A Contribution to Soul and Money
By James Hillman
“Money is a kind of poetry.” Wallace Stevens “Adagia” Opus posthumous, 1957
Whatever we say about money with its relation with analytical practice, whatever we say about money at all will be conditioned by the mind-set of our cultural tradition. We speak first of all at an unreflected level, with the voice of collective consciousness, to use Jung’s term. So, in order to gain purchase on the money question in analysis, we have first to see through our collective consciousness the very deep, old, and imperceptible attitudes that archetypally, let us say, have money already fixed within a definite framework, especially in regard to soul. This framework is that of our entire culture, and it is Christian. So we are going to have to look first of all at Christian ideas and images regarding money and soul. I set forth now without benefit of Christian apologetics and exegetics, without recourse to scholarly apparatus, simply as the plain man who opens his Bible in a hotel room and takes the words there within the framework of his collective consciousness. For the words of Jesus in regard to money, whether or not we are directly conscious of them, are still sounding in us as members of this culture.
Here are a few of the passages in the Gospels which I want briefly to remind you of before drawing some conclusions. John’s Gospel puts the first of these money stories at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (John 2:14) And he found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting (kollubristes, literally “coin clippers”). And he made a scourge of cords and cast all out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew their tables. And to them that sold the doves he said, Take those things hence; Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise [a market]. Mark’s (11:17) version has Jesus saying “a den of robbers,” specifically referring to both buyers and sellers.
The second incident is more a saying than a story. I refer to Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 8:25 from which last I quote: “For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Is it not curious that in these first two allegories money is expressed directly in the language of animals? Even the sheep and oxen, so significant in the birth milieu of Jesus, are driven from the temple, and the camel now becomes that animal fatness, that richness which cannot pass the strait and narrow gate where the soul must enter. In these first two images, the exclusion of money is also exclusion of the animal.
If ever the word archetypal meant anything like permanent, ubiquitous, at the roots or made in heaven, then the relation between money and animals is archetypal. The animal is the very archai of money. Pecuniary derives from cattle; fee derives from faibi (Gothic for cattle); capital refers back to cattle counted by the head. The Greek coin, obolos, refers to the obelos or spitted portion of flesh of a sacrificial bull, and the ancient Roman currency as, meant a piece of the roast, a hunk of meat 1 The vow of poverty entails the vow of chastity; money and animal life are driven from the temple together.
The third story concerns taxes, which play a special role right from the beginning. Jesus’ birth took place in Bethlehem because Joseph and Mary had to proceed there to register for the tax rolls (Luke 2). The topos, “Bethlehem,” not only brings Jesus together with David, Jesus and animal together, Joseph and Mary together, the Magi of various races and orientations, but also holds in one image the Emperor’s rule of the world by means of taxes and Christ’s star pointing beyond the world. In the image of “Bethlehem,” as they say, no problem. In Matthew 17 (and Matthew, by the way, is the Patron Saint of tax collectors, assessors and bankers), Peter is asked whether Jesus pays his half-shekel or didrachma in taxes. Peter says: Yes. But as it turns out, the tax Jesus pays to the Temple is not common money of this world. It is got by miracle: “go thou to the sea,” he tells Simon Peter, “… and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a shekel: take that and give unto them for me and thee.” Again, by the way, an animal together with money.
The main tax tale is the one told in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20. I’ll give the passage from Mark: “Master … is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” to which Jesus answers: “bring me a penny that I may see it … And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Here it is money itself which divides into two alternative ways — spiritual and worldly. It is money which is used for the parable of two different and distinct worlds. If money divides the two realms, is it also that third which holds them together? We shall come to this later.
According to the texts, it sounds as if it is clearly better to be without money, even to be in poverty, than to be with money. (This in spite of Joseph of Arimethea and other followers who were wealthy.) For instance, in the tale of the poor widow (Luke 20, Mark 12) who is praised for her meager giving — a lesson Jesus draws out for his disciples as he sits “over against the treasury” in the temple. Or, for instance, poverty becomes mandatory: when the twelve are sent on their mission, two by two, with authority over unclean spirits or daimones (Mark 6, Luke 9, Matthew 10), they are expressly instructed not to carry money. Or, for instance, Luke 12 where wealth and soul are directly brought into relation. In a passage about inheritance (the parable of the rich fool) Jesus says: “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth” as he tells about a rich many laying up corn for his retirement so as to have his soul’s ease, only to have his same soul (psyche) called by God to death that very night. Or, for instance, Matthew 26 and Mark 8: “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul [psyche]?”
