The Mystery of Money – Beyond Greed and Scarcity | Part Three – Chapter 7 | Bernard Lietaer (2002)

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Part Three: Why Now?

“We say the time for waiting is over
We say the silence has been broken
We say there can be no forgetting now
We say


We are the bones of your grandmother’s grandmothers
We have returned now
We say you cannot forget us now
We say we are with you
And you are us.



Patricia Reiss1

“One thing we can predict:
the greatest change will be the change in knowledge –
in its form and content; in its meaning; in its responsibility;
and in what it means to be an educated person.”
Peter Drucker2

Part Three applies the Archetypal map to contemporary issues.

The first step is to explore what it means in practice to have the shadows of the Great Mother archetype embedded in our conventional money system. We will discover that it explains both some of the best contributions of the Western world to humanity, but also some of the most serious problems that are now afflicting us (Chapter 7: Exploring Contemporary Money with the Great Mother Archetype).

Chapter 8 asks the question: Where are we now? It shows that a fundamental change in values has already started taking root in America, Europe and the world at large. Changes in structures of consciousness as seen by Jean Gebser, the German-Swiss philosopher, provide interesting insights into the nature of this contemporary change. Furthermore, the largest up-to-date survey of American values confirms that this mutation is already well under way for about one-quarter of the US population. All indications are that this may also be a global trend. I conclude by connecting what we know presently about the different subcultures, archetypes and different money systems

Chapter 9: Our Money, our Future highlights some of the conditions that will be relevant to make the shift towards Sustainable Abundance a possibility.

A previous book “The Future of Money” described what is peculiar about our conventional money system and the changes it is undergoing right now. What we need to know about it for our purpose here will be summarized next.

A Synthesis of the Relevant Concepts from “The Future of Money”

Only some of the key conclusions of the “The Future of Money” will be synthesized here. Detailed supporting evidence for the claims made here are available in that other book.

  • The Information Age has already broken the de facto monopoly of the conventional national currencies. For instance, Frequent Flyer miles have evolved to become a de facto corporate scrip (i.e. a currency issued by a private corporation for its own commercial reasons). Initially their purpose was a simple marketing gimmick to foster customer loyalty. However, now they can be earned and spent on a growing number of ways. They are, therefore, gradually evolving into a currency as defined above. Similarly, over 2500 communities in a dozen different countries have started to issue their own medium of exchange as complementary currencies. These currencies are complementary to the conventional national currencies because they do not aim at replacing the national currency, but are designed to fulfill functions that the conventional currency does not accomplish. They are also called complementary because they are often used simultaneously in a single transaction as a mixed payment (part national currency, part complementary currency, for example a painting job is paid 50% in national currency, and 50% in a local currency).
  • It is useful to distinguish different types of contemporary currencies. For example:
    • All conventional national currencies today are “Fiat” Currencies. These are currencies created out of nothing, by a hierarchical authority. For instance, all our conventional national currencies (including the Euro) are created as “fiat” currencies issued as bank-debt, under the hierarchical authority of a Central Bank.
    • Mutual Credit currencies are created as a simultaneous debit and credit among participants themselves. For example, the Time Dollar system invented by the law Professor Edgar Cahn is a mutual credit currency. In that system, if I do something for you for one hour, I will get an hour credit and you a debit for one hour. It would be simple barter if you did something for me to for one hour to compensate. But if I can use my credit with someone else we have created a medium of exchange within our community, i.e. local money. Over 400 Time Dollar systems are now operational, mostly in the US. The Canadians Michael Linton and David West invented another example of a mutual credit currency in the early 1980s under the name LETS (Local Exchange Trading System). Over a thousand of LETS, or variants to that system, are now operational around the world.
  • We have become so used to consider exclusively national currencies as the only type of “real” money, that we also have accepted as “obvious” various features that are in fact quite special. For example, we consider obvious that money should bear interest, that it keeps its value only by remaining artificially scarce, and that its users should compete among each other to obtain it. In contrast, mutual credit currencies are interest-free; since the participants themselves create them as soon as an agreement has been reached on a particular transaction, they are always available in sufficiency; and practice has shown that it induces cooperation among its users rather than competition.
  • There was only one complementary currency system in 1984. By 1990, there were fewer than 100 complementary currency systems operational in the world, but in the year 2000 there were over 2500, and their number continues to grow. Nevertheless, they still are involved in only a tiny fraction of total exchanges, thereby providing a valid argument to those who prefer to dismiss them as marginal. However, this is not necessarily so. For example, the only fully mature complementary currency system in operation in the world – the WIR system in Switzerland – has experienced more than 65 years of development. It counts now over 80,000 members, and generates among them an annual volume equivalent to over 2 Billion Euros in exchanges. Similarly, the innovative use of complementary currencies in the Brazilian city of Curitiba over a period of 25 years has enabled the average Curitibano to receive 30% of his or her income in complementary currencies, improving particularly the standard of living of the poorest segments of society. Even on the conventional macro-economic level this effect is measurable. The regional product per capita of this particular city grew 40% faster than the rest of the country. Furthermore, there is now clear evidence in the thousands of practical experiments with complementary currencies that they can have significant positive impacts on the communities that use them. Not only do they create work that otherwise would not exist, but they also have proven beneficial in restoring the feeling and reality of community where previously it wasn’t available.
  • There is one final reason why these new currency systems are complementary. They enable to introduce the complementary concepts of Yin-Yang into the currency domain. In the next chapter, an analysis of how different types of currencies activate different parts of our Archetypal map will show the relevance of the following distinctions.
    • A Yang currency is one whose issuance is based on hierarchy, that encourages accumulation in the form of currency, and that tends to generate competition among its users. All conventional national currencies are Yang currencies, because they exhibit each one of these features. This is why the competitive economy that they fuel will be called the “Yang economy”. It is also typically the only economy acknowledged in conventional economic textbooks.
    • In contrast, a Yin currency is one whose issuance is based on egalitarianism, that discourages accumulation, and that encourages cooperation among its users. Well-designed complementary currencies will tend to activate a cooperative “Yin economy”. This Yin economy has existed informally forever typically in the form of a gift economy (i.e. without the use of any currency). Gift exchanges are one of the most important builders of community, and Yin currencies have proven to be more compatible with, or even encourage the creation of, a gift economy.
    • I claim that a balance between the Yin and Yang economies is indispensable for a truly sustainable society to function. Together they create what is called the “Integral Economy.” The Figure below graphically illustrates these concepts.

Figure 4.1 The Integral Economy and Yin-Yang Currency Systems.

The conclusion of “The Future of Money” was that the activation of this Integral Economy is the best path available towards creating “Sustainable Abundance” within one generation on this planet. Showing that Sustainable Abundance is a realistic possibility is the ultimate objective of both books. Sustainable Abundance was defined as “the ability to flourish and grow materially, emotionally, and spiritually without squandering resources from the future. It is characteristic of a community, society, country, or global system that gives people the opportunity to express their highest creative calling, without diminishing the prospects for coming generations to enjoy the same or a better way of life.”3

Equipped with these definitions, we can now engage in exploring how the Archetypal Map developed in Part One, and historically tested in Part Two, could help attain Sustainable Abundance in the future.

Chapter 7: Exploring Contemporary Money with the Great Mother

“The world has enough for everyone’s need
but not for everyone’s greed.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“The Chinese have never failed to recognize the paradoxes and polarity inherent in what is alive. The opposites always balance one another – a sign of high culture. One-sidedness, though it lends momentum, is a mark of barbarism”
Carl Gustav Jung4

The main monetary consequence the repression of the Great Mother archetype is that it has shaped the nature of our money system itself, so that we continue to consider as “normal” money only monopolies of Yang currencies. The well-established historical evolution of such Yang currencies will now be mapped on the Archetypal Human. It provides some interesting insights on that process, and prepares the terrain for understanding additional aspects of our contemporary money system.

A Short History of “Yang” Money Evolution

Photo 7.1 ¼ page

Bronze ingots used as currency in the eight century BC in Tepe Hansalu, north-western Iran. They vary in length from 20 to 28 cm and in width from 1.5 to 2.5 cm. Weighing the bars would be required at each transaction.”

Three major types of Yang money systems are usually distinguished, and their gradual evolution from one to the next is well documented historically in many places in the world. The three types are:

  • Commodity Money
  • Standardized Coinage
  • and finally, Fiat Money

A short paragraph will summarize the essential characteristics of each.

Commodity money:

Photo 7.1a ¼ page

Salt bar of the kind used in payments in Ethiopia as late as the 19th century. It was made from natural salt rock, cut manually into specific sizes, and wrapped in reeds to protect them during transport and handling. This shows a case of transition from commodity money to standardization. Weighing each bar may not be necessary at each transaction, but there is not yet an authority to guarantee the standard.

The first appearance of money is typically the use as currency of a product or commodity that has also a well-established utilitarian value. Many so-called “primitive” currencies are of that type. They include for example eggs, feathers, hoes, kettles, leather, furs, tobacco, raw metal ingots, mats, nails, oxen, pigs, rice, salt, or bronze ingots.5 The last two are illustrated in photos.

For instance, the derivation of the word “salary” can still be traced directly to the widespread use of salt as currency in parts of the Roman Empire (it derives from sal, salis = salt in Latin). Even in Modern times during periods of acute civil or military disorders, such currencies reappear spontaneously.

