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Where does the vow of wealth come from?

This vow sprung in me in the early morning of September 7, 2009. I experienced an instant shift, like a phase transition in physics.

A long inner alchemy had operated before, linked to my research on collective intelligence and post-monetary society, combined with meditation. I see it as the combined result of an intellectual and spiritual journey.

What steps do you see for the practical application of this vow?

This vow implies that I transition from conventional money towards post-monetary technologies. Such a transition goes through many steps and faces many obstacles. Also it cannot come out of a lonely work. Only a collective move and effort will allow us to migrate towards a money-free society. I just play the role of a scout who goes exploring a little bit before the others.

Do you take this vow because of social activism?

No. I didn’t take this vow because of social activism. It came because of my inner journey, and because I love to explore.

Don’t you find it risky, unconscious, idealistic?

Exploring the unknown makes our life risky and uncertain, of course. People look at it as idealistic as long as it hasn’t become part of their collective reality, so, yes, idealism drives the process. Trials and errors provide the essential empirical learning. It serves as milestones on the path to success. Only the skeptics and those who do nothing usually point at others’ failures.

Why does the word “wealth” appears so confusing?

Like many words, wealth creates an ambiguity because it locks us down in the materialistic part of our reality. In the common sense, wealthy means having lot’s of money and material means. The contrary, poor, means having no money and no material means.

I may not have any material possessions, but still might experience myself as the richest man on Earth, because of the people I love and who love me, because of the natural beauty that surrounds me, because of my health, because of my inner capacity to cultivate happiness. I could belong to the closed club of multi-billionaires and yet live as the most miserable man, surrounded by corruption, greed, cheating, superficiality, plots… Don’t you find interesting that we don’t have a real vocabulary to express what truly makes us rich or poor. Poverty and wealth perpetuate some of the most ontological jamming I know. We miss a language of wealth.

Conventional money does not serve well the process of community contribution and solidarity because of the perverse effects induced by its very structure (Pareto condensation, centralization, scarcity, opacity, proprietarization). If we really want to honor our communal contribution, we should use appropriate technologies that sustain mutualism rather than power concentration. We possess such technologies today. Soon they will kick in.

How do you define wealth?

As expressed in the vow, I see wealth as anything that brings us closer to Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

In common language, wealth means someone who has lot’s of money. This underlines the confusion that exists between the means (money) and the goal (wealth). Money offers a mean to access certain forms of wealth, mostly in material form. Money covers only a small portion of the spectrum of wealth. How can we take it as an end? The end relies in wealth, in its deepest sense.

How can we define wealth then? Well, wealth becomes wealth simply because we acknowledge it as such.

In the material world, we encounter relative forms of wealth that only a portion of the population wants, and universal forms of wealth that every human being needs. For some, an apartment downtown represents wealth, for others a house in the countryside will do it. For some having livestock provide social status, for others it means nothing. These represent relative forms of wealth. Among universal material forms of wealth, let’s mention basic needs such as food, healthcare, a shelter, clothes, education… Interestingly, only money allow access to most of them. Other forms of wealth exist, intangible or immaterial, such as care, trust, friendship, family, self-esteem, joy, humor, listening, spiritual awakening… all these things that money will never buy.

It doesn’t matter whether we speak about a roof for a decent life, the beauty of a flower, the smile of a child, or drinkable water, wealth always come as the expression and harmony of Truth, Goodness, Beauty.

I can hardly see how States, large organizations and society in general, will evolve towards a sustainable and virtuous future while using the conventional monetary system.

I just try to embody another way of living, hoping that it serves better happiness and life. I couldn’t become more pragmatic.

Can you clarify what you call Truth, Goodness and Beauty?

If you want to explore this question more deeply, I invite you to check the article called Integral Wealth.

Beauty refers to the creative impulse that lives in every human soul. Every human being possesses this spark, this impetus that invites him/her to manifest beauty by means of an art or a know-how. It doesn’t matter the means of expression, the level of mastery, the kind of art, the style, the canons of culture… Beauty emanates from the intimate subjective expression of the I. At the societal level, we link it to Arts.

Goodness introduces the other, the alter ego. We cannot considered something as good unless another consciousness has acknowledged it as such. The other, I mean a human being, society, nature, the universe, who expresses directly what a creation provokes inside him/her, in a verbal or non-verbal way (a tree that flourishes or withers for instance). Goodness comes from the You. At the societal level, we link it to Morals or Ethics.

