Next week I’m one of two keynote speakers in an East-Meets-West series of conferences in Chennai, India. Dr. V.A. Sriram will discuss Positive Consciousness while I will focus on, among other topics, The Human Heart of Business.
In my opening lecture I’ll quote Joni Mitchell, who in her song “Woodstock” wrote: “We are stardust,” and called out our need to “get ourselves back to the Garden.” I’ll make the leap from how our origin as stardust—energy held in a pattern called matter—leads to an aggregation of consciousness with agency. As such we can choose which patterns to adopt—and we pattern ourselves according to our beliefs. Our selves, our goals, our motivations, and our actions are based in our beliefs, and in the stars we worship.
It should come as no surprise to us that what we create, and the societies we build, are manifestations of these same patterns. Many of today’s challenges are based on the aggregation of a materialistic orientation that has lost touch with the guiding lights of our spiritual origin. The roots of the trees that we plant often tend to look toward the soil, the material, and are not always growing true, straight, and healthy, toward the light.
My lecture on the Human Heart of Business will explore these ideas, and will propose alternatives, solutions, and a slightly different focus—a focus that will lead to long-lasting and sustainable success. This is the kind of success that can permeate all areas of our lives, not only the material pursuit of profits. Below is a summary of my lecture.
I included this famous quote with something very specific in mind. Our corporations are part of the problem. Whereas our creator instilled a consciousness in us that strives for the light, for truth, for beauty, for the highest ideals, we have not typically followed this pattern in establishing our corporations. Thus capitalism, as we have created it, is fatally flawed in a number of ways.
To explore the roots of these flaws, I’d like to invoke two very different historical figures. Both came from overseas to explore America, and went on to make very similar, astute observations about the nature and character of that great nation.
This is East Meets West: America as viewed by two visionaries who traveled West.
Alexis de Tocqueville also prophesied the rise of one other great power: Russia. And he recognized that America’s greatness lay in her approach to equality based on economic opportunity—the ability to harness man’s desire for material benefits. This approach is quite eerily opposite to that taken by the Soviet Union, which denied that this basic human drive exists—and fostered a belief that the abolishment of all personal property was a good thing. The model known as communism has been completely discredited, but the model known as capitalism is also fatally flawed in its current form.
‘Abdu’l Baha, a Spiritual Leader from Iran, spent 40 years in exile from his native Persia, in Israel. When he was finally freed after 40 years of incarceration, he traveled to the United States and crisscrossed the country. He praised the people of United States, and challenged them to not only achieve the greatness that was their destiny in terms of material growth and success, but also to impact the world positively in spiritual terms.
Those competing impulses—material wealth and spiritual progress—can only be reconciled by the kind of work being done right here, at this conference, and by those inspired and empowered by the message it conveys: to overcome the schizophrenia of conflicting ideologies and unify these through an integrated approach to personal and public welfare. America was built on spiritual values and a unique, pragmatic approach to the material opportunities inherent in the great natural wealth of a virgin continent. And there a new form of capitalism was born, one that has seen unbelievable global growth due to the invention and creation of corporations.
Corporations are a peculiar species. Their prime directive is to maximize shareholder value—i.e. to create wealth for the owners. This DNA can generate a kind of cancer, which can result in the growth of a Frankenstein Monster. As these corporations exceed the wealth and power of all but the largest nations, their ability to destroy their creator is being tested. There are models being proposed in America in which there will be corporate takeovers of government institutions.
The balance of power created by the founding fathers of America—the three branches of government, executive, legislative, and judicial— are being overwhelmed by a flood of corporate money, just as Alexis de Tocqueville warned, but to a degree even he had not foreseen. The recent Citizens United Supreme Court ruling allows corporations to fund political campaigns, a right previously reserved only for “real people” as opposed to “incorporated” ones.
To change the course of the world, we need to infuse these entities with a human heart. Stick with me; we’re about to discuss where you come in. Don’t worry—I’m not going to ask you to join the Giving Pledge. But let’s take a moment to think about the patterns that these men are creating, and that these patterns are already spreading, being adopted.
Frankly, being #1 & #2 on the list of the world’s richest people, year after year, became embarrassing. Some profound and meaningful self-awareness, a new positive consciousness emerged. And they did something about it.
The challenge is clear. Find a path to moral, material, and spiritual unity within ourselves, and then extend this to our tribe, our society, our nation, our civilization, and our planet. And in case there is any doubt, I am not preaching the merits of communism, or even socialism. Quite the contrary. My message is that this comes from taking ownership, in every sense of the word.
You are the master of your own destiny. If you can align yourself with the spiritual direction of the universe, with the patterns set out by our creator, and stretch out your reach toward the light instead of bending down to the dust, there is nothing that will be withheld from you.
I use the metaphor of the tree to instill the lessons needed to implement this ideology: the roots, the trunk, the branches, the leaves, and the fruit. Your understanding of this metaphor will enable you to grow tall and true, straight and proud of who and what you are, able to channel the divine energy of positive consciousness—and to create a legacy that will grow by these principles as well.
The main point of the presentation is to educate business leaders about the need to actively resist being fooled by the lure of one-dimensional materialism, a single-minded focus on maximizing shareholder value. We must bring our human heart to our business endeavors. Our customers will respond. Our coworkers will respond. Those below us and above us will respond. Creating businesses with a human heart brings them into alignment with the positive spiritual consciousness that is emerging—we can ride that wave, and arrive where we want to be.