Is not by now the division utterly clear? Money belongs to Caesar’s Palace, not God’s Temple. The first act of cleansing the temple of money is reaffirmed all along, and of course nowhere more bitterly than in the final story, the selling of Jesus by Judas for thirty pieces of silver. (Judas is already attributed with the telltale sign of evil — a money bag or box in the scene of the supper [John 13:29].) Could money be given a more negative cast?
We are situated in this collective consciousness. We have to start from this schism between soul and money in the basic text stating the values of our tradition. The schism can lead us into taking up one side or another of it, such as exposed by Dr. Covitz and by Dr. Vasavada. Together with Vasavada, we can deny money in order to do a spiritual kind of soul-work; or together with Covitz, we can affirm money in order to become therapeutically more effective in the world. They each showed the division we already have seen: the more one concentrates on money the more one involves oneself in the world, and the more one neglects money or abjures it, the more one can be removed from the world.
But I wish to make another kind of move by taking a third position, neither high road nor low road, neither spirit nor matter. I see money as an archetypal dominant that can be taken spiritually or materially but which in itself is neither.
Rather, money is a psychic reality, and as such gives rise to divisions and oppositions about it, much as other fundamental psychic realities — love and work, death and sexuality, politics and religion — are archetypal dominants which easily fall into opposing spiritual and material interpretations. Moreover, since money is an archetypal psychic reality, it will always be inherently problematic because psychic realities are complex, complicated. Therefore money problems are inevitable, necessary, irreducible, always present, and potentially if not actually overwhelming. Money is devilishly divine.
One of Charles Olsen’s Maximus poems sets out this archetypal view most compactly: The under part is, though stemmed, uncertain is, as sex is, as moneys are, facts to be dealt with as the sea is …
This is an extraordinary statement. “Facts to be dealt with as the sea is.” The first of these facts is that money is as deep and broad as the ocean, the primordially unconscious, and makes us so. It always takes us into the great depths, where sharks and suckers, hard-shell crabs, tight clams and tidal emotions abound. Its facts have huge horizons, as huge as sex, and just as protean and polymorphous.
Moreover, money is plural: moneys. Therefore I can never take moneys as an equivalent for any single idea: exchange, energy, value, reality, evil, and whatever. It is many-stemmed, it is uncertain, polymorphous. At one moment the money complex may invite Danse who draws Zeus into her lap as a shower of coins, at another moment the gold may invite Midas. Or, Hermes the thief, patron of merchants, easy commerce. Or it may be old moneybags Saturn who invented coining and hoarding to begin with. AS on the original coins the Greeks made, there are different Gods and different animals — owls, bulls, rams, crabs — each time the complex is passed from hand to hand.
Money is as protean as the sea-God himself; try as we might with fixed fees, regular billings, and accounts ledgered and audited, we never can make the stems of money balance. The checkbook will never tally, the budget will never stay within bookkeeping columns. We invent more and more machinery for controlling money, more and more refined gauges for economic prediction, never grasping what Olson tells us: the facts of money are like the facts of the sea. Money is like the id itself, the primordially repressed, the collective unconscious appearing in specific denominations, that is, precise quanta or configurations of value, i.e., images. Let us define money as that which possibilizes the imagination. Moneys are the riches of Pluto in which Hades’ psychic images lie concealed. To find imagination in yourself or a patient, turn to money behaviors and fantasies. You both will soon be in the underworld (the entrance to which requires a money for Charon).
Therapy draws back. Do you know of the study done on therapeutic taboos? Analysts were surveyed regarding what they felt they must never do with a patient. It was discovered that touching and holding, shouting and hitting, drinking, kissing, nudity and intercourse were all less prohibited than was “lending money to a patient.” Money constellated the ultimate taboo.
For money always takes us into the sea, uncertain, whether it comes as inheritance fights, fantasies about new cars and old houses, marriage battles over spending, ripping off, tax evasion, marked speculations, fear of going broke, poverty, charity — whether the complexes appear in dreams, in living rooms, or in public policy.
For here in the facts of money is the great ocean, and maybe while trawling that sea floor during an analytical hour we may come up with a crazy crab or a fish with a shekel in its mouth.
