Questions about the Vow of Wealth
Below are the most frequent questions I heard about the Vow of Wealth. Don’t hesitate to write me or to contribute directly to this thinking in the comments below!
Where does this Vow come from?
This Vow struck me early morning of September 7, 2009. It was a immediate shift, like if it was immediately taken and in motion. There was a before, now there is an after. A physicist would certainly call it a phase transition.
Of course there was a long inner alchemy leading up to this because of my research work on collective intelligence and free currencies, and of course because of meditation. This Vow is the result of an intellectual and spiritual journey.
What are the steps to get to the practical application of this Vow?
This Vow implies that I transition from conventional money towards free currencies (or whatever name the future will come with). Such a transition goes through many steps and faces many obstacles. Also it cannot be the fruit of a lonely work. Migrating towards free currencies is in and by itself a collective journey.
What are you trying to achieve?
Because of my research work on collective intelligence, I quickly came to understand that we can’t advocate synergy, sharing, unity on the one hand, and on the other hand we keep using a monetary system based on scarcity that stimulates competition and predation. This was an eye opener: the economy, and more particularly the monetary system on which it relies, are at the heart of collective intelligence. My research work quickly placed me in front of this evidence that it is perfectly possible to create fair, controlled by civil society, transparent, plural, monetary system that represent the real economy. It is the ignorance and obscurantism of our times that keep us from doing it.
Ideas had to come in motion. On the external side, we are now more and more to build the technical infrastructure of this new economy. On the inner journey, I don’t see how I can explore and open new paths if I don’t extract myself from the present system. As far as I know this is the only way I can understand the psychological potency that money has on human psyche, and to see how we can free ourselves from it. Leaving money places me more and more in vital threat in a society where everything has to be bought, including the most basic universal needs such as food and shelter. Look at the popular expression “to earn a living”. It is accepted by everyone. Doesn’t it show this absolute violence? Doesn’t it implicitly say that the right to live to is not acquired at birth but has to be conquered within a warmongering vision of the world? We don’t realize how much common language carries archaic ideologies that are as much violent as they are false.
Are you a social activist?
No. I don’t take this Vow because of social activism. It came because of my spiritual journey, and because my nature is to be an explorer.
What are you fighting against?
I fight against nothing and no one. I am a researcher, an explorer, and a man of peace, that’s all. Although explorers might be looked as marginal or crazy by mainstream society, they are not against the old world. They are in service of its evolution. So I am just trying to open new paths.
Isn’t it risky, unconscious, idealistic?
By nature exploring new paths is risky and uncertain. It is driven by ideas because what we are trying to achieve is not yet part of collective reality, so, yes, it is idealistic. Trials and errors are essential functions of learning and unavoidable milestones on the path to success. This is part of the game, although skeptics and those who do nothing usually point at others’ failures.
Ethical, philosophical and spiritual questions
What is wealth?
As expressed in the Vow, I see wealth as anything that brings us closer to what is True, Good and Beautiful.
In the common language wealth is used for someone who has lot’s of money. This shows the confusion that exists between the means and the goal. Money is a mean to access certain forms of wealth, mostly material. Money is not wealth, therefore it’s not an end. The end is wealth in its deepest sense.
What is wealth then? It is simply what we acknowledge as such.
There are relative forms of wealth (that touch only a portion of the population), and there are universal forms of wealth that touch every Humans.
For some an apartment downtown is wealth, for others it’s a house in the countryside. For some having livestock provide social status, for others it means nothing. These are relative forms of wealth.
Among universal forms of wealth, let’s mention fundamental needs such as food, healthcare, a shelter, clothes, education… Most of them, sadly, are only accessible via money, and I feel very sad for this. Other forms of wealth are called intangible or immaterial, such as care, trust, friendship, family, self-esteem, joy, humor, listening, spiritual awakening… all these things that money will never buy.
Regardless it is about a roof for a decent life, the beauty of a flower, the smile of a child, or drinkable water, wealth always come as an expression of what is True, Good, Beautiful.
Can you be more specific on what you call the True, the Good and the Beautiful?
What is Beautiful refers to the creative impulse that lives in every human soul. Every human being has 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 is the intimate, subjective expression of the I. At the societal level, it is related to the Arts.
What is Good introduces the other, the alter ego. Nothing can be considered as good unless it has been acknowledged as such by others. It is the other – a human being, society, nature, the universe – who expresses directly what a creation provokes inside him/her, whether this expression is verbal or non-verbal (a tree that flourishes or withers for instance). Goodness is an expression of the You. At the societal level it is related to Morals or Ethics.
What is True refers to the external reality principle, the external outsider differentiated from the I and the You. Reality principle is the 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 is our external master from which we learn how to perfect our art. Truth is emanated from the It. At the societal level it is related to Sciences.
I for Beauty, You for Goodness, It for Truth. This ontological structure is laying our relationship to the world through language and the basis of our grammar.
Beauty, Goodness and Truth are intertwined with one another. How can there be beauty in the face of lies? How can there be goodness when there is no truth? What is the point of truth that is 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”.
What is poverty then?
Poverty is the absence of wealth. It often comes from our incapacity to connect to the natural wealth that surrounds us, Truth, Goodness and Beauty.
Why is the word “wealth” so confusing?
Like many words, wealth is confusing because because it locks us down in the materialistic par of our reality. In the common sense, being wealthy is understood as having lot’s of money and material means. The opposite, being poor, means having no money and no material means.
I may not have material possessions, but still might be the richest man on Earth, because of the people I love and who love me, because I am surrounded by natural beauty, because of my health, because of my inner capacity to cultivate happiness. Likewise I could be a multi-billionaire and yet be the most miserable man, surrounded by corruption, greed, cheating, superficiality… Isn’t it interesting 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.
Isn’t the Vow of Wealth just like the Vows of Poverty that exists in many spiritual traditions? Are you going to become a beggar? A homeless?
The Vow of Poverty is present in every spiritual tradition. In order to develop a wider consciousness, in order to open to the Divine, one must not be entangled or distracted or trapped into material possessions. Leaving material possessions is lived as a liberation that opens the path to true wealth.
The Vow of Poverty is often confused with begging and misery. Although it is true that some spiritual paths 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 are usually surrounded by astounding natural beauty, built with the finest art of their time, organized around fair community economic principles. When spirituality is authentic and alive, no ownership is claimed on this wealth. This is one of the deep aspects of the Vow of Poverty.
Today we are in a world where both material and spiritual poverty have reached levels as never before, where consumerism and materialism are just another form of poverty, where people enslave each other for miserable wages. At the same time we are surrounded by wealth. It’s everywhere around us, we just have to learn how to see it and how to access it. The underlying practical question is: what kind of collective intelligence do we need to be able to access, build and distribute this wealth 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 the specific conditions below are also fulfilled:
that wealth is not taken away or stolen from others (otherwise the Goodness condition is not met)
that, on the contrary, wealth should be additive. It means that your own use of it has to be beneficial to others and to the environment
that, whatever wealth is provided to us, we don’t consider ourselves as owners, but trustees and stewards
material wealth is infused by our spiritual awakening
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 are genuine.
Doesn’t this Vow push you to have exclusive relationships with those who have chosen the same lifestyle?
Not at all. Generosity is something that everyone can manifest and practice. I have chosen an extreme path in order to explore its edges. This path is possible because other people are generous with me, while they keep a more conventional lifestyle. Pioneers can’t exist if they are not supported by a portion of society, even if it’s a very small one.
Questions about law and Nations
By not accepting money aren’t you basically saying that you do not recognize Nation-States?
As far as my understanding and knowledge goes, modern Nation-States are built around constitutions. None of the constitutions I know stipulate that citizenship is defined by money. Citizens are bound around agreements and values. The Vow of Wealth is intending to embody these agreements in a straightforward way, to bring them to the next level. For instance in France, I don’t see how “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity), those universal words, can be honored in a society where conventional money that triggers competition and predation prevails. My choice is to do everything possible to uphold and respect the fundamental values inherent to the Constitutions of Nations, something that Nations themselves often fail to do.
