The Economics of Immortality

Conference hosted by the European Commission, Bruxelles, 8 October 2009

Thanks to the President of EuReform, Steven Colin for inviting me, to EC for hosting this conference and to Daniela Terrile for organizing it. The idea to schedule it at lunch time is congruent with my purpose to give you food for thought. Before starting, let me state in advance that I am not here as the Rector of the European School of Economics or as the writer of “The School for Gods.” I came to join you - your association - for the common purpose of raising the effectiveness of the European Commission - a body so important and vital for Europe - and for bringing to you the results of our research.
I know beforehand that after expounding them, you will find it hard to accept most of the crucial findings of my studies and of the fundamental ideas and principles that they are based on. But let me pose to you a question: who among you can state that he has discovered an amazing idea throughout the entire course of his life? Who has ever come across something so outstanding that you could cry out “I have never heard such a thing before”?

Thinking is Destiny
Interesting is not enough... What I am asking is if you have ever met an amazing, baffling, disconcerting, shocking idea… something so powerful that it turns your mind upside down, something contrary to common sense, adverse to reason, opposite to anything you had believed so far. To give you an idea: “Love your enemy”, just the prospect that we could love enemies, is what we can call an amazing, subversive idea. And 2.000 years later this lofty paradox continues to keep all its disruptive potential. The belief encapsulated in the motto: Homo faber est suae quisque fortunae (every man is the artisan of his own fortune) is another majestic idea, one of the main psychological pillars on which the Roman empire was built. The philosophy of a man, of a corporation, or of an entire nation, their ideas and values, determine their success and account for their longevity.
Before we reach the age of 20 we have already built a complete system of deep convictions and beliefs. Hence, we can spend our entire life never meeting one idea which clashes with our mental schemes, or one of those ideas that can move mountains. Quite soon in our life we become impenetrable to any evidence or even to minor affirmations that could vaguely contrast with our old set of beliefs and consolidated ideas. Ordinary humanity seems to be condemned to think alike and to use the same set of thoughts forever - from cradle to grave. Thinking is destiny means that we will never be able to change our destiny, neither as society nor as individuals, without changing our thinking. Hence, we find the need for revolutionary ideas. Original, innovative, unconventional ideas are the most strategic resource for the future of the species. They are the engine of our evolution and of our economy.
Mankind can change its destiny. In order to do that we have to change our psychology, the hypnotic world-story rooted in our system of convictions and beliefs. Do not get worried! I haven’t the slightest concern with needing to convince you, neither any hope to change even the least of your thoughts. But an individual can make these changes for himself. One among you may be ready to change his vision, and therefore his life and the reality for thousands of people. Just one of you, if I am lucky, will make it worth my journey to have come here.

Japan: A Textbook case
I could say that I am a repentant, reformed economist. I stopped believing in economics long ago, since the time I found out that so many important phenomena cannot be explained by it.
Let’s look at the case of the global crisis that the world is facing.
Economists do not know how to face the global crisis, and economics has shown itself to be far from a science. The reason is that this crisis is not financial or economic. It is a crisis of values and has its source in the scarcity of real leaders, a shortage of committed, visionary men and women. A textbook case is that of modern Japan, and the difficulty of economics to find a convincing explanation for its prodigious economic growth. Japan lost two wars. The Second World War culminated with its defeat and the destruction of two main towns by atomic bombs. Japan is extremely overpopulated, speaks an impossible language, and is in the middle of nowhere. They were just emerging from a medieval culture. To top it all, Japan does not have any natural resources whatsoever. How could it become the second most powerful economy in the world? We might be very interested in understanding how it was possible. Is there any economist who can give us such an explanation? If we could discover the secret of Japan’s development we could solve the problem of any developing country. Ironically, we could ask them: are you in need of everything? Have you any resources at all? Have you just come out of the destruction caused by conflicts or are you half shattered by a civil war? If your answer is yes, then you are in the best condition to become an affluent country, a most powerful economy. It is hardly credible, is it?

