COLUMNIST: John Bloom

 

An Interview with an Anonymous Donor
By John Bloom, Rudolf Steiner Foundation

JB: In light of your meditative practice and path, what is your relationship to money?

AD: I think it's an important question. My relationship to money is not necessarily your average one. Nor is its relationship to me. That's another story. I come from a business family and my background is Jewish. Because of this particular background, money is not in the shadow as much as it is in the broader society of America. I've been involved with non-profits for many years, and not in the business world. However, I have an unusual attitude about money, more matter of fact.

JB: Can you go back into how that matter of factness came about? Does it affect the way you do philanthropy?

AD: These views are imparted through an inception process more than through what is said. Those of us who are parents are horrified by what our kids have soaked up from us without our intending it at all. Knowledge and values are transferred by osmosis to the benefit or detriment of everyone. I could tell you I learned about money through dinner table conversations, or going to the office with my dad on Saturday, and overhearing him on the telephone, or listening when his brothers would come over. The women would be talking about hair salons and their nails, which I found boring after 30 seconds. I tended to listen to the men talking about what had been going on with the business. They would tell stories of things they'd experienced. I just soaked up a certain point of view.

JB: Then you were following a natural interest.

AD: To tell you the truth, I was anything but interested in doing philanthropy. I'm getting interested now, but it's not something that I found instantly as my calling. I wanted to be a psychotherapist. I wanted to do farming and mothering. I knew that that was my piece to do in the world, and what I wanted to be involved with. I didn't feel at all that way about philanthropy. I actually didn't have the opportunity to be philanthropic until I was in my thirties. Even now, I don't do philanthropy on a full-time basis. I spend as little time as possible on it because it interferes with my vocation and personal life.

On the other hand, the world is in desperate need. For karmic reasons, I seem to be in a position to able to direct significant resources toward helping things that need to happen in order for us to gracefully move to the next stage of our evolution on this earth with as little suffering as possible. I can't not help with that, given the position I'm in. It's really out of a sense of responsibility that I come to philanthropy.

JB: Would you link that sense of responsibility with your spiritual practice?

AD: I link it to my spiritual self. Again I almost hesitate to use the word spiritual. I would say that in the deepest part of myself, capital S, or mind in the greater sense, that lives on even past the body. That part of me has its roots in a common source of all being. Bodhicitta is the word used to describe this. In the language of my lineage it means enlightened mind. It's from that that we can feel another's suffering and the urge alleviate it. That is why I do philanthropy.

JB: That is a very beautiful and inspiring image. Can you speak about your spiritual practice?

AD: Every day I start with a meditation. I use this practice to get the bracken away, and to get as much to the essence as I can. This essence is actually how the Tibetans describe what we call enlightenment. There's a word for Buddha in Tibetan that is not the same as it is in Sanskrit. In Sanskrit, Buddha means awakened one. In my lineage it means cleansed one. We believe that one cleanses away mistaken views. This makes it possible to experience reality directly. I feel I'm in a process of doing that. I find when I'm more conscious of this process, things go better, not only in philanthropy but also in anything I do whether it's mothering or driving down the street. I'm conducting my life more consciously. I've learned this lesson the hard way. I have learned the value and effectiveness of meditation, prayer and other practices. Without it, I have suffered, gotten off track, and wasted a lot of time.

I started meditation as a daily practice when I was about twenty. I didn't have instruction, so I wasn't very good at it. I happen to have a naturally active mind, so I didn't have a natural talent for quieting my mind. It was a struggle. Even though I wasn't doing very well, when I stopped, things went badly. I could feel that I wasn't pursuing my life as right on target as I had been in the past.

I decided when I resumed meditation practices, that I would need instruction. I came upon a Tibetan lama, at the time. I didn't really care which flavor it was as long as the teacher was somebody I could really connect well with and who really was accomplished. I have been studying with him for about seven years. I always felt that pursuing a spiritual path was an important part of my life. When I found a teacher my practice became a more vital part of my life. Enlightenment is a central goal. Actually, that's what we're always pursuing, waking, sleeping, chewing on our problems, all the time in life. The question is, how consciously are we going directly toward that?

JB: Why did you want to be a psychotherapist?

AD: Oy, you vant the full analysis?

JB: No, just an answer.

AD: I don't know fully why. I've always been fascinated by how the mind works. I've been a people watcher since I was little. Another piece is that it feels good to alleviate suffering. And, I think I'm a born teacher. When somebody comes to me with their life in a knot, they need a fellow human being to help them look at it, figure out which strings to pull, and how to loosen the knot a little bit. I love to help with that process. I see myself as an ally in their inquiry into their own mind. Another aspect is that I enjoy just the experience of connecting with people on a deep level.

JB: You mentioned the notion that money is kind of a shadow issue. What did you mean by that?

AD: One has to look to the roots of our culture. The church people weren't supposed to handle money-a ridiculous notion because the Roman Empire was being run through the church. They had a lot of power, and yet the cardinals and bishops weren't supposed to be handling money because it would dirty their hands.
This attitude was certainly deeply ingrained within the Christian world. Until relatively recently from a historical perspective, not very many people have or earned money. Those who weren't land holders or rulers were either farmers or church people.

