Alan Watts gave a lecture 60+ years ago entitled ‘The Veil of Thoughts’ which contained brilliant insight into the human condition. It is as relevant now as when he first uttered these words.
It is with some hope that there will come a day when humanity will find this lecture irrelevant to its current life conditions – that we learn to value wealth, real wealth – and each other – as we should do.
The veil of thoughts
Someone once suggested that thought is a means of concealing truth.
Despite the fact that it is an extraordinarily useful faculty. But in quite recent weeks we’ve had an astounding example of the way mankind can be bamboozled by thoughts.
There was a crisis about gold and the confusion of money (in any form what-so-ever) with wealth is one of the major problems from which civilisation is suffering. Because way back in our development, when we first began to use symbols to represent the events of the physical world, we found this such and ingenious device that we became completely fascinated with it. And in ever-so-many different dimensions in life we are living in a state of total confusion between symbol and reality.
And the real reason why in our world today where there is no technical reason whatsoever why there should be any poverty at all. The reason it still exists, is people keep asking the question: “where’s the money gonna come from?” Not realising that money doesn’t come from anywhere – it never did – except if you thought it was gold.
And then of course if to increase the supply of gold – use that to finance all the worlds commerce – prosperity would depend; not upon finding new processes for growing food in vast quantities, or getting nutrition out of the ocean or getting water from atomic energy – No, it depends on discovering a new gold mine. And you can see what a nonsensical state of affairs that is, because when gold is used for money it becomes, in fact, useless.
Gold is a very useful metal for filling teeth, making jewellery and maybe covering the dome of the capital in Washington but the moment it is locked up in vaults in the form of ingots it becomes completely useless. It becomes a false security. Something people cling to, like an idol, like the belief in some kind of big daddy-o god, with whiskers, who lives above the clouds. And all that kind of things diverts our attention from reality.
We go through all sorts of weird rituals and the symbol gets in the way of our practical life.
If you remember the great depression, when – one day – everybody was doing business and things were going along pretty well and the next day, there were breadlines. It was like someone came to work and they said to them “sorry chum but you can’t build today. No building can go on – we don’t have enough inches” He said “Whadya mean we don’t have enough inches?! We’ve got wood haven’t we? We’ve got metal, we’ve even got tape measures” “yeah but you don’t understand the business world. We just haven’t got enough inches, just plain inches. We’ve used too much of them” And that’s exactly what happened when we had the depression.
Because money is something of the same order of reality – as inches, grammes, meters, pounds, or lines of latitude or longitude. It is an abstraction. It is a method of bookkeeping to obviate the cumbersome procedures of barter. But our culture, our civilisation is entirely hung up on the notion that money has an independent reality of its own.