Just as animals were spirits or Gods in material forms, so too money, a kind of third thing between only spirit and only the world flesh, and devil. Hence, to be with money is to be in the third plain of soul, psychic reality. And, to keep my relation with the unclean spirits whether the high daimones or the low daimones, I want some coins in my purse. I need them to pay my way to Hades into the psychic realm. I want to be like what I work on, not unlike and immune. I want the moneychangers where I can see them, right in the temple of my pious aspirations. In other words, I try my darndest to keep clear about the tradition I have just exposed because I think it a disastrous one for psychotherapy, and of course also for the culture as a whole.
The cut between Caesar and God in terms of money deprives the soul of the world and the world of soul. The soul is deflected onto spiritual path of denial and the world is left in the sins of luxury, avarice, and greed. Then the soul is always threatened by money and the world needs the spiritual mission of redemption from the evil caused by the Weltbild that cuts Caesar from God. That money is the place where God and Caesar divide shows that money is a ‘third thing’ like the soul itself, and that in money are both the inherent tendency to split into spirit and matter and the possibility to hold them together.
This equation — “money = psyche” — is what we Jungians have been trying to say when we translate money images in dreams into “psychic energy.” “Energy,” however, is heroic Promethean language. It transforms the equation into “money = ego,” that is, energy available to ego-consciousness. Then, Hermes/Mercurius, Guide of Souls, has to appear as the thief, and in our sense of loss (of money, of energy, of identity) in order for the equation “money = psyche” to return again.
(Poverty is simply a way out of ego, but not a hermetic way.) For Hermes the Thief is also Hermes Psycho-pompos, implying that from the hermetic perspective exactly there, where money is no longer available to ego-consciousness, is also where Hermes has stolen it for the sake of soul. In soul work, losing and gaining take on different meanings, a sensibility that Promethean language about “energy” is too active and goal-directed to apprehend.
If money has this archetypal soul value, again like the ancient coins bearing images of Gods and their animals and backed by these powers2 money will not, cannot, accept the Christian depreciation, and so Christianity time and again in its history has had to come to terms with the return of the repressed — from the wealth of the churches and the luxury of its priests, the selling of indulgences, the rise of capitalism with protestantism, usury and projections on the Jews, the Christian roots of Marxism, and so on.
One particular shadow of the Christian position appears right in analysis: the old sin of simony or exchanging spiritual and ecclesiastical benefits for money. Is not the elaborate system analysts have derived for guaranteed payments from their patients for “Heil” or individuation of the Self, and from their trainees for ordination into the analytical profession, modern forms of simony? This sin the Church was far more conscious of than we are today. The Church was anyway more aware of money for possibilizing the imagination than we are in psychotherapy. It has always recognized the fantasy-power of money preventing the soul from its doctrinal spiritual path.
As long as our belief system inherently depreciates money, it will always threaten the soul with value distortions. Depression, inflation, bad credit, low interest — these psychological metaphors have hardened into unconscious economic jargon.
Having “de-based” money from its archetypal foundations in psychic reality, money attempts a new literal and secular foundation for itself as “the bottom line.” But this bottom does not hold, because any psychic reality that has been fundamentally depreciated must become symptomatic, ‘go crazy,’ in order to assert its fundamental archetypal autonomy.
We live today in fear of this autonomy, called financial anarchy. Anarchy means “without archai”; and of course money, conceived without soul, without an animal life of its own, without Gods, becomes crazy, anarchic, because we forget that like sex, like the sea, it too is a religious dominant.
Now I am referring back through the word itself to the Goddess Moneta, the Roman equivalent of Mnemosyne meaning memoria, imagination, Mother of the Muses. In her temple of Moneta, money was kept; in the word, a temple too, Moneta reappears. Money is thus a deposit of mythical fantasies. It is a treasury that mothers and remembers images. Money is imaginative, as I have been saying.
Thus, money in the hand awakens imaginal possibilities: to do this, go there, have that. It reveals the Gods which dominate my fantasies — Saturnian tightness, Jupiterian generosity, Martial show, Venusian sensuality. Money provokes my behavior into mythical fantasies, so very different in different people. Why should people agree about money — where to invest it, on what to spend it, which horse to put it on? It is a truly polytheistic phenomenon in everyday life. As such, coined money is a highly cultural phenomenon. It came into history with the Greeks and not before them. It belongs in the constellation of the Muses, necessary to imaginational culture, and hence it does become devilish when imagination is not valued (as in Christianity). The ugliness, the power corruption, the purely quantitative nature of money today are not its fault, but that of its having been severed and then fallen from the Gods from which it came.