This happened, for example, with cigarettes-as- currency on the front of World War II, or more recently with Marlboro packs during the breakdown of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe.

Authority-Issued Standardized Coinage

Photo 7.2 ¼ page

From bars of various sizes and weights, the next step is standardization, as is shown here in bronze ‘dolphin’ ingots in standard sizes and weights from Olbia, northern shore of the Black Sea in the 5th century BC.

Photo 7.3 1/8 page

Electrum, a mixture of gold and silver naturally occurring in Lydia, was the first standardized precious metal coinage. This particular Lydian coin from 7th century BC shows the seal of a local authority.

One step up in sophistication from simple commodity money appears when an authority guarantees its composition, quality and quantity; and thereby standardizes the currency. This evolved typically because it makes the use of the currency more convenient. For instance, one used to have to verify the purity and weight of metals used as commodity-money at each trade. Then in 687 BC a king in Lydia, an area where a lot of gold was being discovered at that time, decided to standardize crude coins on which he imprinted his seal. Such a process happened in many places with different types of commodity currency because there is a benefit to the issuer of having his currency accepted. He can charge a seignoriage fee for the service. The word derives from the Old French Seignor meaning the Lord.

“Fiat” Currency

The next step of evolution towards abstraction is “fiat” currencies. In this case an authority – instead of guaranteeing only the composition or weight of a commodity currency – simply declares that something (which otherwise may be worthless) is currency. The word fiat comes from the Bible, and refers to the first words that God spoke at creation: “Fiat Lux” (“let light be”). Such currency is created out of nothing, by the power of the word of the hierarchical authority involved. The reason for such an evolution is that the seignoriage income remains valid for the issuer, but the cost of the production of the currency becomes negligible. Specifically, all our conventional national currencies today are “fiat” currencies. Specifically, all our national currencies are invariably created as bank- debt, under the hierarchical authority of a Central Bank6. And the production costs for a US$100 or a 100 Euro bill are only a few cents.

Let us now see what is the minimum number of archetypes needed to be active in a society for each one of these types of currencies to exist, and become accepted as “obvious”.

Monetary Evolution on the Archetypal Map

Commodity money can exist in any type of society – from “primitive” to the most sophisticated – and it often coexists with other types of currency as well. For example, in the US today it is fairly frequent for corporations to trade hotel rooms and radio or TV advertising spots for other services and goods. A multi-billion dollar specialized barter industry has developed that uses such services as medium of exchange.

However, in periods when most things break down, such as wars or prolonged civil disorders, the only currency that typically can survive is commodity money. This is why they could be described as “wartime commodity currencies” because they need only the Warrior archetype to operate.

Photo 7.4 ½ page

Great Ming Circulating Treasure Certificate” is the official title on this paper currency issued in 1374 AD by the Imperial Treasury in China. This denomination is worth ‘one string of coins’, which is equivalent to 1000 bronze cash coins. Hongwu (1368-98 AD) the founder of the Ming dynast, was the issuer of this currency.

Photo 7.4a ½ age

The honor of the first official issue of paper currency in Europe goes to the Latvian Johan Palmstruch who issued the first notes in 1661, in the name of the Stockholm Banco. Notice the multiplication of official signatures – 8 different ones – to which several seals were added to provide maximum credibility.

Palmstruch’s own signature is the one on top on the left. But as he issued more paper than he had metal in reserve, he could not impede a run on his bank.

This note is a 100 daler-note issued in 1666. The next year, in 1667, a Swedish government commission would condemn him to death, a sentence that was later commuted to prison.

In contrast, standardized coinage requires by definition a centralized authority to operate and be accepted. For example, the issue of royal coinage is possible only if there is a strong central authority in charge that makes its currency credible. Historically, this often has meant that the issuing authority can use force if necessary to impose its currency. The very idea of seignoriage, the right of a Lord to impose his currency on his subjects and derive an income from it, involves both the Warrior and the Sovereign archetypes.

Figure 7.2 illustrates how we can mark these two kinds of currencies on our archetypal map.

Figure 7.2 Archetypal Human, Wartime Commodity Currency, and Authority-Issued Currency

In the case of today’s official national currencies, the situation is more complex. We saw that all national currencies today are credit-money created out of nothing (“fiat”money). It takes a lot of skill and technique to transform something that is created out of nothing into something for which everybody is willing to compete. It even has been called “modern alchemy” for that reason. When the US representative at the IMF said, “Money is magic, and Central Banks are magicians”, she was pointing to an archetypal truth. Similarly, is it only coincidence that the Federal Reserve is called the “Temple” and its Chairman the “High Priest”?7 In short, besides the Warrior and the Sovereign, contemporary money also involves the Magician in an important way.

In contrast, mutual credit systems where the participants generate their own currency as needed as a debit and credit (such as LETS or Time Dollars) generate a currency that is always in sufficiency.

They empower the relationships within the community. These characteristics justify calling them “strong Yin” currencies. In archetypal shorthand, such currencies tend to activate the two Yin archetypes i.e., the Provider/Great Mother and the Lover. The following Figure (7.3) highlights the three archetypes that the official national currencies activate. It also illustrates archetypally why the Yin currencies are complementary to the national currency system.

Figure 7.3 Archetypal Human, Mutual Credit and Bank-Debt National Currency Systems as Complements to Each Other

However, in most places in the world today we do not have such a complementary system. Even where they do exist today, these Yin systems represents only an insignificant percentage of total transactions. So what are the consequences for a society when a money system like our conventional national currencies has established ade facto monopoly as medium of exchange?

The Archetypal Human and the National Money System

This can be answered by assembling the pieces of how the predominant national money system relates to the archetypal human and its shadows. There are three main pieces to that puzzle:

  • the prevailing money system as a “strong Yang” construct;
  • the consequences of the repression of the Great Mother;and
  • the Yang shadow resonance.

I will conclude with the role of a money system as an “information replicator” and its socio- psychological consequences.

The National Money System as a Strong Yang construct

This section will substantiate further what we just noted in connection with the previous figure (Figure 7.3). Our current official money system needs a strong central hierarchical control via banks and Central Banks to operate. It has also been shown to foster competition and rewards accumulation of money.8 On the basis of these characteristics our conventional national money can be described as “strong Yang”currencies.

The Sovereign embodies the hierarchical central authority aspect. The strong Yang nature of the system connects it with the two Yang archetypes, the Warrior and the Magician. It should not be a surprise that the two Yin archetypes (Great Mother and Lover) are incompatible with such strong Yang energy. Therefore, as already shown in Figure 7.3, only three archetypes are fully activated by our official money system; the Sovereign, the Warrior, and the Magician.

Consequences of the Repression of the Great Mother Archetype

A continuous repression of the Great Mother is entirely congruous with the above Yang bias.

We have seen in the “Case of the Missing Archetype” that the way the Great Mother archetype is dealt with in any society is one of the main forces shaping the money system and that the repression of the Great Mother would automatically build into the money system her two shadows of Greed and fear Scarcity.

Yang Shadow Resonance

The third and final piece is a phenomenon that could be called the “Yang shadow resonance”. The Yang imbalance also demands that, whenever any archetype is not fully integrated, it is the Yang shadow that becomes spontaneously most available. Therefore, the resonance phenomenon activates, by preference, all the Yang shadows of our map.

When all three pieces of the puzzle are fit into place, we obtain the map of the values and fears that tend to be activated by the dominant national money system (Figure 7.4).

Figure 7.4 The Archetypal Human and the Values and Shadows Activated by the National Money System

Historical Origins: The Dark Middle Ages as an Emotional Imprint?

Some may claim that all these social and psychological problems are simply part of human nature; that they were always present in some form, and will always manifest in every society. Therefore, the idea would be preposterous that such problems correlate with the kind of money system operational in a given society. In support of their view, they will be able to provide evidence from centuries past, or even some striking quotes from the Renaissance period, or in Latin, Greek or Chinese.

It is of course true that most people from all time periods experience all human emotions captured in our archetypal map to some extent. If that were not the case, we should not call our model an Archetypal Human. However, the claim here is that the degree of severity of specific shadow constellations – as revealed by the intensity of the corresponding emotions and their pervasiveness in society – are not constants over time. Furthermore, we should not expect to find substantial differences whenever we compare today’s situation with previous patriarchal societies (such as the Roman, Greek or Chinese civilizations, or any other where the Great Mother archetype was similarly repressed). Finally, I claim that we should be able to detect significant fluctuations in the intensity and pervasion of the relevant emotions particularly during a reversal period – the switch from the honoring to the repressing of the Great Mother archetype.

Theoretically, these phenomena should be observable in every case where there was a sudden reversal from a Matrifocal to a Patriarchal system. We have only two case studies available so far, and in the Egyptian instance the process was a very gradual one, spread over at least six centuries (from the Greek invasions in the fourth century BC to the establishment of the Roman value system as late as several centuries AD). So the shift at the end of the Central Middle Ages (10th-13th century) to what I have called the Late or Dark Middle Ages (14th-15th century) is what we should focus on. This shift is the important one for us anyway, given that this was the period when our contemporary shadow constellation were pounded into the Western collective unconscious. And the Western collective unconscious, for better andfor worse, is also the one that has shaped the money system that has conquered the entire world to the point of being considered today the “obvious” money system everywhere.

