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Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew.  It will not be a pleasant experience; but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.” ~ General Iroh.

It’s said that space is the final frontier.  Most people think of outer space, looking for things “out there,” looking for God and for answers “out there,” but there is also inner space, inner thought and inner turmoil.  It is a place that very few people have explored in any great depth.  In many ways, it is more frightening and more rewarding than conquering outer space, because the journey through the mind is one that is generally made alone.

At the end of the day, no one can know you better than you are capable of knowing yourself.  A person may be able to create some sort of stimulus – say the right word or do the right action at the right time – that triggers an idea in your head; but it is you that ultimately puts the pieces together in your mind.

All health and healing comes from within, because the mind controls the body and shapes the outside world.

We all have our own journeys to make, our own paths to follow, and we are the cartographers of our journey.  The word “paradigm” means a pattern or example.  A universal paradigm, or outlook on the world, is a pattern that we maintain for how we think reality operates.  Keeping a journal is one such way of mapping out your journey so others can follow along, recording thoughts and events and revelations as landmarks to help you make sense of all the chaos that’s around you.

The lessons that are passed down to us from books, stories, and the experiences of our friends, families, and teachers serve as maps that can, if they are accurate, provide guidance and order in our lives.

“The dark night of the soul is a time of massive cognitive restructuring.  You mind is reconsidering its previous model of reality in order to complete the jump to a new level of understanding.” ~ Personal Development for Smart People.

As in worldly travel, it’s good to have a map to help lead you quickly and safely to your destination.  But what happens when you encounter something new in your reality that doesn’t fit with your pre-established model of the world?  What happens when you travel off the map into an area that your fellows marked off “here be monsters”?  An area of thought that neither you, nor anyone you know, has explored before?

This is what is referred to as a moment of cognitive dissonance – cognitive meaning thought and dissonance meaning chaotic.  It is also called a dark night of the soul because the soul, one’s identity, is thrown into darkness and turmoil, removed from the light of knowledge, safety, and wholeness.

Really, when one has a moment of cognitive dissonance, there are only two things you can do.  You can accept this new data and incorporate it into your own map, which may then be completely different from the map you used before; or you can reject the new phenomenon and deny it ever existed in the first place, relying on the belief that your map is already accurate.

Usually rare or traumatic events create cognitive dissonance.  A staunch atheist who suddenly witnesses a miracle may come to question whether there is any truth to religion and thus alter his paradigm.  Conversely, a devout religious person who sees nothing but hardship may come to question whether a benevolent God exists.  Someone who sees a UFO may have a moment of cognitive dissonance if they formerly believed they don’t exist.

But paradigms don’t always change as the result of something traumatic.  Something as simple as learning a new vocabulary word can change your word view.

I recall my freshman English teacher in high school told us this story in which she read a headline that had the word “pachyderm” in it.  She didn’t know what it meant at the time, so she looked it up and saw that it meant “elephant.”  From that point on, she started seeing the word everywhere.  Her paradigm had changed and her mind learned how to tune itself to become more receptive to the word.

In the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, there is an anecdote about Native Americans who were blind to Columbus’ ships until their spiritual leader told them what they were.  Such a profound shift in thought as that allowed them to become much more aware of them the next time.  This is largely what I’ve tried to do with this blog, is make people aware of different things (like symbols) and so you learn how to see them.

“I imagine that, right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.” ~ Morpheus.

The irony is, there’s really only ONE option when it comes to cognitive dissonance.  Denial isn’t an option.  Life is forever changing and evolving, whereas maps remain the same.  Over time, the old maps no longer serve as accurate.  Just as islands rise and crumble and new roads are built, so do does thought evolve.  So denying the changes in one’s reality simply keeps you stuck in the same place, or otherwise lost and confused in an unknown world.

Failing to keep track of how you got to where you are can also cause problems and create disconnections between you and your fellow man.

Those times when I question the reality of The Spirit or the New World Order, I often experience a dark night of the soul; but I manage to pull myself out of it by remembering how I came to have such beliefs and by following the chain of evidence and logical reasoning that lead me to those conclusions.  Then the darkness gives way again to light and all becomes clear.

