The Mystery of Money © Bernard Lietaer 2002
Published in German and 7 other languages under the title:
Mysterium Geld: Emotionale Bedeutung und Wirkungsweise eines Tabus
(Munich: Riemann Verlag, 2000)
Please do not reproduce more than three copies without permission from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mystery of Money
Beyond Greed and Scarcity
Copyright B. Lietaer
About the Author
Bernard Lietaer, one of the original architects of the European single currency, wrote “The Future of Money” and “The Mystery of Money” while a Fellow at the Center for Sustainable Resources at the University of California at Berkeley and a Visiting Professor in Archetypal Psychology at Sonoma State University, California.
He has been active in the domain of money systems for a period of 25 years in an unusual variety of functions. His first book (MIT Press 1969) developed new technologies for multinational corporations to manage multiple currency environments. He then moved to the other end of the spectrum by consulting to developing countries on how to improve their hard currency earnings.
Subsequently he became Professor of International Finance at the University of Louvain, the oldest university in his native Belgium, before moving on to become the top executive in charge of the Organization and Computer Departments at the Central Bank in Belgium. His first project in this capacity was to design and implement the single European currency system. During that period, he also served as President of Belgium’s Electronic Payment System, credited as the most comprehensive and cost effective payment system in the world.
Before starting work on his current book, Bernard co-founded one of the largest and most successful off-shore currency funds becoming its General Manager and Currency Trader. Business Week identified him as “the world’s top currency trader” in 1992.
Table of Contents
Plan of Part One 13
Core Ideas of Part One 13
Some Concepts of Collective Psychology 17
Yin, Yang and Jung 21
The Shadow is not the enemy 25
A Map of the Human Psyche 26
The Great Mother 32
The Great Mother Archetype and Early Money Systems 37
Defining Money 37
Cattle: the first working-capital asset 38
The ubiquitous Cowrie 42
Other “Primitive” Money 44
Some Early Coins 46
The Repression of the Great Mother 49
Indo-European Invasions 53
Mesopotamian Civilization 54
Greek Civilization 55
Male Heroism and the Repression of Feminine 64
Exceptions: Pockets of Historical Survival of the Great Mother cults 67
Monetary Consequences of the Repression of the Great Mother Archetype 69
Gender and Yin-Yang energies 72
The Archetypal Human and the Material World 76
Archetypal Five 78
The Shadows of the Archetypal Human 79
Shadow Resonance 81
Fear as common denominator 82
Testing the Map 83
Plan of Part Two 84
The Boom-Bust phenomenon 92
Reactions by Authorities 95
Reactions by Economists 96
Economic Man 97
Economic Explanations 98
An Archetypal Approach 102
The Meaning of Myths 102
The Apollo-Dionysus Pair 103
The Relevance of the Apollo-Dionysus Myth for Today 113
A Money Connection 117
Medieval Demurrage 118
Egyptian Demurrage 120
So What? 122
The Trail of the Black Madonna 122
Why does She matter to us Today? 123
Esoterism vs. Exoterism 125
Why is She Black? 129
The Egyptian Connection 137
Economic Results in Medieval Europe 139
Europe’s First Renaissance 139
Demurrage-charged Money: the Invisible Engine? 144
Economic Expansion 147
Prosperity For All 148
A Renaissance for the People, by the People? 152
A Half-Renaissance for Women 154
The time of the Cathedrals 162
How the Music Stopped 167
The Backlash of 1300 168
Population impact 171
Demurrage Systems Abused 173
Centralized Authority 174
War and the Gunpowder Revolution 176
How Money Scarcity was created 178
Conclusion on An Unconscious Monetary Experiment 179
Egyptian demurrage 180
Egyptian Economy 182
The Isis Cult 187
Return to Our Core Thesis 189
The Status of Women in Egyptian Society 190
Marriage “Contracts” 191
Women’s Legal Status 192
Women’s Work 193
Women Rulers 195
A Greco-Roman Ending 197
Looking Back for what is Common between the two civilizations using demurrage currency 199
Relevance for Gender Relations 200
Relevance for Money Systems 201
Relevance for Today 201
An Agenda for Research 202
A Synthesis of the Relevant Concepts from “The Future of Money” 205
A Short History of “Yang” Money Evolution 208
Commodity money: 209
Authority-Issued Standardized Coinage 209
“Fiat” Currency 210
Monetary Evolution on the Archetypal Map 210
The Archetypal Human and the National Money System 213
The National Money System as a Strong Yang construct 214
Consequences of the Repression of the Great Mother Archetype 214
Yang Shadow Resonance 214
Historical Origins: The Dark Middle Ages as an Emotional Imprint? 215
What kinds of emotional shifts are most relevant? 216
Calling Huizinga to the Witness Stand 217
Money as Information Replicator 228
Some Positive Effects 229
Some Pathological Consequences 229
Role of Money Systems in shaping societies 232
Back to the Future? 234
Consciousness Evolution 240
Jean Gebser’s Work 240
Integrating Gebser into Archetypal Evolution 243
A Lesson from 30,000 years of Archetypal History 245
Where are We Now? 250
The Traditionalists 252
The Modernists 252
The Cultural Creative Subculture 254
The Cultural Creatives: A Global Shift? 258
Archetypal Mapping of the Subcultures 261
Recent Challenges to Modernism 263
Back to Money 265
The Meaning of Our Crisis 269
Updating the Archetypal Vocabulary 272
Holding Paradoxes 273
Money Outlook 273
Why has money become such an influential force in the world today?
