Charles Eisenstein has come far since he was forced to self-publish his transformative breakthrough tome, The Ascent of Humanity, with The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible seeing him return with a beautifully-nuanced, accessible, and thoughtful exploration of a new narrative of interbeing and interconnection, to transcend our Cartesian, dualistic, technological and control-based culture.
While Eisenstein’s last book, Sacred Economics, focused his thinking around separation onto the sphere of economics and the spirit of the gift, here we return to the awe-inspiring and all-encompassing scope found in The Ascent of Humanity, which drew on a bewildering array of fields such as ecology, anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary biology and quantum physics to explore a paradigm shift to a new holistic world view.
Much of the text found in the new publication consists of an easy-going and thoughtful dialogue with critics – both external critics who, for example, have questioned his air-based travel choices, and his internal voices of separation and cynicism, which constantly query whether he is simply falling victim to, in his ironically-chosen words, 'New Age puffery' in naively asserting the possibility of a new ontological paradigm, a new story of the self and of the people.
Eisenstein spent much of his twenties working in Taiwan as a translator and, while there, immersed himself in eastern spiritual thought, particularly daoism, a fact which comes across strongly as the philosophical foundation for the book. His work dovetails neatly with permaculture, not least with the influence of daoism also strongly evident in 'father of permaculture' Bill Mollison’s early thought and daoist principles such as wu-wei (non-action), being core to another permaculture classic, Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution. Eisenstein, echoing Fukuoka, informs us that “There is a time to act, and a time to wait, to listen, to observe. Then understanding and clarity can grow. From understanding, action arises that is purposeful, firm, and powerful.”
The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible turns conventional thinking on reality and social change upside-down, an approach which for many leads to burnout and sees change as coming from the old story of planning, force and overtly-political movements. Charles does not assert that there is never a time for struggle and violence. Simply, “All things have their place in this world: the buck struggles against the wolf, and sometimes he gets away. It is just that, because of our ideology, we apply the mentality of fighting, struggling, and warfare far beyond its proper domain.” Instead, we get a visionary insight into an infinitely complex and interconnected world where, while these things may have their place, even the smallest actions, such as care for a loved one, can ripple chaotically and help a more beautiful world of abundance to come to fruition.
Often, to paraphrase David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, we can feel powerless to enact effective positive social and environmental change in any way, feeling like a mere drop in a limitless ocean of global woes. Thankfully, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible reminds us, as Mitchell did, that while this may be an existential truth, equally the story can be turned on its head, with the ocean consisting of a multitude of small drops, each connected to the next in myriad ways. “Enlightenment,” Eisenstein assures us in this important book, “is a group activity.”
Tom Smith holds an MA in Sociology and Philosophy, a Permaculture Design Certificate, and lives at An Teach Saor (The Free House) a permaculture small-holding in Galway, Ireland.
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