Specifically we should be able to identify not only correlations between a significant reversal towards a repression of the Great Mother archetype and a shift towards a monopoly of Yang currencies accompanied by measurable economic effects (as was done in Chapter 6 in “How the music ended” for the Central Middle Ages). We should also find during that same period a particularly intensive emotional re-patterning and significant changes in the collective psychology in all levels of society at that precise period in time.

Was this the case?

What kinds of emotional shifts are most relevant?

What kind of emotional changes should one expect? From the theoretical framework illustrated in Figure 7.4 the following four effects, partially overlapping, can be forecast:

  1. Unusually high levels of emotional intensity as a new set of fears and archetypal shadows establish themselves;
  2. The process of establishing taboos for the three main attributes of the Great Mother archetype (sex, death and money) should entail a heightened fascination and fear specifically around these three issues;
  3. The two shadows of the Great Mother (greed and scarcity) should similarly become hot topics of extreme intellectual positions and emotional attitudes;
  4. Finally, the Yang shadows shown in Figure 7.4 worldview (tyrant, sadist, hyper-rationality and sexual addiction) should strengthen and become part of the dominant culture.

The test question thus becomes: can all these four shifts be observed during the Dark Middle Ages (14th-15th century) as compared to the previous period of the Central Middle Ages (10th-13th century)?

Please remember that historical evidence can never meet the demands of scientific proof in domains like physics. It is more akin to legal proof where the objective is more modestly “truth beyond reasonable doubt” based on evidence contributed by witnesses. Notice also that the weight carried by a witness is enhanced whenever he or she does not have a vested interest or an ax to grind in the issue at hand.

This is why I now will call on Johan Huizinga as witness to the case of the emotional consequences of the repression of the feminine archetype at the end of the Central Middle Ages.

Calling Huizinga to the Witness Stand

Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) was a professor of history at the University of Leiden in Holland from 1915 until 1942, when the Nazis closed the university and held him hostage until shortly before his death. His Autumn of the Middle Ages is widely considered today as “one of the 20th century’s few undoubted classics of history”9, “a pioneering work in historical interpretation10, and has been described by fellow historians as “A Masterwork”11 (Note that it is important to refer to the original work in Dutch514 or to the new translation in English entitled The Autumn of the Middle Ages12 and not to the earlier, truncated and unfortunate English translation known as The Waning of the Middle Ages.13)

Finally, let us note that Huizinga is not only a competent and informed observer of the period at hand, but that he has clearly no ax to grind in this topic, as he has never known about the thesis presented here. In his work, the issue of the repression of the feminine isn’t even mentioned. This makes his observations on emotional shifts even more convincing in our context.

Fortunately for us, Huizinga looks specifically at the period from the perspective relevant here. As he mentioned in the Preface of the first and second Dutch edition: “This book is an attempt to view the time period around the fourteenth and fifteenth century, not as announcing the Renaissance, but as the end of the Middle Ages, as the age of medieval thought in its last phase of life.”14

We should not be surprised that the patterns that Huizinga detected in the Late Middle Ages will seem to us like extreme forms – caricatures – of today’s collective emotional issues. After all, these were the times when they were repeatedly and intensely stamped into our collective consciousness. What we will see here is like a sharp dice that made an imprint so deeply that the pattern is still visible today, 600 years later. Today this pattern has become over the centuries somewhat edulcorated, gentrified, “civilized”.

Each one of the four emotional changes that were identified above will now be illustrated in turn with a few typical anecdotes extracted from Huizinga’s work.

  1. Unusually high levels of emotional intensity

As new sets of fears and shadows establish themselves, this would entail exceptionally high levels of emotional intensity.

One of Huizinga’s most striking contributions in The Autumn of the Middle Ages happens to be his focus on the unusual emotional intensity of life in the Dark Middle Ages. His first chapter is correspondingly entitled “The Passionate Intensity of Life”. The following quote provide substance to his view: “Anyone who studies the history of that period will at times be shocked at the inadequacy of the efforts of modern historians to explain events in terms of economic-political causes….Dissatisfied with the efforts made to explain them to date, one might well be justified in asking whether a political-psychological view could not offer greater advantages than the economic- political for an explanation of late medieval conflicts.”15

Although he doesn’t use psychological terminology such as “Shadows” to make his point, he implicitly alludes to that concept: “It is an evil world. The fires of hatred and violence burn fiercely. Evil is powerful, the devil covers a darkened earth with his black wings…But mankind does not repent, the church struggles, and the preachers and poets warn and lament in vain.”16

A sample of public emotional displays

Large-scale public emotional displays were frequent, lasted for days or even weeks, and were the occasion of extraordinarily communal and public emotional outbursts. For instance, a procession in 1412, when the fatal conflict between the houses of Orléans and Burgundy had finally led to open civil war…daily processions were held in Paris, on a totally different scale than what the Central Middle Ages had ever seen. “They continued from the end of May into July and involved ever different groups, orders or guilds, ever different routes and different relics: ‘les plus piteuses processions qui oncques eussent été veues de aage de homme’. [the most touching processions seen in memory of men]. All were barefoot with empty stomachs; members of parliament and burghers alike…There were always many children with them. Even the poor folk from the villages of Paris came running on bare feet.

Processions were joined or watched ‘en grant pleur, en grant larmes, en grant devocion’ [with great weeping, with many tears, with great devotion.]”17

Scenes of mourning became similarly huge public dramas. “During the funeral of Charles VII, the people lost their composure when the funeral procession came into view…’Furent grant pleurs et lamentacions faictes parmy tout ladicte ville’. [many tears were shed and lamentations uttered throughout the said town.] There were six pageboys of the king riding six horses draped entirely in black velvet. One of the lads was so saddened that he did not eat nor drink for four days, said the people with great emotion.”18

“The people could not perceive their fates and the events of their time other than as a continuous succession of economic mishandling, exploitation, war and robbery, inflation, want, and pestilence. The chronic form that war tended to take, the constant threats to the town and the country from all kinds of dangerous riffraff, the eternal threat from a harsh and unreliable administration of justice, and on top of all this, the pressure of the fear of hell and the anxiety about devils and witches, nourished a feeling of general insecurity that tended to paint life’s background in dark colors.”19

“The distance between sadness and joy, between good and bad fortune, seemed to be much greater than for us; every experience had that degree of directness and absoluteness that joy and sadness still have in the mind of a child…In short, all things in life had about them something glitteringly and cruelly public.”20 (sidebar)

Note that these events had taken a totally new level of intensity, ubiquity, and frequency compared with the Central Middle Ages. The 14th century was arguably the worst period of European history in terms of mindless violence and continuous fear21. Some of the aggravating factors did not even exist earlier, such as the new religious mendicant and preacher orders that fanned all these emotions to unprecedented pitches. “We, readers of newspapers, can hardly imagine anymore the tremendous impact of the spoken word on naïve and ignorant minds. The popular preacher Brother Richard, who may have served Jeanne d’Arc as father confessor, preached in Paris in 1429 for ten days running. He spoke from five to eleven o’clock in the morning in the Cemetery of the Innocents – where the famous danse macabre had been painted – with his back to the bone chambers where skulls were piled up above the vaulted walkways to be viewed by the visitors. When he informed his audience that his tenth sermon was going to be his last since he had not received permission for any more ‘les gens grans et petiz pleuroient si piteusement et si fondement, comme s’ilz veissent porter en terre luers meilleurs amis, et lui aussi’ [the people great and small, wept from the bottom of their hearts as if they were watching their best friends being put into the ground, and so did he.”]22

“In all the cities where the saintly Dominican Vincent Ferrer comes to preach, the people, the magistrates, the clergy – including bishops and prelates – go out to welcome him singing his praises. He travels with a large number of supporters, who, every evening after sunset, go on processions with flagellations and songs…Work comes to a standstill as long as he speaks. It was a rare occasion when he failed to move his audience to tears, and when he spoke of Judgment and the pains of hell or the sufferings of the Lord, he, just as his audience, broke into such great tears that he had to remain silent for a time, until weeping had stopped. The penitents fell on their knees before all the onlookers to tearfully confess their greatsins.”23

Today, even the most charismatic preachers or gurus cannot match such a degree of emotional intensity, even less the public dimension of such events.

  1. Heightened fascination and fear around the three issues of sex, death and money

These three issues, because they are all three the key attributes of the same Great Mother archetype, became important societal concerns over roughly the same time period.24


“The period of genuine feudality and the flourishing of knighthood ended during the thirteenth century.”25 Cruder forms of sexual interest became thereby dominant in the culture. “The style of courtly Minne [“courtly love”] was confronted by the primitive forms of eroticism, with much older roots and equally vital significance, which glorified sexual union itself.”26

For example, wedding nights became practically public events. Chronicles tell us, “as something quite ordinary, of a couple who were married during early mass and, after a light meal, immediately went to bed…The obscene grin with which Froissart describes the marriage of Charles VI with Isabella of Bavaria includes the comment that ‘If they passed that night together in great delight, one can well believe it.’ …All the jokes about wedding nights or sex in general were considered suitable for gatherings of ladies.”

