Charles Eisenstein is a writer and author. He describes himself as a “degrowth activist.” He is the author of two books, Sacred Economics and The Ascent of Humanity. He shares his ideas on his blog, Reality Sandwich. You can check out his web page to see if he will be speaking in a location near you. Charles graduated from Yale University and lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Interview with Charles Eisenstein
Akilah: The story that we tell about money is based on the dominant belief system of lack, limitation and scarcity. You ask that we begin to tell a different story. Are you suggesting that the new story will create a new life experience?
Charles: Yes. The longer answer is you have to ask who is the storyteller, and part of the situation that the world faces is that we see ourselves as separate individuals so when I say who is the storyteller, what I am saying is that you as a separate individual are not the only author of the story. Therefore, it’s not just as simple as changing your own beliefs. The story of money is a collective story, and also we each have a personal story of money, but the collective story has scarcity and lack built into it. The way the money system works is like a game of musical chairs because it is based on interest-bearing debt. There is more debt than money. So it’s not only about adopting an abundance mentality for yourself, it is also about changing the rules of the game.
Akilah: You speak about the belief in a separated “self” as the cause of the current money system and its failure; thus the new story. Can people consider, can they even hear about a new system before that “separation is healed?”
Charles: “Hearing” about a new system is part of the healing.
Akilah: You suggest that we look at the gift cultures of our ancestors, and you give one example of a South African tribe who still, in many ways, retains this belief in the gift. Do you think it’s possible to extract the economic aspect of these cultures without taking into consideration the whole belief system which gave rise to it?
Charles: Every primitive culture had a gift culture. I don’t think that we need to extract their mythology or their social customs, but I do think that we have something to learn from the past and the surviving cultures today that still practice gift economics.
Akilah: If the gift culture was beneficial, why did people stop telling that story and start reciting the one with scarcity, lack and limitation in it?
Charles: It was a long historical process that has to do with the rise of agricultural civilizations which had a division that was beneficial to these primitive cultures. They stopped telling that story and began to tell the story of labor and therefore social class and the need to coordinate human labor on a vast scale and to facilitate trade among the new specialists.
Akilah: You say in chapter 12 “that we are fundamentally divine, creative, generous beings; that to give and to create are among our deepest desires.” Is that your belief or a fact?
Charles: I believe it’s a fact.
Akilah: I opened myself up for that one, didn’t I?
Akilah: As separated beings, we exist in duality, non-physical and physical. What do you think the non-physical aspect of us is doing?
Charles: We humans have gone on a very long journey of separation or duality. We are beginning the return journey. We are coming into a more complex relationship to the other and falling in love with the other, and reintegrating excluded parts of ourselves.
Akilah: So the non-physical is just continuing to love.
Akilah: Do you think that belief systems are a natural aspect of the separated state?
Charles: Ending separation is not a singular calendar event; reunion is a process that might take another million years, but each step can take us to a world more beautiful than the one before. Human beings are storytelling animals, beliefs are part of stories, and we will continue to create based on stories. Stories are creative tools. Maybe there is some deep meditative state without beliefs, but we will still tell stories and tell human dramas for some time to come.
Akilah: How are the economists, who are telling the old story, responding, if at all, to the new story that more and more people are starting to tell?
Charles: Most professional economists have no interest in my book and I have never dialogued with them. The current money story, however, is getting harder and harder for them to maintain because it’s falling apart.
Akilah: Have you studied “A Course in Miracles”?
Charles: I have not studied it, but I skimmed just a few pages just to get the energetic feel of it.
Akilah: How did you come to this perspective about our divinity and the idea of giving and receiving being one, that when I give to my neighbor, I give to myself?
Charles: Giving and receiving is obvious when you take the perspective of non-separation. Everybody knows it deep down inside. We need for each other to believe it. It helps to give people an experience to awaken that knowing.
Akilah: Correct me if I am wrong, but you have obviously gone through an awakening. You seem to know what you came here to do, your unique contribution. Do you find that the new story is distancing you from not only the old one, but the world in which it operates?
Charles: Certainly sometimes I feel a bit alienated. But fundamentally, I’m not 100% in the new story. I have programming left over from the old program.
Akilah: Most of us do.
Charles: The transition is a group endeavor, and involves the whole human race. People help me to stand here, and I help them.
Akilah: Does the new story keep expanding for you.
Charles: I would say that my vision of it expands.
Akilah: What is the cut off for expression? When do you know when it’s time to express your vision?
Charles: When it feels good. It’s like when you’re in a meeting and you know that you have to say something. It’s like that.