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Monday, March 14, 2011

Are business and spirituality compatible?

Can business be conducted with a spiritual intent? Today I address this question with a little help from a fellow futurist.

In my book Sage of Synchronicity (renamed Discover Your Soul Template for the upcoming Inner Traditions edition) I describe many practical uses of spiritual intuition, or what I call Integrated Intelligence (INI) . In particular I focus upon the way that you can tap into the wisdom of the inner Sage to live your Bliss. The way I define it, your Bliss is as much a way of life, a way of being, as it is a calling or a profession.

In that book I also touch a little upon certain intuitive processes which can be used in business situations. Doing business has never really been the focus with any of the several hats I wear -  as an Integrated Intelligence practitioner, a writer, an educator or a futurist. Yet in recent times I have begun to rethink things in this area. Books such as Sage of Synchronicity are mainly attractive to those with a spiritual focus in life. The question for me has now become how to bring greater awareness of Spirit and wisdom to a wider segment of society.

My primary concern - and the reason why I have not pursued possibilities in business to date – has been the concern that I might get caught up in the ego dynamic – the power, control and greed – which dominates much of the business world. It is difficult to enter a competitive environment without succumbing to this expression of consciousness.

I also have reservations about many New Age philosophies which claim to be able to teach people how to “manifest” whatever they want. In China and Hong Kong, where I spend much of my time, the world of fortune tellers and feng shui experts is dominated by the same mentality. There is typically little spiritual focus in such practices as “the law of attraction” or how to “be prosperous” (China). These are mainly “gimme what I want now” philosophies thinly wrapped up in spiritual garb. They include much “magical thinking.”

There is a considerable amount of delusion behind most of these approaches, and they tend to include motivations which are heavily ego based. I have always been conscious of not allowing myself to be dragged into that mentality. Genuine spirituality is not about imposing your will upon the cosmos or getting everything you want, but in listening receptively to a higher intelligence and releasing control. It is only within the surrender of the ego that the joy of the spiritual is able to unfold. In a sense, whether you have a nice car or a big house or not is irrelevant. What is essential is that you take Spirit with you wherever you go, and do so in presence.

Yet in reality it is not an either/or situation. Even human beings who have a genuine intention to embrace the spiritual tend to move in and out of ego states. It is just that they are generally more conscious of the pull of ego, and do not allow it to dominate their personality and their behavior.

What I advocate is a business model I call ‘Soul Business”.

In the business world there is no reason why a spiritual intent cannot be incorporated into the business model. Profit, people and planet are the triple bottom line in management consultant Peter Senge’s “Learning Organisation”. Futurist Sohail Inayatullah has added a fourth bottom line. In an article called “Spirituality as the fourth bottom line”, Inayatullah argues that spirituality is the missing link in business theory in the twenty-first century. He cites data which indicates that 45% of businesses now publish reports which address the triple bottom line. Like me, he suggests going a step further. Inayatullah defines spirituality as having the following features:

1. A relationship with the transcendent, generally seen as both immanent and transcendental. This relationship is focused on trust, surrender and for Sufis, submission. 2. A practice, either regular meditation or some type of prayer (but not prayer where the goal is to ask for particular products or for the train to come quicker). 3. A physical practice to transform or harmonize the body - yoga, tai chi, chi kung, and other similar practices. 4. Social – a relationship with the community, global, or local, a caring for others.

As Inayatullah notes, this approach differs from a debate about God or what is true or false. Instead it queries how much depth an approach has, and to encourages “openness and inclusion toward others”.

 Sohail Inayutullah
Inayatullah’s definition is compatible with the way I define and practice Integrated Intelligence. Integrated Intelligence involves an integration of the ego/self with a greater transpersonal awareness, including personal spiritual guidance. This requires a letting go, and a willingness to discipline the desires of the ego and its tendency towards power and control over others and life’s circumstances. The way I employ Integrated Intelligence also makes use of a prayerful processes, including mindfulness tools which help bring the mind into presence. In terms of “physical practice”, the way I teach mindfulness is to bring awareness fully into the body. I am a greater believer in embodiment. The place we are meant to be is right here in the body, right now (not seeking an eternal hereafter, which is a trick of the ego).

What is more, Integrated Intelligence is also perfectly compatible with the idea of social transformation. Personal and planetary transformation is one of the core outcomes of the theory of INI. The intuitive and divination processes I teach are designed to access a greater spiritual intelligence which automatically attaches one to the higher good of all, if one truly permits one’s selfish intentions to become conscious.

Part of my writing so much about Integrated Intelligence on this blog and in my books and academic articles is an attempt to encourage a greater participatory awareness in spiritual processes. But this also requires spiritual practice in one’s everyday life. Sohail Inayatullah has mentioned elsewhere that for a broad social vision of the future to be legitimate, it must touch upon the world of money and markets. This grounds the vision in the reality of the modern world.

It is to these ends that I embark upon the next phase of my own journey. How long or how deep that runs, time will tell.



  1. Very important issues you raise here, Marcus. Considering the overwhelming importance of business in our world, and how many people's lives and careers are wrapped up in it, there will be no transformation of the planet without transformation of business. Which is happening - but is it happening quickly enough? There's a huge role for people like yourself in this process.

  2. Terrific post. Took me a bit of searching to find your blog again! Glad I did.

  3. Glad you foun it again, Trish! I'll have to check back into your new blog - have been run off my feet here - moving house and all.

  4. Hi Simon,

    You are right. We have to find a way to bridge the gap between unworldly "spirituality" and the real world. Since so much of human consciousness is expressed through economic activity, it is indeed logical to see the latter as a domain where genuine consciousness transformation might occur.

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  6. Hey marcus - you're moving??

    - Trish

  7. Yes, am moving - 1 km up the road! So still in Discovery Bay, HK.

  8. Hi Marcus,

    Thanks for the message you left on my blog. It's always a pleasure to meet a fellow blogger and writer. My first book "HONG KONG State of Mind" was published by Blacksmith Books last December.

    I have also added your blog to my list of recommended blogs on my own blog. I can't say I know what a futurist is but I am sure I will after reading one of your books. I will look for them at Dymocks.



  9. Hope the move went well! I think we've confronted the shadow and are prepared to re-emerge into the light. Or something along those lines.Many thanks again for your input, marcus.