Beliefnet
A Pagan's Blog

How does the current worldwide focus on bringing the ultra-wealthy banksters and corporations under more effective control relate to traditional spiritual concerns, particularly Pagan ones? Quite directly, actually.

Every genuine spiritual tradition teaches that we live within a larger context of value and importance beyond the purely material.  What is important far out-weighs what can be bought by money.

Pagan traditions bring in an additional insight that some others also share: the world and everything in it is an expression of the sacred.  Plants, animals, and the land itself are not simply resources provided for our benefit, to be used as we wish. Every wise relationship is ultimately ethical at its foundation. The earth itself, the seas and mountains, forests and meadows, streams and sky, deserts and plains, and all upon and within them, is a sacrament.  Life is a sacrament and is best when lived that way.

But we live within a society where plants, animals, and the land and waters  are treated by its dominant institutions as purely resources, and increasingly where people are treated the same way.  Everything and everyone is useful, an opponent, or irrelevant.  Banks and corporations are institutionally incapable of acting otherwise.  They cannot act ethically because if any CEO elevated ethics above profit, he or she would be ousted in a hostile take over as soon as some rich sociopath noticed.  And notice they certainly do. The founders of companies have leeway here, but it rapidly disappears when they are gone, and sometimes they themselves are ousted in order for investors, ‘venture capitalists’ and financial institutions, to make more money.

The current capitalist system actively and systemically selects for the least ethical to acquire the most power. Checks have to come from the outside, and government is the only institution with the power to do this.  But today the banks and corporations have essentially bought the government. Before OWS the corporate media incessantly wrote of deficits and the need to trim environmental and health regulations while keeping defense expenditures high and even lowering taxes on the wealthy further.  Poll after poll indicated most Americans had precisely opposite priorities, and they were ignored in press and government alike.

Spiritual traditions that treat the earth simply as a way station on our journey to salvation or enlightenment can simply shrug at this, as many do. (Not all, some of these traditions are very aware of the evils in our current system and want to see them addressed as much as I do.)

But we Pagans who love and honor the sacred as immanent in the world have a different and more painful problem.  Many of the expressions of the sacred that speak most to us are being trampled on and despoiled by forces that are incapable of responding to reason or heart because all that they care about is acquiring more money in a failed effort to fill the emptiness in their souls with power and wealth.

Bringing the über wealthy and powerful under control, ending the arrogant aristocracy of wealth, will not solve these problems, but it will make it possible for us to at least begin to address them. OWS changed the terms of the debate and injected ethical concerns as more important than wealth.  This is big, very big.  They accomplished more in a month than Obama and his “Yes We Can” did in years. Think about that.

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