If there is one thing I would change about my life, it would be to have started my journal as soon as I turned fourteen, instead of taking it up years later.  Not marking a large portion of the path I took to get to where I am has made it difficult for me to help others follow to get to where I am, and so there is a disconnect.  But generally, I do not mind because I found the path on my own and I am confident than others can do the same.  Thankfully, I managed to start mapping out my trail before I got too far into the wilderness.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

In life, we don’t always have to wander through the jungle.  Sometimes, it’s okay to take the main road if you really have to get somewhere.  So too is it considered wise to rely on the council of others and to continue to study and learn from outer teachers that have paved a way before you.  Some maps are better than others and certain paths can take you farther than others.

Eventually, though, you will find yourself breaking from the main road, whether because the road ends, life has changed the path, or you simply decide you want to go somewhere else and this road is no longer taking you in a direction you want to go.  That is when it is time to get off the main road and take the road less traveled.

Sometimes, there is no path that leads to where we want to go, and all other roads lead to destruction.  Then it is time to forge a completely new path.

When we start to forge our own paths, it can lead to great or terrible things.  The further we continue, the more new frontiers we will explore and enjoy, and the more fulfilling our lives will ultimately be.  We may not always know where we are going, but as long as we remember how we got there, we will never really be lost.

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Persistence of Memory

Posted in All, Psychology, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2010 by marushiadark

“God is Santa Claus for grown-ups.” ~ Unknown

People of faith often believe that, when we die, if we are good, we’ll get eternal happiness, and if we’re bad, we’ll get eternal punishment.  But does that sound fair to you?  Does that sound like the invention of an all-knowing, compassionate being?  Or does that sound more like a bedtime story you’d tell to kids?

Hey, kids, you know, if you’re really good, Santa Claus will bring you lots of presents, but if you’re bad, he’ll bring you an icky lump of coal instead.  And he can see when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake.  In fact, he won’t even come until after you’re in bed.

You know, there’s a reason they call it eternal rest and sleeping like the dead.

It doesn’t seem right to me that God should give you an eternity of something based on the actions of a fraction of a fraction of that time.  Given all the hype about God, I think he would have more sense than that.  I mean, even our own limited and fallible human institutions know that people change over time and that reward and punishment must be in accordance with a person’s recent behavior.  For some, it may takes moments to change, for others decades, for some maybe even a few hundred years, but that’s still nothing compared to eternity.

Based on the laws of karma, I do believe that you receive some sort of reward or punishment after you die, but I hardly think it’s eternal.

“Death is rest for the soul.  Who was it that said that?  If the body did not die, and the fears borne in the mind just continued to pile up, the world would be nothing more than an eternal prison.” ~ Ziggy, Xenosaga Episode II

The law of conservation of energy states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, only transferred.  Even a cynical empiricist who worships the scientific method must admit that if consciousness is energy, then it retains some form even after the body has died.  It might not be in exactly the same state, but it still continues to exist in one state or another.  And what does that sound like from a spiritual perspective?  Reincarnation, perhaps?

Reincarnation is simply the conservation of consciousness between one lifetime and the next.  Many religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Christianity teach that this is what happens to you when you die.  The body decays and the carbon, water, and other components go back into the environment.  The mind goes offline and reawakens in some other body, like transferring documents from one computer to the next.  And the soul just remains as it’s always been, in the position of the observer.

The concept of reincarnation can be scientifically verified.  In fact, some people have already tried.  Maybe you’ve heard stories and news reports about young children being taken to certain places and having knowledge of those places and certain events relating to them that no one has mentioned to the child and which the child can’t possibly know otherwise, except through some sort of metaphysical transfer of information.  That would be a way of proving reincarnation to someone else, but there are other ways of proving it to yourself.

