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Energy and Society IV

In my next book, Sex Without Religion, I'll be starting the book with the question What is sex? just as I started God Without Religion (GWR) with the question What is God? GWR continued the discussion of God until the question became What is self? and finally What is real? In Sex Without Religion, questioning sex will take a different trajectory as it raises the issues such as What is nature or natural? What are opposites? and What is energy?
It's that last question that is of great concern because we live in a world where billions feel the drives of nature and the pull of opposites and procreate, but only a small percentage of humans have access to the amounts of surplus energy necessary for expansive spiritual and scientific self-civilizing. For this basic reason, humanity is on a collision course with a perfect storm of resource or energy scarcity and rising population amidst high levels of pollution.
Energy in terms of the body's energy and its procreative and other functions is not separate from society's surplus energies in the form of fossil fuels and electricity. The body is fueled by food, for starters, and food is produced in large quantities by the burning of fossil fuel. We create bio energy from oil all the time; and people with excess surplus energy can afford the bio energy of other humans to do their bidding.
What is energy? Clearly, energy has a mathematical value. The energy of an individual or autonomous society or civilization, or i civis, is greater than the sum of the energy from each individuated self, or i self, living and working in that society, assuming harmonious activity. Without harmonious activity, stable government, and a vital social network, the output,i civis, is far less than the sum of each person's labor,i self, because laborers work toward conflicting goals.
I can't think of any one soceitypresently in existence wherein the energy output it represents is greater than the sum of each individual part. If it's not the bankers that undermine harmony, it's the politicians or the dictator. If it's not racism or lack of diversity it's sexism or want of tolerance for different strokes. And of course, even a perfect society today will still have to manage with the pollution and overpopulation of the rest of the world.
The question What is energy? will eventually morph into the question What is money? which I plan to ask in a third book: Money Without Religion: Questioning Centuries of Accepted Debt.
Money, it turns out, doesn't really exist like energy does. Yet ironically, it takes on a stronger existence in our lives than energy when we all collectively accept its presence and inevitability. The irony doesn't stop there, because the initial reason money was utilized was because it conserved social energy. It has since been piggybacked onto energy as a means to control the flow of energy not only within each societybut between them and even within the self.
It's a story that has happened over and over in recent human history. A society may have the capacity to harness surplus energy, but then it requires certain tools and materials to make the most of its capacity. It takes out a loan of money with which it purchases these tools and materials, and often expertise, usually from the very societythat provided the loan in the first place. It then gets to the business of making surplus energy, increasing i civis,but now it has to pay back the loan. The problem is that the loan imposes an extremely low monetary value to the surplus energy both on i civis and i self levels. All the surplus energy gleaned from the materials and tools paid for by the loan go to the societythat provided the capital. The poor society in question is therefore left with just as little surplus energy, and sometimes much less, than before its started down the path of borrowing and investing.
It is much harder to outright steal one's i self than his or her money. It is next to impossible, then, to filch i civis. It doesn't exist in a bank, you can't point to it, and it certainly can't be packaged and shipped.The solution is to bind the flow of energy to money and then control the flow of money. Once that is accomplished, you can quite actually ship surplus energy all over the globe in the form of goods and raw materials.
The only other issue is borders. Very little i civis can escape the boundaries of the society if they are guarded. Similarly,i self cannot enter a foreign society so long as borders are guarded. That is to say, the issue of aliens and immigrants is an issue of surplus energy primarily and money not at all.
Students of energy always keep in mind that money itself, and certainly paper money and virtual money, is created out of thin air. Energy, however, requires humans working together and involving themselves in the process of harnessing and regulating energy, or i civis, in their respective societies. Slavery to money is in the spirit of slavery to humans who hanker for excess surplus energy.
Another irony is that gold and silver and other precious stones and metals are not money either unless agreed upon. They actually are a solid form of surplus energy. Their rarity insures them great value, but in a technological society wherein energy is more and more the issue, it makes sense that materials that produce surplus energy will become a hardened form of money, just as in a society without law and order, with crime rampant, guns and ammunition will become forms of currency.
So much can be done in every society today to increase its harmony so that its individual members aren't working at cross ends. We seek to remove from society individuals, like thieves and murderers, that jeopardize social harmony in violent ways and we do that because, at bottom, they reduce efficiency and energy; yet we fail to properly deal with activities that undermine i civis in ways unimaginable and incalculable.
The more the conversation moves to energy and ceases to hide behind the veil of money, the more apparent the challenges we face will be. Money can be what it was meant to be -- a means to conserve social energy. It has a wonderful efficiency to it. But that efficiency is a double edged sword that, in the wrong hands, cuts the head of i civis.
