Power and Culture

Happy New Year! Over the holidays I was studying yoga philosophy and a new concept landed for me. The area of study was power and the belief during the Vedic period that the universe is powerful – not ethical, not moral, powerful. During this period of our collective human history, culture was not governed by ethics (e.g., right/wrong) or morals (e.g., good/bad) but by the expression and negotiation of power. Society was literally defined by “the art of the deal”. This was circa 2000 BCE.

Eventually, the paradigm of power gave way to governance by justice (ethics) and morality (hello organized religion). Fast forward 4000 years and I find this paradigm of power eerily familiar in our culture today. Is the expression of interest, advantage, desire and getting a “good deal” how we are meant to evolve – or is it devolve? When we sacrifice the interests of others for our own, do we create a sum zero game where eventually we all lose?

I love this quote by Thomas Edison, “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” Non-violence, ahimsa, not-harming each other is the practice we need to create the highest standards for ethical right and wrong for our culture and the best deal for our society overall.

As I head into 2017, I have set my intention for the year to create abundance with ease. I think I’ll be adding ethics in as well. Power without ethics and morality is a recipe for disaster, we don’t need to look to far into our current and recent history to see examples of this – Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea… Indeed, as Albert Camus said, “A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.”

What kind of world do you want to create in 2017?

One thought on “Power and Culture

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  1. Thanks for the discussion on power and ethics. It is my belief that in order for us to move toward more ethical living, we must use power and influence wisely. Without reflection, self-awareness and and understanding of personal responsibility, it’s difficult to achieve ethical behavior. I’ve never grown in my own ethical behavior without first acknowledging my insecurities, learning a different skill set and being committed to the greater good. The paradox is that being ethical and not seeking power for the sake of being powerful does render one powerful.


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