Sacred Business Beyond Capitalism

breakthrough2By Giles Hutchins

Sacred business may sound like an oxymoron, but when you look at the word origins it becomes clear that the phrase doesn’t have to be.

The word sacred derives from the Old French word ‘sacrer’ which originates from the Latin ‘sacer’ meaning dedicated, holy or reverence.  Reverence means deep respect, deep admiration or deep affection – to love, venerate, cherish and respect.

St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace takes sacred to mean the reverence for life.

The word business comes from the Old English ‘bissinesse’ which means diligence and also a state of being busy. Also related is commerce, which originates from the Latin ‘commercium’  – com (collective) and merx (merchandise), the exchange of goods, services, intellect or social intercourse. Also related is profit, which originates from the Latin ‘profectus’ which means to make progress and ‘proficere’ which means to advance.

Capitalism is a particular economic and political approach which relies upon private ownership, capital accumulation and wage labor for profit and return on investment. It is now the dominant business paradigm in the West. Yet it is not what business is essentially about even though this prevalent logic might influence daily exchanges and interrelations whether in the West or beyond.

Capitalism is only a particular manifestation of the way business may be conducted. In fact, some may view it as a corruption of business, which undermines economic and social resilience. Its ideology spawns from an inherent corruption sown deep within the mind-set of modernity; a control-based abstract rationalism that defines ‘things’ as separate from their lived-in context with relationships as nothing more than self-maximizing power-plays, where one ‘thing’ benefits only at the expense of the other.  It is what the anthropologist and cyberneticist Gregory Bateson insightfully understood as the ‘original corruption’ which pits us against Nature in an evolutionary cul-de-sac of selfish ascendance.

The renowned business adviser Peter Drucker once famously said:

 “In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil, but in facing it with yesterday’s logic.”

Yesterday’s logic is one that sets humans apart from each other and from the rest of Nature viewed through the lens of competition, control, separateness and rationalism. It is this flawed logic that is at the heart of all our crises – world poverty, climate change, biodiversity loss, social inequality, wars, etc.

As CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman has said:

‘Too many people think in terms of trade-offs that if you do something which is good for you, then it must be bad for someone else. That’s not right and it comes from old thinking about the way the world works…We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.”

This new model is actually as ancient as it is fresh, it is the logic of Nature and can be found within and all around us if we so choose to perceive life beyond this devastating illusion of separation. To do this, we can re-awaken the sacred through our deeper understanding and attunement of Nature.

By its very nature, attending to life beyond the illusion of separation allows for a culture of reverence to form, as our inner-outer relation attunes with the love and wisdom flowing through every moment in our midst. This is to experience the sacredness of life, beyond the corrupting confines of capitalism, materialism and rationalism.  This sacred understanding allows us to recognize the reciprocity within and throughout Nature. It is not competition that is the inherent grammar of life, it is interrelations, co-creativity and fluid reciprocity – this is the business of Nature.

In business, as in Nature, everything works through relationships. Trust is the soil from which healthy vibrant relationships take root. Relationships struggle to survive without trust. Trust requires mutual respect and understanding, an empathic reaching out beyond oneself that allows for reciprocation.  And so we may see that the true Nature of business is the business of Nature.

Deep respect for ourselves, each other and Nature is not some luxury add-on which can be dispensed with in times of economic downturn, it is foundational to who we truly are; without it we become rudderless, tossed this way and that by inauthentic egotistic whims – distracted, dis-eased and deluded.

Bath Water Lily

It is through the simple (yet not always easy) shift in our way of attending to life that we may open up to the inherent wisdom of Nature.  Here we find the ground of our being beyond the fragmenting dichotomies of yesterday’s logic.  Business can offer a richly texture, diverse, often windswept and turbulent, yet co-creative, participatory ocean for spawning right thought, word and deed.

Business follows in the wake of what is demanded of it, otherwise we have busy-ness for busyness sake – not exactly Homo sapiens living up to our name.

Rather than our culture’s infatuation with stuff fueled by our egotistic incessant grasping and wanting due to our sense of separation and severance from Nature, imagine the creative potential and entrepreneurial flair of business minds following in the wake of demand for the pursuit of true happiness, of love, of soulful heartfelt attunement within the wisdom of life. This is sacred business and it is at the heart of any new society.

Author of ‘The Nature of Business’ and ‘The Illusion of Separation’ Giles blogs at, Facebook community and tweets @gileshutchins.

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