Who the heck is Charles Eisenstein?

Charles Eisenstein s a public speaker, gift economy advocate, and the author of several books including The Ascent of Humanity (2007), Sacred Economics (2011), and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible (2013).

Books by Charles Eisenstein

Quotes by Charles Eisenstein

“Addiction, self-sabotage, procrastination, laziness, rage, chronic fatigue, and depression are all ways that we withhold our full participation in the program of life we are offered. When the conscious mind cannot find a reason to say no, the unconscious says no in its own way.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“An economist says that essentially more for you is less for me, but the lover knows that more for you is more for me, too.”

Charles Eisenstein

“Another way of being is possible, and it is right in front of us, closer than close…”

Charles Eisenstein The Ascent of Humanity

“Apparently, boredom was not even a concept before the word was invented around 1760, along with the word “interesting.”20 The tide of boredom that has risen ever since coincides with the progress of the Industrial Revolution, hinting at a reason why it has, until recently, been an exclusively Western phenomenon. The reality that the factory system created was a mass-produced reality, a generic reality of standardized products, standardized roles, standardized tasks, and standardized lives. The more we came to live in that artificial reality, the more separate we became from the inherently fascinating realm of nature and community. Today, in a familiar pattern, we apply further technology to relieve the boredom that results from our immersion in a world of technology. We call it entertainment. Have you ever thought about that word? To entertain a guest means to bring him into your house; to entertain a thought means to bring it into your mind. To be entertained means to be brought into the television, the game, the movie. It means to be removed from your self and the real world. When a television show does this successfully, we applaud it as entertaining. Our craving for entertainment points to the impoverishment of our reality.”

Charles Eisenstein The Ascent of Humanity

“Back in the 1970s, dissidents in the Soviet Union were often hospitalized in mental institutions and given drugs similar to the ones used to treat depression today. The reasoning was that you had to be insane to be unhappy in the Socialist Workers' Utopia. When the people treating depression receive status and prestige from the very system that their patients are unhappy with, they are unlikely to affirm the basic validity of the patient's withdrawal from life. "The system has to be sound -- after all, it validates my professional status -- therefore the problem must be with you.”

Charles Eisenstein

“Before they are able to enter a new story, most people—and probably most societies as well—must first navigate the passage out of the old. In between the old and the new there is an empty space. It is a time when the lessons and learnings of the old story are integrated. Only when that work has been done is the old story really complete. Then, there is nothing, the pregnant emptiness from which all being arises. Returning to essence, we regain the ability to act from essence. Returning to the space between stories, we can choose from freedom and not from habit.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“Certainly this is what many people feel during empty moments or deliberate experiments at meditation: a churning unease that says "I should be doing something". This cultural compulsion is so strong that even spiritual practices such as meditation and prayer are easily converted into just another thing to do, moments mortgaged to the campaign of improving life.”

Charles Eisenstein The Ascent of Humanity

“Contemporaneous with the financial crisis we have an ecological crisis and a health crisis. They are intimately interlinked. We cannot convert much more of the earth into money, or much more of our health into money, before the basis of life itself is threatened.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“Even the most thorough change happens one choice at a time.”

Charles Eisenstein The Yoga of Eating

“From our immersion in scarcity arise the habits of scarcity. From the scarcity of time arises the habit of hurrying. From the scarcity of money comes the habit of greed. From the scarcity of attention comes the habit of showing off. From the scarcity of meaningful labor comes the habit of laziness. From the scarcity of unconditional acceptance comes the habit of manipulation.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“Given how much of the evil and ugliness of the present world can be traced to money, can you imagine what the world will be like when money has been transformed?”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“Here is another paradox: We become better people only when we give up the quest to become better people.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“How beautiful can life be? We hardly dare imagine it.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“Human beings naturally desire to give. We are born into gratitude: the knowledge we have received and the desire to give in turn. Far from nudging reluctant people to give unto others against their lazy impulses, today’s economy pressures us to deny our innate generosity and channel our gifts instead toward the perpetuation of a system that serves almost no one.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“I am saying that there is a time to do, and a time not to do, and that when we are slave to the habit of doing we are unable to distinguish between them.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“I think most kids have a sense that it's not supposed to be this way. You're not supposed to hate Monday, or be happy when you don't have to go to school. School should be something that you love. Life should be something that you love.”

Charles Eisenstein

“Is it too much to ask, to live in a world where our human gifts go toward the benefit of all? Where our daily activities contribute to the healing of the biosphere and the well-being of other people?”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“It is quite normal to fear what one most desires. We desire to transcend the Story of the World that has come to enslave us, that indeed is killing the planet. We fear what the end of that story will bring: the demise of much that is familiar.