Truth refers to reality principle, the external outsider differentiated from the I and the You. Reality principle works as a mirror in front of which we confront our capacities and creativity. Reality principle impartially tells the engineer if the nuclear plant can resist earthquakes or tsunamis. Reality principle provides us with harsh lessons on the consequences of our actions and choices. It operates like an external master from which we learn how to perfect our art. Truth emanates from the It. At the societal level, we link it to Sciences.

I for Beauty, You for Goodness, It for Truth. This ontological structure reflects our construct of the world, revealed by the basis of grammar.

Beauty, Goodness and Truth intertwine with one another. How can beauty exist in the face of lies? How can goodness manifest without truth? What use of truth if not infused with beauty and goodness? Beauty, Goodness and Truth operate like 3 diffracted colors coming from one same unique source of light. They compose what we name “wealth”.


Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Wealth

What does poverty mean then?

Poverty implies the absence of wealth. It often comes from our incapacity to connect to the wealth that surrounds us, Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

Doesn’t the vow of wealth resembles the vows of poverty that exist in many spiritual traditions? Will you become a beggar? A homeless?

The vow of poverty exists in every spiritual tradition I know. In order to develop a wider consciousness and open to the Divine, one must not entangle or distract or trap himself into material possessions. Leaving material possession leads to liberation and opens the path to true wealth.

Many confuse the vow of poverty with begging and misery. Although some spiritual practices rely on begging, most spiritual communities have built and generated incredible forms of wealth because of everyone’s contributions in the context of a gift economy. Look at monasteries, ashrams, temples, and most spiritual places: they surround themselves with astounding natural beauty, built with the finest art of their time, organized around fair economic principles. When authentic spirituality thrives, no one claims ownership on wealth. There we witness one of the deep aspects of the vow of poverty.

Today we live in a world where both material and spiritual poverty have reached peaks like never before, where consumerism and materialism became the form of poverty in industrialized countries, where people enslave one another other for miserable wages. At the same time wealth surrounds us. It exists everywhere around us if we allow it to exist inside us. We just have to expand our view. Hence this practical question: what kind of collective intelligence do we need to access, build, share and allow wealth emerge at a global level?

The vow of wealth stresses that material forms of wealth can leverage our capacity to become realized beings and realized societies, but only if we fulfil certain conditions:

  • that wealth doesn’t come from stealing or looting (otherwise we don’t meet Goodness);

  • that, on the contrary, wealth comes additive. The use we make of it benefits to others and the environment;

  • that, whatever wealth, we don’t consider ourselves as owners, but as trustees and stewards. Even better: as creative artists;

  • material wealth nourishes our joy and creativity, and vice-versa.

That said, it doesn’t matter how we call this vow – vow of wealth, vow of poverty or anything else – as long as the intention and the experience remain genuine.

Doesn’t this vow push you to have exclusive relationships with those who have chosen the same lifestyle?

Not at all. Everyone know how to practice generosity. I chose to explore the far reaches. It works only because other people manifest their generosity to me, while they keep a more conventional lifestyle. Pioneers can’t exist if a portion of society don’t support them.

Do you see any relationship between the vow of wealth, and conscientious objection to military service, or to paying taxes that go to pay for war?

Although I love peace, the vow of wealth hasn’t emerged as a response to any of today’s issues. Only my inner journey lead to practical choices, to creativity, innovation, exploration and the art of living.

That said, no one should count on me for financing violence, war and armament. Citizens don’t have a choice today.

Do you expect other people to take the vow of wealth?

I have no expectations at all. This choice comes from an intimate journey.

How does CIRI deal with your vow of wealth?

CIRI works within the gift economy too, while still using conventional money. Somehow it already works de facto on the dynamics of the vow of wealth.

Did you get rid of everything you had?

Almost. Except some small sentimental objects that I received as gifts and marks of love, I got rid of everything.

All the things I inherited in the past, I transmitted them to my son and his mom. They will decide what they want to do according to their own choices and criteria. Even my piano that I still use belongs to them. If someday they need to sell it, they can do it. Today I just have functional stuff: some clothes, dishes and books..

As for computers and devices I use to work, they belong to CIRI.

Don’t you miss certain things?

Yes, motorbike. I love it! 🙂

Do you feel afraid?