Economy is a Way of Thinking
The first conclusion that we have reached is that the way we think, our psychology, is a most relevant factor of our economy... Thinking is destiny… Financial destiny as well…. But this has not always been the conviction of the economists. As matter of fact, economics has started as a pure discipline believing that the explanation of the economic facts can be found in the economy itself. This way of thinking we could call a tautology (it is a difficult word used to say - that is stupid). Let me then establish a first, general proposition of my theory.
Economy is a way of thinking, a reflection of the Being.
We cannot understand the growth of Japan if we do not know and understand its culture and traditions, from the culture of rice to the samurai tradition. We cannot understand why Japan developed so quickly, and why its social cohesion is so strong, without knowing the strength and weight of its system of values, the quality and breadth of its moral principles, and without entering into the roots of its culture and the deepness of Confucianism, which nourishes it. Confucianism is not a religion, it is a philosophy of life which works as a strong social glue.
Confucianism, which they imported from China, gave Japan its ethic DNA. Approaching the modern age, the original patrimony made up of the six main virtues recommended by K’ung Fu Tzu (Confucius) was reduced to five: Justice (i), Ceremony (li), Knowledge (chih), Faith (hsin) and Loyalty (chung). In this mutation of its ethic DNA, the sixth virtue, Compassion/Benevolence (Jen), was in time completely abandoned and Loyalty grew in importance until it assumed the position of being the central virtue in the modern Japanese system of ethics. This mutation in the invisible has moved mountains in the world of economics - demonstrating that the economy of a country is a reflection of its way of feeling and thinking, in one word, of its Being.
The system of values, the quality of thinking is the cause and the economy is the effect.

Visibilia ex Invisibilibus
This is the motto of the European School of Economics. It means that the visible is produced by the invisible.
The wealth of a nation, the economic destiny of a country, of an organization, of an individual, cannot be explained by economics. There is something in the invisibility of a country, of an organization, of a man, which explains and accounts for what we can observe in their life over time. The level of prosperity a country can achieve is equal to the quality of its system of values and above all its capacity to produce emotionally healthy individuals, visionaries, and pragmatic dreamers.

A planetary belief
If there is a unifying idea, a ritual common to the entire planet, we can find it on the first day of lessons in any school or faculty of economics. In the universities of different countries, in different cultures, at any latitude, it is possible to observe a very extraordinary thing. From the University La Sapienza in Rome, Stanford in California or the London School of Economics, even down to the smallest college on this planet, they all open the academic year in the same way. If you think about it, it sounds really incredible. It is a phenomenon which I can only call ´collective hypnotism´; in any faculty of economics you could hear the same speech made more or less with these words: “Dear students, on this planet, resources are limited, and we have to deal with this condition of scarcity. Economics is the fine art of coping with limited resources”. It is like saying: Dear students, you are here to learn how to become criminals. If resources are limited we have to find a way to grab all that we can before the others do so. And if I am stronger, smarter and greedier, I will get the resources and will leave you without.” The idea of scarcity in economics is one and the same thing with the justification of criminality and human exploitation. If resources are limited, individuals and countries must devote themselves to plunder and robbery if they want to survive.
I know just one school of economics that dares to offer to its students an opposite vision: “Resources are not limited; man is limited”. The planet is bountiful in the extreme, a cornucopia overflowing with all a man’s heart desires. In such a universe it is impossible to fear scarcity. It is not resources that are limited, but man who projects his own limitations onto the external world and causes his unconscious propensity toward scarcity to take on a concrete form.
(The School for Gods - ESE Publishing, 2009).

To Have more you have to Be more
Let me pose to you a question: if you had a company, would you give resources to irresponsible people - people without joy, without commitment, without love for their work? Would you give a powerful car to your son who just learned how to drive? This is the condition of mankind. 99.9% of humanity is made of people without the level of responsibility to deserve more resources. We already have too much for what we can handle. To have more we have to be more. For this we need schools of Being. We have to have schools of responsibility capable of increasing our capacity to be more, so that we can handle more wealth and power, or we cannot have more wealth and power. There is no animal in nature that can have the strength of a lion, if it does not have the habits and the ethics of a lion. The lion eats once a week. He never assaults or kills a pregnant prey. He is a very sober predator. That is why he can have such power.
Who decided that Iran cannot have the atomic bomb? Why are they not entitled to be a nuclear super-power? Italy has it; even North Korea has it. Why should it be denied to Iran? The reason is that we cannot trust their capacity to control such power - the power to possess weapons that could devastate the planet. We could tell them more or less what we would say to our own teenager son. “You cannot have the keys to the house yet. One day when you grow up and you show signs of maturity, we will give you the keys. We will give you the car. We will give you some money to manage”. This metaphor illustrates the condition of the planet. Whoever is the God we believe in, Jehovah, Buddha or Allah, obviously He doesn’t trust us beyond a limit. So, there are resources, innumerable and great inventions, and incredible solutions ready to defeat evils and illnesses, but we cannot have them yet, as our state of being is not at that level. We have to grow. And we do not know how to grow. To grow is like organizing an escape from Allenwood or Fort Dix penitentiaries. We cannot do it in two, in ten, or all of us together. Only the single person, only a determined individual can make it. He needs a map and an escape plan. He also needs an organization and somebody who has done it before him. He needs a School - a School of Being.

