The marriage of matter and spirit, of business and spirit, of politics and spirit, of religion and spirit, and of activism and spirit, is the greatest union required in our times.
Matter and spirit are two sides of the same coin. What we measure is matter, what we feel is spirit. Matter represents quantity, spirit is about quality. Spirit manifests itself through matter; matter comes to life through spirit. Spirit brings meaning to matter, matter gives form to spirit. Without spirit matter lacks life. We are human body and human spirit at the same time. A tree too has body and spirit; even rocks which appear to be dead contain their spirit. There is no dichotomy, no dualism, no separation between matter and spirit.
The problem is not matter but materialism. Similarly there is no problem with spirit, but spiritualism is problematic. The moment we encapsulate an idea or a thought into an ‘ism’ we lay the foundations of dualistic thought.
The universe is uni-verse, one song, one poem, one verse. It contains infinite forms which dance together in harmony, sing together in concert, balance each other in gravity, transform each other in evolution and yet the universe maintains its wholeness and its implicate order. Dark and light, above and below, left and right, words and meaning, matter and spirit complement each other, comfortable in mutual embrace. Where is the contradiction? Where is the conflict?
Life feeds life, matter feeds matter, spirit feeds spirit. Life feeds matter, matter feeds life and spirit feeds both matter and life. There is total reciprocity. This is the oriental world view, an ancient world view, a world view found in the tribal traditions of pre-industrial cultures where nature and spirit, earth and heaven, sun and moon are in eternal reciprocity and harmony.
Modern dualistic cultures see nature red in tooth and claw, the strongest and fittest surviving, the weak and meek disappearing, conflict and competition as the only true reality. From this world view emerges the notion of a split between mind and matter. Once mind and matter are split then debate ensues as to whether mind is superior to matter or matter is superior to mind.
This worldview of split, rift, conflict, competition, separation and dualism has also given birth to the idea of separation between the human world and the natural world. Once that separation is established, humans consider themselves to be the superior species, engaged in controlling and manipulating nature for their use. In this view of the world, nature exists for human benefit, to be owned and possessed and if nature is protected and conserved then the purpose is only for human benefit. The natural world; plants, animals, rivers, oceans, mountains and the skies are denuded of spirit. If spirit exists at all, then it is limited to human spirit. But even that is doubtful. In this worldview humans too are considered to be nothing more than a formation of material, molecules, genes and elements. Mind is considered to be a function of the brain, and the brain is an organ in the head and no more.
This notion of spiritless existence can be described as materialism.
All is matter; land, forests, food, water, labour, literature and art are commodities to be bought and sold in the marketplace – the world market, the stock market, the so called ‘free’ market. This is a market of competitive advantage, a cutthroat market, a market where survival of the fittest is the greatest imperative: the strong competing with the weak and winning the biggest share of the market for themselves.
Monopolies are established in the name of free competition. Five supermarket chains control 80 per cent of food sold in the UK. Four or five giant multinational corporations, such as Monsanto and Cargill, control 80 per cent of international food trade. Small and family farms cannot compete with the big players and are forced to retreat.
This is the world where spirit has been driven out. Business without spirit, trade without compassion, industry without ecology, finance without fairness, economics without equity, can only bring the breakdown of society and destruction of the natural world. Only when spirit and business work together can humanity find coherent purpose.