“It is remarkable that the female nude, still little used in art, was given such a free reign in the tableau vivant. No entry or procession lacked the presentation of naked goddesses or nymphs, as those Dürer saw during Charles V’s entry into Antwerp in 1520…or the sirens ‘toutes nues et échevelées’ [completely nude and with disheveled hair] during the entry of Philip the Good in Ghent in 1457…They should be understood as nothing more than manifestations of a naïve popular sensuality…Such presentations of nudity remained the fashion until late in the sixteenth century.”27 Sensuality is flaunted openly when the nobleman La Marche alters the earlier Medieval tradition of carrying a banner with a religious motto, by changing his to “Je souhaite que avoir puisse de mes desirs assouvissance” [I wish to have all my desires satisfied]. Similarly, popular theater – which had its roots in the Central Medieval religious Mysteries and were typically performed on the parvis of the cathedrals or churches would now routinely exhibit with total realism the rape of young maidens.28

Even every one of the church rituals became the subject of sexual abuse or hints. “The [Late] Middle Ages were extraordinarily open in expressing sexual matters in technical ecclesiastic terminology.

The use of words like bénir or confesser in an indecent sense, or the play on words like saints or seins is untiringly repeated… ‘Ce sont idi les dix commandements Vray Dieu d’amours’ [These are the ten commandements, True Gods of love]. So the poet here profanes the Ten Commandments…”29 Many other examples are available, as this became actually a whole new form of literature specific to the period.


During the Central Middle Ages, before the 14th century, death used to be considered a normal, natural process. In contrast with today, death was not hidden. Even compared with antiquity, familiarity with the death was a key characteristic: medieval villages were characterized by having their cemeteries in the middle of the living.30 As pointed out by French historian Philippe Aries31, dying was not considered a hidden, shameful or fearful event but actually occurred often in the presence of the family, children, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Neither was there any particular fixation on, fascination with, or display of the macabre.

The Late Middle Ages reveals a very different emotional pattern about death, as reported by Huizinga: “No other age has so forcefully and continuously impressed the idea of death on the whole population as did the fifteenth century…In earlier times, too, religion had been very serious about reinforcing the constant preoccupation with death, but the pious tracts of the early medieval period had only reached those who had already taken the path that put the world behind them. It was only after the rise of the popular preachers of the mendicant orders that the admonitions rose to a threatening chorus…Towards the end of the medieval period, the voice of the preachers was joined by a new kind of pictorial representation that, mostly in the form of woodcuts, reached all levels of society. These two forceful means of expression, the sermon and the picture, could only express the concept of death in very simple, direct, and lively images, abrupt and sharp…It seems as if the late medieval mind could see no other aspect of death than that of decay.”32 (sidebar)

Photo of the bronze statue of the Figure of Death from the Cemetery of the Innocents currently at theLouvre, Paris

(see photo in Huizinga.)

The Appearance and Role of the “Danse Macabre

“In the fourteenth century, the strange word ‘macabre’ appeared…The motif of death in the form of the ‘macabre’ is primarily found at the time in village cemeteries where one can still sense its echo in verses and figures. By the end of the Middle Ages, this notion had become an important cultural conception. There entered into the realm surrounding the idea of death a new, grippingly fantastic element, a shiver that arose from the gruesome conscious realm of ghostly fear and cold terror…

The touching figures in the Campo Santo in Pisa are the earliest representation of this theme in formal art; the sculptures on the portal of the Church of the Innocents in Paris where the Duke of Berry had the topic depicted in 1408 are lost. But miniatures and woodcuts made this subject a common possession during the fifteenth century and it is also widespread as wall paintings…It was the most popular depiction of decay known to the Middle Ages. Day by day, thousands viewed the simple figures at the Cemetery of the Innocents, which served as a strange and macabre meeting place, and read the easily comprehended verses… The corpse which reappears forty times leading away the living, is not actually Death, but rather a dead man. Furthermore, there is no skeleton, but a body not yet entirely stripped of its flesh, with its abdomen slit open (see photo). Only around 1500 does the figure of the great dancer become the skeleton we know from Holbein… In the older danse macabre the untiring dancer is still the living person himself as he will be in the near future, a frightening duplication of his own person, the image he sees in the mirror…Here is the point: you, yourself, are in the danse macabre, and this is what bestows on it its gruesome powers…

The Cemetery of the Innocents is where one experienced the macabre to the fullest; everything worked together to provide the somber holiness that the Late Middle Ages craved so much. The saints to whom the church and the churchyard were dedicated, the innocent children butchered in place of Christ, evoked with their lamentable martyrdom the bloody pity in which the age indulged. It is precisely in this century that the veneration of the Holy Children became very popular. There was more than one relique of the boys of Bethlehem there. Louis XI had given to the church that he had dedicated “un Innocent entier” [the complete body of one of the Innocents] in a great crystal shrine.

This particular burial ground was in so much demand that after a few years the bodies were exhumed and the tombstones sold. The skulls and bones then piled up in the bone chambers above the Hall of Colums that surrounded the cemetery on three sides. They lay there in the thousands, open and exposed, preaching the lesson of equality of all… People were fond of coming to that churchyard. Small shops were found near the bare bones and easy women under the arcades.

Sometimes a mendicant monk preached in that place that was itself a sermon… Many times processions of children assembled there; 12,500 says the Burgher of Paris, all with candles. Even festivities were held there…

The danse macabre was actually performed as well as painted and depicted in woodcuts. The duke of Burgundy had it performed in 1499 at his residence in Bruges… [Such macabre] vision of death does not deal with sadness over the loss of those beloved, but rather with regret about one’s own approaching death, which can be seen only as misfortune and terror.”33

Intriguingly, just like today under the influence of the AIDS epidemic, the late Middle Ages connected for the first time emphatically sex and death. “In the Celestine monastery in Avignon there existed, before the Revolution, a wall painting that tradition ascribed to the artistic founder of the cloister, King René himself. It showed a female corpse, standing upright, wearing an elegant headdress, wrapped in her shroud; worms were devouring her body. The first lines of the inscription read: ‘Une fois surtoute femme belle/ Mais par la mort suis devenue telle.’ [Once I was beautiful above all women/ But by death I became like this.]34 Legend claimed that the royal artist himself had looked at his beloved three days after her burial and had then painted her.

The fascination with death is universal. A peculiar creation of the 15th century was the Ars Moriendi [the Art of dying] which gained wide circulation as part of pious thought and through print and the woodcut…35 Even one of the most earthly pleasure-seeking and successful leaders of this time, Philip the Good of Burgundy, when informed of the death of his one-year-old infant boy, stated simply “If only God deigned to let me die so young, I would have considered myself fortunate.”36

Although the Church tried to discourage it, “the practice of taking the bodies of prominent persons, cutting them up, and boiling them until the bones separated from the flesh was widespread. The bones were cleaned and then sent off in a casket for final burial while the flesh and intestines were buried on the spot…This was quite customary in the case of bishops as well as with kings…In the fifteenth century the custom was still prized by the English in France.”37


The issue of money and (voluntary or involuntary) lack thereof became in the Late Middle Ages the hottest topic of intellectual and ethical debates. This coincides with the dramatic rise of the mendicants orders (such as the Franciscans, Augustinians, Carmes, Dominicans), several of which were itinerant preachers and therefore managed to have their message heard even in the more remote corners of Christianity. They brought the question of wealth – its display and its renouncement – to a pitch unknown before or since.

The display of wealth, even for short-lived events, would reach extreme levels. For example, “Noblemen vied with one another to see whose ship was most expensively decorated for the expedition to England [which in fact never took place]…Many ships had the mast covered with gold leaf. Guy de Tremoïlle, in particular, spared no expense: He spent more than two thousand pounds for gilding. ‘L’on ne se povoit de chose adviser pour luy jolyer, ne deviser, qe le seigneur de Trimouille ne le feist faire en ses nefs.’ [One could not even conceive a way to make the ship prettier which the lord of Tremoïlle did not have done]…All this wasteful splendor reaches its climax in the festivities at the court…such as the banquet at Lille in 1454… [that included] estremest [appetizers] with pastry from within which musicians performed, the overly ornate ships and castles, the monkeys, whales, giants and dwarfs…”38 An “ostentious table decoration during a 1468 wedding celebration was forty-six feet tall.”39 Even the excesses of the Romans at the end of the Empire seem to be outdone.

On the other side of the spectrum, the following example should suffice in a religion-dominated society: although greed was not initially one of the seven deadly sins40 “the conviction had gained credence that it was unrestrained greed that ruined the world and thus replaced pride in the minds of people as the first and most fatal of sins.”41

It was said with great admiration that, for example, Saint Francis of Paola, the Calabrian hermit, had not touched a coin since he was a boy. This brings us to the next point.

  1. Extreme demonstrations and attitudes around the emotions of Greed and Scarcity

The two shadows of the Great Mother being greed and scarcity, here again, they should appear as societal imprints roughly at the same time as the issues mentioned above.

The issues around money polarized in an extreme way towards the two shadows, the two ends of the spectrum. Extreme forms of material humility coexist with extreme displays of wealth in ways that we today cannot quite grasp, sometimes even within the roles of the same person. “Olivier de la Marche retained from his boyhood memories of the arrival of King Jacques de Bourbon of Naples, who, under the influence of the saintly Colette, had renounced the world. The king, shabbily dressed, was carried in a cart, ‘telle sans aultre difference que les civieres en quoy l’on porte les fiens et les ordures communement’ [identical to the barrows in which dung and ordure are usually carried].