Why does it generate such powerful and polarized emotions in most individuals?
Collectively, why do supposedly rational financial markets periodically suffer from extraordinary irrational and destructive manias and crises?
The journey to which this book invites you will provide the key to understanding the core emotions that are implanted in our money system, and make it such a powerful compulsion in our societies. It is a journey inside our own heads, bringing to conscious awareness one of the last taboos of Western society: our money. Talking about a taboo is hazardous. Pointing to a society’s shadows is, by definition, risking to upset many people. Talking about emotions and archetypes in a book on money is unconventional. So why this book that deals with the taboo of money by exploring the collective emotions it generates?
To truly understand how money shapes society “out there”, we need to complete the circle and bring into the light how it connects “in here”, inside our own psyche. After all, that is where the engine that is driving it all is hiding.
In a previous book, The Future of Money1, I made the forecast that the Information Age is fundamentally changing not only the form of money (e.g. e-cash, smartcards, etc.), its geographical spread (the Euro), but also our very concept of money (who issues it, for what purposes, what emotional patterns it generates and what social behaviors it encourages). In fact, this has already started to happen, as over 4000 communities around the world have started creating their own local currency systems. These systems act not as a replacement, but as a complement to the conventional national currencies. People use them to address problems that conventional money has proven unsuccessful at resolving. Issues like community healing, creation of meaningful work, ecological sustainability, or elderly care in a rapidly graying society.
I concluded that – if the best models were implemented systematically – such monetary innovations could make “Sustainable Abundance” a reality within one generation on this planet. Sustainable Abundance was defined as a process that would provide humanity with the ability to flourish and grow materially, emotionally, and spiritually without squandering resources from the future. All the relevant concepts from The Future of Money will be synthesized later in the current book (introduction to Part Three).
However, one core question that remained open is: should these ongoing monetary innovations be dismissed as a short-term fad, or are they early signs of a fundamental shift in the nature of money? Why could we expect an essential change to occur now in the nature of money? The claim that the nature of money is radically changing may appear at first sight quite preposterous. After all, our money system has not undergone a fundamental change in many centuries.
Indeed, every modern society – independently of its cultural or political background – has accepted the current money system as self-evident. When the French or Russian Revolution overthrew the established order in their countries respectively in 1697 and 1917, they changed just about everything—but not the money system. Both societies completely rebuilt their legal systems. The French overhauled the entire measuring system (the metric system dates from then), and even tried to change the calendar. The Russians threw out the very concept of private ownership, and they nationalized the banks. Both issued currency engraved with new mottoes and different heroes. But the currency remained – exactly as before and now – artificially scarcity-based, issued via bank debt, and centrally controlled. When Mao’s communist takeover occurred in China, or when one hundred developing countries gained their independence over the past half-century, exactly the same thing happened.
In assessing fundamental change in our money system, we need to address some other pertinent questions first, such as:
- Where is the desire or need for this kind of money system coming from?
- Are greed and scarcity, as is explicitly assumed in all our economic theory and most of our conventional wisdom, an indelible reflection of human nature and material reality? Or could it be that it is the current money system itself that constantly creates and re-enforces those specific collective emotions of greed and fear of scarcity?
- Why is money a taboo topic?
- In short, what is the origin and mechanism of the emotional dimension of money?
Sidebars and Images
Sidebar boxes like this one will be used to provide additional insights or remarkable anecdotes relating to the material where they appear. For a reader in a hurry, they can be skipped without loss of understanding of the main arguments.
