog who salivates on the wrong bell!
It goes back, you see, to the ancient guilt that if you don’t work you have no right to eat. That if there are others in the world who don’t have enough to eat you shouldn’t enjoy your dinner, even though you have no possible means of conveying the food to them. And while it is true that we are all one human family and that every individual involves every other individual—while it is true, therefore, we should do something about changing the situation—the one way of not doing anything about a situation is feeling guilty about it. Because when people feel guilty about a situation, most usually—instead of doing something practical to change it—they resort to all sorts of symbolic methods of expiation. They go to confession. They see an analyst. They do all kinds of things which will be ways of actually not doing anything about the problem, but feeling alright about it instead. And guilt invariably produces that sort of reaction. It is a destructive emotion. And instead, we need to have a different attitude to our mistakes and to our misdeeds.
Walt Whitman always admired animals because they do not lie awake at night and weep for their sins. Animals are practical. In the real sense—as are children who haven’t been taught this extraordinary hang-up of guilt. Because if you’ve done something wrong or you have made a mistake and somebody makes you ashamed of it and guilty, you run around licking the sores of your wounded ego. Because you feel your pride has been hurt. The first thing to understand is that it is not a serious failing in a human being to make mistakes. Everybody has to make mistakes. There is no way out of it. You can’t learn anything unless you make mistakes. We find, for example, in Japan: the Japanese have a terrible hang-up about making mistakes. They therefore never have the courage to practice their English properly. They’ve had seven years of English in school—most of it very, very badly taught—and it’s irrelevant English. They learn all about Shakespeare and Dickens and Thackeray and Thomas Hardy and so on, and therefore they can’t carry on in everyday conversation. It’s like the way the English study French—all about pens of gardener’s ants, and things like that. But they are ashamed to try out their English unless drunk. So if you want to get into conversation with the Japanese in English, you have to go to bars. And then the, say, university students and so on there, will loosen up and talk. Because they no longer have the inhibition, the shame, of saying the wrong thing.
So, likewise, I know a very great anthropologist who was taught music—playing the piano in the same way I was. When I was taught music, the schoolmarm who taught me used to put an india-rubber (an eraser it’s called in this country) on the top of each hand, so that I would have my hands in good posture. And every time I’d play a wrong note she’d hit my fingers with a pencil. And this great anthropologist had a similar sort of musical education, and when confronted with the piano in the presence of an absolutely marvelous teacher in San Francisco, she said she was amazed: he was completely incapable of reading notes. He blocked at everything. So, another great teacher of the piano I knew said simply: you must not be afraid of playing wrong notes. Just forget it! Play it wrong! And then, eventually, you go over it again and you’ll eventually get it right. But you must not block! Always keep the same rhythm going, even if you have to slow it down. But keep the proportionate rhythm of one note to another. And if it’s the wrong note, play the wrong note. As long as you play something in the right rhythm.
So, you know, this is a way of taking away people’s blockage, people’s guilt and shame about making mistakes. So you absolutely—freedom means, basically, the freedom to make mistakes. The freedom to be a damn fool. And then not to recriminate with yourself when you do, finally, realize that it was a mistake, but simply don’t do it again! Or at least do it less often! So, you know, this is the puzzle when you go to confession in the Catholic church—which is an enormous method of inculcating a sense of guilt. Very subtle. One says, of course, that Catholics are, on the whole, less guilty than Protestants. They’re more relaxed. And there’s some truth in that, but only some. Protestants, of course, have chronic guilt. And you can work this out by a very simple little formula that, when the Protestants in England abandoned what is called auricular confession to a priest, they inserted in their prayerbook a general confession in which the congregation all made its confession together. Now, what does a Catholic say when he makes his confession? The formula is:
I confess to God Almighty, the Blessed Mary ever-virgin, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints that I’ve sinned exceedingly in thought word and deed by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault. Wherefor I beg blessed Mary et cetera and you, father, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
And the priest says:
Almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to everlasting life. By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ committed unto me, I absolve thee from all thy sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Period. Now, instead of that… UGH… what they had to introduce into the Anglican formulary was—instead of this very simple confession of sins and before the whole company of heaven—an absolute grovel wherein they say that they have sinned so horribly and that the remembrance of these sins is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father. And all this cringing and crying, breast-beating and wallowing in guilt. And then the priest—instead of saying a simple formula of absolution—quotes all kind of scriptural texts to prove from the Bible that those who do truly and earnestly repent will be forgiven by God. Because they’re very uncertain about it, therefore they have to quote all the authorities. And this absolutely groveling form of confession replaces the old one, because they were a little bit scared about abandoning direct confession of sins to the priest.