Behind came an elegant courtly escort. ‘Et ouys racompter et dire’ -says La Marche, full of admiration – ‘que en toutes villes ou il venoit, il faisoit semblables entrées par humilité’ [and I hear it recounted and said…that in all towns where he came, he made similar entries out of humility.]”42

In parallel with these extreme displays of humility, the documents of the period are explicit: “Of all the passions permeating [Late] Medieval life with their color, only two are mentioned as a rule by legal documents: greed and quarrelsomeness.”43 Here are some more examples of the extravagances of courtly displays of wealth: “Charles the Bold appeared for a tournament in a festive robe covered with an abundance of tinkling Rhenish guilders; English noblemen wore robes with golden nobles on them.”44

All this happened in parallel with new extremes of poverty for the masses. “Beggars had become terribly troublesome towards the end of the medieval period. Their pitiful hordes took shelter in the churches and disrupted church services with their cries and noisy carryings on…In 1428 the cathedral chapter of Notre Dame in Paris attempted in vain to restrict them to the church’s doors.”45 Like today, compassion fatigue was setting in. The court poet “Deschamp never tires of making his hatred of these miserable people known; ‘Beat and drive them from the churches, he shouts, hang or burn them!’”46

  1. The other Yang shadows should gradually establish themselves in the dominant worldview

As an application of the Yang resonance phenomenon described earlier, the other Yang shadows (tyrant, sadist, hyper-rationality and sexual addiction) should also manifest in a stronger way as during the period when the feminine was being honored in society.


For Lords, getting their will imposed in even small details had become more important even than matters of state.

“Philip the Good had put it into his head to marry one of his archers to the daughter of a rich brewer in Lille. When the father resisted and involved the Parliament of Paris in the affair, the enraged duke suddenly broke off the important affairs of state that had kept him in Holland and, even though it was the holy season preceding Easter, undertook a dangerous sea voyage from Rotterdam to Sluis to have his own way…How caliph-like it seems to us when the same duke, being told by his physician to have his head shaved, issues an order that all noblemen are to follow his example and orders Peter von Hagenbach to strip the hair from any who fail to comply.”47


“The end of the Middle Ages was an intoxicating time when painful justice and judicial cruelty were in full bloom…What strikes us about the judicial cruelty of the later Middle Ages is not the perverse sickness of it, but the dull, animal-like enjoyment, the country-fair-like amusement, it provided for the people…The people delay executions, which the victims themselves request, for the enjoyment of seeing them subject to even more sufferings. The unchristian extreme…is shown by the prevailing custom in England and France for refusing individuals under the sentence of death not only extreme unction, but also confession. There was no intent to save souls; rather, the intent was to intensify the fear of death by the certainty of the punishment of hell. In vain, Pope Clement V ordered, in 1311, that prisoners condemned to death at least to be given the sacrament of penance.”48

“The gruesome fascination and coarse compassion stirred at the place of execution became important elements in the spiritual nourishment of the people. For dealing with vicious robbers and murderers the courts invented terrible punishments: in Brussels a young arsonist and murderer was tied with a chain so that he could move in a circle around a stake surrounded by burning bundles of fagots.”49

Such sadistic pleasures needed not even to be mitigated by a sense of justice: “The incredible harshness, the lack of tender sentiment, the cruel mockery, the secret joy behind the pleasure of watching others suffer lacked even this sentiment of justice satisfied. The chronicler Pierre de Fenin closes his report on the end of a band of robbers with the words: ‘et faisoit-on grant risée, pour ce que c’estoient tous de gens de povre estat.’ [and there was a great deal of laughter because they were all poor people.]”

Even straightforward physical impairments were a base for sadistic spectacles. “In Paris in 1425 an ‘esbatement’ [entertainment] was held in which four armored blind men were made to fight for a pig. In the days before they were seen in their battle dress throughout the city, a bagpiper and a man with a huge banner on which the pig is depicted, preceded them…Velazquez has shown the touching facial expressions of the female dwarfs who as fools occupied positions of honor at the Spanish court of his time. [Financial accounts show that] a locksmith delivered two iron necklaces, one ‘pour attacher Belon la folle et l’autre pour mettre au col de la cingesse de Madame la Duchesse.’ [one to attach the female dwarf called Belon the fool, and the other to put around the neck of the monkey of her grace, the Duchess.]”50


Scholasticism: the failure of medieval hyper-rationality

Scholasticism used pure reason to extend everything towards an abstract ideal to the point where it becomes irrelevant to normal life, as is reflected continuously in the late medieval treatment of political, social and ethical disputes.

“Even what is most mundane and common must be viewed in a universal context. For example, there was an on-going controversy at the University of Paris as to whether any kind of payment should be asked for the degree of licentiate. Pierre d’Ailly himself [one of the most prominent professors of that time] took the floor to oppose the fee in opposition to the chancellor of the university. Instead of debating whether the demand was historically justified or debating its validity to the legal code, d’Ailly framed his argument entirely in a scholastic manner… [He] took on the task of proving three things: that to demand payment constituted simony [the sale of sacraments]; that it went agains divine and natural law; and that it was heresy…

He never really dealt with the pragmatic issue at hand. This is the reason for the tedious and disappointing nature of almost any medieval proof; it points immediate to the sky above and loses itself from the very beginning in cases from Holy Scripture and in moral generalities”51

The hyper-rational manifests today mostly when people with scientific training succumb to reductionism by ignoring any aspect of reality that is not quantifiable or narrowly material. This may still be a direct backlash against the hyper- rationality of the Late Middle Ages when scholasticism failed by going to the other extreme: an idealism which totally ignores the concrete material reality. Scholasticism was a glorification of pure logic, constrained only by the boundaries of Christian faith. “’Everything that appears visible in this world could be caused by the Devil’, affirmed the authority of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas”52 This provided the perfect excuse to exclude the constraints of the physical world from scholastic consideration.

In Huizinga’s view the consequence was: “A systematic idealism that everywhere presupposes a relationship between things as the result of their assumed essential characteristics leads to a rigid and barren cataloguing …With the exception of the rules of logic, there is no corrective that could ever point to an error in classification, so that the mind is deceived as to the value of its conclusions and the infallibility of the system itself is overestimated…”53 (sidebar).

The other Shadow polarity of hyper-rationality – irrational manias – similarly manifested during that period in a dramatic way. It took during the Dark Middle Ages the particularly cruel and deadly form of the witch hunts. “The fifteenth century is more than any other the century of the persecution of witches. It is the time of the Malleus maleficarum [first published in 148754], and the Bulle summis desiderantes [the papal announcement making witch hunts official church priority, published in 1484]…One of the inquisitors claimed that one third of Christianity was soiled by vauderie [the witchcraft attributed to the Waldensians witchcraft school]. His trust in God led him to the terrifying conclusion that anyone accused of sorcery would of necessity be guilty. God wouldnot allow someone who is not a magician to be accused of such practices. ‘Et quand on arguoit contre lui, fuissent clercqs ou aultres, disoit qu’on devroit prendre iceulx comme suspects d’estre vauldois’ [And when someone argued with him, be it a cleric or a lay person, he said that one ought to be seized as suspected of Waldesian witchcraft.] This inquisitor even claimed that he could tell if someone was involved in vauderie merely by looking at him. The man went mad in his later years, but the witches and magicians had been burnt at the stake in the meantime.”55

The whole witch craze actually provides a complete list of all the main shadows being imprinted at the time. The manifestation of the Tyrant, the Sadistic treatments culminating in a very public display of a horrible Death, the hyper-rational scholastic logic applied (e.g. the remarkable Catch 22 that “God would not allow someone not a magician be accused of sorcery” ; or the fact that it was also heresy not to believe in the reality of witchcraft.56) Furthermore, “A poem, full of hatred for the prosecutors, accuses them of having started it all out of greed57 as the worldly possessions of the victims were confiscated to the benefit of the accusers. Not to speak about the sexual projections, the extraordinary sexual acts that witches were supposed to perform with the devil himself during their Sabbaths, according to the “Malleus maleficiarum”.

Sexual Addiction

By the Late Middle Ages, the erotic in its various forms had become quite ubiquitous.

“During no other age did the ideal of worldly erudition enter into such an intimate union with the love of womenThe erotic view of life…can be placed on the same level with its contemporary, scholasticism. Both represent a great effort by the medieval mind to comprehend everything that pertains to life from a single point of view.”58

For instance, access to sex had now become a public and official part of hospitality. “The Duke of Burgundy had the bathhouses of Valenciennes put in order for the English envoys expected there ‘pour eux et pour quiconque avoient de famille, voire bains estorés de tout ce qu’il faut au mestier de Venus, a prendre par choix et par élection ce que on désiroit de mieux, et tout aux frais du duc.” [for them and all their retinue, baths provided with everything required for the calling of Venus, to take by choice and election what they liked best, and all at the expense of the Duke”]. The virtuous behavior of the Duke’s son, Charles the Bold, was suspected by many to be inappropriate for a prince.”59

This was true at all levels of society as revealed by some proverbs. “The proverb had a very lively function in medieval thinking…The wisdom shown in proverbs is at times conventional; occasionally beneficial and profound; the tone is frequently ironic… [One such proverb summarizes the viewpoint on sex of the period by simply stating:] ‘Nul n’est chaste si ne besongne’ [None is chaste if it’s not necessary].”60

As is to be expected whenever a shadow establishes itself, its polarity manifests at the same time. The 14th century is therefore also the period when the most extreme disgust with sexuality would be proudly displayed. For example, Sainte Colette and Aloysius Gonzaga would not tolerate the slightest allusion – even indirect – to sexuality. They rejected all saints who had been married, accepted only virgins in their congregation, and even expressed regrets that their own parents had been married.61

Most of the above shadows and cultural peculiarities persisted through the Renaissance and got gradually edulcorated only during the Modern period, although each still has their correspondences even today. What is important to us is that, according to Huizinga, all these phenomena were new in the 14th-15th century in terms of their intensity and ubiquity, compared to the previous period of the Central Middle Ages.