The Individual and the Mass
The leading spirits, and great individuals, have always had a recurrently fierce, violent opposition from the masses. Have you been in Piazza dei Fiori, in Rome? Have you seen the tall monument there? Yes, it is a monument to Giordano Bruno! Looking at it you could say: how nice, they have erected this imposing monument in this beautiful square to honour the memory of one of the forerunners of modern thinking, together with Galileo, Copernicus and many other free spirits of that age. You would think that it is evidence of gratitude for his intelligence and the courage of an innovator - to his pioneer spirit. But why was it erected in just that place? To no avail you would explore the base of the monument. Nowhere will you find it written: “Here is where we killed the guy; this is the exact place where we burned him.” Another scientist of that time - you know Galileo Galilei - was tortured and then put under house arrest for his theories, and he saved his life only by abjuring and denying them. Almost 500 years ago a man came up with a revolutionary idea, an idea that nobody had demonstrated scientifically before him. He decided to announce his discovery in a treatise which he entitled: De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium. We are in 1543. This scientist is Niccolò Copernico. His book is now considered the birth cry of the modern age. He realized that it was impossible for his theory to be accepted. The discovery that the Earth is not at the centre of the Universe, and that the Sun does not go around the Earth, but rather that the Earth goes around the Sun, was simply too much to bear. So, in expounding and demonstrating his theory he took two precautions: one, he dedicated his book to the Pope, Paolo III. The second precaution was to publish it posthumously, after his death, just to be on the safe side.
I am aware that the ideas that I am bringing here, to you, are more revolutionary and subversive than the heliocentric theory announced in the XVI century. Really, Copernico’s scientific discovery did not affect our lives that much, if 500 years later we still say: the sun rises, the sun goes down. But to discover that there is a vertical dimension to the flat world of economics, to find that the slightest elevation of our being and thinking, can move mountains in the world of events, create wealth and solve millennia old problems, can change our personal life and the future of humanity forever.

One Idea can Change the World
From the ancient economy based on slavery, and then on to the feudal economy based on serfdom, until the modern rational capitalism and the new global economy, turning points in the history of economics have always been the result of psychological revolutions and the products of immense shocks in mankind’s vision of the world. If we only knew how to trigger the next psychological revolution, what idea could blow up our mental schemes and change our way of thinking beyond a point of no return...
The economy is a reflection of the Being. Resources are not limited. To have more we have to be more. Thinking is Destiny. These ideas possess a built-in fragment of eternity. It is enough to summon such vast and courageous ideas to bring unimaginable solutions. The biggest limit that we bring hidden in our being, engraved in our psychology, in each cell of our body, is the idea that death is ineluctable - that we are prisoners sentenced to death and hopelessly waiting on death row. This idea is at the root of our every constriction - shackling our creativity. If thinking is destiny, how can we bring a radical change to our thinking? How can we instigate a revolution in our system of beliefs and elevate economics from being a pseudoscience devoted to the petty management of limited resources – hence, a predatory, criminal activity - to a planetary system of production and distribution of limitless, infinite wealth?
Now is the time to tell you something more about the title of this conversation: The Economics of Immortality. What does it mean - immortality? Why do we talk of immortality in a conference about economics?
Let me pose to you a question. When did you last pronounce the word ¨immortality¨? When did you last utter the word ¨infinity¨? Or, ¨timelessness¨? Or, ¨eternity¨? When was it? Most likely, it was in a perfume shop. “Give me a little bottle of Eternity; give me Love Forever; give me Immensity”. Then, once we have bought the perfume, we forget. We hardly utter these words more than a few times in a lifetime. Why? Because, they are extremely powerful words. They are engaging to the point that just to utter them will produce a change in our reality. What does immortality mean? It means something very simple. It means the absence of death. If there is no death, there is immortality. Why do we need to bring in this concept in economics?

