In New York, the invited guest speakers were Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury and Ms. Barbara Valocore. In the opening remarks, it was noted that, “The next stage of humanity's evolutionary growth is to face the crisis of freedom from material desire.” This remark was particularly relevant to Ambassdor Chowdhury’s talk, which focused on poverty in the least developed countries, in which he served as Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the UN. Poverty, as the absence of needed money and resources for a decent human life, is the other side of the excessive concentration of resources that luxury goods and services represent.
It is this imbalance between dearth and abundance that shows how distorted the Divine Circulatory Flow has become, and why there is such a need for humanity to free itself from material desire, so that the right circulation of money can re-allocate resources equitably. Indeed, according to Ambassador Chowdhury, the eradication of poverty, and global peace and security, are "two sides of the same coin". He went on to note that there must be collective efforts and response from the international community to overcome and address the dire problem of the world's poor.
According to the Ambassador, the definition and the way we view poverty has changed over the years. This is possibly due to a more humanistic perspective and an expanded understanding of freedom and development through human rights. The understanding of freedom has much extended our thinking to include a broader view dealing with human development and human capacity. He noted that, “The invaluable work of Nobel Prize winning economist Professor Amartya Sen… has contributed to a crucial paradigm shift by focusing international attention on a different, multidimensional concept of poverty and development:
·from measuring development in terms of GDP per capita and poverty in terms of mere income deprivation,
·to a characterization of human development in terms of expansion of valuable human capabilities, with a great emphasis on individual freedoms and rights.”
Chowdhury explained that, while he did not think that the Millennium Development Goals would be met by 2015, he believes that the efforts being made through such poverty reducing strategies as microcredit and small loans program have created a significant driving force in overcoming poverty in countries like Bangladesh. It is these grassroots initiatives and community efforts that can lead to effective and positive change in poverty-reduction. He remarked that he prefers microcredit over microfinance because microcredit has "heart and soul" while microfinance is more materially focused. He noted, “Nothing could be more depriving than denial of a fair opportunity. It is the right of every human being to be given a reasonable opportunity, a fair chance to come out of poverty. It is the poverty not of earnings but of opportunity that is most crushing. Just think of how the millions of illiterate rural women in abject poverty and discriminated by the society in my country Bangladesh and 60 other countries have brought their families out of poverty and found human dignity through the window of opportunity opened for them only by a paltry microcredit.”
In conclusion, the Ambassador stressed the need for international cooperation in continuing support for the Least Developed Countries.
Barbara Valocore, a long-time student of the Ageless Wisdom focused more directly upon the spiritual nature of money, and of the Divine Circulatory Flow. She noted that the health of all living systems depends on their ability to correctly circulate and distribute resources - this is their own internal economy. By the same token, the problem within the human economy is one of correct circulation and distribution.
Valocore highlighted the transition from the Piscean era, where there was a sharp separation between material and spiritual concerns, to the Aquarian era, where the themes of relationship and synthesis are becoming ever more important. The understanding of these themes makes it easier to recognise our own place within the Divine Circulatory Flow. It also underlines our responsibility for the correct circulation and direction of energy. And, perhaps most significantly, we are learning that spiritual and material matters are equally important and divine, and should not be separated in thought: hence the need to re-evaluate our attitudes and actions with regard to money.
Needless to say, such a re-evaluation is a challenge. As Valocore noted, “we are being challenged to break away from centuries old habitual and wrong thinking, particularly that money is dirty or something that can’t possibly be used for spiritual purposes. The emerging energies are moving us to embrace new thinking and really know that the material and spiritual realms cannot be separate and apart. The highest and the lowest must meet, blend and fuse. We can no longer separate money from spiritual concerns. Oneness thinking more than anything can restore the divine circulatory flow.”
She drew attention to a number of hopeful trends. First, there is the “Giving Pledge” an initiative sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, which encourages other billionaires and millionaires to give 50% or more of their wealth to charity, resulting in vast sums being pledged for human benefit. Second, there is the work being done by the Rudolph Steiner Foundation, whose core mission is to “transform the way the world works with money”. On the website of one of its projects, called Re-imagine Money and the Transforming Money Collaborative, there is an extensive resource list of organizations and individuals creating new agreements and relationships around money. Valocore continued, “Rudolph Steiner Social Finance offers a new and very Aquarian paradigm of money circulation and flow. An investor’s money is placed in the form of loans to non-profit groups working for goodwill and social benefit. The investor knows where the money is and can see the projects. The difference in the interest rates between what the investor receives and what the borrower pays, finances the infrastructure of the organization. The borrowers are thoroughly vetted and there is a personal relationship, so the default rate is basically non-existent. It is human beings facing one another exchanging love, in this case money. Borrowers and lenders meet regionally face to face to discuss the most equitable rates of interest and there is currently $130 million in circulation. These dollars are working directly to 'foster social and spiritual renewal.'”
Finally, Valocore referred to movements where the mass regeneration of money is taking place, such as the Slow Money and Move your Money movements, which both focus on investing money locally - a similar trend to the local currencies highlighted by Josh Ryan-Collins in London. She underlined the need for personal responsibility with regard to money, when she cited Alice Bailey’s remark that the regeneration of money will not happen as the result of a few very wealthy individuals’ philanthropy, but that the actions and attitude of millions of people in every country can permanently re-channel it. She concluded, “While it is true that the recent economic downturn has adversely affected millions of people, it surely must be a blessing in disguise as it undoubtedly is forcing us in the West to re-prioritize how we handle money and where we place our values.”
In the concluding remarks to the New York Symposium, the need for individual and collective responsibility was again highlighted: “…we must work, every one of us, for the upliftment of human consciousness to recognise that 'no evolutionary future awaits anyone except in association with everyone else'.”