“‘How can I tell,’ said the man, ‘that the past isn’t a fiction designed to account for the discrepancy between my immediate physical sensations and my state of mind?'” ~ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Ever since I was young, I’d always gotten along a lot better with adults than I did people my own age.  I think a number of people can probably say they feel the same way.  Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve conversed with people much older than myself and have come to realize that there are people ten, twenty, even thirty years older than me that act like children.  I don’t really count myself particularly privileged, at least no more-so than those individuals.  So what accounts for this?

When I was in college, I took an introductory course on Psychology and learned about the various stages of development that the human mind goes through.  Among them was the concept of Generativity vs. Stagnation, more commonly known as the mid-life crisis, in which a person looks back on their life and feels that they’ve done nothing but waste time and miss opportunities.  I was only about twenty at the time, but I felt as though I’d already had several mid-life crises over the course of my lifetime.

Some months later, I began to do a great deal of soul searching and starting to become aware of the fact that this wasn’t the first time I’d been here on this planet.  All in all, I’d been here at least five or six times that I can recall (possibly even more than that), which would mean that I’m a fairly old soul.

People often ask me how I know all this, how I came to realize that I’d had past lives and that they took on the particular characteristics that I claim they did.  Well, let me put it to you like this.

I know that there is a lot of New Age emphasis on the Power of Now, as made famous by Eckhart Tolle and others, and that along with this comes the realization that there is no past or future.  But for sake of argument, let’s assume that there is a past.  Most people would think it reasonable to say there is a past.  But how do you know?  How do you know that you weren’t literally born yesterday?  How do you even know that there was a yesterday?  How do you know that, when you woke up this morning, it wasn’t the beginning of time and you simply discovered you had all these thoughts in your head from the very beginning?

When you play a video game, it’s all a programmed illusion that begins as soon as you turn the game on.  That is year zero.  Yet when you turn the game on, you are immersed into a world and a body that has history, or so it believes.  In rare cases, such as Assassin’s Creed II, you get to know the character from the time of their birth; but usually you just wake up one day to find that you are now in a situation and that you have thoughts and ideas in your head about who you are, where you are, what you do, and who your friends are.  Time began at that moment, so all the so-called past is really just an illusion.

Do you think it’s reasonable to suggest that the same could be true for us as well?  That time could just be an illusion and the past merely accounting for discrepancies between our present condition and our memories?

But let us suppose that the opposite is true.  Supposing there really is a past.  So there’s a yesterday and a last year.  Why would your birth, then, be the beginning of your consciousness?  Genetic memory and the 100th Monkey Effect can explain where behavioral instincts come from, but not memories and wisdom of things that neither you nor your ancestors experienced.  For that, you’d need reincarnation.

So how do I know that I lived a past life?  Simple.  I remember something about it, the same as I remember something that happened yesterday or last year.  How do I know it’s memory and not imagination?  Well, how does anyone know that what they experienced yesterday or last year was real and not simply made up?  You feel it in your gut that this is true and accurate and what really happened to you.  That’s how.

“Now if you’re thinking, just now, ‘Why me, oh God?’  The answer is, God has nothing to do with it.  In fact, God is never in France this time of year.” Dorleac, Count of Monte Cristo

Reincarnation is tied with karma.  What you do in the past effects your future.  Even if you get away with something in this lifetime, there are higher forces at work that will see to it that you make up for it next time.  Just like in playing a video game, if you fuck up and die, you retain the memory of what happened and that can effect future outcomes.

That’s probably also what Déjà Vu is, too.  If you feel like you’ve experienced something before, it’s probably because you have.  You just hit the restart button and decided to play over from your last checkpoint.  Like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day, when he keeps trying to find the right words to say to his coworker.

So if you find yourself thinking, “Why me, oh God?” the answer is, it’s always been on you.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people and to young children?  It’s probably to teach you a lesson for something you did in a past life.  For instance, in one of my past lives, I was a really shitty parent.  So God decided to grace me with a bad father.  Not as bad as I had been, but enough that I could understand what it was like from the receiving end.