Dreaming the Impossible
We had impossible dreams before. Our civilisation was built on impossible dreams... from Columbus’ idea to go west in order to find east, to the project of cutting the Suez channel. or creating from scratch a brand new capital in Brazil’s tropical rainforest, in 41 months. The myth of Icarus announced that man one day would fly! It was dreamed in Crete thousands of years ago. How many would have believed in this dream? We had to wait for the Wright Brothers for the first human flight in 1903, but we made it. What is the next impossible dream - impossible even to bear? What is the idea that is so bold and powerful as to produce the kind of shocks, the turning upside-down of our psychology, which have always preceded and created a quantum jump in the economy? The idea that death is not ineluctable, that it can be overcome! Physical immortality is the new frontier of human dreaming - the incredible thought which requires an immense strength just to be conceived. For innumerable years we have accepted death as our destiny. For millennia we have resigned ourselves to the idea that life is limited. By accepting this mental limit, everything else has consequently met a limitation in our existence. Resources, creativity, and wealth have been thought of as limited. It is like looking at the world with the eyes of a frog and complaining over the view.

A turning point in our civilization is to start to believe that death is not necessary, and not even ethical. This revolution in our thinking - removing death from our psychology, as the limit of all limits - will produce the greatest revolution in the economy - even in the planetary system of production and distribution of wealth, and in the very concept of how to build and how to measure the real affluence of a nation.

The economics of immortality
Until now, all economic systems have dealt with survival - with peoples' basic needs: food, shelter, clothing and reproduction. From this point of view, the economics of Neanderthals and the economics of a modern complex society are essentially the same.
The new economics of the coming decades deal no longer with survival or how to keep people alive for a few decades, but with immortality. New technologies and resources aim at the indefinite extension of each human life. This is the beginning of a twenty-first century economics of immortality.
All existing ideologies of left and right are outdated and obsolete. Powerful forces coming from the individual and not from the mass are steadily rescripting the fundamentals of life. You as an individual are called to create, through your dream, a new humanity and redesign within yourself a new economics and a brand new epoch.

The School for Gods
In the most crucial time of my life, I met a remarkable man who in my Book I named the Dreamer. His ideas turned my beliefs, my vision of the world, upside-down and changed my destiny. One day He told me about an ancient manuscript which centuries earlier had disappeared - apparently swallowed by the quicksand of time. He asked me to find it. Though reluctant, I put myself on the track of this legendary book of which I only knew the title and the fact that it had been written by a monk-warrior, a bizarre figure of a philosopher, called Lupelius, born in Ireland one thousand years ago. He had created a School based on the belief that death is not ineluctable, it can be overcome, as it is just the fruit of mankind’s negative imagination. According to Lupelius, death is no more than a superstition, the bad habit of a hypnotized humanity. Using original methods and his unique principles, he prepared a new race of unbeatable warriors. So, for many long months I travelled to any corner of the world looking for it, led by the crazy idea that the Book still existed and that I could find it. Finally, when I had almost lost any hope, in the ancient library of Yeveran, in Armenia, I found it. The manuscript was written in a mixture of vernacular English and Latin and was untitled. I was the only one who knew its original title: The School for Gods. I commissioned a perfect reproduction of it to take with me as a gift for the Dreamer and started studying, avidly soaking up Lupelius’ ideas.

Vision and reality are one and the same thing
Soon I realized why the Dreamer had asked me to find the manuscript of Lupelius. I was meeting with a patrimony of ideas of immense value. Here I got the powerful idea that in order to evolve, economy has to abandon obsolete beliefs, and old mental schemes. The conviction that death can be overcome meant the overthrow of all limits and the start of a psychological revolution capable of sweeping away the old, mental barriers and triggering a new world economy.
We need to draw a vertical dimension to the flat world of traditional economy, to conceive a third dimension capable of unimaginably expanding our capacity to create wealth and distribute it. The idea of immortality is an idea vertical to the plane of a bi-dimensional, ordinary thinking - a dramatic raising of our vision.
Vision and reality are one and the same thing. The larger our vision, the richer our reality.

It’s possible to change our destiny, to eliminate poverty, misery, and scarcity, but to do that we have to change man’s psychology and the hypnotic world’s story rooted in his system of convictions and beliefs. We must change the dream. Only individuals can do that. That is why a school is needed, a school of Being, potent enough to bring a planetary revolution in education, and to overturn teaching programs and methods, and exalting the vision. This is the scientific path on which we, at the European School of Economics, have set forth, and in which we believe.
Traditional education, the schools and universities we know, cannot teach the young to free themselves from conflictual thinking, prejudices and obsolete ideas, nor teach how to dare to dream the impossible, to upset any mental limit and any inner stockade, and to cultivate in themselves an indomitable passion for greatness. In order to do that, we must nourish our students with the idea of immortality, striking down the preconception that death is invincible.
The economy is a reflection of the Being. One fragment of eternity is enough to summon vast and courageous ideas, and unimaginable solutions. The conviction that death is something unavoidable is what limits us; it is at the root of our every constriction, shackling our creativity. All that we need is the idea of immortality, keeping that principle present in our own lives, and thereby freeing ourselves from the captivity of time.