But now, going back to the Catholic problem about guilt: you say—when you have confessed, after saying this formula to all the saints—you confess the specific sins you’ve committed. And, you know, “I stole something, committed adultery three times,” and so on, or whatever it was. And then you say, at the end, “For these and all my sins which I cannot now remember. I firmly purpose amendment and humbly ask pardon of God, and of you Father, absolution.”
Now, “I firmly purpose amendment”—that is where the fly in the ointment consists, because the doctrine is that you have made a true confession if, at the same time, you have a sere intention of acting differently in the future. Now, no sensitive Catholic can say that without having grave doubts as to whether actually he isn’t going to do some of these things again. So if you’re a workaday Catholic—like a Mexican peasant or something like that—you know that the confession is just a safety valve. You’re going to go on living just as lackadaisically as ever, but you go to church every so often and you get rid of the guilt and the evil. It’s like going to the bathroom. But when you get thoughtful about these things and you wonder whether you do really mean what you say, whether your motive is pure and your intention is right, you get into a frightful hangup.
So you see how this idea of the… somehow, there is a book kept somewhere: God’s black book in which he writes down every mistake you made. And then, at the day of judgment, there’s going to be in accounting, see? And they’re going to add up on one side and add up your good deeds on the other side, and weigh them instant Michael’s balance. The Archangel Michael carries in one hand a balance, and in the other hand a sword. He’s the old prototype of the figure of justice. And it’s the good deeds against the evil deeds, as in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. You see the heart of the deceased weighed against the feather of truth. That’s a little more profound than the good deeds against the bad deeds. You know? Your heart has to be light as a feather. You mustn’t be heavy-hearted!
So then, as a result of this, there arose in the latter part of the Middle Ages an enormously complicated system of celestial bookkeeping. It was argued, you see, that the Saints—and especially the Blessed Virgin Mary—had lived lives of such sinless character. Even though, to be a good saint, you have to say you’re a miserable sinner. I’ve often wondered about that. But, therefore, they have many merits that are surplus merits that they don’t need in order to get into heaven. And therefore, by a very clever dispensation, the surplus merits are put at the disposal of the Holy Father. And they are available in the form of what are called indulgences. And if, therefore, you make certain pilgrimages, or say certain prayers, or make certain contributions above all, you may receive a plenary indulgence—which means you get off the whole of the time due to you in purgatory—or a partial indulgence—which, say, of 300 days, which means 300 days off your period in purgatory, whatever “days” in purgatory may be. And so an enormously complicated banking system was set up whereby people could settle their heavenly accounts by using credit issued by the saints who were, of course, producing surplus goods like machines.
So, now, this is why I made—in the earlier part of this seminar—such a big point about human behavior being able to be seen at its deepest level, at which level, and only at which level, it is completely harmonious with the order of the universe. This is what one is enabled to see by cosmic consciousness; by seeing that the good things and the evil things that human beings do are just like the behavior of other creatures—animals, insects, worms, fish, and flowers—and that the good side has to have the bad side to balance it so that you know that it’s good. In the words of the Taoist sage Zhuang Zhou; “Those who speak of having good government without its opposite, misrule, and those who speak of good behavior without the presence of its opposite, bad behavior, do not understand the great principles of the universe. It is as if they could have the yang without the yin, the positive without the negative. And such people must be either knaves or fools.”
Now, that’s a saying which really sets us back. Because we Westerners are dedicated to the abolition of evil. But the Jews are much more sensible about this than the Christians. Because the Jews don’t think that evil is something extraneous to God. They believe that God created evil—where it is said in the book of the prophet Isaiah: “I am the Lord and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things.” And they believe that God implanted in the human heart, at the beginning of creation when he very first made Adam, something called the yetzer hara, or the wayward spirit. Because he knew that if that wasn’t there, human life would be insipid and without the least significance. There has to be this element. And so the Jews say, “Yes, God is responsible for evil. But he put it in us so that we could have something to fight against.”
And so, in this way, you can see at one level that the evil side of things is part of the total harmony. It must be there. But that the function of its being there is to give you something to chew on, to work at. You will never get rid of it. But the joy of life is being in the process of getting rid of it. So, in other words, you might say that the function of the devil is to be always losing the battle, but never finally lost. And the function of the good side is to be always winning the battle, but never to be the victor. And by this means the pot is kept boiling, interest is kept up, and everything is kept moving. So that, of course, if we solve certain economic problems, for example, and we have a world where people are not committed to drudgery, we shall discover social evil in some new form.
It’s exactly the same as when you are worried sick about money, and are you going to make the payments on the house, on the car, and all that; the insurance? You think, “If only I could have a lot more money, I’d be so happy.” And then, somehow, you get it. And for a few days you’re ecstatic and walking on air. Then you suddenly realize that you might get sick, or that someone—the government, or burglars, or something—might take your money away from you. And you start worrying about that with just the same intensity as you had formerly worried about not having enough money. So we always find—if you are a worrybird—you will always find something to worry about, no matter what happens in your external circumstances. And so we may be assured that when the human race goes to full economic prosperity and there is nothing further to be worried about in the way of housing and clothing and food, that we shall instead worry quite fervently about something else. Because, you see, we are always really in the same place. This is the basic understanding of relativity.
It always reminds me of Sir Cedric Hardwicke, when asked about his life—he died just a little while ago, and he lived, therefore, across the centuries—he said, “If I had really had my wish as to when I would have liked to live, I would have liked to have been a grown adult in the high Victorian age—with penicillin.” Now, those of us, therefore, who remember from childhood the abominable dentistry of the British are very thankful indeed for American dentistry. I remember, as a boy, dentistry was just torture. And the American dentists have changed all that. I am therefore in a position of relativity to remember this change and still feel its effect, and I’m very grateful for it. But my children—who are accustomed to fine American dentistry from the beginning—are less appreciative of the situation, and therefore have other worries.
So, you see, when I would say one of the great philosophical questions is: are we going to make it? That all beings at every scale whatsoever—from the angels and gods at the very highest development of evolution down to the most obscure little creepy-crawlies—all feel about life the same way: how are we going to make it? An angel’s problem is a very different kind of problem from the problem of a common worm. But as Meister Eckhart said, “If a stone were as aware as an angel, a stone could be as happy as an angel—or perhaps as miserable.” It is said, in the holy texts of Christianity, that there are occasions upon which the angels weep. What sort of thing would make an angel weep, you see? Ugh!
You see, the problem of life—at every level of evolution in the whole thing—it’s always the same. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: the more it changes the more it’s the same thing! Because everybody’s really in the same situation. The great dare: are we going to make it? Because this is the situation of the cosmos. The cosmos—when the Hindus say God is playing hide and seek with himself, and every now and then the Brahman, the supreme Self, deliberately falls into the illusion of māyā and pretends that he’s all of us. Well, that’s God also, saying, “How far-out can I get next time around? Dare. Dare. Am I going to make it?” And therefore thinks up some fantastic way of getting lost—we are one of these ways, you see—and creates the horrors and the shudders and most appalling situations, in each one of which he says, “Am I going to make it?”