Chapter 6 showed that this time also happens to correspond with the last substantial historical reversal from honoring towards the repression of the feminine, and with the period when monopolies of Yang-type currencies started to reassert themselves.

To conclude, the testimony contributed by Huizinga provides further evidence that the relationship between all these factors has to be more than coincidental.

Money as Information Replicator

Given that the collective imprint is now 600 years old, what does it mean for us today?

The Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela describe how systems form and maintain themselves through replication. They show how replicative information systems become part of the genetic code or DNA. “This process occurs at all levels: molecular, biological, and social. For every system has its own characteristic replication, that forms, expands, and holds systems together.”62 Such replicators of ideas and collective emotions are, therefore, instruments that maintain any particular social system. In social systems, these constructs are also sometimes called “memes” by analogy with the “genes” in biological systems.

We know that money is our oldest information system. Even writing seems to have been initially invented by the Sumerian civilization for the purpose of recording financial transactions, as the earliest tablets found in Uruk confirm.

The map of Figure 7.4 describes the emotional information that is carried via the official national currency system. As a consequence, our money system is one of the key information replicators for a Yang bias in our society. It is one of the key linchpins that makes the “real world” behave in ways consistent with the Yang coherence. It is the mechanism that explains how, even with the best intentions, even with totally different personal values, whether we are male of female, most of us end up having to behave in a Yang way to obtain the money to survive.

So, instead of being a “passive” or “neutral” agent of exchange as economic theory posits, a monopoly of a Yang currency deeply affects the collective psychology and the relationships between the people who use it.

Note that I do not claim that the results that will be described below are due to simple cause and effect relationships. Explanation is a better term. It provides intelligibility without claiming determinism.

Some Positive Effects

The prevailing money system has propelled us quite effectively into and through the Modern and particularly the Industrial Ages. The values embodied by the Sovereign, the Warrior, and the Magician have clearly been honored and promoted in our society. They have respectively contributed to shape a historically unique ethos of universality, the ideals of individual self-control and responsibility, and inventiveness. The importance of these contributions should not be belittled. They have shaped what are some of the best contributions of the West to human evolution. For instance, the concept of human rights of any kind, applicable to all humans, can be traced back to that ethos. The emphasis on individual freedom- even against the established authority – had no historical precedent. It has fostered an ethic based on self-control and responsibility that made more freedom possible in society. Finally, without the incredible technological mutations of the past two centuries, humanity in its current numbers would not be able to survive for more than a few days.

Some Pathological Consequences

However, we have also suffered from the consequences of the neglect of the Lover and the Great Mother archetype. For example, this disregard manifests respectively in the dissolution of community, scapegoating of minorities, and in the ecological sustainability crisis.

Money has also been activating some collective shadows in our society. These shadows are even part of our stereotypes. (In the next paragraphs, the words in italics refer to the shadows of the map in Figure 7.4).

Shadow Effects

We all have heard about tyrannical and greedy Scrooges, who sadistically enjoy their power over others. A more recent stereotype is the workaholic executive, addicted to accumulating money, power, or glory. But after his third divorce, he may regret he neglected his family. He ends up lonely in a meaningless world. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people living in the scarcity syndrome, who tend to sabotage their opportunities to improve their own economic possibilities.

Finally, many professionals have had to learn not to be in touch with their own and other people’s emotions when they do their job. For instance, “professionalism” in the domains of media, conventional medicine, or finance, is equated with taking a hyper-rational Apollonian distance in their domain. The cynicism of the media, or the insensitivity of the medical field is consequences in the two former domains. We have shown in detail that the consequence of such attitudes in the financial arena was the boom and bust cycles that periodically ravage the financial markets (Chapter 6).

Some Collective Financial Effects

On a global level, the current money system has created a world in which the vast majority of humanity has been repressed by money scarcity, often violently so. Under today’s monetary rules less developed countries need to borrow “hard” currencies from the richest countries even to be able to trade among each other. The interest payments on these loans amount to about $300 million per day, dwarfing the foreign aid from these same rich countries. As Peter C. Goldmark Jr., President of the Rockefeller Foundation, remarks, “A poor slum in Ecuador, a poor country – distended stomachs leaning over water barrels – can you see the money of their country flowing into developed countries? Can you imagine that?”63 The Millennium movement successfully promoted the idea to cancel part of the debt of the poorest countries. But the question remains: why do we create and maintain rules that made this debt necessary in the first place?

It has been claimed that if the same monetary rules were applied to the US that the IMF applies to the Third World during its “structural adjustment programs” of the 1980s and 1990s, in one or two generations, the US would regress to Third Word status. Such adjustment programs include giving priority to pay back interest on foreign loans, while dismantling the education system and all other long-term social investment programs. Would everybody, including the First World and its financial corporations, not be better off in a world where all countries can truly develop?

Some of the individual psychological effects of the priorities and fears unconsciously activated by the money system are just as dramatic.

Some Individual Psychological Effects

Remember, money is the main means of exchange with people outside of our immediate intimate circle. Our relationship to money affects therefore the way we relate to anybody outside of that intimate environment.

I hope to have shown that – contrary to the assumptions made in economic, psychological, or sociological textbooks – money is not an emotionally neutral tool. To the extent that we live with a monopoly of the official national currencies to make all our exchanges, the values and fears that will be unconsciously activated in all our exchanges are those built in that particular money system (i.e., those highlighted in Figure 7.4). This shapes our society in ways much deeper than is generally assumed.

I propose that they are the “hidden persuaders” for several of our most serious societal ailments. Again, this is not a simple cause and effect issue. We are dealing instead with what chemists would call a catalytic effect, an ingredient that superficially does not seem involved in the reaction but nevertheless powerfully activates it.

Attitudes towards money shape the emotional space of the relationships with others. For instance, generosity, or lack thereof, is more an indicator of the way I relate to money than to the specific people involved.

Feeding the “Dominance Paradigm,” Consumerism, and Fundamentalism

Among the social pathologies that are activated in such a catalytic way, I will mention the “dominator paradigm,” the collective narcissism in our culture, consumerism, and fundamentalism.

None of these well-known pathologies seem related to our money system. But I will now show how our current money paradigm nevertheless feeds them continuously.

Dominance Paradigm

What has been coined as “dominance paradigm”64 is connected to the constellation of fears built into the shadows of Figure 7.4. Indeed, dominance is the need to control and dominate others to attain a sense of security or identity for oneself. Intrinsic in this dominance paradigm, historically connected to the patriarchal ideology, is a favoring of total autonomy, independence from others, and a sense of security in the world founded on “power over” other people. This has manifested as oppression (political, economic, psychological) of those people that we are afraid of, cannot control, or do not understand. From the dominant culture perspective, this includes other cultures and races, and women. “Directly, through personal coercion, and indirectly, through intermittent social shows of force such as public inquisitions and executions, behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions that did not conform to dominator norms were systematically discouraged. This fear conditioning became partof all aspects of daily life, permeating child rearing, laws andschools.”65

Examples of processes that contribute to feed the dominance paradigm in our society today include the glamorization of violence, and the fascination with war and violence technologies.

From an archetypal viewpoint, the dominance paradigm is the manifestation of rampant Warrior energy without the balancing of empathy carried by the Lover. The casting of any “Other” in the opposite polarity of the Yang shadows further reinforces it. It is, therefore, a consequence of the Yang bias reflected in Figure 7.4.

Collective Narcissism and Consumerism

There is an enormous cost associated with this dominator process, not only for those who are dominated, but also for the dominators themselves.66 It is at the origin of what psychologists have called the “narcissism” of Western culture. The result: an empty self, an inability to empathize with others, to accept others as legitimately different, even a denial of reality. “One of the most relevant and important diagnostic characteristics of narcissism is the lack of empathy for others. This is a key feature of the dominance paradigm. One cannot even imagine partnership or the capacity for mutual relationships if one is not able to experience some level of empathy for another’s experience.”67

C. Lash points out that this narcissism has some positive features. “The management of personal impressions comes naturally to him [a narcissist], and his mastery of its intricacies serves him well in political and business organizations.”68 However, he also shows that the same traits are at the origin of many of our societies’ difficulties, from the incapacity to establish long-term partner relationships, to attempts at filling the empty Self with “super materialistic and environmentally unsustainable consumerist lifestyle.”69

In archetypal terminology, the lack of empathy is again a direct manifestation of the lack of activation of the Lover archetype as was shown in Figure 7.4. Meaning arises invariably out of relationship, relationship to loved one(s), to God, to Nature, to your country, etc. Therefore, the incapacity to connect to others will predictably accentuate the feelings of meaninglessness, what has been called an “empty Self”.