Death: the world leading industry
What we call reality is only the reflection of our dreams, the mirror of our states of being. The world is such because we are such. It applies to the world economy as well. The mind of man is conflictual, his logic functions by means of contrasting concepts, and his reason is armed. This is why we know only a survival-based economy and have allowed death to become the planet’s leading industry, and the architrave that sustains the wealth of nations. From arms manufacturing to environmental pollution, from pharmaceutical production to organized crime, men and nations are serving the economy of conflict, and the economy of disaster. All of humanity is on the payroll of death.
I think that this conference should have taken place last year, in March 2008. We would celebrate forty years since Robert Kennedy delivered his speech at Kansas University. It would have been very instructive for this anniversary to read his words and to discover that forty years later we are still there, wondering about economic progress and what to do to enhance economy, to transform it from its very roots to face the planetary emergencies. Let me read the conclusive lines:

"We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the Gross National Product. For the Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads.... It includes... the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children. And if the Gross National Product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry, or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials... the Gross National Product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America -- except whether we are proud to be Americans."

So many years later, we cannot continue to measure economy the way we have done so far. Moreover we cannot continue to have a survival-based - disaster-based economy.
The same food industry which could be thought of as the furthest thing from the economy of disaster, on the other hand, is an integral part of it through food adulteration and poisoning. The business of death borders on the food industry as it is also revealed by the fact that food multinationals like Kraft Jacobs Suchard and Barilla are totally, or largely owned by corporations like Philip Morris (tobacco) and Swiss Oerlikon Buhrle (missiles and armour-plated cars). The same applies to the health industry, when we find out that within one of the largest corporations, General Electric, the products and services of the Health Division live side-by-side with the production of a wide range of systems and technologies for combat aircraft, military transport, helicopters and land vehicles for the world’s armed forces.

Beyond GDP: The A-Mors Index
Last November 2007, the conference Beyond GDP has indicated the need for better, and more complete parameters than GDP, gross domestic product, to measure the progress of societies and make comparative analysis among economies. The European Commission is studying indicators to take into account other aspects of a nation’s wealth, like education, health and social and environmental achievement. A program of the United Nations has elaborated a human development index (HDI) to integrate the GDP with the aim to tell more about the real state of wealth of an economy.
Our intent is to contribute to this international effort and to this large stream of ideas and studies, with the proposal of an index that is more than just an integration of existing or future parameters, but an enlargement of the vision. At the European School of Economics we have made intensive research to discover that which is the punctum dolens of the world economy. There, a more attentive, aware humanity will drive the needle of its will, as in acupuncture, and produce an intentional change in the pilaster that still sustains the wealth of nations and the perennial source of it: death.
Our research started from the undestanding of the true meaning of a most widely used (and abused) word: love. We could not find a satisfactory definition, until we were enlightened by the etymology of the Italian word amore and its Latin derivation: ‘a-mors’, which means absence of death.
The proposal coming from The European School of Economics, unheard of so far, is to elaborate a most important index, a parameter capable of measuring the degree of a-mors of societies and economies of the world. Or, if you like, how much advanced economies are based on the business of poverty, conflicts, criminality and all activities pretending to fight them, including medicine and fake philanthropy. And, as with General Electric, where we can know from the official balance sheet the turnover and profits coming from healthcare and lighting, and those coming from military production, we support the development of an index capable of measuring how much an economy relies on death and social disasters to produce its wealth.
This awareness will facilitate the redesign of a new economy, the epochal passage from a disaster-based capitalism and short-sighted economic system dealing with survival, to a limitless, abundant economics of immortality.

Alumni voices

Elvera Strydom

"I have an Honours degree in Psychology and was busy with my Masters degree in Research Psychology when I realised that as a creative person I did not want to work with statics and data day in and day out. For this reason I researched for the best educational institute where I can learn more about one of the things I love to do most. I found the ESE online and signed-up for the Event Management...

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