Fear it or not, it is happening already.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“McMansions in sprawling suburbs, without mountains of unnecessary packaging, without giant mechanized monofarms, without energy-hogging big-box stores, without electronic billboards, without endless piles of throwaway junk, without the overconsumption of consumer goods no one really needs is not an impoverished world. I disagree with those environmentalists who say we are going to have to make do with less. In fact, we are going to make do with more: more beauty, more community, more fulfillment, more art, more music, and material objects that are fewer in number but superior in utility and aesthetics. The cheap stuff that fills our lives today, however great its quantity, can only cheapen life.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“Of all the things that human beings make and do for each other, it is the unquantifiable ones that contribute most to human happiness.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“One of the ways that your project, your personal healing, or your social invention can change the world is through story. But even if no one ever learns of it, even if it is invisible to every human on Earth, it will have no less of an effect.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“Perhaps the deepest indication of our slavery is the monetization of time. It is a phenomenon with roots deeper than our money system, for it depends on the prior quantification of time. An animal or a child has “all the time in the world.” The same was apparently true for Stone Age peoples, who usually had very loose concepts of time and rarely were in a hurry. Primitive languages often lacked tenses, and sometimes lacked even words for “yesterday” or “tomorrow.” The comparative nonchalance primitive people had toward time is still apparent today in rural, more traditional parts of the world. Life moves faster in the big city, where we are always in a hurry because time is scarce. But in the past, we experienced time as abundant. The more monetized society is, the more anxious and hurried its citizens. In parts of the world that are still somewhat outside the money economy, where subsistence farming still exists and where neighbors help each other, the pace of life is slower, less hurried. In rural Mexico, everything is done mañana. A Ladakhi peasant woman interviewed in Helena Norberg-Hodge’s film Ancient Futures sums it all up in describing her city-dwelling sister: “She has a rice cooker, a car, a telephone—all kinds of time-saving devices. Yet when I visit her, she is always so busy we barely have time to talk.” For the animal, child, or hunter-gatherer, time is essentially infinite. Today its monetization has subjected it, like the rest, to scarcity. Time is life. When we experience time as scarce, we experience life as short and poor. If you were born before adult schedules invaded childhood and children were rushed around from activity to activity, then perhaps you still remember the subjective eternity of childhood, the afternoons that stretched on forever, the timeless freedom of life before the tyranny of calendar and clocks. “Clocks,” writes John Zerzan, “make time scarce and life short.” Once quantified, time too could be bought and sold, and the scarcity of all money-linked commodities afflicted time as well. “Time is money,” the saying goes, an identity confirmed by the metaphor “I can’t afford the time.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“Some of us may have experienced it when we find ourselves cooperating naturally and effortlessly, instruments of a purpose greater than ourselves that, paradoxically, makes us individual more and not less when we abandon ourselves to it. It is what musicians are referring to when they say "The music played the band” ”

Charles Eisenstein The Ascent of Humanity

“The American Dream betrayed even those who achieved it, lonely in their overtime careers and their McMansions, narcotized to the ongoing ruination of nature and culture but aching because of it, endlessly consuming and accumulating to quell the insistent voice: “I wasn’t put here on Earth to sell a product.” “I wasn’t put here on Earth to increase market share.” “I wasn’t put here on Earth to make numbers grow.”

We protest not only at our exclusion from the American Dream; we protest at its bleakness. If it cannot include everyone on Earth, every ecosystem and bioregion, every people and culture in its richness; if the wealth of one must be the debt of another; if it entails sweatshops and underclasses and fracking and all the rest of the ugliness our system has created, then we want none of it.

No one deserves to live in a world built upon the degradation of human beings, forests, waters, and the rest of our living planet. Speaking to our brethren on Wall Street: No one deserves to spend their lives playing with numbers while the world burns.”

Charles Eisenstein

“The apparent objectivity of written words explains why people tend to believe what they read more than what they hear.”