Does this vow implicitly declare that you do not recognize society’s right to tax it’s members for the communal obligation to support the roads, the health care system, social security, etc?
On the contrary. Conventional money does not serve well the process of community contribution and solidarity, because of the perverse effects built into its core (condensation, centralization, scarcity, opacity, proprietarization, etc). If we really want to honor our communal obligation, it should be done with appropriate currencies.
Some countries, and a growing number of cities and regions, are opening the path towards more appropriate currencies:
in Japan, the Fureai-Kippu is a time currency that helps organize neighborhood solidarity, specially for the elders ;
in the USA the government accepted time-banking as a non-taxable solidarity currency ;
The European Union is financing the SOL social currency in France ;
in Germany many regions are developing the Regio, a currency system for sustainable regional economies…
The list goes on and on. Many complementary currencies are flourishing around the world, they are motivated by the dysfunction of conventional money. They are a first step towards a full liberation from an archaic system that has done its time. Someday free currencies will eventually become legal. This is just a matter of time.
How will you pay your taxes? Are you requiring that governments accept free currencies?
I will pay my taxes in free currencies. Legal authorities will decide whether they accept them or not. I am aware that it may lead to difficult situations in the coming years.
Doesn’t this vow by implication say that you are above the law?
An ontological distinction should be made here. One single and unique word – law – is used to name universal principles and values, and also to designate circumstantial choices made to regulate and mediate society (in particular by means of case law). In order to get rid of this ambiguity, let’s name them Universal Laws (in capital letters) in the first case, and circumstantial laws (in small letters) in the second case.
Many circumstantial laws contradict Universal Laws. There are two main reasons for this. One is that circumstantial laws are often established before Universal Laws are declared or recognized. Circumstantial laws thus carry past ideologies that are not adapted to our epoch (this is for instance the case with the Napoleonic Code in France). The other reason is that systemic or secondary effects of a circumstantial law can provoke a result that is in contradiction with Universal Laws. That’s exactly the case with conventional money. Its devastating systemic effects place it in contradiction with Universal Laws such as equality of opportunity and the right to the safety of the person, those being the pillars of modern Constitutions. As for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 2, 3, 4, 17 and 25 are not respected because of the current monetary order.
The Vow of Wealth works with Universal Laws, and it postulates their priority over circumstantial laws.
Is there any relationship between this vow, and conscientious objection to military service, or to paying taxes that go to pay for war?
Although I follow the values of peace, the Vow of Wealth hasn’t emerged as a response to any of today’s issues. It is nourished by a spiritual practice that leads to practical choices and, as much as possible, invites creativity, innovation, and the exploration of new paths.
That said, no one should count on me for financing violence, war and armament as imposed today.
If governments only did things you liked, like they didn’t have an army, or were working diligently and well at ending pollution, poverty, etc, would you then use money that these government issue? In other words, is your vow about objecting to the bad things governments do?
The discipline of collective intelligence helps understand how social species — those of humanity in particular — work as systems, and how a currency system shapes an entire society. We demonstrate that poverty, pollution, social disparities, are a consequence of scarce money. Selfishness, cupidity, the drive for conquest and domination are certainly part of human psyche, but in most cases they are, again, stirred up by scarce money, with all the predatory ideology it triggers.
Therefore States and large organizations will remain unable to evolve towards virtuous and sustainable actions while keeping using the conventional monetary system.
Rather than objecting, the Vow is meant to embody another path that is serving life.
Is this vow also saying something about ownership? If you pay for something in a free currency, will you still feel that you own it?
Ownership is one of the marks of fabric of pyramidal collective intelligence (the form of collective intelligence that widely prevails in modern societies).
From the consciousness perspective, the sense of ownership is an temporary step on the developmental ladder of a human being. A human who has spiritually evolved enough is not interested in possessing something. He/she prefers to be the servant or even the keeper for generations that will follow. Primary peoples have socially developed this level of wisdom a long time ago.
