I am currently about half way through Charles Eisenstein's wonderfully thought-provoking book, Sacred Economics.  We have, of course engaged on this terrain in other places within the Cafe, including this discussion thread tied to the Cafe Call last December on which Charles was our guest "conversation starter."  I felt called to start a new conversation however, given that I am feeling so inspired not only to read but also to share this book.  

If you are not familiar with Sacred Economics, you can still join the conversation based on your response to this brief and compelling video.  You can also read the book online here (please consider a contribution back to Charles if you take advantage of this gift!).  

I also am feeling called to explore further this idea of a "hosted" conversation.  Here's what I wrote many months ago when this idea was first proposed:

Please note that this is a hosted discussion.  We want to focus on dialogue and collective/creative thinking, not debate or the promotion of personal agendas.  If the activity gets heavy, we will periodically ask people to step back or step up, to make sure the dialogue is balanced and there is space for all voices to be heard.  We will also ask that side conversations that emerge be taken onto new discussion threads so that this core conversation remains focused and readable.  Thank you in advance for your help with this, and if you are interested in hosting a discussion yourself, please email connect@occupycafe.org.

I would like to resume our experiment in this terrain, and perhaps stretch ourselves a bit more than the  framing above implied.  I want to try this in three ways, all of which might be serve to give this conversation that special and sacred quality of "aliveness:"

  1. Explore our willingness to collectively pursue a particular intention for a conversation
  2. Invite all participants to think of themselves as "hosts"
  3. Invite the possibility that connecting emotionally, showing compassion and being in relationship can be just as much a part of what we engage in here as the intellectual exchange of ideas

So... here goes!

My intention in convening this conversation is to see to what degree the ideas in this book can inspire and help us articulate a "Story of Now" and a "Story of Us" for the Cafe.  Marshall Ganz describes the former as a story that can inform "the challenge this community now faces, the choices it must make, and the hope to which 'we' can aspire."  And the "Story of Us" illuminates "what your constituency, community, organization has been called to: its shared purposes, goals and vision."

Some basic questions that we can explore are:

  • In what ways, if any, does Eisenstein's diagnosis of our current situation resonate for you?  In what ways, if any, does it challenge you?
  • Is the invitation Eisenstein issues for co-creating "the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible" compelling and inspiring to you and if so, in what ways?

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This video (link below) raises some tough questions about the occupy movement.  Arun Gupta compares the occupy movement to the civil rights movement.  The civil rights movement had leaders who were accountable.  They worked for legal changes and – from what I saw – hearts and minds mostly fell in behind the movement.  The massive resistance that I expected (I lived in Louisiana from 1957 to 1961) did not happen.

What does that have to do with this discussion?  There are government actions for which we could begin to lobby.  For example, the Fed could charge a demurrage (negative interest) on bank funds with the Fed.  This would give banks an incentive to loan money to offset losses in demurrage.  If we could begin to move to a negative interest economy, we could begin to realize the results Charles describes in Chapter 12.  For example, we could start breaking down the polarization of wealth.

We should begin to charge drilling companies fees for damage they might do through fracking or from blowouts in offshore rigs.  That is, we could start protecting the commons by requiring insurance for risky projects.

We could use such proposed changes to initiate discussions that could eventually change our culture.


 To C.A., my fellow member of Occupy Café

You write:  Cafeers just don't want to read women or Marx.... and....Kennedys King and X were killed by the forces that so far have stopped Occupy and the Cafe from leading...and...The Cafe is full of horizontal and new age thinkers. I hope we get past them.

You paint with a wide brush.

I find these statements offensive enough that it makes it difficult to discover where I might agree with the other views you state  My experience has been that it is difficult to have a discussion with a person whose statements are strong enough that they seem to be from one who considers that his  point of view is the only point of view.

May I ... very gently... suggest that if you edit your writings for clarity, accuracy and compassion, others might find your views more palatable. You are among friends here.

Sea, what will doing “old fashioned homework” give us?  Philosophical understandings that will give us more forceful arguments?  Make us more effective politically? 

I’ve tried to read Marx, but I find it hard to apply his concepts of the role of labor to conditions now. 

You write: “We can't understand patriarchy if we don't thoroughly read women intellectuals.”  Which women intellectuals?  Does your statement touch on contrasts described in “The Alphabet versus the Goddess” by Shlain?

