Beyond Simony LO26690

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 05/17/01

Dear Organlearners,

Greetings to all of you fellow learners,

I wanted to post this contribution a long time ago, but have put only some
of it in words while the rest was milling in my head rather than stored on
computer. But a recent approach to me as well as the time we spent lately
learning more of Dante, made me decide to spill it out. I still have my
doubts on the timelyness of this contribution, but as Jan Smuts used to
say, when in doubt do the brave thing.

Dante was one of the last thinkers of the Middle ages. He was a key figure
in the last stretch of the Middle Ages. I myself think of this last
stretch as the Period of Rediscovering Learning (PRL). The PRL was in my
opinion necessary to prepare the minds of Europeans for the Renaissance.

Dante seldom wrote on anything unless it was sustained by his own
authentic learning. He resisted rote learning, i.e. propagating past claims
without questioning them. In his Divine Comedy, the third bolgia of the
eighth circle of the Inferno. he writes:
. O Simon mago, O moseri seguaci,
. Che lle cose di Dio che di bontate
. Deno esser spose, voi rapici
. Per oro e per argento adulterate
Here he becries the expensive vice of Simon Magus. This vice is sometimes
called simony. What is it?

Simony is the premeditated will or the deliberate act to sell an eternal,
spiritual gain for something temporal and material. The original
historical evidence for simony is Acts 8-13 in the New testament. First
the disciple Peter, then the apostle Paul and later the evangelist Philip
had to distance them from Simon Magus. He deliberately sold spiritual
emergences for material gains. He thought the Christians could sell him an
even stronger power of this magic.

As early as the 4th century the bisphoric of Carthage considered simony as
one of the most hideous ecclesial crimes. But in the profane world simony
was not considered as a public crime. Ordinary people usually avoided
simony. But as Dante indicated elsewhere, some bishops condoned it and
even practised it. In this sense Dante foreshadowed the reformist Luther.
As a result of the Reformation following the Renaissance, the practice of
simony gradually withered away. People began to understand that spiritual
gains come through learning and not by buying or worshipping magic.

In recent years some facilitators in spiritual development became aware of
a problem related to simony. Whereas simony is a misconduct within the
Christian religion, this problem goes much wider than Christianity. Should
a mentor of well formed character (good, right, true and lovely) sell
guidance-facilitation in spiritual gains for material gains? In other
words, the guidance-facilitation is sold (which is now questioned) rather
than the spiritual gains as in simony.

It is a problem because these mentors became aware that by selling their
service (i.e. guidance-facilitation), the client wants results (i.e.
emergences) from the mentor whereas these results actually have to emerge
within the client self. Referring to past successes in
guidance-facilitation in terms of the spiritual emergences obtained only
aggravates this problem because it seems to the client that the mentor
guarantees the emergences rather than stressing the necessity of the
guidance-facilitation. The mentor is the necessary condition in the sense
of Team Learning ("mitsein"), but the sufficiency condition is the client
in the sense of Personal Mastery ("dassein").

I have been questioned by several fellow learners the past couple of years
with the following:- How should I deal with the material enumeration for
delivering spiritual mentoring because this very enumeration often debase
my service and prevents spiritual emergences? I really do not know the
complete answer.

In the ideal Christian community where believers care for one another, the
answer is simple -- act as a mentor free of charge. But this problem goes
much wider than Christian communities as I have indicated. In a country
with such a high level of social security that every citizen is guaranteed
water, food, clothes, a home, hospitalisation and transportation, the
answer is equally simple -- act as a mentor free of charge. But how many
countries have such a high level of social security? Very few indeed.

As for myself, I understand how important it is in our modern globalizing
economy to have a fair income. Without any income a person soon sinks to
the level of unspeakable poverty, especially when not living in a first
world country which cannot afford social security. Furthermore, people
nowadays render by contract their particular services rather than being
employed permanently as "in-house" servants for such particular services.
The age of the family butler, the maid, the cook, the gardener, the
chauffeur and not the least, the mentor, or even all of them combined into
one person for the family, seems to be gone forever for the average
household. Up to some stage the dear mother staying "in-house" (at home)
used to perform all these services. However, (no judgement intended) with
the advancement of career women as well as all adults in a family having
to work because living becomes increasingly expensive, there is nobody at
home (except for a dear grandparent few and far between) who can perform
all these "in-house" services?

Most interestingly, many of these functions of the butler, the maid, the
cook, the gardener, the chauffeur and the mentor are becoming increasingly
out-sourced. For example, one gardener contracts for many households at
different time slots. But as living becomes increasingly expensive, fewer
households can afford such specialised "private servants" by way of
contract. Furthermore, fewer public services like transportation,
hospitals and schools can maintain their past standards. Thus more people
spend more time making use of such public services rather than being able
to serve others and thus to generate an income self.

For example, here in South Africa it is not uncommon now for people to
spend up to six hours for transportation, up to twelve hours to get
attention at hospital and up to many months for the law to come to their
rescue. Worst of all, they spend ten years or more of their life at school
to master what could have been in less than half those years. All this
struggle to keep up with a healthy material living is gradually eroding
the healthy spiritual living of more and more people. Thus the need for
spiritual guidance-facilitation is increasing hand over hand. This is
reflected by the increasing popularity of spiritual sit-coms on TV and
spiritual columns in magazines. Yet in all these massive attempts by the
media the masses in spiritual need stay spectators so that the needy and
the need for spiritual mentoring just keep on increasing.

