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Beyond Sustainable Economy: Ethics and the Bipolarity of Consciousness

Published: 18.07.2017

Mahatma Gandhi said that economy and ethics were completely reconcilable, and that ethics was even conditional for long lasting economy.

Nevertheless humanity at large in its present state does not adhere much value to ethics, least of all in practice. I like to discuss why this is so. Whether we like it or not, we have to take into account the duality of consciousness when developing our system of economics.

Because humans are not yet gods, systems, laws and rules are necessary to guide their behavior. Though freedom is our highest goal, no one would agree to give criminals the freedom to steal and murder and cheat. Freedom includes freedom from fear, from (organized) violence and from avoidable danger. To regulate our society we have made laws and rules, not to suppress our freedom, but to guarantee it.

In the 20th and 21st centuries we have accomplished more than in many centuries before. Not only in the field of technology and politics, but also in the field of ethical thinking, and practicing some forms of compassion. But we are facing problems, so huge, that we may not even survive the present century. We have become victim of the animal within us as well as to a materialistic mind-set, and therefore limited our freedom more than any dictatorship can do. To help ourselves as humanity and active participants of the planet – to protect ourselves against following our animals tendencies and laziness of mind, to protect ourselves from destroying our oikos, we will have to have a set of laws, rules, and regulations.

In the same line the world community should also be guaranteed freedom  from economic exploitation, humiliation, extreme hardship, pollution and environmental depletion. To live is our most fundamental birth right. Food, water, shelter, safety, material means and money, and opportunity are essential for life, but also hope, mental development, freedom of thinking and believing, and a large degree of emotional happiness. These, we should take care, must be available for all, unconditionally, because of the fact alone that she or he is a human being.


When we study the many religions of our world we repeatedly find a number of core terms

Religions' core terms are:



Love (your neighbor)





Self-restriction or total abandonment of worldly pursuits

In our time we could add:

Harmony with our planet

Endless sustainability of our life and the planet

Aparigraha for the sake of the planet and humanity

Bipolarity of consciousness

In every human being and in every society we recognize a bipolarity of consciousness, which pervades all our actions and thinking. This bipolarity, or duality within Oneness, we may express in many ways, such as good and evil, attachment to the past, or progressive longing for a better future.

Basically this duality derives from the two sides of Nature, the material and the spiritual. Therefore we can divide our personal psychology as well as humankind and society according to this artificial division into spirit and matter.

Perennial philosophy, reflected in the diverse religions, teaches that humans are two-poled, i.e. they are co-evolving, composed, symbiotic beings, the one side being an animal, the other a god. This distinguishes humans from animals, plants, etc. The human mind alone, it is taught, was awakened and under continuous stimulating influence of the divine "sons of mind," known in Sanskrit as Manasaputras (sons of divine mind) or Brahmaputras (sons of the creative, expanding, universal mind). Our animal body, feelings, instincts, impulses were developed in the far past; our higher nature, the self-conscious mind, and ruler of our animal nature, is only in beginning development at present and will continue to develop throughout all human future.

As a result, there is unavoidably (at this stage) continuous internal struggle in each individual as well as external struggle between individuals and groups. The human being as a "battlefield" is clearly described in the Bhagavad Gītā and other holy scriptures. It is because the spiritual has not yet finally conquered in humanity – which is the plight of Arjuna. Like him, as individuals and as humanity, we have to fight against our own tendencies, limited understandings, lack of knowledge and lack of mental clarity. Therefore rules, regulations, laws and systems are at present indispensable for the "god" in us to contain the "animal" in us.

If we put, somewhat black and white, these two sides next to, or opposite each other, in application to our present world, we may set up the following table of human tendencies. It will be apparent that in terms of economic and social behavior these two columns are directly applicable.

Materialist Violence due to subconscious spiritual despair Spiritual Nonviolence due to understanding and ultimate confidence
Greed Generosity
Parigraha – grasping, hoarding Aparigraha – confidence in divine /nature's provision
Passion Moderation, indifference to impulses
Self-directedness (egoism) Other-directedness (altruism)
Power Knowledge
Dominance Humility
Territorial instinct Non-separation, brotherhood
Instinct to self-preservation Using instinct with wisdom
Fear for physical  harm Indifference to physical harm
Fear for Death Believe in immortality of the soul
Short-term thinking Universal (global, holistic) thinking
Confused understanding Wisdom
Indifference towards the whole Caring for the whole
Interest in money Interest in values
Competition Cooperation
Mleccha (not interested in spirituality) Arya (yearning for spirituality)

Everywhere in Nature we see a spiritual side and a material side. The first is represented by its beauty, beneficence, technical intelligence, inspirational power; the second by its passions, instinctual greed, survival instincts, competition, territorial instincts – which are indispensable and therefore "good" for the functioning of the subhuman kingdoms. Nature existed before self-conscious humanity existed, and therefore is often regarded as emanated (and created) by a God or divine beings far above humans.

It is between these two columns that we have to choose continuously, day by day.  On these also we can base our economy, psychology and rules of behavior. Parigraha is an animal instinct, aparigraha is based in wisdom.


Title: Beyond Sustainable Economy
Author: Dr. Rudi Jansma, Dr. Sushma Singhvi
Publisher: Prakrit Bharati Academy

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  1. Aparigraha
  2. Body
  3. Consciousness
  4. Cooperation
  5. Fear
  6. Gandhi
  7. Greed
  8. Mahatma
  9. Mahatma Gandhi
  10. Nonviolence
  11. Parigraha
  12. Sanskrit
  13. Soul
  14. Sustainability
  15. Violence
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