Charles Eisenstein The Ascent of Humanity

“The financial crisis we are facing today arises from the fact that there is almost no more social, cultural, natural, and spiritual capital left to convert into money.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“The hippies saw it and lived it for a few shining moments, but the old stories were too strong. Instead of the hippies pulling us all into a new world, we dragged them back into ours.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“The more beautiful world my heart knows is possible is a world with a lot more pleasure: a lot more touch, a lot more lovemaking, a lot more hugging, a lot more deep gazing into each other’s eyes, a lot more fresh-ground tortillas and just-harvested tomatoes still warm from the sun, a lot more singing, a lot more dancing, a lot more timelessness, a lot more beauty in the built environment, a lot more pristine views, a lot more water fresh from the spring. Have you ever tasted real water, springing from the earth after a twenty-year journey through the mountain? None of these pleasures is very far away. None requires any new inventions, nor the subservience of the many to the few. Yet our society is destitute of them all. Our wealth, so-called, is a veil for our poverty, a substitute for what is missing. Because it cannot meet most of our true needs, it is an addictive substitute. No amount can ever be enough. Many of us already see through the superficial substitute pleasures we are offered. They are boring to us, or even revolting. We needn’t sacrifice pleasure to reject them. We need only sacrifice the habit, deeply ingrained, of choosing a lesser pleasure over a greater. Where does this habit come from? It is an essential strand of the world of separation, because most of the tasks that we must do to keep the world-devouring machine operating do not feel very good at all. To keep doing them, we must be trained to deny pleasure.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“The problem in economic life is supposedly greed, both outside ourselves in the form of all those greedy people and within ourselves in the form of our own greedy tendencies. We like to imagine that we ourselves are not so greedy—maybe we have greedy impulses, but we keep them under control. Unlike some people! Some people don’t keep their greed in check. They are lacking in something fundamental that you and I have, some basic decency, basic goodness. They are, in a word, Bad. If they can’t learn to restrain their desires, to make do with less, then we’ll have to force them to. Clearly, the paradigm of greed is rife with judgment of others, and with self-judgment as well. Our self-righteous anger and hatred of the greedy harbor the secret fear that we are no better than they are. It is the hypocrite who is the most zealous in the persecution of evil. Externalizing the enemy gives expression to unresolved feelings of anger. In a way, this is a necessity: the consequences of keeping them bottled up or directed inward are horrific. But there came a time in my life when I was through hating, through with the war against the self, through with the struggle to be good, and through with the pretense that I was any better than anyone else. I believe humanity, collectively, is nearing such a time as well. Ultimately, greed is a red herring, itself a symptom and not a cause of a deeper problem. To blame greed and to fight it by intensifying the program of self-control is to intensify the war against the self, which is just another expression of the war against nature and the war against the other that lies at the base of the present crisis of civilization.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“The situation on Earth today is too dire for us to act from habit—to reenact again and again the same kinds of solutions that brought us to our present extremity. Where does the wisdom to act in entirely new ways come from? It comes from nowhere, from the void; it comes from inaction. When we see it, we realize it was right in front of us all along. It is never far away; yet at the same time it is in a different universe—a different Story of the World.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“The state of interbeing is a vulnerable state. It is the vulnerability of the naive altruist, of the trusting lover, of the unguarded sharer. To enter it, one must leave behind the seeming shelter of a control-based life, protected by walls of cynicism, judgment, and blame.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“The things we need most are the things we have become most afraid of, such as adventure, intimacy, and authentic communication. We avert our eyes and stick to comfortable topics. We hold it as a virtue to be private, to be discreet, so that no one sees our dirty laundry. We are uncomfortable with intimacy and connection, which are among the greatest of our unmet needs today. To be truly seen and heard, to be truly known, is a deep human need. Our hunger for it is so omnipresent, so much apart of our life experience, that we no more know what it is missing than a fish knows it is wet. We need more intimacy than nearly anyone considers normal. Always hungry for it, we seek solace and sustenance in the closest available substitutes: television, shopping, pornography, conspicuous consumption — anything to ease the hurt, to feel connected, or to project an image by which we might be seen or known, or at least see and know ourselves.”

Charles Eisenstein

“The things we think we want are often substitutes for what we really want, and the pleasures we seek are less than the joy that they distract us from.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“The world is on fire! Why am I sitting in front of my computer? It is because I don’t have a fire extinguisher for the world, and there isn’t a global 911 to call.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“Time is life. When we experience time as scarce, we experience life as short and poor.”

Charles Eisenstein

“To name is to dominate, to categorize, to subjugate and, quite literally, to objectify.”

Charles Eisenstein The Ascent of Humanity

“True discipline is really just self-remembering; no forcing or fighting is necessary.”

Charles Eisenstein The Yoga of Eating

“Trust your intuition and be guided by love.”