In another past life, I was a cruel Templar master.  So God decided to set me in a time and place where the Templars ruled as the sort of cruel masters that I had been.  He set me on a path to learn about the New World Order from the perspective of one of their slaves.  If I am truly the observer and the creator of my universe, then it stands to reason that such things as The Da Vinci Code and Assassin’s Creed were also created by me as tools for my benefit.  The entire history of the world has been constructed and uploaded into my mind to serve as context while I progress through the game of life towards my objectives.  It’s only logical.

It’s a lot like Alice dreaming of the Red King, who’s dreaming of Alice, who’s dreaming of the Red King … From your perspective, I’m the illusion and the whole world is created for your benefit and lesson.  So life becomes a dream, a shared dream (like in Inception), in which we all create and grow and experience together.  And when we die, we simply wake up somewhere else, with only the memory remaining.

K is for Karma

Posted in All, Economics, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2010 by marushiadark

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” ~ Galatians 6:7

I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that the concept of karma isn’t expressed in the Bible, but I can’t think of a more concise definition of karma that than passage right there.  What you sow is what you reap.  So simple that even a child can understand, yet profound enough to have an impact on everything we do.  It’s also one of the few fundamental laws of the universe.  There aren’t very many absolutes in life, but causality, action-reaction, is one of them.  Everything has a cause and everything has an effect.  Nothing happens by accident.  If you had full and complete knowledge of a system’s causes, you could predict all its effects.

That’s really what karma is, except that karma tends to be more focused on the behaviors of human beings.  If you do something good, you’ll eventually be rewarded.  If you do something bad, you’ll eventually be punished.  And usually, that reward or punishment will be both in accordance with what you did and several times greater in yield.  Just as a single seed, overtime, can yield many fruits, each with many seeds of the same type, so too do our actions bear fruit.

In explaining the concept of karma, I’ve always found it helpful to think of karma as a form of spiritual currency.  Many of the same rules of currency can also be applied to karma.

For instance, say you get paid and are feeling really good about it.  You go to the bank and deposit your money into a savings account.  The bank then takes that money and lends it to someone else, so the money makes its way through the system.  The bank then collects interest on loans and transfers it to your savings account in the form of interest.  Now you have more money than you put into the system.  Conversely, when you take out a loan, the idea is that you borrow someone else’s money, use it to create something of value, and then repay the full amount with a little extra as the cost of doing business.  The extra value comes from having multiplied your commercial energy through the act of creation.  If you can’t pay your debts, then your creditors will add penalties and fees because they think you’re being irresponsible and squandering the money they gave you, so you must be taught a lesson.

When you do something for another person.  You are giving some of your own energy to that person.  They then take that energy and transfer it to someone else.  That energy goes into the system we call the universe, which has theoretically unlimited energy.  Eventually, some of that energy will come back to you through the deeds of other people or from the universe itself, usually with a bit more or at exactly the right time you need something.  So going things for others is like investing your energy into the Bank of the Universe and collecting interest on it.

Conversely, when you do something for yourself, it’s like taking out a loan.  You are borrowing energy from the universe to satisfy your own needs.  Hopefully, once those needs are met, you’ll be in a better position to give back that energy and contribute to serving others.  If you don’t, but instead squander that energy and use it to hurt others or deprive them, then eventually you will have to pay for what you’ve done with extra fees attached.

That is the basic principle of karma.  What you put in, you get out.  What you take out, you must put back in.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” ~ Romans 6:23

I was listening to some audio lectures by Brandon Adams on commercial law.  One of the things he talked about is how the Bible can be seen through many lenses, one of which includes a commercial lens.

For instance, it’s said that Christ’s sacrifice has redeemed us.  What does it mean to redeem something?  If you have a coupon, you go and redeem it and get stuff.  Well, the redemption is basically a certificate that says the thing is prepaid, whether in part or in full.  It’s on someone else’s tab, a gift that you just have to accept.

Originally, we lived in a paradise called Eden, which was a commercial-free zone.  Everything we wanted was free for the taking, so long as we observed the rules that God set down.  The only rules at the time were be fruitful and multiply, take care of the earth and everything on it, and don’t touch the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge.  If the rules were broken, God would demand payment in blood.