More on your comment later.

Sea, from Chapter 18, SE:

“We have in our age created a distinction between money exchanges and gifts. The former is in the realm of rational self-interest; the latter is at least partially altruistic or selfless. This division of economics into two separate realms mirrors other defining dichotomies of our civilization: man and nature, spirit and matter, good and evil, sacred and profane, mind and body. None of these withstand deep scrutiny; all of them are crumbling as the Age of Separation draws to a close. And so, just as we erase the matter-spirit distinction and resacralize all of matter, just as we give up on the effort to transcend nature and realize that we are part of it, so also shall we return the spirit of the gift to all aspects of human economy, whether or not money is involved.”

As the Age of Separation ends, will we have reached the state you would call monism?

What I think is a more detailed description of this transformation is contained in “The Reenchantment of the World” by Morris Berman.  Anyway, the term “reenchantment” seems a fit term to describe the goal of “Sacred Economics.”

I don’t know that I’m one of the experts, but I’ve spent a lot of time studying mathematics, and I’ve made heavy use of mathematics in my work.  We need to understand there are many systems of mathematics that are useful for different applications.  Under our most commonly used system 1 + 1 = 2, but sometimes 1 + 1 = 10 (Boolean algebra), or you might define your own system where 1 + 1 = 1.

I’ve found it useful to treat mathematical systems as games.  The object of the game is to prove relationships that conform to the definitions and rules of the game.  To be a valid system of mathematics, the universal set of entities must be defined.  Some examples would be all integers, all positive integers, all integers between 6 and 12 inclusive, all number that can be expressed as n/m where n and m are integers, the characters {a, e, i, o, u}, etc.  The rules must specify how operators (x, -, +, @) are used to combine members of the universal set.  Structures must be defined.  In some systems the sets (a, b, c) and (c, a, b) are equal and in other they might not be.  Operators need to be defined for combining structures (sets).   

The system may be designed with some physical system in mind, but the system never depends on a physical system for validity.  To divorce the symbols from reality sometimes helps us to discover valid relations that aren’t intuitive.  That’s part of the beauty of mathematics.

Sea, I can find little meaning in: “As long a patriarchal mathematicians and physicist who are out of touch with reality impart knowledge standards, Occupy will but marginally influence our future.” 

When is a mathematician patriarchal?  Or a physicist patriarchal?  In the context of mathematics and physics, what does it mean to be out of touch? Don’t cop out by telling me to read a book.

Abstract mathematics is as much a part of our aesthetic heritage as are abstract paintings.  The two might be considered as part of the material – spiritual split, but I don’t think reunification requires us to jettison beauty.

If you’re serious about a “mathematics of the people,” then show us your universal set, you operators, structures, etc.  Otherwise, be honest and call it a literary device to be used for whatever purpose.

Sea, the universal set is just the collection of all objects permitted within your mathematical system, however you choose to define it. If your inquiry concerns integers only, then it makes sense to define the universal set as being the infinite set of all integers.

I don't understand how defining a set can be tautological. Suppose I define set A to be all the US citizens who immigrated from China, and the set B to be all female citizens. Such definitions allow me, for example, to define a 3rd set C as the intersection of A and B. Conducting an experiment to determine the composition of a defined set, as I think you implied, makes no sense.

If you were conducting a statistical study of the set C, the fact that all members of the set are female would be part of your a priori knowledge. I think you are correct about a priori synthetic knowledge, but -- for most analyses -- I don't think it makes much difference whether you make a distinction between the 2 kinds of knowledge.

My candidate for “mathematics of the people” is called geometry.  I’m very concerned that the military-industrial complex is taking it away from us.  My concern is centered in Oklahoma because that’s where I live.  See the article I wrote for the Tulsa World:


I see human nature mostly in the context of evolution as described by E.O. Wilson and Howard Bloom who wrote “The Lucifer Principle.” We are from the tribes (gene collections) that survived. We all carry masculine and feminine characteristics within us because the mix helped us survive.

Shlain's idea you mention: "rational" discourse is somehow different than direct perception. Is very real to me because I experience it in many ways, and I imagine almost everyone does so. For example, several years ago, I had a desire to know how to identify wild flowers I did what I usually do when I want to know about something, I got some books on the subject. I learned logically to identify many plants by number of petals, how the leaves are arranged on the stalk, leaf patterns, etc. My left brain then used rules and facts to identify plants.

