Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Religion and Money


gurdjieffclub |  To reflect on the relationship of religion to money, there is no better starting-point than "to go beyond time." In returning to the origin of the question, we may find a grain of truth and thus turn towards the remedy for an otherwise intractable problem. Countless volumes have appeared about the Church's attitude to war and sex but very little has been written about money.

William Desmonde shows1 that in some ancient cultures money was used as a symbol to replace food in sacrificial communion rituals. Participation in the meal implied a bond of loyalty with other members of the group and signified also entering into a covenant with the deity. Each communicant received a particular portion of the sacrificial flesh corresponding to his standing in the community. When money of different denominations began to be used in place of the portions of food, the establishment of a contractual; relationship between two individuals at first retained traces of the original bond of religious loyalty among participants in the same communion, with impersonal bargaining replacing the patriarchal redistribution of foods among the brotherhood.

In any case, there is good reason to suppose that money was originally a sacred device created by religious authority to facilitate the exchange of necessities in an expanding society. It was intended to be a means of recognizing that human beings have individual property rights and at the same time that no human being or family is self- sufficient. In support of this theory, Rene Guenon states2 that coins of the ancient Celts are covered with symbols taken from Druid doctrine, implying direct intervention of the Druid priests in the monetary system.

Given the sacred origin of money, solutions to the problem of religion and money on this level can never be found. A solution is achievable only through reinstating the individual's relationship to money within the whole scale of his spiritual studies and strivings, that is, through re-educating him to regard money transactions as a measure of his individual human relationships. For, like everything existing, money is a vital part of life on the planet and is worthy of respect, of course at its proper level. True religion views everything, including money, in relation to universal laws. In showing us our dependence on each other, money acts to remind us of these laws. The only thing wrong with money is our present view of it. This is what needs to be studied and understood.

Where to begin? It stands to reason that such a program of re-education cannot begin with the masses, who, in the last analysis, are not concerned with human values except in terms of physical survival.

Nor can much be expected from the many studies of money that are being made on the psychological level, although these may serve as useful shocks to our customary unconscious attitudes towards accumulation and waste. For example, Freud noted that in the modern Western world, the language of people of different nationalities is a mirror of their typical attitude to money. Germans earn money, Italians find it, the French gain or win it, the English have it or possess it, Americans make it. Freud pointed out also a common tendency among the clergy of his time to look on money as dirty, you mustn't touch it. He detected here some similarity to their attitude to sexual relations and even hinted at a direct connection between the problems of money and sex.