Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Don't you want to exist in a world where charities aren't necessary?
Vivi-Mari Carpelan: "Xistential", handmade collage with artist's photographs, 

copyright 2012

I don't pretend to know or even understand all the complicated social and psychological implications of money, but I have had some thoughts about it lately that I'd like to share. I'm not an economist, futurologist or even a science fiction writer! I can't explain what is going on in the world today nor do I know what will happen to the whole idea of currency. I wish I did, as I think it's all quite interesting, alas I don't have the capacity to engage in all that. In spite of some training in philosophy and psychology, I'm not really able to tell you how money affects people - there are plenty of people who do, so if you look up "the psychology of money" or "the philosophy of money", you'll find a lot of information on the internet. Of course, nowadays there are many more disciplines that deal with these questions. I will attempt to look at money in a very broad way, mainly with the aim of challenging some of the assumptions about money that are typical within new spiritual world views.

Humanity has moved from squirrel skins and the exchange of goods to stashing gold, to using paper that only symbolizes a specific value which is relative to the physical environment and all the things people need the money for. In other words, there is a progression from concrete towards more abstract notions, and this leads me to think that money might be replaced in the future by something even more abstract than printed paper. Perhaps it will be replaced by the idea of value, in which case people may be able to have what they need without having to prove themselves worthy of it in one way or another. In order for such a just and equality-based society to exist, greed has to be abolished. While it's important that we all think about it individually and deal with our own attitudes, ultimately the collective has to embrace this notion. 

If you impose a social system onto humanity, there will always be individuals who will want to take advantage of it for their own purposes based in greed. You have to work from within, not from without. Hopefully, if the collective reaches the level of consciousness responsible for love, compassion and generosity, this will eventually be possible. I don't see the future as dark, on the contrary, I think that humanity is in a mental cul de sac and sooner or later people will see that a more inclusive and more heart centred approach to life is better. Like many others, I think the average level of consciousness within the spectrum of consciousness is somewhere on the level of mental development, symbolized by the colour yellow and the third chakra. The next level will be green and centred around the heart chakra. A self-centred sense of individual self and Ego will blossom into a greater we-space where the individual can exist in greater harmony with other living beings. I think there is hope for humanity... somewhere over the rainbow.

On a physical level, the human desire to breed has to be controlled in some way or another. I don't know what the answer is, as you can imagine all sorts of scenarios that ultimately sound really fascist. With less people to sustain, the world might be able to handle their needs without the notion of the survival of the fittest. When robots take care of production and other menial tasks, nations, or indeed "the world", should be able to offer anything its inhabitants could ever want - the point is, when you can have what you want you might no longer feel the need for hoarding or owning more than anyone else. I'm mentioning these ideas simply because I think it's good to have some kind of vision in mind, something that we can all aspire to. This is the first step in having what you want.

The other step is to recognize greed in yourself and others. There are so many methods for acquiring wealth out there, and sadly many of them feed on spiritual belief systems. Some mini-communities such as the Amish have liberated themselves to a very high degree from the idea of money, but the catch with this and other similar existing communities is that they rely on a high level of conformity. They are highly dogmatic and introverted. I'm personally much more interested in society as a whole, however scary and overwhelming it may be. This is in fact the way of the Bodhisattva. Within the real world, it's clear that many people rebel against any form of imposed dogmas, and this is the way it should be. Society needs to start truly understanding and savouring the potential of each individual rather than thinking in terms of the good for the greatest number of people, or the average person. For instance, we have regional issues of schools and hospitals being withdrawn simply because there aren't enough people in these areas to sustain them. It's a ludicrous idea, and totally abolishes the idea of the individual's worth. We have a similar issue with accessibility of the disabled. That's just to mention a couple of issues that are all too obvious to me in daily life.

Within the New Age movement, you get a lot of quick steps towards the acquisition of wealth, and theories about abundance. Clear out your first chakra following these instructions and you'll be rich, any day soon..! This kind of statement is blatantly encouraging a greedy attitude and doesn't really work because clearing out your system takes time and cannot be forced through the use of your will power. Be glad that it isn't that easy because you may not even be mentally and emotionally prepared for wealth, and so need to wait until you are (if that's what you want, of course). 

While I totally agree that endlessly turning over your need for money like a mantra in your head is not constructive, I don't think one should never think of money. Yes, it's good to celebrate life and abundance rather than money. The problem with this kind of thinking is that you could either be stuck in a day dreaming rut, or you could be suppressing your true feelings about money. You need to look at your assumptions about money and deal with them. For instance, in my own life it's been a case of worrying about greed and justice. I have not really wanted a lot of money just in case I wasn't able to deal with it in a responsible sort of way. What if it fostered greed? What if my acquisition of money was causing bad karma and turned out to be unjust in relation to other people? What if my money was away from somebody else's money? Of course, there are many other ways in which a person can have a troubled relationship with money - most of us do in one way or another! It's an enormous collective problem. You might like to have a look at this list of financial dysfunction by Dr Klontz at Psychology Today and really think about your own behaviour... 

