Joseph interpreting the Pharaoh's dream

Joseph in Egypt

In the Bible is a story about a Pharaoh having bad dreams that his advisors could not explain. He dreamt about seven fat cows eaten. Then came seven lean cows who ate the fat cows. And then came seven full ears of grain. Seven thin and blasted ears devoured them. Joseph explained those dreams. He told the Pharaoh that seven years with good harvests would come, followed by seven lean years with crop failures. Joseph advised the Egyptians to store food. They followed his advice and built storehouses for grain. In this way, Egypt survived the seven years of scarcity.1

There is something that the Bible does not tell us. The Egyptians used this grain storage as a financial system. The historian Friedrich Preisigke discovered that the Egyptians used grain receipts for money.2 Farmers bringing in the grain received these vouchers. Bakers brought them back in and exchanged them for grain to make bread. In the meantime, these receipts circulated as money. The vouchers had value because you could exchange them for grain. According to the Bible, Joseph took all the money from the Egyptians.3 And so the Egyptians may have started to use the vouchers as money instead.

When you exchanged the receipts for the grain, you had to pay the storage cost. In this way, these vouchers gradually lost value over time. It worked like a negative interest rate. It may have helped to keep the money circulating and may have prevented financial crises caused by interest charges that prompted the Sumerians to cancel debts from time to time. During the reign of Ramesses the Great, Egypt became a leading power again. Some historians suggested that the Pharao’s wealth at the time came from grain money.

The money remained in circulation after the introduction of coins around 400 BC until the Romans conquered Egypt around 40 BC. The grain money survived for more than a thousand years. A holding fee on money and negative interest rates can create a stable financial system that lasts forever. It contrasts with the Sumerian interest-bearing debts that had to be cancelled from time to time to prevent permanent debt-slavery of the masses.

The Bible provides an explanation as to how the Egyptian grain storage financial system might have come to be even though the story probably is fiction. The Bible and the Quran also condemn charging interest. There appears to be a link between interest-free money with a holding fee and the Abrahamic religions.

Featured image: Joseph interpreting the Pharaoh’s dream. Illustrations for La Grande Bible de Tours. Gustave Doré (1866). Public Domain.

1. Genesis 41 [link]
2. A Strategy for a Convertible Currency. Bernard A. Lietaer, ICIS Forum, Vol. 20, No.3, 1990 [link]
3. Genesis 47:15 [link]

Earth from space

The sacredness of Creation

Thus spoke Chief Seattle

In 1854, the native American Chief Seattle gave a speech when the United States government wanted to buy the land of his tribe. You can read it by clicking on the above link.

Different versions of Seattle’s speech are circulating. In 1971, a screenwriter wrote the text you just read. It subsequently became a religious creed within the environmentalist movement. It differs significantly from the first published text compiled from memories and notes of one of the attendants. As is often the case with religion, historicity is not of the essence. It is an inspiring speech.

The message strikes at the heart of the matter. Nothing is sacred anymore. The pursuit of money destroys our planet and our humanity. The white man may think he owns the land, but he does not. He may think he controls his destiny, but he does not. We share a common destiny. Whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the children of the Earth.

As long as production and consumption increase, new problems emerge faster than we can solve old ones with laws, technology, targets and other solutions. Most of us believe that structural changes are impossible, but acknowledging a problem is the beginning of a solution. Our belief that nothing will help can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We need a new starting point, a new foundation for our culture, our beliefs and thinking and our place in the universe. Small steps cannot save us. We need to completely change the way we live. God gave us this planet on loan. As long as we do not change our ways, our societies will not become more humane and respectful of Creation.

People within the environmentalist movement tried to make the planet and everything on it sacred and claimed that everything is interconnected. In 1991, the environmentalist group Strohalm issued a booklet named Towards a Philosophy of Connectedness.1 It lays out Strohalm’s vision for a sustainable and humane society.

The principal founder of Strohalm is Henk van Arkel, a dedicated individual who remained its driving force for many decades. His views mask that Van Arkel is a moderate man who does not blame anyone in particular for our current predicament. In 1993, I became familiar with Strohalm when I joined the environmentalist movement.

I knew that the people from Strohalm were right, but I also believed they were naive dreamers. People will not change their lifestyles out of their free will. And we cannot do without energy. But as we are heading for an apocalypse, we cannot allow a false sense of realism to stand in the way of what we should do. Things have to change dramatically. Perhaps, there is a way out, but it will not be easy.

Featured image: Earth from space. NASA. Public Domain.

1. Naar een filosofie van verbondenheid. Guus Peterse, Henk van Arkel, Hans Radder, Seattle, Pieter Schroever and Margrit Kennedy (1990). Aktie Strohalm.

Venus of Willendorf

Reconstructing the Garden of Eden

In archaeological excavations, female figurines have turned up that could depict mother goddesses. The most famous one is the Venus of Willendorf from around 23,000 BC. In ancient cultures, mother goddesses represented fertility. Women give birth, and early humans may not have understood fatherhood and believed that women create life. The ability of women to produce offspring could have been the essence of mother goddess worship. The virgin birth is the miracle of the mother goddess. One of the best-known mother goddesses was Isis in ancient Egypt.

Women can be sure that their children are their own, but for men, this is different. When the fathers of children are unknown, families are matrilineal, which means that family lines depend on motherhood. The worship of mother goddesses may have disappeared because men desired to control women and their sexuality. The transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture may have played a role in this development.