Adam and Eve broke the rules by eating from the tree.  God said that the punishment for this would be payment in blood, but as we know, Adam and Eve didn’t die.  Instead, Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, i.e. they entered a different jurisdiction of law.  They no longer had access to free stuff and were forced to labor (Gensis 3:16 for Eve and 3:17 for Adam) for things.  God revoked the privileges of Eden, but discharged the debt, off-setting it to a later date.  So Adam and Eve and their descendants could live for a while, but they still had to pay for the damages.  Originally, they offered fig leaves, but God, being the creditor, wanted payment in the form of blood sacrifice, so eventually, the two would have to die.  During the course of their lives, however, they and their descendants would have to offer up animal sacrifices.

Cain tried to offer fruits and vegetables, but that wasn’t an acceptable form of currency.  Abel, on the other hand, offered God an acceptable currency in the blood of lambs, and God favored Abel more.  So Cain slew Abel to pay his debts, but this damaged God’s property (our bodies are vessels of the soul) and so God demanded restitution.  So Cain’s fate became the same as that of Adam and Eve: banishment and labor.

Abraham offered payment to God in this form as well.  Eventually, following the Exodus, this became the standard ritual and God further contracted with mankind in the form of a covenant.  Basically, sin is a form of spiritual debt and must be repaid in blood, which is where we get such ideas as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  This is all balancing debts.

In Exodus 34:7, God declares that he is willing to offer mercy and forgiveness to those that have repaid their karmic debts, but that those who remain guilty, his wrath will extend to the man’s descendants.  Basically, this is the spiritual equivalent of life insurance.  If you have enough money saved up, your descendants will inherit when you die and receive a better start on life.  Likewise, if you leave the world in a better place than when you found it, future generations will reap the benefits.  Conversely, if you leave this world with a lot of debts, your family will suffer in paying your bills.  And unfortunately, we as humans have wracked up a lot of karmic debts over the course of thousands of years and the Bank of the Universe isn’t at all pleased with this.

So now we come to the time of Christ where Jesus volunteered his own life, taking on the sins (karmic debts) of the world.  He and God made a deal that Christ’s blood would replace the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament and serve as an extension of credit to the human race.  This is why Christ declares that his is the “blood of the new and everlasting covenant,” with the old covenant being “pay with the blood of animals or die.”

In dying for our sins, Christ gave us a great gift.  He settled our tab, as it were, and wiped the slate clean, balancing our karmic books and zeroing out all the accounts.  God would no longer demand blood sacrifice during the course of our lives.  The original debt had been paid.  So only new debts would affect us and it was our choice to put his gift to good use or squander it.  If we put it to good use, then we will eventually prove that we are responsible individuals worthy of returning to the commercial-free zone of Eden.  However, if we squander that gift, God will once again demand payment in blood and suffering.

Venenum Veritas

Posted in All, Miscellaneous, Psychology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2010 by marushiadark

“Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.” ~ David Wolf, astronaut

There’s an old saying that I’ve often taken as my own personal motto.  It goes, “Expect the worst, hope for the best.”  I’ve always felt it to be very pragmatic because if the worst ever happens, you’ll be prepared for it and not caught off-guard.  Conversely, if anything other than the worst case scenario happens, you will be pleasantly surprised.  So it would seem that, by following such a logical strategy as that, you would be very well off, no?

Lately, I’m no longer so sure.

I’ve always been a very analytically-minded person.  And while it’s often good to have a back-up plan just in case things go wrong, such has left me carrying a lot of worry around, most of it needless. As the Dalai Lama says, “If a problem can be solved, there is no use worrying about it.  If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.”

Cynicism has also made me a very untrusting person.  Some people have told me that’s a good thing, since few are exactly who they claim to be and few are worthy of trust.  Others have said that, in continuing to think along those lines, I will continue to create only what’s on my mind, and what’s on my mind is often cynicism; so my world will seek to placate those thoughts.

