Soul and money: what deep attitude does money reveal?
Let us pause to consider why money is such a tricky business.
Before we get to “Money-talk: yours, mine and ours”, the companion-article which follows this Insight, Let us pause to consider why money is such a tricky business. To do this, I will explore soul and money.
This might seem a strange connection, putting money and soul in the same sentence. This close proximity brings to mind deep psychological and spiritual connections. Yes, that’s true. How come?
According to James Hillman, money is an archetype, meaning that it is a collective value that none of us can get away from. Money firmly links us to everyone else.
Hillman says, “since money is an archetypal psychic reality, it will always be inherently problematic … therefore, money problems are inevitable, necessary, irreducible, always present, and potentially if not actually, overwhelming. Money is devilishly divine.”
Money as devilishly divine
“Devilishly divine” suggests that money relates to exalted things – we can call this our best self, or the Self as Jung called it, and to degraded things – we can call this our shadow-self. The shadow-self gets away with things when our best self is not paying attention, and when we are motivated by fear, avarice and collective values that we have not thought through. Indeed, Thomas Moore says, in “Care of the Soul” p 192, that “greed, avarice, cheating, and embezzlement are signs that the soul of money has been lost.”
More than that, devilish and divine are different sides of the same coin. That’s very tricky. The light and dark side of money can’t be separated – a bit like the yin/yang symbol.
Money can be imbued with numinous (spiritual) power. In the US, the connection is blatantly displayed on the dollar bills, “In God we trust”: is the divine being invoked or is money divine? Lots to think about!
Money, imagination, and possibility
The “devilishly divine” quote comes from “Soul and Money”, (details below), in which James Hillman, Russell A Lockhart, and others discuss the deepest currents that run through our attitudes to money. Money is associated with imagination and possibility; Russell Lockhart says, in “Coins and Psychological change”, that “money begets imaginal worlds”. When we have money in our pocket we have the potential to spend it on any number of things. Our imagination is working overtime with things to buy or achieve. Money enables. It puts our imagination into action. Money moves us about in the world. Marie Louise von Franz says that “money is a symbol for the extraverted circulation of energy.” Indeed, without money, our imagination is stifled. And, therefore, our soul is stifled.
One reason that money is so numinous is that it promises certainty in an uncertain world. I will take that up in our next conversation in “Money-talk: yours, mine and ours.”
You will recognize how powerfully money stimulates your imagination when you think, “If I won the lottery, I would do this with it!” Or, “if only I had an extra $10,000 my life would change!” Money, imagination, and soul are different aspects of the same thing.
Financial markets and modern alchemy
Russell Lockhart began as a Jungian Analyst and moved to the financial markets, where he discovered that “the financial markets are a laboratorium of soul”. This is a reference to the Medieval Alchemists who aimed to turn base metals, like lead and mercury, into gold.
It’s unlikely that this transformation was ever achieved physically, but the benefit was a transformation of consciousness – that is, heading in the direction of the higher self, as mentioned above. Money can be, indeed needs to be, translated or transformed into something else. As Russell Lockhart says,
“money is the most powerful, practical and experienced form of transformation”.
Lockhart teaches traders to bring a soul-perspective to themselves and the financial market. He says that “the big difference is that the Medieval alchemists “came to realize that they were working to transform themselves, while modern money alchemists have realized no such thing.” (Lockhart) This lays them – and us – open to all the greed, contrivance and deception of which human beings are capable. Lockhart goes into more depth about the money-market and creating money “out of thin air” as in bitcoin – now that’s modern alchemy in action, but without the transformation of character. He also discusses broader issues including the creation of inequality, which goes beyond our purposes here, but you might find interesting.
Soul, money complex, and Shadow
Money reveals the soul of each person.
Because the soul is revealed by means of money, you will learn a great deal about yourself (and your partner) through attitudes to money, and how you use it – or how it uses you. This is deep stuff.