As pyramidal collective intelligence, and ownership as part of its paradigm, are at the heart of all societies since the invention of writing, it is likely that most individuals will not go beyond this stage in their personal development, because nothing encourages them to do so. They remain entangled in the social fabric of their time. Those who want to pursue the spiritual journey and the path to freedom realize that ownership and possession are illusions, a mental emanation of archaic mechanisms of fear and separation.
The relationships we establish with material goods is influenced by the means we use to get to them: robbery, conquest, barter, purchase, loan, gift, donation…
Conventional money is scarce, it has to be conquered. Each purchase, as neutral as it may seem, is affiliated with this original conquest. This spirit of conquest, competition, proprietarization, possession, is in the air, in the culture, to the point we don’t think about it anymore. It infuses every transaction made with scarce money. That’s not the case with sufficient currencies, which are in direct proportion with our capacity to exchange (like the air we breathe, we use only what’s necessary for us). It is even less the case in a gift economy where we receive what we need to exist, and where we offer what we can offer, without the need to have it be based on market laws and immediate reciprocity.
Therefore the very nature of a currency triggers specific states of consciousness. These states can be predatory, archaic, or conquering in the case of scarce money; open and generous in a case of sufficient currencies; compassionate in the case of currencies regulating a gift economy. The chances of being obsessed by possession in a free currencies economy are lower than in the one of scarce money.
Quickly people will realize how free currencies represent a step in the evolutionary path of humanity, as step that may be as momentous as was the step taken when we created writing.
Do you belong to, or see yourself belonging to a political movement or ideology?
No. Communism, capitalism, socialism, anarchism, liberalism, royalism… are ideological categories that belong to pyramidal collective intelligence. They are not relevant anymore for people whose reality has migrated towards holomidal collective intelligence and universal human.
Even in the case free currencies are successful, aren’t you going to reproduce the same world?
Take a deep look at how free currencies work. Even better: contribute to their development. It will answer this question.
Isn’t this just yet another Utopian dream? And doesn’t it have all the same dangers of dehumanization as all other utopian and social engineering experiments?
Utopian dreams are dangerous when they are not validated by reality, when they don’t integrate the laws of the universe. A typical dangerous utopia is when someone wants everyone to live in a specific way, to be compliant to a model. There is an “industrialization” of one’s idea onto everyone else. It is what lead to the “-isms” in the industrial era. The famous French poet Boris Vian wrote so rightly: “What interests me is not the happiness of all men; it’s the happiness of each man”. I think it sums it up.
Those utopians who wanted to fly had to confront reality and universal laws. That utopia was filtered and polished by external reality. It eventually became part of reality.
The same confrontation with reality principle happens when we declare that civil society can conceive and control the currencies that acknowledge, measure, exchange or produce wealth. Reality is confronting us. Indeed, isn’t it this same reality that shows us how the current monetary system is a scam? Free currencies don’t impose anything, they are only a toolkit offered to people so they can self-organize in a transparent and democratic manner. Nothing is imposed.
There is an example that illustrates this well. If I offer my child a toy that’s already built – a castle for instance – it is not the same thing that if I offer him cubes or Legos. In the latter case he/she can create, re-create, evolve, make more sophisticated things in an infinite way according to his/her own needs. He/she is free and sovereign whereas in the first case a form is imposed. This is the same thing with free currencies versus money.
As for the Vow of Wealth, it is a personal choice that doesn’t say what others should do.
House, car, electricity, insurance, clothing, train and plane tickets… are some of the many things we access through money in our societies. How are you going to get these necessary things?
In the end I will only be able to access these things with persons and organizations willing to operate with free currencies. It’s a step by step process and a journey that I will share in my blog.
What are you going to do about food? This is an everyday need!
Food is likely to remain the last space where I use conventional money in order to keep alive. I eat simply, my diet is vegan and mostly raw. Therefore it’s very accurate for building harmonious relationship with local producers. Many of my close friends have already supported me many times by providing me with some food. This is very appreciated!
If you get sick, access to treatment is done with conventional money. Would you rather not be healed than pay?