I know where it comes from.  It comes from being a student of the truth and always wishing to know that which is true and correct, but at the same time having been lied to and deceived so many times in my life.  Not all of it was intentional, a lot of it was reaction to mental aberrations (actually, all lying is the result of mental aberrations), and a lot of it also comes from my own failings – my own pains and misunderstandings.  If nothing else, it’s very paradoxical.  At times, it is a great burden to carry the truth, especially when others aren’t there to help support you.

Sometimes, I find myself wishing I could go back to that naive little child where everything was perfect and I was always happy.  Yet there are other times where I feel like I wouldn’t trade who I am now for a hundred years of happiness if it meant giving up the truth, because I know I am much freer now and in greater control of the world around me, which in itself brings happiness sometimes.

The truth is a powerfully addictive drug.  The more you learn, the more you can’t help but continue learning.  The more you know, the more you become aware of just how little you actually know in comparison to the sum of all things that can be known; and this newly discovered level of ignorance just spurs the desire to learn that much more.

Many addicts will tell you that, initially, their drug of choice induces a natural high.  But after a while, it becomes customary and routine, so the person falls out of that euphoria into a deep trench and needs a greater dose to reach the same feeling of high as before.  This, of course, creates an escalation in which the highs get higher and the lows get lower.  The sine wave of ups and downs begins to grow in amplitude, but to what extent?  Are we to simply not learn anything at all and be content in our ignorance or is it worth the pains to climb the mountain of knowledge?  Is it worth it to build wings of wax and fly towards the sun, even with the full knowledge that our efforts were in vain from the very beginning and that we’re destined to plummet back into the sea?

Do we simply build better wings?  The better our wings, the higher we soar, but the farther we also have to plummet back down.  Is such a thing worth it?  I think that’s a choice that every man or woman must come to terms with at some point in their lives.  Personally, I like flying, so I’d rather learn to fly than be stuck in the ground.  Being stuck isn’t any fun at all.

Without that feeling of high, you might as well just be a robot and live forever.  I think that idealism is the high and cynicism the low when it comes to knowing things.

One time, I got a fortune cookie fortune that simply said “Don’t give into cynicism.”  What if Kennedy had given into cynicism?  We might not have gone into space and the world would be a totally different place than it is today.  Maybe if we learn enough, and if our wings are constructed well enough, we ourselves will reach into outer space where gravity effects us less, and from there we’ll have laid the foundation for soaring toward the stars, metaphorically speaking.

M is for Money

Posted in All, Economics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by marushiadark

“So you think that money is the root of all evil.  Have you ever asked what is the root of all money?” ~ Ayn Rand

At the time of my writing this, I’ve yet to read Atlas Shrugged.  I think I might already know a great deal of what’s in it, much like when I first read The Lost Symbol.  However, at the insistence of my mother, and many others, apparently, I’ve made Atlas Shrugged the very next book on my reading list.

Even still, Ayn Rand makes a very good point.  What is money?  Have you ever really thought about it?

For most people, when you mention the word “money,” a lot of things come to mind.  To some, it means little green pieces of paper or metal with pictures of dead presidents on them.  For others, it may call to mind an image of the mint printing vast rolls of the stuff.  On the one hand, money can be the source of great stress and grief if we don’t have it, or great opportunity and abundance if we do.  Pious people avoid it like the plague, while people that have it are willing to do anything to get it and can’t seem to get enough of it.

Most of these are probably incomplete observations, made by equally  ill-informed observers.  I know that, for most of my own life, I kept having the wrong impression about money, and only recently am I beginning to see money for what it actually is.

But what is that, exactly?

The Uniform Commercial Code is the Bible of commercial law.  UCC Article 1, Section 201b, Line 24 gives the definition of money as it’s used throughout most of the world today:

“Money means a medium of exchange currently authorized or adopted by a domestic or foreign government.  The term includes a monetary unit of account established by an intergovernmental organization or by agreement between two or more countries.”

In brief, money is simply a medium of exchange, an I.O.U.

When you play Monopoly, the paper is just there to help regulate how much you’re worth in comparison to the other players.  If you run out, the game even tells you to make more money out of regular paper, because it’s just a medium of exchange with no inherent value of its own.  Or if you play in digital form, it’s all done via electronic transfers and moving numbers around.  It’s Bookkeeping, the Game and boy do we love playing it!

If this were a barter system, we’d trade goods directly, like a camel for five bags of potatoes, or whatever we happened to agree was an equivalent exchange.

Money is just an indirect way of trading.  For instance, say I had a hat, but needed a pair of shoes.  I meet a man who needs a hat but has an extra pair of shoes.  So I trade him the hat for the shoes.  Now this man, some time later, needs to buy food.  He needs the food more than his hat, so he finds someone who will make the trade with him.  In that process, the hat was used as money because it was the medium that facilitated exchanges.

If we wanted, we could really use anything for money, as long as it was agreed upon by everyone involved; and in ancient times, that’s exactly what happened.

It used to be that money was more than just worthless paper.  When things like gold, silver, beads, shells, stones, and feathers were all used as money, the money itself had inherent value.  It could be used in trade, or kept by its possessor because it was worth something for its own merit.  Over time, certain things like copper, gold, and silver became more standardized as money because their value as a medium of exchange was more universally accepted among disparate cultures.  Eventually, people began to store, lend, and borrow coins and soon the first banks were formed.  From there, it was a short while before people started carrying around certificates that represented an amount of hard currency being kept in a vault somewhere.  And thus, we arrive at paper money.

The documentary Money as Debt elaborates more on this concept and gives a brief, allegorical history of the evolution of money.

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:10

Money is a form of power.  So it follows that the love of money is the love of power and of control over one’s self and others.  What we do with that power, however, is the determining factor.

Greed and lack are just flaws in perception.  The world is nothing but abundant with wealth and resources for all, and then some, yet this misguided belief of never having enough to survive is what leads people to commit both great and terrible acts in an effort to get more money.  Rest assured, it’s not the paper or the numbers that they want, but the power and the goods that said money represents, as you will see later on.

The cure for greed and the cure for poverty are one in the same: recognize that there is more than enough to go around for everyone and find a way to satisfy everyone at the table.

It is important to note that money is not, itself, a bad thing.  It’s just a tool, like a hammer or a pencil, that facilitates a purpose.  In the case of money, that purpose is to act as a catalyst for the trade of goods and services.  Just as guns don’t kill people, neither does money create problems.  It is only people that kill people or create problems.  How can money create something?  It’s just a tool.  Only divine beings, living souls, can create anything.

Without getting into too much detail, there is a principle in law that states that the created cannot be higher than the creator.  Who is the creator in this case?  We are.

We humans are the creators of every organization and institution on this planet, and we are the creators of governments and money.  They are our tools, our creations.  They have only the power and authority and value that we say they do or that we give to them; and we alone have the ability to revoke that power, authority, and value.  Whether we choose to abdicate our role as creator and be overrun by these Frankenstein monsters or not is our choice.  But eventually, the human race will be pushed to the breaking point unless it wakes the fuck up and remembers that the power was ours all along.

Like what Glinda, the good witch, tells Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz, you’ve had the power to go home all along.  It’s just that you weren’t in a position to accept or believe it, and so no one told you, but instead left you to figure it out for yourself.  Well, consider this your wake up call, with me giving you formal notice the power is yours.

“The man who has no money is poor, but one who has nothing but money is poorer.” ~ Orison Swett Marden, New Thought author

Return we now to the subject of paper money.  It’s really almost absurd how everyone knows that paper money is just worthless paper, and yet we still choose to rely on it for everything.  We covet it as though it were the secret of eternal life.  But why?  What makes paper money so valuable?

Recall that, in ancient times, people used mainly gold and silver as money in the form of bars or coins.  Bars and coins were used because they could be regulated in terms of weight and purity, but they were not without their flaws.  The most basic reason for switching to paper money was because it was lighter in weight and easier to carry around.  You could write up a certificate for really any amount of money that you wanted, so long as you had enough gold or silver somewhere to back it up.