This erosion of spirituality is not restricted to ordinary households and
institutions for public service. The world of business, from small family
owned firms to gigantic international corporations, from manufacturing to
selling of products at the end, is experiencing it too. The productivity
of workers is decreasing gradually. The more the free energy which they
have to spend on maintaining an organised life outside their work, the
less they have left to organise their work. As the line managers up to the
executive team have to spend more free energy on all kinds of organising
which the workers ought to have done, the less they have for managing
their own organisation. Why?

In my contribution "Efficiency and Emergence" long ago, I have explained
that the more efficient a worker has to perform an assigned task, the less
free energy will available for emergences from the domain of that task
into other domains. As workers and managers alike have less free energy
for emergences not in the task domain self, their spirituality begin to
suffer because it is not reckoned to be essential of that task domain.
Thus they begin to quarrel among themselves, to override common destiny
with personal ambition, to employ destructive measures as a therapy
against a lack of creativity, to judge rather than to comprehend and to
substitute rote mental behaviour for authentic learning and all its higher
order emergents.

Those profitable firms and corporations which can still afford to hire the
services of a consultant-facilitator, find themselves in bewildering world
of "management commodities". Use this model for these benefits and that
methodology for those benefits or a concoction of many management systems
for a plethora of benefits and perhaps also a gain in spirituality. Hence
managerial confusion increases slowly rather than getting more grip on the
complexity of an organisation which has to function healthy within the
greater environment of civilization becoming increasingly ill. How can any
business with a well formed character avoid bankruptcy in a civilisation
in which spiritual poverty increases hand over hand? How can the paths of
piracy and demagogy be avoided, paths which themselves always end up in
show-downs as many seemingly untouchable corporations rediscovered lately?

Not surprisingly, many businesses begun to pay for advertisements in which
their goods and services are connected to the delivery of spiritual
benefits. In other words, they sell spirituality not directly as in the
case of simony, but sell it indirectly by making the buying of their goods
and services a necessary condition for gaining spiritual benefits. Some
money lenders, known for the discontent among their workers, run in front
of the race of liquidating assets, whether it hurts the spirit or not.
"Sell the dream and clinch the deal" has become the modern pass word to
increasing profits. But even here show-downs are in the pipe line as some
recent cases have illustrated, especially with respect to info-technology
and bio-technology.

As for myself, I try avoid invoicing in terms of lower orders of
complexity when rendering service in higher orders of complexity. I do it
because I believe that responses of higher order cannot be matched or
measured by lower ordered responses. Thus I cannot sell my mentoring in
spirituality for material gains because I firmly believe the spiritual
dimension to be of higher order than the physical dimension, although the
one cannot ever be severed from the other so as to deny it. I also do know
that in this respect I am considered as a fool who do not know how to bill
clients for services rendered. But I do not mind because nobody can buy
what essentially has to come from within. A great work of fine art can be
bought, but the inner capacity to create such an artistic work cannot be
bought. Managerial advice can be bought by copying what creative managers
did, but the creative manager self cannot be bought.

Perhaps we can learn from some Christians how to renumerate for what
essentially cannot ever be bought.

Make a donation to anybody, not necessarily the mentor, as a sign of
gratitude of having experienced the inner self-organisation, or at least,
having been guided to such an event whether expectations has been met or
not. In far too many cases the expected constructive emergences do happen,
but long after such a donation has been made. The reason has to do with
the Law of Requisite Complexity. Often the emergence as objective will not
happen because of too little complexity to sustain it. But because of the
mentoring, a subjective awareness to the complexity required emerges. Thus
a tacit mastery of such complexity ensues which may take a very long time
before the actual emergence can be attempted.

Were it not for Dante, I would have not brought this contentious problem
to the LO-dialogue. But, fortunately, we are indeed learning in our
LO-dialogue to question even that which is most precious to us.

Simony was an ecclesial rather than common law among Westerners. I think
that this tells us something most important about simony. It was never
common practice among all religions (and not merely Christianity) to
question religious laws because such laws usually articulated tacit
knowledge by imperative sentences. But the ability of humankind to
articulate tacit knowledge by declarative sentences has also evolved
slowly through the centuries. Today it has reached such proportions that
we articulate it as the information explosion.

What remains for us is to articulate our tacit knowledge sensibly by
interrogative sentences -- to ask vital questions among the bewildering
and crushing complexity of commands and statements -- to do queries as
they would say in knowledge management. It is possible to fool many
people, but it is not possible to fool all people who have to cope with
their daily experiences. We need not laws to protect us from simony and
problems related to it. Anyway, life is fast becoming too expensive to
administer these laws. We need not hundreds of theories and gigabytes of
data to tell us in advance what simony and its related problems are about.
Anyway, life is fast becoming too complicated to exploit these information
sources. I believe that we need authentic learning to lead a productive
live, physically and spiritually. Protection comes through creative
production and not rote conservation. Shall we produce more commands and
statements to signify our creativity, or shall we begin to act spiritually
aligned by careful questioning?

We will have to search within our tacit knowledge whether we will make the
spiritual banal by selling or buying it for material means. Only then
ought we to make the appropriate decision. Simony is not an issue any
more. But equating the mental with the material, i.e. seeking equality
between what is actually ordered in complexity, has become one of the hot
problems of modern society. The sooner we begin with solving this problem
authentically, the sooner our spiritual healing will begin. This will not
happen unless we question ourselves and each other in a constructive

In the Learning Organisation Love-Agape, the crown of spirituality, is
neither demanded nor sold, but given without reservation. As for myself, I
am deeply aware how my growth in the spiritual dimension of free energy
and all the 7Es enable me to love more freely.

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>

"Learning-org" and the format of our message identifiers (LO1234, etc.) are trademarks of Richard Karash.