What is Prout?

PROUT is an acronym for PROgressive Utilization Theory, a socio-economic philosophy that synthesizes the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of human nature. The goal of PROUT is to provide insights for the evolution of a truly progressive human society.

PROUT is an alternative to the outmoded capitalist and communist socio-economic paradigms. Neither of these approaches have adequately met the physical, mental and spiritual needs of humanity. PROUT seeks a harmonious balance between economic growth, social development, environmental sustainability, and between individual and collective interests. Combining the wisdom of spirituality with a universal outlook and the struggle for self-reliance, PROUTist thinkers and activists are creating a new civilizational discourse and planting the seeds for a new way of living.

A few basic tenets of PROUT are:

Spirituality and Progress
Human beings are on an evolutionary path toward realizing their higher consciousness. True progress is movement that leads to self-realization and spiritual qualities such as compassion and love for all beings. Material or intellectual gains do not necessarily constitute progress unless they contribute to deeper, spiritual well-being.

The progressive orientation of society is maintained by making continual adjustments in the use of physical resources and mental potentialities in accordance with spiritual and Neo-humanistic values. Human beings are encouraged to construct economic and social institutions to facilitate the attainment of our highest potentialities.

Economic Democracy
Political democracy and economic democracy are mutually inclusive. PROUT advocates economic democracy based on local economic planning, cooperatively managed businesses, local governmental control of natural resources and key industries, and socially agreed upon limits on the individual accumulation of wealth. By decentralizing the economy and making sure decision-making is in the hands of local people, we can ensure the adequate availability of food, shelter, clothing, health care and education for all.

A decentralized economy can better ensure that the ecological systems of the earth are not exploited beyond their capacity to renew themselves. Environmental stewardship is a requisite for people who are dependent upon these systems for their own survival and well-being.

Basic Necessities Guaranteed to All
The basic necessities of life must be a constitutional birth right of all members of society. People cannot attain their highest human potential if they lack food, shelter, clothing, health care and education. Meaningful employment with a living wage must be planned to ensure adequate purchasing capacity for all basic necessities. The standard of guaranteed minimum necessities should advance with increases in the economy’s productive capacity.  The capacity for serving these needs is reached by increasing the purchasing capacity – increasing the productive base of a local economy, providing equal access to resources, and focusing on the collective welfare through employment rather than for the benefit of a few.

For a benevolent society, it is essential that leaders are morally principled and dedicated to serving society as part of their personal progress. Authority should not be centered in the hands of individuals, but should be expressed through collective leadership. The viability of political democracy rests on an electorate possessing three factors:

1) education,
2) socio-economic consciousness,
3) ethical integrity.

Individuals should have complete freedom to acquire and express their ideas, creative potential and inner aspirations. Such intellectual and spiritual freedom will strengthen the collectivity. Restrictions should only be placed on actions clearly detrimental to the welfare of others. Constraints need to be placed on the accumulation of physical wealth, as excessive accumulation by a few results in the deprivation of many.

Cultural Diversity
In the spirit of universal fellowship, PROUT encourages the protection and cultivation of local culture, language, history and tradition. For social justice and a healthy social order, individual and cultural diversity must be accepted and encouraged.

Women’s Rights
PROUT encourages the struggle against all forms of violence and exploitation used to suppress women. PROUT’s goal is coordinated cooperation, with equal rights between men and women. PROUT seeks the economic, social and spiritual empowerment of women throughout the world.

Science and Technology
Scientific knowledge and technology are potential assets to humanity. Through their proper use, the physical hardships of life decreases and knowledge is gained about the secrets of life. Time is freed for cultural and spiritual pursuits. However, the development and utilization of scientific knowledge must come under the guidance of spiritual and Neo-humanist values and ethical leadership. Without this, technology is often abused by profiteers and the power-hungry, resulting in destruction and exploitation.

World Government
PROUT supports the creation of a world governance system having a global bill of rights, global constitution and common penal code in order to guarantee the fundamental rights of all individuals and nations, and to settle regional and international disputes. As the global economy becomes decentralized, it will be advantageous to also have a global political system.

Sample Projects

Panimatzalam’s Voice of Transformation:

An Indigenous Mayan Writing Project for Youth Activism.

An indigenous research process was held with young leaders in a Guatemalan Mayan community.  This community transformed from indentured laborers on  European owned plantations to the emergence of a region with economics centered upon economic cooperatives, womens’ economic projects; arts projects, community health and youth leadership.  Key themes of transformation included:  (1) Working unitedly for the common good; (2) Suffering for the benefit of personal and collective transformation (3)  Guidance by Mayan spirituality and culture (4) Developing organizations that made collective development effective.

A Family of Authors:  Creating Family Literacy Projects with local author, Mary Helen Ponce. Funded by Target of Los Angeles.  The author and the Prout Research Institute worked with The Pacoima Urban Village in Los Angeles, to develop books, bookfaires and creative writing projects focused on community experience.


Into the Likeness of the Country:  an Analysis of Australia’s Urban/Rural Crisis, based on PROUT (The progressive Utilization Theory)  A year was spent analyzing the strengths and challenges of the Murray Darling River Basin in Australia, studying the discrepancies between rural and urban sectors, as well as the historical themes and cultures of the region.  Meetings were held with key participants and organizations in the region to include their key issues, needs and ideas.  Several workshops were given with large community groups to further development a collective strategy for this region. Targets were set for regional development.

Participatory Action Research (PAR)

Shifting Paradigms: An Applied Anthropologist and a Socio-Spiritual Movement Meet the Ozarks

By Matt Oppenheim, Ph.D

In the fall of 2001, I began to experiment with a process of articipatory action research (PAR) in the spiritual movement I have been dedicated to for over twenty- five years, Ananda

Marga (Ananda Marga is a global spiritual movement, based on the teachings of eastern

mysticism – see www.anandamarga.org) and its associated organization for social liberation

Proutist Universal (see www.prout.org). While our philosophy encourages a process of social

liberation through a synergy of social activism and the cultivation of spiritual awakening, our

members largely lack a praxis to apply this knowledge to the lived experience of real

communities. Our discourse remains largely theoretical.

This paper tells the story of an initial paradigm shift from theory to action that is evolving

as I write this. In the summer of 2002, a friend and town planner, Allan Rosen, and I facilitated

four-day PAR training at our national retreat center in the Ozarks of Missouri. Our members

formed teams and did fieldwork in the local community. The objective was to simultaneously

transform our relationship with the surrounding community and shift the local community’s

perception of us. We often came to the retreat as “spiritual tourists,” coming for spiritual

renewal while ignoring local history, culture and social issues. At the same time local community

members called us “orange people” and one of our nuns was told that people thought we

kidnapped and killed people. The PAR experience transformed our relationship with the

community and planted the seeds for a partnership with community organizations.