Spiritual Capitalism

Part 9 of a 10 Part Series: Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems

Dana Zohar and Ian Marshall, who wrote the book, Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By,1 are a fascinating, couple married to each other. Zohar is broadly trained and thus taps into diverse resources such as classical literature, physics, religion, and psychology. Marshall is a Jungian-oriented psychiatrist and psychotherapist.

The authors recount the story of a neuroscientist who was probing his temporal lobes in the laboratory and claimed to “have seen God.” This neural mass, or “God Spot,” apparently is where “spiritual intelligence” is hardwired so that the more meaningful and deeper questions of life and organizations can be pondered, as long as all other parts of the brain, including rational intelligence and emotional intelligence, are functioning in harmony with each other at 40 Hz oscillations. If not, the God Spot can be a trouble spot triggering “borderline schizophrenia or manic episodes.” Well, readers, what can I say other than what else would we expect from a Jungian and a wife who dabbles in religion?

The authors argue that material capitalism, the kind that predominates in America’s corpocracy, is unsustainable, depleting our natural resources, creating political and social instability, eroding our moral standards, and degrading the very meaning of life in terms of its deepest values and aspirations. Rather than reject this conventional capitalism altogether, however, the authors advocate transforming it into a more positive, sustainable economic system that they call “spiritual capitalism” in the secular, non-religious sense.

It’s defined as the amount of knowledge and expertise available about “meaning, values, and fundamental purposes.” It produces not material wealth that ultimately consumes itself but a self-sustaining wealth “that enriches the deeper aspects of our lives.” The authors list 12 qualities that companies “high in spiritual capital” would possess. For example, they would be “self-aware,” “vision and value-led,” and “compassionate” and would “have a sense of vocation.”

Are there any companies high in spiritual capital? The authors don’t cite any companies that possess all 12 qualities or even most of them, which is an opportunity missed because they developed a set of descriptors that could have been built into a good survey instrument. They do give very short accounts of three American corporations that supposedly “accrue spiritual capital,” Merck Pharmaceutical, Coca Cola and Starbucks, but they are dubious choices at best in my opinion.

Maybe their examples unwittingly help to validate their assertion that material capitalism is in a state of crisis. They call it a “crisis of negative motivations” and claim that the four primary ones are self-assertion or competitiveness, anger, craving or greed, and fear. Most of the book, therefore, is devoted to explaining Marshall’s “Scale of Motivations” and in speculating on how it, along with emotional and spiritual intelligence, can be used to raise motivation to a sufficient level among a sufficient number of business leaders to produce a “great transformation” first in their own companies and then for capitalism as a whole.

In Closing

There is much about Zohar and Marshall’s views and ideas with which I agree, such as their view that the capitalism prevailing today is unsustainable and thus needs to be transformed, not totally dismantled. The authors are creative thinkers who forced me repeatedly to think outside my own relatively narrow paradigms.

At the same time, the authors’ analysis of the problem and their proposed remedy are too unbalanced and insufficient. Material capitalism is far more than a crisis of motivation. Many other factors contribute to the failings of traditional capitalism. Relying on a critical mass of business people to shift upwards their spiritual intelligence is naïve and simplistic.

What’s Coming Next?

Part 10. The Peoples’ Capitalism, the last of the 10-Part Series. In this last part the commonalities among the alternative forms of capitalism presented in the first nine parts will be highlighted, before launching into my ideas on “the peoples’ capitalism.”

• Part 1 here; Part 2 here; Part 3 here; Part 4 here; Part 5 here; Part 6 here; Part 7 here; Part 8 here;

  1. Zohar, D. & Marshall, I. Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By, 2004. []
Gary Brumback, PhD, is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. He is the author of The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch; and America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying. His most recent book is Corporate Reckoning Ahead. Read other articles by Gary, or visit Gary's website.