Finally, this “empty Self” is the “hook” by which consumer advertising works. The fundamental purpose of an ad is to make people feel empty, incomplete, and dissatisfied with who they are and what they have. The ad’s message is invariably, “If only you were to wear this brand of sneakers, drive this car, or use this perfume, you would finally be whole, not feel your emptiness.”

Fundamentalism and Terrorism

One final phenomenon linked to this collective emptiness generated by the prevailing paradigm is fundamentalism, including its more extreme manifestations, such as terrorism. Fundamentalism has less to do with what one believes in, than with howone holds it. If someone holds his beliefs as the final Truth, the only legitimate possibility for all people who have different worldviews is that they are illegitimate because of that difference. Karen Armstrong has provided a very informed proof that – contrary to prevailing wisdom – fundamentalism is in reality a Modern phenomenon. To be more precise: fundamentalism was one of the first counter-cultures to Modernism, and is still a reaction to it.70

Fundamentalism turns out to be another way that some people deal with the fear of meaninglessness and the empty Self. As Jacoby states, “…whenever archaic rage combines with the search for high ideals and the necessity to find meaning in one’s life, rage with all its consequences may flare up ‘in the name of’ whatever the ideal. Any horror, rage, and revengefulness can then be justified on the basis of the ‘ideal’ one is apparently serving.”71 Once again, one sees what can happen when the Yang bias overwhelms the Yin side, when the Warrior energy is activated without the necessary empathic balance from the Lover archetype.

Role of Money Systems in shaping societies

The reason I brought up these social pathologies are not to single out a new scapegoat – the money system – to blame for “all the sins of Israel.” One last time, I want to emphasize that the social ailments described above are not a mechanical result of the money system alone, but rather the result of a coherence in which the money system is one important ingredient. It nevertheless should make clear that living with a monopoly of a currency with a built-in Yang bias has major consequences for everybody in modern society. Furthermore, the subliminal way by which money operates multiplies its power.

It is interesting that – even if we as Westerners tend to remain blind to these effects of our money system – observers from other cultures have noted them. For instance, Chief Finow, a traditional Chief from the Tonga Islands, made the following remarkably precise observation about the effect of our Yang, hoardable currencies: “Of course, money is easy to handle and it is practical. But, as it does not rot, if it is preserved, people put it aside instead of sharing with others (as a chief should do) and they become selfish. On the other hand if food is the most precious possession a man has (as should be the case because it is the most useful and necessary thing) he cannot save it and one will be obliged either to exchange it for another useful object or share it with his neighbors, lower chiefs and all people in his care, and that for nothing without any exchange. I know very well now what makes Europeans so selfish – it is their money.”72

I also wanted to demonstrate that the social innovators who have intuitively been inventing and implementing different Yin-type currencies as complements to the dominant national currencies are on the right track. It supports the view that the sudden appearance of all these complementary currencies should not be dismissed as anecdotal curiosities or temporary oddities. Instead, they may reveal themselves as one of the most relevant social experiments addressing important collective breakdowns. Those breakdowns – such as loss of community and meaning – for which no effective or easily replicable and solutions have been forthcoming until now.

Back to the Future?

The surprising news is that some signs can be detected that something unusual is happening now that brings us straight back to the Central Middle Ages, just before the Late Medieval re-programming we just described above. Strangely enough, one key emerging archetype of this process happens to be the same than the one that had emerged over a thousand years ago: a new fascination – among Christians and non-Christians alike – for the Black Madonna, the very epitome of Central Medieval images! Twenty years ago, this was still an obscure topic about which even Medieval scholars didn’t get excited. Today, a whole cottage industry seems to be burgeoning with publications, pilgrimages, study groups and specialized travel tours.

Only some anecdotal evidence of this phenomenon will be mentioned here, while in the next chapter a more scientific survey will explore the deeper value changes that may be implied here.

  • Instead of an obscure topic, today’s bibliography about the Black Madonnas covers nolessthan five pages with titles of recent books and articles.73
  • Matthew Fox, the founder of the University of Creation Spirituality, an ex-Catholicpriestwhobecame Episcopalian after being silenced by Rome, sees the current rebirth of spirituality directly in the line of the early Medieval Troubadours, and their honoring of the Notre Dame de la Nuit. He finds direct connections between the societal role developments of today and the time when the poets were “honoring the feminine, when Love and the feminine became the core of relationships…During the 12th century, the Black Madonnas enabled women and young men to give birth to a general renaissance.”74
  • Angela Roemer, a Swiss Reformed (Protestant) Minister, got in trouble with the Synodofthe Reformed Church in Switzerland for her interest in Black Madonnas, of which she found 300 previously unknown statues in the most isolated mountain villages of the Alps. The Synod backed down only when the women of her congregation came out en masse to supporther.
  • In the 500 sites around the world where Black Madonnas are being honored, there hasbeena substantial rise in the number of pilgrims, to the point that one has talked about a Renaissance of that particular old cult. The most surprising is that many of these pilgrims are not even practicing Christians.
  • In 1994, the Council of the Ifa in Cameroun, received the message throughtheirtraditional divination system that “the time for the Dark Mother is coming, the third Millennium is Hers, and she will set women free. All of humanity will meet her, honor her, receive her, and remember…The Dark Mother symbolizes integration, equality and peace as the necessary components to restore an equilibrium to the world.”75
  • Completely independently from the above, the Kogi from the Sierra Nevada de SantaMartain Colombia, the one tribe to have remained rigorously faithful to their ancient beliefs and social structures, has gone public for the first time with their message that the time has come to remember the Great Mother who nourishes all, if we are to avoid major ecological breakdowns.76
  • A periodical entitled “Goddessing Regenerated”77 covers news about the Goddess movement. Of all topics, its most recurrent one is the Black Madonna. Its editor comments: “In 1995 when I announced that Black Madonnas would be one of the themes of the then upcoming issue I had no idea that it would become not only an ongoing feature of the newspaper, but that over the next few years I would meet and correspond with so many people who are passionate about Black Madonnas.”78
  • In 1996, after 20 years of preparation, 250 different images of Black Madonnasfromthe Christian and Orthodox Church are making a pilgrimage around Europe under the motto “I, your Mother, came to visit you”. It visited a.o. Sarajevo when it was under armed attack during the war in Yugoslavia. A website tracks around the clock its activities. (
  • In 1998, Pope John Paul II dedicated the year 1999 to the Black Madonna, and hehonoredHeras the “Lady of the new Millennium”. His personal devotion to the famous Polish Black Madonna of Czechtochowa is well known.
  • A whole series of Internet shrines and Black Madonna sites are appearing, to the pointthatshe has been described as the “Madonna of Cyberspace”. Some examples are presented in the sidebar.
  • More and more ordinary people – within and without the catholic religion – testify to the importance of the Black Madonna image in their spiritual life such as:79
    • Marianne, a catholic, reports that “The Black Madonna is for me the feminine side of Jesus”
    • Birgit, a practicing evangelist says: “I am fascinated by the Black Madonna, not the sweet one in the blue coat, but the powerful Queen.”
    • Rose, a British woman: “This Dark Queen is for me the Free Self – and that is why I pray to Her and nobody else.”
    • Omifunke, a black American, says: “The Dark Mother is the feminine principle oftheenergy that is always in movement. This movement in the dark opens the way to receive the light, and is at the beginning of all creative processes…She frees from the projections of society, and leads women to an empowerment without guilt, a love without doubt.”80
    • A catholic American nun, who spoke anonymously from fear of sanctions, confides that “I know that She gathers in one single image all my own cultural roots – Irish, American-Indian and French – and I pray to Her as my Goddess.”
    • Tissa Balasuriya from Sri Lanka, one of the founders of the human rights movementinhis country, calls for a new Mariology: “We should move the focus from the Immaculate Virgin to the unity of body, soul andspirit.”
    • Abby Willowroot, an American pagan who created a virtual Internet shrine to the Black Madonna, which she explains as follows: “She is the sacred source. She transcends time, space, culture and religion.”
    • One pilgrim simply quotes the old litany to the Black Madonna of Loreto: “She is the Throne of Wisdom, the Mystical Rose, the Door to Heaven, the Woman with Perfect Freedom, and the Queen of all our heart’s treasures.”


What does all this mean, for us, today? I interpret this Black Madonna revival as a sign of the spiritual hunger towards the reintegration of the Great Mother energies, those very energies that have been so powerfully repressed for the past five thousand years. Remember, the Black Madonna symbolizes the age-old Mother Earth, and her child humanity. The importance of healing today our relationship with this ancient archetype is being epitomized at the exterior level by our ecological crisis; and at the interior level by our deep split between spirit and the body.

A theologian who is also a practicing Jungian psychoanalyst identifies some of the contemporary psychological implications (see sidebar).

