Charles Eisenstein

American writer

Charles Eisenstein (born 1967) is a public speaker, self-described "degrowth activist" 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).

Charles Eisenstein in 2020


  • The war against the self is the internalization of the war against nature.
    We have been taught that we need an act of will to overcome our base natures. But when we try too hard to be good, we only separate ourselves from others.
    • Charles Eisenstein, Oral presentation in Baltimore, MD March 2012
  • Constrained by habits and acculturalization, we have less choice than we imagine. Many apparently momentous decisions were actually determined within us long ago. In the long run, the most powerful choice we can make is where to focus our attention. Attention is healing. Attention is the bridge in relationship. And attention facilitates change and learning.
    • Charles Eisenstein, Oral presentation in Baltimore, MD March 2012
  • Every culture has a Story of the People to give meaning to the world. Part conscious and part unconscious, it consists of a matrix of agreements, narratives, and symbols that tell us why we are here, where we are headed, what is important, and even what is real. I think we are entering a new phase in the dissolution of our Story of the People, and therefore, with some lag time, of the edifice of civilization built on top of it....
    But the new mythos has not yet emerged. We will abide for a time in the space between stories. Those of you who have been through it on a personal level know that it is a very precious - some might say sacred - time. Then we are in touch with the real. Each disaster lays bare the real underneath our stories. The terror of a child, the grief of a mother, the honesty of not knowing why. In such moments we discover our humanity. We come to each other’s aid, human to human. We take care of each other. That’s what keeps happening every time there is a calamity, before the beliefs, the ideologies, the politics take over again.
    How can we prepare? We cannot prepare. But we are being prepared.
  • We seek to move from the self of separation to the self of relationship that knows that everything outside is also inside. Then we are not alone. This is not something we can accomplish in the normal sense of the word. It cannot be another achievement of the separate self. Rather, it is a gift we can receive—and it is a gift we can pass on.
  • We live within a cultural mythology that tells us we are separate beings in competitive relation for power, even for survival. We long to return to a culture of inclusiveness, cooperation, and the sharing of gifts.

The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self (2003)

  • How much freer and happier we would feel, and how much more powerful we would be, if only we stopped struggling against the grain of our natural gifts and inclinations, stopped trying to be what we are not, and instead used willpower to stay true to an exciting and joyful life purpose.
    • The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self (2003)

The Ascent of Humanity (2007)

  • No matter how complete the despair, no matter how bitter the cynicism, a possibility beckons of a world more beautiful and a life more magnificent than what we know today. Though we may rationalize it, it is not rational. We become aware of it in moments, gaps in the rush and press of modern life. These moments come to us alone in nature, or with a baby, making love, playing with children, caring for a dying person, making music for the sake of music or beauty for the sake of beauty. At such times, a simple and easy joy shows us the futility of the vast, life-consuming program of management and control.
  • We intuit also that something similar is possible collectively.
    • The Ascent of Humanity
  • I write of a coming shift from a profit-taking economy to a gift economy, from an economy of ‘how can I take the most?’ to ‘how can I best give of my gifts?’ This future, in which the anxiety of "making a living" no longer drives us, will arise out of the transformation in the human sense of self that is gathering today. But it is not only a future. We can live it now.
  • The fact that the regime of separation appears to be reaching new heights, the fact that the whole globe is falling into the grip of the monetization of life and the commodification of relationship, the fact that the numbering, labeling, and controlling of the world and everything in it is approaching unprecedented extremes, does not mean that prospects for a more beautiful world are receding into the distance. Rather, like a wave rolling toward shore, the Age of Separation rears up to its maximum height even as it hollows out in the moment before it crashes. This crash, inevitable eons ago, is upon us today. As for the world that we can build thereafter, we can see glimpses of it in all the ‘alternatives’ presented today with so little effect…
    Deep deep down, we all know that a much better world is possible, and more than possible, certain, someday.

Sacred Economics (2011)

  • In religion, [we find] the pursuit of an ultimate aim, such as salvation or enlightenment, from which all other good things flow. How like the unlimited aim of money! I wonder what the effect would be on our spirituality if we gave up on the pursuit of a unitary abstract goal that we believe to be the key to everything else. How would it feel to release the endless campaign to improve ourselves, to make progress toward a goal? What would it be like just to play instead, just to be? Like wealth, enlightenment is a goal that knows no limit, and in both cases the pursuit of it can enslave. In both cases, I think the object of the pursuit is a spurious substitute for a diversity of things that people really want.

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. The Vision and Practice of Interbeing (2013)

  • When one is aligned with the purpose of service, acts that seem exceptionally courageous to others are a matter of course.
    When one experiences the world as abundant, then acts of generosity are natural, since there is no doubt about continued supply.
    When one sees other people as reflections of oneself, forgiveness becomes second nature, as one realizes “But for the grace of God, so go I.”
    When one appreciates the order, beauty, mystery, and connectedness of the universe, a deep joy and cheerfulness arises that nothing can shake.
    When one sees time as abundant and life as infinite, one develops superhuman patience.
    When one lets go of the limitations of reductionism, objectivity, and determinism, technologies become possible that the science of separation cannot countenance.
    When one lets go of the story of the discrete and separate self, amazing intuitive and perceptual capabilities emerge from lifelong latency.
  • The things that 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. From the normal vantage point, it certainly seems that only with discipline can we withstand the temptations that surround us: overeating, drugs, video games, mindless internet surfing, and everything else we consume. These things are undeniably destructive to our own lives and beyond; therefore, it would seem, we cannot always trust desire at all. But when we recognize that these are not really what we desire, our goal becomes not to suppress desire but to identify the true want or need, and to fulfill it. That is no trivial task; it is a profound path of self-realization.
  • Boredom is so endemic to our culture, particularly among youth, that we imagine it to be a near-universal default state of human existence. In the absence of outside stimuli we are bored. Yet…boredom is virtually unique to Western culture (and by extension to the global culture it increasingly dominates).…greed like boredom is absent in most hunter-gatherer cultures based on a more open conception of self.
  • Not blaming ourselves for mistakes is the flip side of not taking credit for our acts of courage or creativity or leadership, or our good ideas.
    • The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible
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