After I'd been studying flowers for some time, I took my mother to visit her mother's grave at an old country cemetery. As we were leaving, I looked across the gravel road, and saw a familiar plant. I recognized it as polk salat (as in Polk Salat Annie). My parents had taken my sister and I to gather the plant when we were children. That identification came from direct knowing. I still can't tell you how the leaves are arranged, etc.

Betty Edwards in “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” has a drawing exercise that causes one to experience a shift from left-brain to right-brain thinking.

The 2 modes of thinking are reflected in artificial intelligence. In a logic based system, rules are stored in a database in logical forms such as “If A and B then C,” for example. Facts are also stored. These take forms such as: A is true and B is not true. The program (inference engine) generates a conclusion, if possible, from the rules and facts.

The other most common forms of AI are “artificial neural networks” that bear some slight resemblance to our brain structures. These networks must be trained to draw correct conclusions.

I've started reading Marx, and have read the first 2 chapters. I suspect the first 2 chapters could have been reduced to about 3 pages of equations. He had a tendency to be-labor his points.


I’ve tried to read Marx in the past, but found it difficult to relate to his concepts – mainly labor.  Labor is being marginalized because it is becoming more and more the case that marginal production costs do not include labor.

My goal is to redistribute wealth.  Marx sought to do that by giving more power to the workers.  Productivity has grown so much in the past 60 years that labor is becoming less and less important.  In terms of dollars of production, 30 people can now do the work of 100 60 years ago.  Productivity = GNP/hours worked.  (GDP is a better measure to use, but it wasn’t available 60 years ago.) 

Outside of religious and philosophical arguments, the most forceful argument for redistributing wealth – one that capitalists could relate to – is that we are not getting a fair return on our past investments.  The thing that infuriates me (is passion permitted?) is that almost all of the technology that lifted productivity has come from government investments.  Below is a summary of the investments we have made through our government using our tax dollars: 

Alan Turing conceived the essential structure of the modern computer during World War II as an employee of the British Government. (During the same period he played a key role in cracking the Nazi code created by their Enigma Machine.)

With knowledge gained from Great Britain, the U.S. Government (Army) built the first electronic general-purpose computer, ENIAC, for calculating trajectories of artillery shells. IBM and other companies used the technology to develop their own computers. The U.S. Government and other public institutions provided a significant portion of the market for these early machines, and our government has continued to provide on-going research in computing.

The Internet is also having enormous economic and social impacts. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), a U.S. Department of Defense creation, developed the Internet.

Communication Satellites would not have been created without government projects. The U.S. government developed delivery rockets and related technology. Much of the initial rocket research was done by German scientists brought to the U.S. after WWII as part of Operation Paperclip.

Development of semiconductors was essential for development of almost all modern electronic equipment. Bell Laboratories, working under Department of Defense and NASA contracts, did critical research that gave us semiconductors. The government agencies wrote contracts that required Bell Labs to make all research reports available to the public. This research led to development of transistor radios, cell phones, communication satellites, Ipods, and so much more.

Most of the profits due to increased productivity are going to shareholders, corporate raiders, and other money manipulators.  We the people are being ripped off.

The smallest unit of exchange between two sentient beings goes like this, according to my friend, J.R., whom I consider a master of money.


“I love you.   I give this to you. “ 

“Thank you.  I love you.  And I give this to you”.

“Thank you.”

All economics, whether micro or macro, proceed from this basis.

This seems valid to me.  Does this seem valid to you?



Where do you want to strike first, Jerry? Your local community, your state, your country?

I took a look at your web site, and you seem to be effective at community organizing. Two questions: Are you sold on the ideas contained in “Sacred Economics?” If so, how would you go about changing your community to gain acceptance for these ideas?

"The smallest unit of exchange" Harvey, with I love you.  An appealing way to consider economics. 

Also provocative to contemplate, the unspoken (potential) 'hangers-on', such as expectation, purpose, need, desire, comparison...  I say this because when love comes in it makes me think of 'giving' with love... without a self.

When extended beyond a loving gift and into 'commerce' implications of purpose impose themselves.  This appears to break the wine glass (container of love).  Perhaps you would extend your inquiry in this direction?


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