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Monday, November 26, 2012

Spirituality & Economics - Part 1

This is something I started on recently, and will roll it out in parts because of the length.

When we think of spirituality, we usually do not associate it with economics.  For most of us, economics is the study of the material.  Webster’s Dictionary defines economics as “The science of household affairs, or of domestic management”, while defines it as “The branch of social science that deals with the production and distribution and consumption of goods and services and their management.”

The word ‘economics’ comes from the Greek οἰκονομία (oikonomia, administration or management of a household), a combination of οἶκος (oikos, house) and νόμος (nomos, law).  Academically-speaking, economics is the study of how things are attained and preserved.

But, the real importance of economics is that it studies the means by which goals are achieved.  Quite literally, it is the study of efficiency.

After all, economists don’t really set out to find the worst way to run a household, or a state’s finances.  Such discoveries happen along the way to finding the best way.  This search for what is best is at the heart of economics.
Sciences, such as engineering, seek the most economical means to build a building or a machine.  Science not only seeks to understand what things are, but how they are best to be used.

In this sense best use, economics is not bound to materialism.  Our pursuit of scientific knowledge is always about mankind.  Men do the exploring, the learning, and ultimately benefit from such advances.  We do not teach our chemistry discoveries to fish, nor do we share our knowledge of quantum physics with bears.  Scientific knowledge is only of value to man.

Now, if we examine man closely, we see that he is more than a material creature.  Despite whatever theories may be held about the spiritual world and the Divine, one thing cannot be argued: mankind has always yearned for something beyond the material confines of this world.

This is not to deny that men have had their doubts, or even individually rejected God, but larger societies have always had a religious element within them.

Even atheistic societies, such as Socialist states like the Soviet Union and China, developed religious elements.  An ‘eternal,’ transcendental worship of the ‘worker’ as well as Party leadership, was much the norm.  Look at the parades and public events of these regimes… how can one avoid noticing their religious tendencies of ritual and super-natural air?  Even in atheism, there is a notion of humanity reaching out beyond the human person to greater things.

Religion provides a ‘cosmology’ for humans to fit themselves into.  It gives purpose to life beyond the fulfillment of impulses and desires.  But, religion does something else: it explains how one is to live, and this living out of religion is spirituality.

Thus, spirituality is the ‘economics’ of the human person.

More to come...

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