Let’s not forget that I am not separating myself from the society, even less from its most beautiful solidarity principles, on the contrary! If I am ill or if I have an accident I will benefit form the healthcare system and will have access to basic treatment given to low-income or income-less people. Although healthcare is payed through taxes in scarce money, I hope taxes in free currencies will be accepted someday.
Will you keep a bank account?
No. I am stepping out of the current banking and the debt system.
Along with many others, I hope we will contribute to rebuilding and inspiring a good and fair banking infrastructure. Banks have a noble role to play in society, not as for-profit money making institutions, but has trustees of wealth and evaluators of risk.
Will you accept gold or precious metals as money?
No, as they are the early forms of the scarcity model. I want to use currencies that don’t create artificial scarcity, ones that are sufficient.
How will you save for retirement?
I expect that between now and the time of my retirement, the currency system will have shifted to free currencies. Then there will be many solidarity systems. Meanwhile I don’t buy for a second into the current system.
Is owning a stock certificate from a company, shares in a mutual fund, or bonds issued by a governmental agency the same for you as using conventional money, or are they a form of free currency already because they are issued directly by the various organizations?
Most of them are direct derivatives and by-products of conventional money, therefore I am not going to use them.
Will you no longer put a coin under your child’s pillow from the tooth fairy?
The tooth fairy also wants to evolve. I am sure she will find lot’s of fun new ideas!
Relationship with others
No matter what, you are going to access to things and services that others have bought with their own conventional money! Therefore aren’t you being hypocritical?
This has to be seen as the birth of a new ecosystem. No new ecosystem appears out of the blue. A new ecosystem growth on the old one that dissolves and provides its nutriments. There are spaces for alliances and mutual support, as well as zones of friction.
In the longer run I want to access what I need exclusively by means of free currencies. Therefore the persons or organizations who will receive these free currencies will then have the opportunity to use them with someone else or other organizations, and so on. It is inclusive and inviting, that’s a seeding process. Many people will see the advantage it has for themselves and their community. Then comes a day when there are enough people generating enough diversity for a virtuous, sustainable and autonomous economic ecosystem. This ecosystem will embody more wisdom and more capacities than the current one.
Aren’t you going to live off your friends and supporters?
Life is a web of mutual support, we can’t live alone. We need our friends, our family, our neighbors, colleagues, peers, ancestors. The Vow of Wealth is the acknowledgment of the fertile social soil from which we grow and that we enrich. I want my relationship with my fellow brothers and sisters to be fair, based on mutual support during our different phases of our existence.
The difference between generosity and market, it is that market implies an immediate reciprocity: I give you this only if you give me that in return. Generosity doesn’t expect this immediate symmetry. It is a act of trust towards the universe and towards others. From a pragmatic side, the generosity economy is more powerful and efficient than the market economy. But until now no one knew how to apply this principle to a large scale due to a lack of appropriate technologies made to regulate the complexity it creates. Today it is not an obstacle anymore.
That’s the reason why I commit to offer – and never sell anymore – my talents and gifts. I think it is sane that, on this basis, I accept this same generosity in return, regardless where it comes from.
As for living off others, the current monetary system enables 1/4th of the human population live off the other 3/4th… So I guess no one immersed the conventional monetary system is in a good position to judge who lives off who.
Furthermore, the Vow of wealth is meant to create… wealth for all. It increases my capacity to support my peers, much more than what conventional economy allows me to do.
Assume we agree with the goal your vow aims to fulfill, but isn’t it just incredibly impractical, not to mention risky, way to go about getting to your goal?
Explorers only come to know the level of risk they took after they take it. Until we haven’t tried, all interpretations are possible.
From a more global perspective, I feel more risk – for myself, and mostly for the next generations – in coping with and perpetuating the current monetary system. It is somehow the emigrant’s dilemma: emigrating sends him/her into an uncertain and risky future, but it still remains a better choice than staying where he/she is.
But beyond these explanations, it is a spiritual call that drives me at a deeper level. No explorer can resist to the call of the sea
How many people do you expect to trade with you in free currencies?
