How many times have you heard some sparkly-toothed new age guru step off his private helicopter into a packed-out stadium and declare that “money is spiritual”? Or how many times have you heard that age-old nugget of wisdom “money is the root of all evil” trampled and spat on by some new age “gospel of prosperity” hawker?
One of the sacred dogmas of the New Thought movement is that money is a fundamentally positive commodity, which – exactly like health – we should all strive to obtain as much of as we possibly can. It was inevitable that eventually there would be a reaction against the sometimes excessive aestheticism of Christianity and other belief systems – however, by categorically rejecting the idea that there should be any sort of limits on our pursuit of wealth short of outright dishonesty, it appears that our views on money have gone from one extreme to the other.
Firstly, money is not spiritual. Prayer is spiritual. Works of charity are spiritual. Meditation is spiritual. Mindfulness is spiritual. All of these things raise a person’s consciousness and lay the foundations for further spiritual ascension, when they are undertaken with the correct dispositions. Money does neither of these things. Taken purely of itself, it is completely neutral – it can be used for either good or bad. However, money has a strong tendency to inflame desires and distract from the spiritual path.
The spiritual man seeks his happiness by seeking to raise his consciousness, by loving others, meditating on the good, contemplating beauty and finding inner stillness. When deeply cultivated, all of these things lead the soul to a place of unassailable peace and enlightenment where temporal and physical matters are of virtually no concern next to the greater truths of eternity.
Conversely, the man with access to great wealth will almost always follow his weak human nature by seeking the more easily accessible and tangible route of physical pleasure. However, because we are spiritual beings, nothing on Earth short of spiritual ascension can possibly satisfy our deep-seated desires to be reabsorbed into our true spiritual natures. A soul who uses physical pleasure to satisfy what is really a spiritual desire will find the desire insatiable – and as the enjoyment of existing pleasures fade with repetition, a gradual desire for more and greater physical pleasure will result.
Hence, we see the plain truth of the ancient phrase (which is taken from 1 Timothy 6:10), when it is rendered correctly: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” The correct phrase clearly implies that money itself is neutral, but the love of it has the tendency to cause great harm to ourselves and others. Love of money leads to love of luxury, which leads to the supplanting of spiritual desires with physical indulgences.
Just like money, food is also a neutral commodity and is even necessary for life. In fact, food is actually good for us if it’s healthy – but stuff yourself silly with it and even a wholly organic, macrobiotic diet becomes poisonous to the body. Hence, food is necessary and even good; but it must be consumed in accordance with the principles of the natural order. Money is no different in this regard. Hence loving money is toxic to the spiritual path. On the other hand, loving the spiritual path and having money – well, that’s an entirely different bucket of fish! But it’s a crucial distinction that seems to be missing in the New Thought attitude towards wealth.
Virtually all major religious teaching and most enduring philosophical teaching holds these truths. We are of the stars, but we are temporarily confined to Earth; exiles seeking our way home. Living lives of excessive indulgence or comfort binds us to the Earth plane and inhibits our soul’s ascent into higher levels of spiritual understanding. Buddha taught that desire equals suffering. The Tao Te Ching teaches moderation, non-striving and living beyond worldly pleasures. Christ’s words about riches are well known and perfectly plain, despite being subject to so many deliberate misinterpretations.
“Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter in the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you: it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 19:23-24). See also Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25.
“Lay not up to yourselves treasures on Earth, where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through, and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” (Matt 6:19-21).
Reading some of the early New Thought tomes like Wallace D. Wattles’ Science of Getting Rich, you get a sense of where this all came from.
“Increase is what all men and all women are seeking; it is the urge of the Formless Intelligence within them, seeking fuller expression. The desire for increase is inherent in all nature; it is the fundamental impulse of the universe. All human activities are based on the desire for increase; people are seeking more food, more clothes, better shelter, more luxury, more beauty, more knowledge, more pleasure – increase in something, more life.
Every living thing is under this necessity for continuous advancement; where increase of life ceases, dissolution and death set in at once. Man instinctively knows this, and hence he is forever seeking more. This law of perpetual increase is set forth by Jesus in the parable of the talents; only those who gain more retain any; from him who hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
The normal desire for increased wealth is not an evil or a reprehensible thing; it is simply the desire for more abundant life; it is aspiration. And because it is the deepest instinct of their natures, all men and women are attracted to him who can give them more of the means of life.”
This is a simplistic, nay an animalistic doctrine that denies the basic knowledge that not all human desires are healthy, and misses the deeper spiritual understanding of the parable of the talents – rendering it as a purely material tale.
The desire for abundance is a natural human inclination, for sure – but so is revenge and lust for power. The canon of great thought holds that no human desire is to be indulged without some degree of tempering – and in fact, some human desires ought to be utterly repudiated. Thus, the desire for food should only be indulged to the point of satiety, not further. The desire for power should only be indulged with the intention of helping others to better their lot. The desire for reproduction should either be confined to marriage or at least not indulged to the point of promiscuity. And the desire for comfort and wealth ought to be indulged only to the point that we don’t become attached to them.
And therein lies the rather sticky key to this all – it’s perfectly spiritual to live in a twelve bedroom mansion, as long as you’d be just as happy living in a rented attic. If you don’t detach yourself first, you’ll find material diversions taking the place of spiritual aspirations. Or worse, if your material possessions are somehow taken away from you, you won’t have the spiritual foundation to accept it with resignation.
Please be assured that this is not a dig at any particular person, nor a mass dig at all wealthy new agers. All the obvious suspects currently being evoked in my readers’ minds may be completely detached from all their vast wealth, for all I know – I have no right to judge otherwise. I am merely pointing out the pitfalls of having wealth without first detaching ourselves from it.
Of course, I’ve been dealing so far with the extremes of this matter. Readers with simpler needs might currently be thinking: “What about me? Is it too much to ask that I earn a bit extra to cover my car loan and not be struggling to put food on the table?”
Of course it isn’t. Such readers may simply wish to consider whether they’re going about it in the most spiritual way. Christ tackles this question directly in the sermon on the mount, where he says:
“Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the garments? Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of much more value than they?” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:25-26 and 33).
In other words, by making our spiritual development our number one priority, we learn to trust in the providence of the universe. The money may come as an unexpected windfall or promotion, or it may come as the result of some inspiration to undertake a particular business transaction or start our own company. By seeking spiritual things first, we allow the universe to take the reins with full faith and trust that all our needs will be supplied in one way or another.
The soul that is always seeking new ways to make money at the expense of spiritual development – and who is always hoarding it when he does make it – is actually demonstrating the true meaning of the scarcity mindset. This soul is essentially saying “the universe has limited supply, so I need to grab as much as I can and stockpile it before it runs out – make hay while the sun shines!”
Paradoxically, people in this mindset may eventually find themselves in complete financial ruin – thus explaining the odd but common situation of millionaires who go bankrupt. On the other hand, those who truly resign themselves to the providence of the universe often find themselves at the thoroughly comfortable end of moderate living. In this situation, all basic needs are met and many additional “wants” are supplied but spiritual progress is not weighed down by the attachment to luxury and indulgence.
The truly spiritual soul is at peace, and knows that the universe will always supply for his needs. He does not need to chase money because he knows there is no lack of supply – whenever the money is needed, it will come. He freely gives, because he knows the universe will repay him many times over for his charity.
This, my friends, is the true abundance mindset.