From the perspective of my culture, once the Jews were forbidden to own land and were periodically being driven from it, they were newcomers wherever they went. What could they do? They had to be professionals. All through the countries of the Diaspora they spoke a common language, which meant they could do commerce in a way that others couldn't. They were both pushed into it and drawn into it by the particular event of the Diaspora.
Doing business is something that my family has probably been engaging in for a couple of millennia. We had to be really good at it or we were not going to eat. My family usually lived in a town near Kiev in Russia. They would also go back and forth between there and Kiev, where they really had the opportunity to make more money. There was a government quota for Jews allowed to come into Kiev and live there on a temporary basis, even if it was for three years. Some Jews were selected because they were needed for a particular function. Once the function was somehow fulfilled, the Jews were thrown out again until they were needed again. My family would go home, then return to Kiev for a while. This is as I understand it. Because we were better at grain trade, we were often the ones asked to come and go into Kiev, which then allowed us more opportunity. We've had an immigrant mentality for a couple thousand years. We'd have to perform better than everybody else just in order to make it. We feel our life depends on accomplishing whatever it is, and doing it really well.

JB: In all that shift of commerce there is a trading of money and goods. Though you may not own land, you could still accumulate a surplus of money or wealth. Accumulation tends to bring power and authority. Is this notion applicable?

AD: We couldn't own land. We could own things, and consequently we exercised influence. The quality of commerce was itself affected. I have thought about this in relation to current non-profit and for-profit activities. If I really want to affect change in society, it seems to me the for-profit sector is what really is affecting people's lives on a more vast and basic scale than non-profits. When something hits the for-profit world, societal change happens. The non-profit world can plant seeds and hopefully begin movement in a certain direction. At first it's probably not very profitable. For the change to really happen, it's got to go into the for-profit sector.

JB: But that change has not necessarily been for the better.

AD: We see the power exercised by what they thought was profitable. Commerce is driving things in our society. In past societies, almost any of them, the religious institutions were also promoting culture. Michelangelo was mostly supported by the church and the Medicis as patrons. William Irwin Thompson, a historian, in looking at the history of humanity and change, said that the spiritual visionaries were the first ones to get the new pattern. The artists were next. They had the ability then to communicate it further, and, thus, have a very important function in society as far as changing paradigms. Then came the business people. Of course, bringing up the rear were the political leaders. We're in a moment in history right now, when there's a paradigm shift that's trying to happen.

JB: Can you name or articulate the paradigm shift?

AD: Look at this on a continuum of humanity's evolution to make sense of this moment of paradigm shift. Humanity's evolution parallels the maturation process of a human being. An individual human being starts out being one with its mother in the womb. After they're born, they're still attached to the mother through the breast.
First they take little steps away, start showing ego development, and then they start saying 'no' which is establishing their own will. They also develop the conscious mind more. These I think of as more masculine qualities-the conscious will and the ego. Whereas, the mother and unconscious are more feminine things. By teenagerhood, they know much better than both parents. Significant individualizing has taken place, and they tend to believe only in themselves. The ego is really out there. That's what they're about. They've got to be so full of themselves that they're willing to withstand the rigors of the outside world and leaving home. At some point they go through a prodigal son experience through which they realize, "Gosh, maybe I don't know everything." Mark Twain said something like: "When I was in my teens my father just didn't know a thing. But by my early twenties it was amazing how much the man had learned."
We went through a process in which the pendulum swung from matriarchy to patriarchy, from the feminine to the masculine. In an individual it then begins to move towards center again out of the natural seeking for balance. Humanity is now at that point. We've developed the conscious mind, the ego, scientific process, and know more than father spirit and mother earth. Being quite full of ourselves, we've come to the point where we are starting to realize that we need to work on these greater things, to bring more balance. Hence, there is the emerging importance of the feminine, and the receding of the masculine. Intuition is valued in business more now than in the past, as are relationships, process and group facilitation. Corporations have a need for these values and qualities. This is where we are in the paradigm shift.
Another aspect of the paradigm change is that the understanding of power begins to shift so that it is no longer power-over. Currently this is about the only form of power that is acknowledged. Power-with and power-within are feminine forms of power. Power-within is something that America hasn't acknowledged at all. However, going within is something I've been doing a lot. I have found it a great source of power because it connects with the enlightened mind.

JB: We may be driven to a paradigm shift simply by survival.

AD: Allow me a kind of image or metaphor. We've been standing on this piece of ground, an island in the ocean, if you will. Land masses come up and go down. This one has been here for a long time. Now it is old and crumbling. People tend to be conservative by nature. Consequently, they say, "Oh, it's crumbling. We just have to use more and more resources to patch it together." Well, of course it's all crumbing, because it's just finished. At a certain point, it will be all patches and there will be no substance of the original thing left. Meanwhile, there is another land mass that's coming up, just naturally emerging.

In the spring, asparagus comes up anew. We cut it and cut and it, yet it keeps coming in great big fat sprouts that want to turn into these beautiful ferns that tower over our heads. There is an extraordinary amount of upward growing energy in those tips of asparagus. Like the asparagus, the tip of the rising land mass has a lot of cohesiveness, strength, and upward energy in it. The other land mass has crumbling downward energy. Those of us who are able to see the rising land mass and know that that's the place to go, need to build a bridge from the old crumbling one to the new emerging one.

JB: How would you know a new paradigm institution or organization? Is it intuition? Are there some criteria?

AD: You could say that the criteria support your intuitive knowing. One characteristic is whether it practices power-with or power-over? A second is, does it take the context of the global picture into account? I also want to know the people, how they are working together, their system. If it's not a healthy system, it can be the greatest idea in the world, but nothing will come of it. These are some ways that I can tell. Of course, one's sense of intuition is critical. I identify myself as being part of that growing network of people who have a sense of this emerging land mass and who want to build a bridge to it. I consider RSF an important part of that network.

If I'm going to put my own personal energy and money towards something, one thing that will happen, first of all, is that I experience an intuitive, energized 'yes'. The second thing that I experience is that I cannot not do it. In reality, we know right action in and through our hearts.
Printed with permission from the Rudolf Steiner Foundation as printed in the RSF Quarterly.- June 30, 2001

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