The Most Powerful Idea
Issue 95 August 2012
“The God-conscious have been put into a corner for so long, they believe they have no power.”
There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” wrote the French novelist, Victor Hugo. I often contemplate which idea’s time has come. Living in the age of the internet, we can argue the social network’s time has come, or the time has come for global information exchange. Yet somehow these things do not strike me as ideas as such. They are more systems in place, born of technological advancement, to deal with age-old problems. Ideas are more profound.
For me, the most powerful idea whose time has come, the key and necessary idea of the 21st century, is one which its major proponents have very little confidence in, nor do they see it as an idea of the 21st century. It is an idea that is revolutionary and powerful; it is holistic and comprehensive. It is the idea that a God-conscious life is the healing to the world’s ills. This is nothing new, but it does not have to be new for its time to have come. It has to be necessary and relevant, and a God-conscious life has never been more necessary, or more relevant.
As a proponent of this idea, I say this with confidence, but not with arrogance; for egotistical, single-mindedness can never be a characteristic of the idea of God-consciousness. What is required is humility and gentleness, yet presented with a sense of certainty and strength. Nor do I propound this idea glibly; this is not about clichés or slogans. It requires a radical change in thinking and doing, which will not be easy.
As we look around and see the full-scale chaos of the global financial situation, it is time to ponder the God-conscious throughout history. Plato, Aristotle, the two Catos, Cicero, Seneca and Plutarch all condemned the use of usury. Aristotle said, “Money is barren, that money cannot engender money.” The Hindu Sutra and the Buddhist Jatakas reference the payment of interest in negative terms. Confucius wrote of the peril of chasing profit, “everyone high and low is scrambling for profit, pitching the nation into grave danger.” The Jewish Torah is clear, “Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God...” (Leviticus 25:36). Jesus himself went into the temple, and “cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers.” (Mark 11:15) The Qur’an is unambiguous, “O you who have believed, do not consume usury, doubled and multiplied, but fear God that you may be successful.” (3:130) “God has permitted trade and has forbidden usury.” (2:275)
Yet, in today’s world we find interest ubiquitous, and the perils clear. The recent scandal over the LIBOR rate is just one example of a system spinning furiously out of control. There are other issues: the fixing of global trade tariffs and quotas, the excessive consumerism mentioned by the Qur’an as, “rivalry for worldly gain will distract you until you visit your graves”, and other fundamental global inequalities. The GDP of the world’s poorest 48 nations —that’s a quarter of the world’s countries—is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined.
Surely, the time for God-consciousness has come, and nothing could be as powerful as a call to the people “to be just, even if it be against themselves”, to be “just for just is the closest thing to God-consciousness.”
As it is with the financial institutions, so it is with our global environmental situation. Again, historic teachings of the God-conscious promote the idea of stewardship, and punishment for those who ignore this. Genesis tells us, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it,” (2:15) whilst in Revelations in the New Testament there is a call for “destroying those who destroy the earth.” (11:18) Again, the Qur’an is unambiguous about humanity’s role, “I will create a steward on earth,” (2:30) and declares, “Certainly the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of the men, but most people do not know.” (40:57)
Beyond money; beyond our planet; it is also about us—our humanity, our sense of recognising that we are more than consumers, more than fodder for the marketers’ machinations, more than pawns in the powerplay games of the politicians. We deserve to give ourselves a chance to explore things far greater than ourselves, to strive to navigate the rough seas of the modern world with dignity, compassion and a search for Truth.
The God-conscious have to see that their time is now. Our planet is reliant on us stepping forward with a revolutionary message that seeks more than momentary pleasures and solutions; that questions humanity’s capacity to consume, versus its capacity to create.
The God-conscious have been put into a corner for so long, they have come to believe they have no power but to tinker around the edges of the systems currently in place. They have succumbed to the secular notion that faith is only for the temples, the churches, the synagogues and the mosques, whilst we let mammon run unhindered. Faith is for every second of every day, for every situation. It casts light into the darkest corners of our realities. It is absolutely relevant for our world today. Its time has surely come.