Not to be confused with Daoism, Dowism takes its name from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, an index of the US stock market. Essentially, it sees economic development as a form of spiritual growth. While at first glance, the idea of a religion based on the financial market might seem very strange to some people, if we look at the Dow (and the financial growth it impiles) in the right way, we can see it as a metaphor for human development. While many rightly contend that financial development and human development are often at odds with each other, Dowists work to reconcile them, and contend that on the whole, there may be no better measure of mankind’s Creativism than its means to manufacture prosperity.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gets its name from Charles Dow and Edward Jones, founders of the Dow and Jones Company. Dow was a journalist and Jones was a statistician. They sought to make sense of financial markets, and therefore in the late 1800s invented a means to gauge the health of the overall market by creating a composite value of several of the biggest industrial stocks. Nowadays there are many different indexes which are used to gauge the strength of the market but the Dow Jones still remains one of the most well-known. The concept of a market index is still just as important as an way of simplifying market dynamics.
The concept of the market as one big, living organism was helped along by market indexes. Prior to that, the perception of the nation’s health was far more fragmented. Today, with international indexes and international mutual funds and ETFs, we can even see the health of the entire world economy through these gauges. And while these are not necessarily 100% accurate measures, they do help us to see markets as living organisms. In this way, it’s possible to understand them as a form of life itself.
The practice of the Dowist is primarily to engage in investment activity. By seeking value and potential and investing in it, the mystical monetary energy circulates, compounds and grows. Although this can be seen as a highly selfish activity, and not religious or spiritual in any sense, if done without ego and desire, investment can be a selfless and even spiritual act. The greatest Dowist of all time, Warren Buffet may be worth billions, but he still uses a $20 phone, lives in a modest house and drives an old Oldsmobile. Ultimately, his wealth will be mostly given away, as will that of other tycoons such as Bill Gates and others who have signed the “giving pledge.”
Perhaps more important than actual financial investing, the Dowist sees the principles of good investment in all aspects of life. Relationships, skills, education, knowledge and other informational and emotional systems can be seen in the same way as stocks or funds – a small initial investment can grow into great wealth if it’s tended to patiently, assiduously, and with a long time horizon. If maintained well, a diversified and serenely-managed “portfolio” of these “stocks” will grow over time and end up constituting a fully-realized life. On the other hand, impulsive investment, over-worry and fickleness towards these “life stocks” will in most cases end up bringing spiritual poverty and dissolution.
When placed next to the philosophies of its homonym, Daoism, the dynamics of Dowism make a lot more sense — the practice of philosophical Daoism has a lot in common with the psychology of the investor and the lifelike growth of value in the market. Both Daoism and Dowism counsel taking a dispassionate approach, not getting attached to outcomes, extreme patience, trust that the system will be self-correcting, and the inculcation of extreme humility. In many ways, the market is like the Tao — a large mysterious living principle at work in the world, while the levelheaded investor practices what the Daoists call Te — adherence to the way of the Tao in order to develop virtue in their life.
In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.
— Warren Buffett
An investment said to have an 80% chance of success sounds far more attractive than one with a 20% chance of failure. The mind can’t easily recognize that they are the same.
— Daniel Kahneman
You don’t make money when you buy stocks. And you don’t make money when you sell stocks. You make money by waiting.
— Mohnish Pabrai
The Tao Ka Ching! (free download)