The Black Madonna from a Psychological Perspective

Fred Gustavson has a full practice as both an analytical psychologist and an ordained protestant theologian. Here are his conclusions on the meaning of the Black Madonna for today’s collective and individual psychology:

“Psychic wholeness becomes a possibility through the symbolism of the Black Madonna…Through her, a person does not let his or her energy go off in projection on other people – a projection that would take on dark characteristics, such as racial prejudice, witch hunting, and class oppression. Whenever people or individuals do not accept their own dark side, it is projected onto the nearest, most convenient object or personality…

For most individuals in the West, there is a need to tap into the mystery of the Black Madonna and, through her, to taste an aspect of life which is not only important but essential for a full perspective on the rhythm with which life moves…Whether speaking theologically of God or psychologically of the Self, the issue of psycho-spiritual wholeness is identical. In either case, the Black Madonna – or the archetype she represents – is key…

In our culture the projection of the dark feminine is the dynamic behind out-and-out witch-hunts of many sorts. In subtler through more globally dangerous ways, the repression of the dark feminine was a factor behind such phenomena as black slavery, the near annihilation of the Native American, the degrading attitudes towards women and consequent heroic expectations on men, our attitudes towards our bodies, particularly our sexuality, and the way we treat the earth in general.”81

“The Black Madonna speaks to the very deprived area of the soul which hungers for value and hope in the midst of the indefinition and incomprehensibility of life. Each carries the missing dark pole of the feminine archetype in our time.”82

“She does not simply compensate a lack of feminity in our culture, but the lack of a specific kind of feminity – a feminity that is dark and acts as a matrix of all creativity and renewal…It relates to the illogical, irrational, unwarranted and seemingly without meaning. This is the side that is hard to integrate… Why are there hurricanes, earthquakes, natural catastrophes, unexpected deaths, and diseases that eat away at a person’s body and soul for no apparent reason? We could call it fate, but the term is unsatisfying.”83 “To recognize that such happenings may themselves be a necessary part of psychic-spiritual growth and maturity is the new task for people today.”84

But should this phenomenon not be dismissed as a short-term and irrelevant fashion? Or, on the contrary, might it be a small telltale smoke-signal of something more significant?

At the conclusion of her 250 page study on Black Madonnas, Petra van Cronenburg says: “The secret of the Black Madonna is the integration of body, soul and spirit in a deep mystical and spiritual love, a new equilibrium between the masculine and the feminine…She is the Madonna and Goddess of all those who want to take the future in their own hands, with love and care… The role of the Black Madonna is that she prepares for change.”85

The next chapter will provide some hard statistical evidence that she may be right: for the first time in six centuries, a fundamental value change is indeed brewing in our contemporary societies.

Some Black Madonna websites
as of August 2000, in alphabetical order.

Black Madonnas cybershrines: (


Edge Archives (

Forum for New Consciousness (

Gnostic Society Library (

Immaculata Magazine (

International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton (



Online Library of Alchemy (

Petra van Cronenburg (

Spiral Grove (

Women of Vision and Action (


Table of Contents | INTRODUCTION











  1. Reis, Patricia: Through the Goddess: a Woman’s Way of Healing ( New York: Continuum, 1990) pg. 37.
  2. Drucker, Peter Post-Capitalist Society (New York: Harper Business, 1993) last sentence of the book pg. 218.
  3. Lietaer, Bernard The Future of Money pg 24 (verify in page number in final copy).
  4. Jung, C.G. “Commentary” to The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life (Trans. Wilhelm and Barnes) (New York: Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch) pg 85.
  5. Glyn, Davies: A History of Money from ancient times to the present day (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994) pg. 27
  6. A detailed description of this process was provided in The Future of Money (Chapter 2 and Primer).
  7. see for instance Greider, William Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country
  8. See proofs in The Future of Money (Primer and Chapter 2).
  9. Washington Post Book World
  10. Rosamond NcKitterick in the New York Times Review of Books
  11. Hugenholtz, F.W.N. describes under the title “The Fame of a Masterwork” the history of Herfsttij van de Middeleeuwen, its translations, and particularly its reception in academic circles over time. See eds. Coops et al. Papers delivered to the Johan Huizinga Conference Groningen 11-15 December 1972. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973) pgs. 91-103.
  12. Huizinga, Johan: The Autumn of the Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) translated by Payton, Rodney and Mammitzsch, Ulrich.
  13. Professor Weintraub called The Waning of the Middle Ages a “very inferior, crippled version” in his Visions of Culture(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966) pg. 212.
  14. Huizinga, Johan: The Autumn of the Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) translated by Payton, Rodney and Mammitzsch, Ulrich. pg xix. Note that sometimes when Huizinga refers in shorthand in this book to the “Middle Ages” without any further qualifications, he points invariably to what I have called the Late Middle Ages or Dark Middle Ages (14-15th century).
  15. 518 Ibid. pg 17.
  16. Ibid. pg. 29.
  17. Ibid. pg 3.
  18. Ibid. pg 7.
  19. Ibid. pg. 27.
  20. Ibid. pg. 1.
  21. As we noted earlier, it is probably the terrible events of the 14th century that gave the entire thousand-year period of the Middle Ages its “bad name” for centuries to come The only other century that can compare with the 14th century in terms of mindless violence is the 20th century, according to historian Barbara Tuchman. See her appropriately named: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (New York: Knopf, 1978)
  22. Ibid. pg 5.
  23. Ibid. pg. 6.
  24. Barbara Tuchman made the same point in “Un Lointain Mirroir: le 14eme siecle de calamites” (Paris: Fayard, 1978) pg 14. :”In no other period than the 14th century was so much attention paid to money and material possessions, or so much fascination with sex.” She also mentions in the same Introduction the unique fascination of the 14th century with death.
  25. Ibid. pg. 61.
  26. Ibid. pg. 129.
  27. Ibid. pg 374.
  28. Cohen, Gustave: Histoire de la Mise en Scène dans le Théatre Religieux Francais du Money Age (Paris: 1951) pgs. 149, 267
  29. Ibid. pg. 131.
  30. Professor Benoit Cursente from the University of Toulouse II even considers this characteristic of villages being built around their cemeteries as the main change in villages in Northern Europe, starting in the Xth century. Le Vif Express (Brussels: 20-26 December 2002) pg. 51.
  31. Aries, Philippe Western Attitudes Toward Death (Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 1974). Pg 1-25.
  32. Ibid. pg. 156.
  33. Ibid. pgs 164 – 169
  34. Ibid. pg 161.
  35. Ibid. pg 167.
  36. Ibid. pg. 34.
  37. Ibid. pg. 164.
  38. Ibid. pg 300, 302.
  39. Ibid. pg 306.
  40. Avaritia (avarice) not cupiditas (greed) was considered one of the deadly sins.
  41. Ibid. pg. 26.
  42. Ibid. pg 209.
  43. Ibid. pg. 9.
  44. Ibid. pg 325.
  45. Ibid. pg 365.
  46. Ibid. pg 365.
  47. Ibid. pg 11.
  48. Ibid. pg 21.
  49. Ibid. pg 3.
  50. Ibid. pg 23.
  51. Ibid. pg 250
  52. Ibid. pg. 293.
  53. Ibid. pg 249.
  54. Voss, Jutta Frauenrequiem: Totenmesse für alle Frauen die als ‘Hexen’ ermordet wurden (Stuttgart: Kreuz, 1989).
  55. Ibid. pg 286, 289.
  56. Taylor G.R. Sex in History (London: Thames & Hudson, 1953) pg. 113.
  57. Ibid. pg. 289.
  58. Ibid. pg. 127-128.
  59. Ibid. pg. 128.
  60. Ibid. pg. 273.
  61. Ibid. pg 226.
  62. Maturana, Francisco “The Organization of the living: A theory of the Living Organization” in Journal of Man-Machine Studies 7 (1975) pg 313-332 ; quoted in Eisler, Riane The Chalice and the Blade (New York: Harper Collins, 1987) pg. 82.
  63. Paper presented at the State of the World Forum, San Francisco, November 1997. Italics in original
  64. coined by Riane Eisler in The Chalice and the Blade (New York: Harper Collins, 1987)
  65. Eisler, Riane The Chalice and the Blade (New York: Harper Collins, 1987) pg. 83.
  66. Norman, Ondine Healing the Empty Self: Narcissism and the Cultural Shift from Dominance to Mutuality (Pacifica, unpublished thesis at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, 1997) pg. 16 and 5.
  67. Norman, Ondine Healing the Empty Self: Narcissism and the Cultural Shift from Dominance to Mutuality (Pacifica, unpublished thesis at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, 1997) pg. 38.
  68. Lash, C.The Culture of Narcissism (New York: Warner Books, 1979) pg 91.
  69. Ibid pg. 84.
  70. Armstrong, Karen The Battle for God (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2000).
  71. Jacoby M. Individuation and Narcissism: The psychology of self in Jung and Kohut (New York: Routledge, 1990)) pg . 174.
  72. William, Jonathan Money: A History (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1997) pg 216-217. Italics added.
  73. Available for US$3 at POBox 269 Valrico, FL 33595, USA
  74. Interview of Matthew Fox by O’Connor, Colleen “Seeking Light in Darkness” (Jinn Magazine of Pacific News, March 6, 1997).
  75. Van Cronenburg, Petra: Ibid. pg 210-211.
  76. They invited for the first time someone to communicate their message to their “little brothers” ( the white men), message which took the form of a BBC documentary.
  77. POBox 73, Sliema, Malta
  78. LaMonte, Willow “Black Madonna Sampler” in Goddessing Regenerated #12 , Spring 2000. italics in original
  79. Various testimonials reported in van Cronenburg, Petra Ibid. pg. 186-214.
  80. Ibid. pg 211.
  81. Gustavson, Fred The Black Madonna (Boston: Sigo Press, 1990) pg. 115-119.
  82. Ibid. pg xii.
  83. Ibid, pg 112 – 114.
  84. Ibid. pg. 37.
  85. Ibid. pg 214, and back cover.

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