I hope that soon the whole humanity will shift to free currencies. The current crisis happening today were so predictable as they are structural, not circumstantial. They are boosting the transition.
Do you expect other people to take the Vow of Wealth?
I have no expectations at all. This choice comes from an intimate journey.
For which organizations are you working for today?
Today with my partners I am developing CIRI – the Collective Intelligence Research Institute. This organization was founded early 2011. Today I am the President, but it won’t be the case forever.
Are you paid?
No, because the philosophy I follow is the one of generosity. However it is normal that the Institute supports me on different aspects of my life so I can continue my research work seriously.
The level of support I receive is an easy line to draw from the moral perspective. From the legal perspective this is quite touchy because any form of support towards a board member is easily considered as profit. We are currently trying to find what is the best legal setting.
How does CIRI deals with your Vow of Wealth?
For now and in the medium term, CIRI keeps operating with the world in a conventional way with conventional money. My ambition is that CIRI evolves towards free currencies as early as possible. We will proceed step by step, when the human context becomes strong and resilient enough. Our seminars already work with free currencies.
More personal questions
Are you really going to get rid of everything you have?
Almost. Except some small sentimental objects that were offered to me and that represent marks of love, I get rid of everything, step by step.
All the things I inherited are directly going to my little boy and his mom. They will decide what they want to do according to their own choices and criteria. My grand piano is also given to them, even though I keep the use of it. If someday they need to sell it, they can do it with no problem.
Today the only things left is my usual stuff: clothes and some dishes.
As for the computers and electronics, these are tools for work. They belong to the Institute.
Aren’t you missing certain things?
Yes, some, but not very much. This is part of the deal. But there are so many other gifts!
How do you envision the day you definitely stop using conventional money?
My intention is to create a rite-of-passage with my friends. Then we will see.
Isn’t this vow irresponsible to your family obligations?
The path I chose to take is also in the name of my moral and family obligations. It’s just a question of how far we see. Do we perpetuate the old system because we are stuck in short-term vision, or do we want to invest our love and energy for a greater future? I made my choice.
How will you pay for your child’s education?
As for the education of my little boy, his school, like many others, is stuck in the torments of undermonetization. Maybe the school will operate someday with free currencies. It will give quite some oxygen to grow. It will also allow me to support directly my son’s academic education.
For now a dear friend of mine has decided to pay for the school of my little boy. What a gift!
Are you scared?
On the surface, yes, sometimes a little bit. In the deepest part of my being, no.
What is the main difficulty for you?
The transition itself, which involves facing many issues. The most difficult one is facing the possible anger, judgment and misunderstanding of my close relatives.
Here I want to drop questions that have not yet received any answer. I am counting on our global collective intelligence to operate here!
If the government doesn’t accept free currencies in the short term, will you try to fulfill your obligations to state in other ways?
At this point I have no answer yet. There might be other ways to pay taxes, other agreements that are neither free currencies, nor conventional money. For instance it could come as service to the society. There are many interesting aspect in it: it doesn’t finance war and it creates social bonds.
We just have to be creative with me, because all these efforts are made for the greater good, not against the society. I hope governments will understand that people leaving the conventional monetary system are citizen explorers who deserve support and care.
Don’t legal tender laws require that you accept money as payment from someone who owes you something? In other words by taking this vow aren’t you vowing to break the law, to become a criminal?
Here’s a quick dialog with my dear friend Eric Harris-Braun:
Eric>> [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_tender] “Legal tender or forced tender is an offered payment that, by law, cannot be refused in settlement of a debt, and have the debt remain in force.” There is a section in this article on France… The law, as I understand it, forces you to take it in payment of a debt. That if someone offers you money to cancel a debt you have with them, then you have to take it. I think this may require you to never have people be “in debt” to you. Which is probably possible with free currencies. But of course the legal tender laws may be some of those laws that are against the deeper Constitutions.
JF>> We need more exploration here… There are probably subtleties between the function of measure of a legal tender applied to a debt, and how the transaction to close the debt is made, as long as the two parties are in agreement.