Hunter-gatherers were wanderers. They had fewer territorial conflicts than farmers because population density was low, and their disputes were less intense because hunter-gatherers had no property and could move on.1 That changed with the advent of agriculture. Farmers had to defend their property and family, otherwise, they would starve and lose their offspring. Men are willing to defend women and children they consider their own. Men can also walk out when they doubt their fatherhood. That may have given them a position of power so patriarchy emerged.

The Garden of Eden was in Mesopotamia. The biblical story probably was an ancient Mesopotamian myth that Jewish scribes tailored to their theological agenda. The Jews had been exiled to Babylon when their priests compiled their scriptures. In the original tale, Eve probably was Adam’s mother. That makes more sense than Eve coming from Adam’s rib. She is the Mother of All the Living (Genesis 3:20), and we are the woman’s offspring (Genesis 3:15). Elsewhere in the Bible, a child is called the father’s offspring, so this is noteworthy. Eve apparently gave birth without the intervention of a man, a virgin birth.

Eve is the mythical mother of humanity. Scientific evidence suggests that everyone descends from one woman called Mitochondrial Eve. This universe could be a simulation created by an advanced humanoid civilisation to entertain a post-human individual we call God. And so it may be part of the script. In other words, in the real world, all humans may not descend from one woman.

The purpose of the man probably was to be a companion for the woman and perhaps to fulfil her desires. The Bible says that God created the woman as a mate for the man (Genesis 2:18), but the tale only mentions the woman’s desire for her husband (Genesis 3:16). In the original story, Eve may have desired a mate and then gave birth to Adam. Eve probably was the leading character in the original tale as she discussed eating the fruit with the serpent and made Adam eat from it (Genesis 3:1-6).

A man left his father and mother and became united with his wife (Genesis 2:24). In patrilineal and patriarchal societies, women join their husband’s families. And so, Paradise might have been matrilineal or even matriarchal. The title Mother of all the Living refers to the mother goddess,2 but nothing suggests that Eve was a goddess in the original tale. It remains unclear who created the woman, but it could be the Mesopotamian gods.

The Fall reflects the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. The life of hunter-gatherers was more agreeable than the plight of farmers who came later on. The Agricultural Revolution was a curse for humanity.1 The Garden of Eden provided for everything. Eve and Adam were naked (Genesis 2:25) like hunter-gatherers in the jungle today. Adam was banished from the garden to work the ground and condemned to a life of toil (Genesis 3:17-19). Women had to obey their husbands from then on (Genesis 3:16).

Any explanation of the Fall is speculative, but the following plausibly elucidates the main elements. In ancient cultures, people worshipped snakes for their wisdom or knowledge. Hence, the serpent may have given counsel to Eve. The tree of knowledge relates to the sacred tree, which may explain why it was forbidden to eat from it. The prominent role of Eve may reflect the part women played in shifting from gathering to planting crops that condemned men to a life of property and warfare.

Farmers have to protect their crops from thieves. Otherwise, they face starvation. Perhaps, Cain murdered Abel because Abel’s flocks ate Cain’s crops, so he had only meagre offerings for the gods, while Abel could please the gods by offering well-nourished animals. The first murder happened just after the Fall and was a conflict between a cattle herder and a crop planter. Knowledge of agriculture and animal husbandry did not work out well. And so, Paradise was lost.

The first Christians may have believed that Eve was God and the Mother of all the Living, that Mary Magdalene was Eve, and that Jesus was Adam. And Eve did not come from Adam’s rib but that Adam was born as Eve’s son so Adam, and, therefore, Jesus were the Son of God. Humanity descends from Eve so we are God’s children (John 1:13). Tribes exist by the idea that they share common ancestors. Usually, these ancestors are mythical people who lived long ago. The myth of Eve and Adam has the potential to turn all of humanity into a single tribe. And, God’s plan may work like so. Paul of Tarsus may have realised that this message was meant for humankind rather than Jews alone.

Featured image: Venus of Willendorf. Don Hitchcock (2008). Wikimedia Commons.

1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Yuval Noah Harari (2014). Harvil Secker.
2. Asherah – Wikipedia: Some scholars have found an early link between Asherah and Eve, based upon the coincidence of their common title as “the mother of all living” in Genesis 3:20 through the identification with the Hurrian mother goddess Hebat. Asherah was also given the title Chawat from which the name Hawwah in Aramaic and the biblical name Eve are derived.

The Spider’s Web

The Spider’s Web is an informative documentary about the hidden world of offshore finance.

This is a documentary that everyone should watch to understand what is going on behind the scenes.

If you have Netflix, you can also watch it there.

The only known photograph of Chief Seattle

Thus spoke Chief Seattle

The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him since we know he has little need for our friendship in return.

We will consider your offer. For we know that if we do not sell, the white man may come with guns and take our land.

But how can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them from us?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.

Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers.

This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people.

The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

The red man has always retreated before the advancing white man, as the mist of the mountain runs before the morning sun. But the ashes of our fathers are sacred. The graves are holy ground, and so these hills, these trees, this portion of the earth is consecrated to us.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs.

The earth is not his brother but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s graves behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children. He does not care.

He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, or sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. What is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath―the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a many dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.

I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever, happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the children of the earth.

This we know. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know.
All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

We may be brothers after all; we shall see. One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover―our God is the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot.

This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

God gave you dominion over the beasts, the woods, and the red man, and for some special purpose, but that destiny is a mystery to the red man. We might understand if we knew what it was that the white man dreams―what hopes he describes to his children on long winter nights―what visions he burns onto their minds so that they will wish for tomorrow.

God loves us all. One thing we know. Our God is the same God. This earth is precious to Him. Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see.