For hundreds of years, it was the case that all certificates of this kind could be turned in any time the holder felt insecure and he would be given an amount of gold or silver equal to the amount that was written on the document.  What had value wasn’t so much the actual paper, but the confidence that it could be exchanged for something of worth.  And soon people began to trade these papers as though they were actual value.

If you look at the top of any American dollar bill, you will see the words “Federal Reserve Note” scrawled on it.  The word “note” in this case means a promissory note.  In other words, it’s a promise to pay.

If you’ve ever taken out a loan, you probably filled out a promissory note and gave it to your creditor or bank.  That promissory note is your promise to pay.  It’s your promise to them that they can redeem it for something of actual value.  With that confidence, the note can be exchanged as though it were actual currency.  They can trade it in for whatever it’s worth (which these days is just an extension of credit).

Things start to get interesting when you begin to realize that all cash is just a promissory note.  What we think of money is really just our promise that the holder will get something in return for it.

More interesting still is that, if you look at a dollar bill, it no longer says “redeemable in gold or silver.”  Prior to 1933, all dollars were promises of payment in either gold (which was standard) or silver to the holder.  So what happened in 1933?

“What difference does it make how much money you have?  What you do not have amounts to much more.” ~ Seneca

For a more in-depth history, I would recommend the documentary The Money Masters, but suffice to say that the history of America has really been one of banking and trying to avoid central banks, in particular.  The Founding Fathers resisted the Bank of England and wrote into the Constitution the power of Congress to coin money and to regulate its value.  And our country managed to survive well enough without a central bank for over a hundred years.  Since our inception, private international banks have tried to get Congress to give over that power to them and, in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson finally caved with the signing of the Federal Reserve Act.  From then on, the Federal Reserve (a private international bank) would be the sole creator of all the currency used to fund the government, which it lent to us at interest.

Prior to 1933, the United States was on a gold standard and most of its currency was backed by gold.  In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered a seizure of all the gold held by private citizens in an effort to pay off the national debt.  With the signing of HJR 192 on June 5, 1933, the use of promissory notes backed by gold was ended and a new form of currency replaced it: the Federal Reserve Note.

Federal Reserve Notes (which replaced United States Notes) are what’s known as fiat currency.  Fiat means that is isn’t backed by a commodity (like gold), but has value because of government decree.  It has value because the government says it does and will force you to accept it if offered for the payment of any and all debts in the United States.

If you look in the corner of the dollar bill, it says as much.  The word “tender” in this case means “an offer of money.”  It’s an offer of money because it’s only a note, which is a promise of money, not actual money itself.  There is no money.  Roosevelt took it all from us to pay the debt, which we still have hanging over us to this very day.

Following World War I, Germany was in bankruptcy because a lot of its infrastructure was destroyed and it had no money to rebuild or to pay the war reparations that its enemies demanded as a condition for accepting German surrender.  As a result, Germany suffered massive inflation and the Deutsche Mark became incredibly devalued without anything to back it.  It is said that marks were used to wallpaper people’s houses, that’s how worthless they were.  It was only through the aid of private banks and corporations – some of them American – that the Nazis were able to rise to the levels they did, and we all know how that turned out.

Similarly, after the Great Depression, people began to hoard gold as the only valuable form of currency.  Without gold and value passing through the American economy, the government had no funds to operate with.  It couldn’t afford to maintain its military in wartime or repay the Federal Reserve and its other creditors.  So the United States was also forced to declare bankruptcy and stole all the gold of its citizens in an effort to pay off its debts.

While we may have gotten out of the Great Depression through a re-stimulating of the economy via Roosevelt’s New Deal, we continue to employ the Federal Reserve and its worthless paper.  So a rational person would have to conclude that it’s only a matter of time before we fall back into that same pit again.  Only next time, it’s liable to be a lot worse.  Remember, we brought the Fed into this world and we can certainly take it out.