1. Money Avoidance Disorders (also includes Underspending and Excessive Risk Aversion):

Financial Denial: When, rather than face financial reality, we try to minimize money problems by refusing to think about them all together (e.g. avoiding looking at a bank statement or paying a credit card bill).

Financial Rejection: The experience of guilt whenever money, of any amount, is accrued. People with low self-esteem are particularly prone to this disorder, and it leads to a whole host of financial and psychological troubles. 

2. Money-Worshipping Disorders (also includes Pathological Gambling, Workaholism, and Overspending):

Hoarding: When stockpiling objects or money provides a sense of safety, security, and relief of anxiety.

Compulsive Buying: Compulsive buying is overspending on steroids. Compulsive shoppers are consumed by their money worries. They often learned, early in life, that the ritual of shopping provides a temporary escape from worry and anxiety. When they think about and anticipate the pleasure they will feel when they shop, dopamine, a "feel good" chemical, floods their brains-only to wear off quickly, leaving them craving another fix.

3. Relational Money Disorders (also includes Financial Dependence and Financial Incest): 

Financial Infidelity: Telling "little green lies" about one's spending or finances to one's partner, like making purchases outside an agreed-upon budget or lying about the cost of a big-ticket item. Extreme examples might include taking out a second mortgage behind your partner's back or opening a secret bank account.

Financial Enabling: Giving money to others whether you can afford it or not; giving when it is not in the other's long-term best interest; having trouble or finding it impossible to say no to requests for money; and/or even sacrificing one's own financial wellbeing for the sake of others. A common example is when parents support adult children who should be able to support themselves. Financial Enabling becomes increasingly common among family members in a down economy, when there is sense of guilt about less fortunate relatives.

It's pretty obvious that until money can be rid of altogether, wealth should be delegated to those who would be able to deal with it in a responsible sort of way. I can only hope that somehow, life will take care of this matter. Meanwhile, you should think deeply what you want for yourself and whether you're one of these people who can be responsible. I used to think anybody could have money because it's just another lesson in life. Now I'm not so sure... in times of such global crisis I really do wonder if this is a good working idea. You also need to stop using terminology and methods that belong to the past. Imagine a whole new future with a new set of axioms -  collectively recognized universal truths about the true equality between human beings. It's not about anybody's rights. Nobody has a right to anything, we were born and as a living creature we have a responsibility for our lives and other beings we encounter, but if we had any rights it would mean that some things were fundamentally off centre to begin with. The idea of rights can only exist in a world governed by greed. This is not the world we should imagine.

It's commonly understood that wealth doesn't lead to happiness. The lack of it certainly makes people miserable in an environment where you simply have to have it in order to be comfortable. Contrary to popular belief many nations with social welfare only keep the poor from perishing but don't ensure any kind of level of contentment. I'm sure it's true that you get used to money and that any psychological issues you have will eventually make themselves known and sabotage your happiness. For instance, a big problem in today's world is victimization, and while a tendency to feel like a victim can probably be solved through money, I doubt whether it's a sustainable solution. This is precisely why it's silly to wish for it if you're not a very mature person. Make sure you know how to value the good things you can have with money for the right reasons and also have the compassion required to use it for the good of all mankind! You really need to deal with any issues that make you feel needy in the first place... it's true and has often been stated in a spiritual context that grasping creates suffering. Make sure you're spiritually and emotionally at peace with life before you take on the task of dealing with wealth in a constructive way.

Some of the good things that money can buy don't cost that much...
with taste and some determination one can learn how to manage on a small budget, 

be resourcefuland still have a nice life.
There is a point at which poverty becomes extremely limiting though - 
and not all of us wish to live like ascetics.
In today's world, good, nutritious food, good quality clothes and objects, medical help, trouble free housing, 
and so forth cost money, and we can't just wish it away.
Having to beg for money all the time can be demeaning if you're a sensitive soul.
(Photo copyright Vivi-Mari Carpelan)
Check out this documentary, The Queen of Versailles!
Read the blog post in which I describe a dream about becoming a billionaire - it changed some perspectives for me.
This book about the psychology of money sounds promising.
Have a look at this Buddhist inspired approach to a new future, Joanna Macy's  The Great Turning. There are workshops for artists as well.


  1. Hi there!

    I have a quick question about your blog! Please email me when you get a chance.


  2. I moderate these comments so you can safely ask your question and ask for it not to be published. Thanks.