As it is, money is employed as a weapon of mass deception. Every i self, or the energy of every individual or laborer, must be respected. That is the beginning and end to it. Converting it into a monetary value is one thing, and is fine so long as the self has control over that conversion process or at least participates in it. But then to slice and dice that value into derivatives, then smash those and sell the parts to buyers while betting against their value with a complex formula that would have made Einstein's head spin is nothing more or less than stealing surplus energy and converting most of the human race into slaves.
Slavers in the past used chains and whips to extract surplus energy from his or her slaves. Today, the chains and whips are visible in the form of debt. Debt is the primary means by which i self is continually distanced to institutions of centralized power. But it isn't the money slave masters crave. They never did and they never will crave money itself. They crave surplus energy, and that's where the conversation gets mystical.
We each produce i self via the breath. We work, we breathe, we eat, we breathe, we sleep, we breathe. The breathe, while it is just an outer manifestation of our energy, is the process that, when controlled and regulated, will control the energies that fire it up. On a personal level, if someone wanted to control her energies, she would be required to regulate the breath.
Now this person of self-control, breath control, lives in a society wherein i civis and i self are being stolen left and right via the suggestion that money must accompany all flows of energy. She understands perfectly well that it is her energies, not her money, that is being sought. But she is now in control over her energies. This means that she is ready and able to starve the beasts of money by consciously deciding to refrain from activities that distance her i self to the centralized beast.
The consequence, however, is that she finds she practically has to bow out of society since just about any bit of involvement demands dehumanization, or the gross monetary undervaluing of her i self. Even if she is able to do this, clearly this cannot be expected of millions and billions of people. And if she tries and is unable, she will live with an anachronistic feeling, like being an outcast in her own home. She will have trouble feeling grounded in life. She will find pleasures but not the real underlying joy of life. She'll have a hard time fitting into the monetary mold, fitting sufficiently to get by and survive but not much more. Her sense of vulnerability will grow.
The increased vulnerability of the self in societies is in large part due to this existential dilemma of living in a world where i self is no longer of the self. By in large, most people do not own their own energies.
The only visible remedy is energy control, but on a social scale so that our heroine is not alone in her plight. She then succeeds not because of her own capacity for self control, but because of a shared capacity for self-control that tens of millions of people manifest. The self-control of so many people is greater than the sum of the control of each person.
Social asceticism, or the act of a group of people in consciously refraining from distancing their power, even just in one form of manner, to even just one institution of centralized power, can change the world in a very short time.
At this juncture, it is likely that we are way past marches on Washington. Drastic times call for drastic measures. A million people marching will turn some heads, but a million people fasting, and not leaving Washington, until power is returned in some substantial form or manner, can perhaps turn the tide. If it took a million people a week of fasting before Congress enacted strong legislation that reduces pollution, tackles overpopulation, and protects people from the beasts of money, then it is certainly worth it.
Results in social change will always mirror the degree of asceticism and self-sacrifice exemplified. It takes a little self-sacrifice to go to Washington to march. It takes far more to go to Washington and sit on the lawn and fast. According to my calculations, the effect or the result would be exponentially greater and more satisfying.
We no longer live in the days when the fasting of one man, Gandhi, could move the world. But all human beings, when they strongly believe in something, have a tremendous capacity to self-sacrifice. The fasting of a million will touch the lives of billions. Fasting from food is the epitome of asceticism, wherein all the energies normally associated with digestion are freed for higher and more inward pursuits. All humans are naturally hardwired to respond with respect to asceticism when it is performed in the spirit of energy conservation and does not devolve into wearing hair shirts, self-flagellation, and the stench of unbathed bodies.
Now, it very well may be that our recent president, George W. Bush, would not have considered a million fasters as anything other than a focus group. But our current president would probably make enormous positive political use from such self-sacrifice.
But eventually, social asceticism must be directed at the heart of power, which is not Washington. It must be performed not against the institutions of centralized power, which are merely conventions of the mind, but against the social system itself. Eventually, we must all fast from this very paradigm. We must fast from our own habits of living and being. Ultimately, we must fast from our former selves. When that is accomplished, the approval of the president will be irrelevant.
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Sankara Saranam is a writer, philosopher, lecturer, and tireless proponent of pranayama, a technique of intuitive mysticism. He traveled extensively in India and Israel researching and writing on spiritual issues. His first book, Yoga and Judaism (more...)
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