The Soul of Business
Business is an expression of divinity. Given the fact that much criticism can be directed toward the business world, such a statement may seem reckless, even blasphemous. Yet, when business is understood within an esoteric framework, its sacredness becomes clear. Business is a living organism, and because of this, its hallowed status is guaranteed. For that which lives is always an expression of divinity. It is from this premise that this article is based. We shall examine the deeper livingness expressed through the world of business and commerce. In truth, without a business aspect to our existence, our species could not evolve. Business has the mandate to condition human consciousness with the Principle of Right Distribution of resources for the sustenance of all life upon this planet.
Every institution within the human condition is living. This is true whether speaking of science, education, government, religion or the arts. Business is no exception. It too is living, for just as with all societal agencies, it is the out-picturing of human consciousness, and it serves a needed function within humanity’s evolutionary drama. Every branch of civilization is really a category of human consciousness specifically designed to meet some aspect of humanity’s development. In short, our species demonstrates its evolution through the societal systems through which it manifests.
The nature of an institution, and its measure of expressed purity (or impurity) indicates its point of evolutionary development. For example, the institution of politics, with its many negative and positive expressions, is simply the out-picturing of an aspect of society’s collective mind. Though easy to lose sight of, the life of politics is evolving over vast periods of time. One need only compare the political forces of a society today in relation to those operative during the Middle Ages to see the truth of this idea. Needless to say, politics is still hampered by its misuse of power, but comparatively less so than in the distant past. The nature of politics today simply reflects the consciousness of contemporary society. The same is true when considering the world of business. It too is slowly evolving over time. True it is that today’s business is still colored by much greed and materialistic urge. Yet, this is nothing more than a facet of society’s consciousness outwardly evolving itself via commerce and trade. The fact that much of it is unwholesome and materialistic does not indicate that business is evil per se. Instead, it merely indicates that it has not yet evolved itself (partially or fully) above its own self-interest, just as is the case for each of us.
What has thus far been stated can be applied to the institution of business, as well as to a particular organization. For example, an individual corporation is a divine expression of life, and it too is evolving. And, just like with a human being, its motives are mixed. In most cases, a corporation is expressive of both a selfish and selfless impulse. Its selfish tendency can be seen in its materialism and greed. This is what is often most recognized by people, and is what causes us to view business with suspicion and distrust. Even so, many corporations are beginning to demonstrate their unselfish side as well. For example, more and more companies are demonstrating concern for the environment, and are putting significant resources into its protection. In addition, a growing number of corporations are taking seriously the needs of their employees, and are willing to set aside significant portions of their financial capital toward human resource betterment. These are just two examples of how the loftier aspects of a business may begin to be expressed. It could be argued that such examples do not indicate true selfless motive, and that profit is still the governing force of decision. In some cases, this argument has merit, for in the long run, caring for the environment and the welfare of employees does lead to profits. Yet, the imitation of selflessness is always a precursor to genuine selfless activity. With honest self-appraisal, we each must recognize this principle as fundamental to our own personal growth as well. The evolution of consciousness (whether of an individual or of an organization) is incremental, and has always the element of imitation as a training ground for the next higher state. In short, evolution demands that we “fake it till we make it,” and business is no exception.
As a living organism, the business sector has an important role to play in the evolution of humanity’s collective consciousness. The question is, what is that role? The answer to this is threefold. First, business is destined to condition human consciousness with the power to manifest its will. Of all of our societal institutions, business has demonstrated the greatest ability to bring into outer form what it intends. This is important, in that the destiny of human consciousness (individual and collective) is to learn to manifest the soul’s creative intention. Though many businesses may manifest forms (products and services) with less than wholesome intention, the skill at doing so is what is important in this consideration. Whether lofty or profane, corporations understand the creative principles that lead an idea from the drawing board to a manifested product in outer expression. In this regard, business is a great teacher to each of us, for the destiny of the soul is to manifest form on behalf of human upliftment, and the creative principles are largely the same.
The second attribute that business is destined to teach has to do with the principle of organization and efficiency. The survival of a company is dependent upon the efficient use of its resources to achieve its desired ends. Compared to other institutions, private industry understands the importance of eliminating wastefulness (of any kind) in order to maximize its manifesting potential. Looked at from a spiritual perspective, the principle of efficiency has to be well integrated within each of us before enlightenment is truly achieved. The evolution of consciousness demands that this be so. In fact, in ancient esoteric literature there is a great law of nature called the Law of Economy. This universal decree states that the evolution of consciousness moves forward only when the soul is able to efficiently build progressive thoughts (within the mind) and express them into the physical realm with good organization and without undue waste. One only needs to look at the economy of forms expressed in nature to see the truth of this profound principle. It is revealed to us in nature’s tendency toward balance. Our attraction to nature’s beauty is an unconscious recognition of this economy and its resulting harmony. In this regard, economy, balance, and beauty are all interrelated aspects of divine expression. And, it is the spiritual role of business to exercise the human mind in such a way that economy and efficiency are better woven into the fabric of humanity’s collective consciousness.