Let me now connect this theme with another at this Congress: Training. On occasion candidates have explained to me that one reason for their wanting to train is that analytical practice offers a noble way of earning money. So much of the world’s work is soulless, they say, while analysis pays one for staying with soul, without having to open a headshop, teach guitar, throw pots or home-grown squash and tomatoes. One does not have to be economically marginal. The analyst combines soul and money; analytical money is good, clean money, and even well paid. Training tempts, evidently, because it resolves the Christian dilemma of shekel versus soul, without having to follow the spiritual solution of poverty.
The resolution of a pair of opposites, however, only perpetuates their opposition: the third requires the other two for it to be a third. Only when we can step altogether out of the dilemma that divides money (and soul) into spiritual and material oppositions, can we see, that there is psyche in money all the time in every way, that it is “a kind of poetry,” that it is wholly and utterly psychological and needs no redeeming into good, clean and noble money, and so needs no repressing into the poverty and asceticism of the spirit turned against matter.
In fact, that equation “money = psyche” suggests that there is more soul to be found where money problems are most extreme, not in poverty but in luxury, miserly greed, covetousness, and the joy of usury, and that the fear of money and the importance of money in some persons may be more psychologically devastating, and therefore therapeutically rewarding, than sexual fears and impotence. Extraordinary demons are startled when the money complex is touched. And no complex is kept hidden with more secrecy. Patients more readily reveal what’s concealed by their pants than what’s hidden in their pants’ pockets.
Freudians who see purses as female genital symbols may discover more by making the reduction in the reverse direction.
Where exactly is the money complex hidden? Most often it hides in the guises of love, where so much soul is anyways hidden. As Tawney showed, Protestantism and Capitalism enter the world together. And, after all these centuries, they still hold hands in mutual affection in so many protestant families where giving, receiving, saving, participating, supporting, spending, willing (inheritance) are the ways one learns about loving. “Spending” for a long time in English had both a genital and monetary meaning, while the words bond, yield, safe, credit, duty, interest, share and debt (as schuld or guild) all bear double meanings of love and money. The double meanings double-bind; to protestant-capitalist consciousness renunciating the family’s psychological attitudes often becomes refusing money from home which is felt at home as a rebuff of love. The money = psyche equation is a powerful variant of the Eros and Psyche myth where money stands in for love.
But finally, what does money do for the soul; what is its specific function in possibilizing the imagination? It makes the imagination possible in the world. Soul needs money to be kept from flying off into the Bardo realm of ‘only-psychic’ reality. Money holds soul in the vase of the world, in the poetry of the concrete, in touch with the self as facts, those hard and slippery facts, so perduring, annoying, and limiting, and ceaselessly involving one in economic necessity. Fact economy means originally “householding,” making soul in the vase of the world, charging and being overcharged, crimping and splurging, exchanging, bargaining, evaluating, paying off, going in debt, speculation …
Thus fee negotiation, whether in Vasavada’s style or Covitz’s, is a thoroughly psychological activity. Fee payment may take many styles — from dirty dollar bills plunked on the table before the hour begins, to gifts and deals and wheedling, or the discreetly passed envelope, to the abstract medical model of depersonalized forms, checks, and statements. And the old joke is always true: “When the man says: ‘it ain’t the money, it’s the principle’ — it’s the money.” It is the money where the real issue lies. Money is an irreducible principle.
Analysis, as the candidates have perceived, indeed lets soul and money meet. The spirituality of the Christian division is suspended: one renders unto the Gods and Caesars in one and the same payment. We pay tribute to the costliness of soul work, that it is rare, precious, most dear. And we pay out the common buck “for professional services rendered,” a phrase equally appropriate to the physician, the plumber, and the whore.
That analysts have trouble justifying their outrageous fees (and at the same time feel they never earn enough compared with lawyers and dentists) belongs to the archetypal nature of money as we have been viewing it. The money question can no more be regulated so as to settle into easiness than can sex or the sea. The underpart stems into the many directions of our complexes. That we cannot settle the money issue in analysis shows money to be one main way the mothering imagination keeps our souls fantasizing. So, to conclude with my part of this panel, Soul and Money: yes, soul and money; we cannot have either without the other. 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.
–From Lockhart, et al., Soul and Money (Dallas, TX,: Spring Publications, Inc., 1982)
1 Cf. W.H. Desmonde, Magic, Myth, and Money (Glencoe: Free Press), pp. 109–19. 3
2 Cf. my discussion of coinage in “Silver and the White Earth,” Spring 1980, pp. 35-37.