James Hillman on money as psychic reality
I've a piece on the Guardian's Cif belief about money and faith - not there titled as above, but above captures the main source and drift. Here's the piece:
No one expected the steps of St Paul's to become the epicentre for a nation's debate about money. But it is not surprising that faith should be so entwined with the prevailing anxiety of 2011, and no doubt 2012 too. After all, the Judeo-Christian tradition provides us with the language by which we express that anxiety.
The worry about the impossibility of serving both God and mammon is a thorn in the side of the collective consciousness. Or there is the fear that it is indeed easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, to recall another of Jesus's witty, devastating lines. He also advised his disciples to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's, apparently dividing the worldly from the spiritual.
You do not have to believe in God or the kingdom of heaven to understand what he was driving at. It is surely no coincidence that in this year Jessie J's song, Price Tag rode high in the charts of a dozen countries. It urges us to forget about the price tag and remember the music, for which read: what do you stand for, soul or money? The challenge is straight out of the Bible.
And it is true: money has a dark side. "Follow the money," we say, meaning that it'll expose the questionable motivations behind people's actions. It's an old idea. Money for Charon would take you into the underworld.
Or there is the way money is associated with all manner of alarming predicaments. We fear "being broke" or "ripped off". Economically, we face "depression", years of "low interest". The metaphors that fill the newspapers remind us daily of psychological as well as financial nightmares.
But the matter can be pressed more subtlety. Rather than insisting on a choice, a split, it is possible to examine how money leads from the material to the spiritual, and vice-versa; how the divine might mingle with mammon.
The psychologist James Hillman, who died this year, wrote about money as a "psychic reality", by which he means a third state between the material and the spiritual. It sits at the centre of our efforts to unify many opposing forces in life. This is why it causes us so much trouble, though is a trouble that we cannot avoid if we want to live.
St Paul's itself embodies this struggle. The life of the soul is sustained within its marble walls, though psalms could not be sung without the material means to maintain, light and heat it. Alternatively, descend into its airy crypt and beneath the high altar you find, not the bones of a saint, but the tomb of a hero, Nelson. At the cathedral's heart is a memorial that tries uneasily to unify the political and religious.
Alternatively, think of the links between money and love. Hillman points out that the word "spent" has both a genital and monetary meaning. Or there is the notion of security, that can relate to the way people think about money and their personal relationships. In fact, an individual who avoids intimacy may well also say that money means nothing to them. Another person who is demanding in love may express that fear by also being the kind of person who counts the pennies. Arthur Schopenhauer had a resonate definition of money as "frozen desire".
The ancient world understood this link. The origins of the word "money" are associated with a goddess, Moneta. Her temples were treasuries. She was the mother of the muses, and so it might be said that money is the great enabler of the imagination. It forces the spiritual into contact with the material because the imagination can only be made real when facilitated by the means bought with money. There is no shame that the Renaissance could not have flourished without the money of the Medici.
In fact, the Christian tradition understands that money enables life, too. It is not money per se that is condemned. Rather it is luxury, which might be defined as money without imagination, as the material without soul. To put it differently, money must serve life, though it will try to make us its servant. Jesus's thought was that you cannot serve both God and mammon.