The third attribute that business is destined to shape into humanity’s collective mind relates to the principle of distribution. As an expression of God, the business world is responsible for the right distribution of resources, and this, in order to ensure the survival of all life on our globe. Obviously, at this point in its evolutionary development, business is not manifesting this quality, as it someday must. Generally speaking, today’s corporations distribute their resources unevenly, leading to excessive wealth in certain sectors of the human population, while deprivation and poverty is the fate of others. This must change, and one day will. Importantly, it is the skills inherent in the consciousness of business that will provide the knowledge to effectively distribute life-giving resources to all. Though today the consciousness of business is not directed toward equitable distribution, it nonetheless has the knowledge and skills to do so. Hence, it is this department of our collective consciousness that is destined to inaugurate a distribution system that can provide rightful sustenance to all people around the globe.
At this point it seems important to elaborate on the nature of God as expressed through social institutions. In the Esoteric Tradition it is understood that a societal form, such as business, has both a soul and personality. In other words, a business must be understood as a living entity having both a higher and lower nature. Earlier it was suggested that business is destined to condition humanity with three important attributes. By this is meant that the soul of the business world (or of a particular business) has the expression of these attributes as the purpose of its spiritual existence. The fact that these qualities are only marginally expressed (if at all) within a corporation only indicates that its soul is only marginally shining forth. And, given the fact that there is not yet any organization whose soul is fully expressed, selfish tendency will still be evident within all corporations. The personality (lower nature) of most businesses is stronger than the soul that is slowly (and subtly) trying to express through them. In fact, the measure of spiritual development of an organization is based on the ratio of its soul/personality expression. Not surprising, this is precisely the formula used to determine the evolutionary status of a human being. Humanity is largely of mixed motive. We each recognize our selfish personality nature, while at the same time there is a higher quality within us that also seeks expression. However, this loftier (soulful) dimension is not as easily expressed, at least as compared to our individualistic personality tendencies. So it is with business, or any social institution. Its selfish personality tendencies are easily expressed, while its soul struggles to be seen.
The disciplines required for a human being to evolve his/her consciousness are identical to those that a business must use. To begin, a business must learn to look beyond itself to ascertain the larger life of which it is a part. Spiritual evolution can only occur when a living entity (human or organizational) becomes increasingly decentralized. It is to realize that behind the apparent separateness of life and circumstance is a profound singularity. Spiritually considered, all is one. When this understanding is adopted, the need for selfish expression gradually wanes. An individual (or company) then begins to serve the larger whole with less and less selfish motive. Secondly, a business will spiritually grow when it learns to inwardly listen to its higher promptings. Deep within the consciousness of every business is found the subtle impulses coming forth from its soul. As such, it is wise for companies to build into their culture a meditative component. Management would be well served when it unites in meditative solitude in order to hear the “voice of silence” coming forth from the depths of its organizational soul. Again, this is precisely what we, as individuals, must do in order to hear the whisper of the soul deep within ourselves.
In our modern society, it is sometimes difficult to see the sacredness of business enterprise. Commonly it is viewed as a force of exploitation and an instrument that feeds materialism and greed. Such perceptions are understandable and at times true, but only within a narrow context of examination. There is a higher and loftier purpose behind business that must not be overlooked in our earnest condemnation of it. Business is destined to teach humanity how to efficiently use the resources and gifts of life, and this in support of the larger whole. Above all societal institutions, business best understands the magical process of creation. It is the institution that knows how to effectively move an idea from conception to birth. Given this, its providence is to condition humanity with the principles and wisdom necessary to manifest the soul’s creative intention in support of human betterment. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, business is the repository of the knowledge needed for humanity to rightly distribute resources to sustain of all forms of life on this planet. And, though its motives are often selfish, business is nothing more than a living category of human consciousness, and is slowly trying to evolve towards its soulful destiny. It therefore holds the promise of a world where poverty will no longer exist, and sharing will be the keynote of the times. The future is therefore promising.
© 2003 William Meader
Biographical Information: William Meader is an author, teacher and counselor. Much of his work is focused on the subjects of Spiritual Creativity, the Evolution of Consciousness and the Art of Meditation. At present he is teaching in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He resides in Oregon, and can be contacted through his website at meader.org.