Lockhart says, “Our relation to money is our relation to fate. Our relation to money is our relation to purpose, end, goal, telos.” Often, the shadow gets tied up with money, and our shadowy compromises take us in a direction that surprises us.
Clients often ask, me, “How do I discover my Shadow?” Look no further than money. James Hillman says, “to find the soul of modern man or woman, begin by searching into those irreducible embarrassing facts of the money complex, that crazy crab scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” By “complex” he means something that runs us, by acting independently. Money intrudes into our conscious intention.
Jungian psychology explains certain unconscious behaviours through the idea of “complexes”. A complex is an automatic response we have to a particular issue where our conscious thought and will is bypassed. You will be familiar with the notion of an inferiority complex and a superiority complex.
Does money achieve your deepest desires, or thwart them?
What is specific about the money-complex?
What might be specific to the money-complex, in comparison to other complexes? The answer is that the money complex invades everyone and everything. If money is really this tricky, it requires respect and attention. Firstly, consider what it means to you symbolically, as we have been discussing here. Then face it head-on, having money conversations with no cover-ups or hidden secrets (debts or caches), as we will discuss in the next Insight.
There are indicators everywhere of the impact of our collective unconscious beliefs and behaviours around money, in other words, the money complex at work. Some experts say that money is the greatest taboo. Would you, for instance, prefer to talk about your sex life or your money-life? Where do your darkest secrets live – sex or money?
Money touches every aspect of our lives. I’m initiating this conversation to bring ‘money’ out of the shadows. This is so that we can become more conscious of our own dysfunctional beliefs and behaviours around money. In being more conscious, we tame the devilish aspect of money – to some extent. Remember James Hillman said it is “inherently problematic.”
The soul of money; preserving soul
When you earn an income you are investing the actual substance of your life. So, you don’t want to waste or squander the money you receive from that labour. Instead, you want to care for your life-substance, your soul. You especially do not want to squander the life-substance of your partner, if your partner is the bread-winner! In effect, the manifestation of your life as money is sacred: labour=money=soul. By sacred I mean to do with soul, psyche, depth, non-ego concerns, that which stands when all else fails. I am not talking about a religious structure per se. So this conversation is about your deepest values around money.
The puer complex and money
The money complex has many scripts and many variations. I give one example, that of the Puer Aeternus and how the puer complex and money complexes get together.
The puer aeternus complex is elegantly discussed by Dr. Marie-Louise von Franz. von Franz was a contemporary of Jung’s. A puer complex effects every aspect of life, but I will only mention the financial aspect here. The puer (which literally means the perpetually young person, who doesn’t grow up) finds it difficult to consistently earn their own living but expects someone else to support them – whether parents, partner or the government.
Often a young man or woman relies on their parents financially, long after their contemporaries are forging careers. The person with a puer complex, male or female, often carries this attitude to money throughout life. According to von Franz, “as the puer does not want to adapt socially, or take on some regular job and work, but yet must get money somehow, he generally achieves his purpose behind his own back, with his left hand, so to speak. He gets the money, God knows from where, and in rather mean ways. If you touch that shadow problem you get a complex – an emotional reaction” (“The Problem of the Puer Aeternus” by Marie-Louise von Franz, p13, Inner City Books, 2000).
I mention the case of the puer here, to highlight unconscious attitudes around money which are very difficult to detect but which act very strongly, nevertheless. Additionally, these complexes around money are difficult to talk about, because there is a strong emotional defensive reaction, as von Franz mentions, with lots of justifications.
If money equals soul, why should we agree about money, as a couple?
As partners in a couple, why should we agree about money? No, seriously! If money truly is polyvalent -having an infinite number of forms or meanings – is it really possible or necessary to agree? Money has a lot of charge around it, especially if you are making the money-decisions with someone else. Money is actually one of the most potent forms of soul-making and relationship-making. You can, therefore, understand why money is a deal-breaker in relationships. Avoid relationship stress by being clear about finances! This clarity will help to keep the devilish aspect of money under control.