This book is also abundantly illustrated with images, which provide a parallel comment to the text. The reason is that the language that will be used to describe collective emotions is the one of archetypes, and that archetypes are primarily images. This association of images and text also practices what is being proposed here: to integrate the information of the left and right brain, our two complementary information systems.
I have come to the conclusion that it is only if we become aware of the way whereby money systems shape our collective emotions – or better still, how collective emotions shape our choice in money systems – that we can make a conscious choice in money systems. As Europe moves into its next monetary experiment with the Euro, as monetary crises topple the economies of entire continents, as our fixation with short-term financial results may threaten our very survival, the stakes for making conscious money choices have never been as high.
One of the contributions of the American philosopher Ken Wilber has been to provide a simple but powerful framework to classify all forms of knowledge.2 This framework can also provide us with a very compact way to clarify what is – and what is not – dealt with in the books “The Future of Money” and “The Mystery of Money”. Wilber structures fields of knowledge in four quadrants in which the two distinguishing dimensions are on the one side the Interior (the domains where the aim is the interpretation of meaning) vs. the Exterior (where the purpose is description of behavior); and on the other the Individual-Collective (see Figure I.1). For instance, physics, biology, and all behavioral and empirical sciences correspond to the upper right quadrant (Exterior-Individual domains). In contrast, the domains explored by Aurobindo, Plotinus, Buddha and all other spiritual traditions fall into the upper left quadrant; as do the theories of Freud, Piaget and others focusing on individual psychology (they all correspond to Individual-Interior concerns). Similarly, systems theory, economics, political economy or the study of social systems fall in the lower right quadrant (Exterior-Collective). Finally, Cultural History, Collective Psychology or Evolutionary Psychology would fall into the lower left quadrant (Interior-Collective).
Figure I.1 Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrants Classifying Fields of Knowledge3
The same four quadrants can also describe all our ways of knowing about the money phenomenon (see Figure I.2). For instance, the upper-right quadrant (Individual-Exterior) deals with how individuals can earn more money, spend or invest their money. This is the one quadrant that will be left out in my work. Not because it lacks interest, but because there are already thousands of books available which address these issues. So I have focused instead on the less frequently visited other three quadrants.
My previous book “The Future of Money” dealt with the social dimensions of money – i.e. the lower right quadrant (or Exterior-Collective) – and used whole systems theory as its main approach. The current “Mystery of Money” deals with the two left-side quadrants: the individual and the collective Interior dimensions, and uses archetypal psychology as its key investigative tool. This book has been titled the “Mystery of Money” because it covers the whole range of issues of the left side of Figure I.1: i.e. topics that could have been described as the Soul of Money, the Meaning of Money, the Psychology of Money, or the Cultural History of Money.
What is important to understand is that in the Exterior and Interior domains, different types of questions are being raised. In the Exterior domain, precise descriptions of behaviors or processes are the aim. In the Interior domain, interpretations of meaning are the aim.
We can never apprehend such Interior realities directly, be they archeological, historical or contemporary ones. For example: can you show me bliss, patriarchy or an economically successful society? What you can show me, what can be apprehended of any such “Interior” realities, are only their corresponding “Exterior” manifestations (i.e. signs exhibited in the “right-hand side” of Figure I.1). For example we can interpret a radiant smile as a sign of a state of bliss, laws discriminating against women as a sign of patriarchy, or the positive convergence of a series of economic indicators as sign of an economic boom. The best that anybody will ever be able to do is to interpret these Exterior signs, see whether they are coherent or convergent with other signs, and infer from them the reality and validity of the corresponding psychological or cultural reality. Therefore, as pointed out by Wilber, “proof” in this domain can never become a simple mechanical, “objective” measurement like in Physics. Scientific proof in the psychological and cultural domains is always by necessity limited to the convergence of Exterior signs that justify an interpretation fitting specific psychological and cultural patterns.
It should be noted that seeing money systems from this Interior perspective is new terrain – particularly to the extent that this involves exploring the collective unconscious of money (the lower left quadrant). Thus the material presented here is work in process, a very green first approximation of what may actually be happening. I emphasize, therefore, that this should be looked upon as an exploration, as an offer of the evidence uncovered so far. In any case, I hope to make the point that further research and discussion in this domain is warranted.
Mill Valley, October 2000
LINKS TO OTHER CHAPTERS
Table of Contents | INTRODUCTION