And the answer is: no, you’re not gonna make it. You’re gonna get away with it for a while. Yup! You’ll get away with it for a while—but in the end, no, you’re not gonna make it. Oh, why not? Well, for obvious reasons. Look at a star. A star is a great burst of fire, see? Well, the question is: how far to go? The fire goes out and out and out and out and out, and then, suddenly, it begins to fade, the energy falls away, and there’s darkness. Unless something is there to reflect the more tenuous form of the fire, which is light that is being thrown out to immense distances. But eventually, light gives up. And that’s why some of the farthest galaxies are beginning to disappear: because it’s too far for the light. It gives up eventually. Because if there isn’t a point, you see, where the light gives up—or the radiance gives up—it fills everything and therefore has no way of realizing itself. Because you can only realize light by the contrast of darkness. And that’s why, then, you—as a ray which shoots out of the Godhead—will say, “Are we going to make it?” In other words, how long a ray are you going to be? You can be a long, long ray or a little short one. And some people think, “Well, if I’m only a short ray it’s not really a great success. I want to be a long ray. I want to live till I’m 90, or maybe 100. Get longer and longer.” Then you must listen to the Zen poem which says,
And when one of the great Zen masters was asked about the meaning of Buddhism, he said to the inquirer, “Wait till there’s no one around and I’ll tell you.” And when there was no one around he took this inquirer out into the garden and pointed at the bamboos. And the inquirer said, “I don’t understand.” And he said, “What a long bamboo that one is. What a short one that is.” That was all. So, what a long way that one is, what a short one that is. See, if you look at some sort of stellar object, it adds great interest to it if its rays are of unequal length. If they’re all equal it looks sort of flat and mechanical. But by having all sorts of different lengths—as you find them in some of those gorgeous radiolaria creatures that are minute animalcules of the ocean—you see there’s a certain balance of length, there’s a certain average which gives it a globular form, but many different lengths in the stems.
So, you see: are we gonna make it? How far-out can you get? This is always the question. But then, you’re not going make it at a certain point. The ray finishes. And we call that death. But you are actually not the ray so much as the source of the ray. That’s where you are, really. And the source doesn’t vanish. You see? The source is there. Always. But is shooting out, shooting out, shooting out, and then vanishes. So, then, if you remember, therefore, that at every stage of the universe—whether you are up there with the gods or whether you are down there with the what we could call human refuse—you are basically in the same situation. Because everybody is basically in the same situation for the reason that everybody is basically the divine being working out the panorama of its life in myriads of different ways.
And these differences of ways require spectra of many kinds. There’s the spectrum of color. There’s the spectrum of tones. But there is also the spectrum of orders of being. So that from the most minut animalcules right up through all kinds of animalss—through human beings of every grade to the gods—you have a great spectrum. And just as, at one end of the spectrum, you have purple and at the other you have red—but now, look: what is purple? Purple is blue mixed with red. The spectrum goes right the way ’round. And therefore, if we say that—you can begin any end you want to, but if we say that the purple end are like the deeps of the waters of the very primitive forms of life and the red the most radiant, they are actually (if you see the spectrum as a circle) they join. So that, when you get up, the only place to go is down. Unless, somehow, you can go back into the white light at the center which is neither up nor down, neither good nor bad, just what there is: suchness.
So I think that one of the things that should be drawn is a symbol of a circular spectrum instead of one that’s stretched out on a tape. And that would tell something to people that no amount of words can convey. It would speak to the unconscious in us, to the depths of understanding that are much more subtle than our intellectual thinking. And everybody could see this everywhere. And it would convey the message about ring-around-the-rosie. As is said in the Chinese texts of Zhuang Zhou: what is the center of a circle? The center of a circle—the true center— is any point on the circumference. Because you can start the circle anywhere and finish it anywhere. So there’s a kōan in Zen which says, “Indra built a seamless tower.” You know, when a sleeve has a seam on it—this is a zip where where the cloth begins and have to take it round and sew it. So it has a seam. Now imagine: here’s a tower, but it has no seam. “Indra built the seamless tower. Where did he begin?” So, in nature, then, one has this seamless order where every point on it is central, and therefore feels in the same situation: envying those above and pitying those below. And there is always a below. Maybe the most primitive animalcules imaginable have pity on the angels.
So, let’s take an intermission.