Charles Eisenstein

“Ultimately, work on self is inseparable from work in the world. Each mirrors the other; each is a vehicle for the other. When we change ourselves, our values and actions change as well. When we do work in the world, internal issues arise that we must face or be rendered ineffective.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“Usually, destructive pleasure-seeking behavior arises as an outburst of pent-up desire, and not as the expression of authentic desire.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“We are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“We are not just a skin-encapsulated ego, a soul encased in flesh. We are each other and we are the world.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“We are starving for spiritual nourishment. We are starving for a life that is personal, connected, and meaningful. By choice, that is where we will direct our energy. When we do so, community will arise anew because this spiritual nourishment can only come to us as a gift, as part of a web of gifts in which we participate as giver and receiver. Whether or not it rides the vehicle of something bought, it is irreducibly personal and unique.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“We have to create miracles. A miracle is not the intersession of an external divine agency in violation of the laws of physics. A miracle is simply something that is impossible from an old story but possible from within a new one. It is an expansion of what is possible.”

Charles Eisenstein

“We in the richest societies have too many calories even as we starve for beautiful, fresh food; we have overly large houses but lack spaces that truly embody our individuality and connectedness; media surround us everywhere while we starve for authentic communication. We are offered entertainment every second of the day but lack the chance to play. In the ubiquitous world of money, we hunger for all that is intimate, personal and unique.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“What does economic growth actually mean? It means more consumption – and consumption of a specific kind: more consumption of goods and services that are exchanged for money. That means that if people stop caring for their own children and instead pay for childcare, the economy grows. The same if people stop cooking for themselves and purchase restaurant takeaways instead.

Economists say this is a good thing. After all, you wouldn’t pay for childcare or takeaway food if it weren’t of benefit to you, right? So, the more things people are paying for, the more benefits are being had. Besides, it is more efficient for one daycare centre to handle 30 children than for each family to do it themselves. That’s why we are all so much richer, happier and less busy than we were a generation ago. Right?”

Charles Eisenstein

“What is power, after all? Every one of the power elite’s overwhelming advantages—military forces, surveillance systems, crowd control technology, control over the media, and nearly all the money in the world—depends on having people obeying orders and executing an assigned role. This obedience is a matter of shared ideologies, institutional culture, and the legitimacy of the systems in which we play roles. Legitimacy is a matter of collective perception, and we have the power to change people’s perceptions.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“When both sides of a controversy revel in the defeat and humiliation of the other side, in fact they are on the same side: the side of war.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“When do you manipulate others for your own advantage? When I notice myself doing it, usually it is when I am feeling insecure.”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“When everything is subject to money, then the scarcity of money makes everything scarce, including the basis of human life and happiness. Such is the life of the slave—one whose actions are compelled by threat to survival. Perhaps the deepest indication of our slavery is the monetization of time.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“When everything is subject to money, then the scarcity of money makes everything scarce, including the basis of human life and happiness. Such is the life of the slave—one whose actions are compelled by threat to survival. Perhaps the deepest indication of our slavery is the monetization of time.”
― Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition
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“We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet
the new neighbor.
We’ve built more computers to hold more
information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communications;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These times are times of fast foods;
but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It is time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“When we must pay the true price for the depletion of nature’s gifts, materials will become more precious to us, and economic logic will reinforce, and not contradict, our heart’s desire to treat the world with reverence and, when we receive nature’s gifts, to use them well.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“When you hear the phrase “rescue the financial system,” translate it in your mind into “keep the debts on the books.” They are trying to find a way for you (and debtor nations too) to keep paying and for the debt to keep growing.”

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

“Why are we so desperate to escape the material world? Is it really so bleak? Or could it be, rather, that we have made it bleak: obscured its vibrant mystery with our ideological blinders, severed its infinite connectedness with our categories, suppressed its spontaneous order with our pavement, reduced its infinite variety with our commodities, shattered its eternity with our time-keeping, and denied its abundance with our money system?”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

“You can’t just do whatever you feel like.” “You can’t just do anything you want.” “You have to learn self-restraint.” “You’re only interested in gratifying your desires.” “You don’t care about anything but your own pleasure.” Can you hear the judgmentality in these admonitions? Can you see how they reproduce the mentality of domination that runs our civilization? Goodness comes through conquest. Health comes through conquering bacteria. Agriculture is improved by eliminating pests. Society is made safe by winning the war on crime. On my walk today, students accosted me, asking if I wanted to join the “fight” against pediatric cancer. There are so many fights, crusades, campaigns, so many calls to overcome the enemy by force. No wonder we apply the same strategy to ourselves. Thus it is that the inner devastation of the Western psyche matches exactly the outer devastation it has wreaked upon the planet. Wouldn’t you like to be part of a different kind of revolution?”

Charles Eisenstein The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible