Money, Money, Money … Money!

Price Tag

Recently I had occasion to read Occult Psychology by Alta J. LaDage. A friend brought it to my attention because I am writing my own treatise on Magic & Psychology and LaDage covers some of the same material I plan to cover. LaDage focuses on the relationship and correspondence between Jungian psychology and the Qabalah, which is notable in and of it self. But buried within her discussion of life force was a short piece on money.

She is discussing the differences between Western and Eastern psychology, in terms of their respective symbolism associated with energy. She was deepening the discussion by illustrating how Jung had taken Freud’s limited concept of libido as simply sexual energy, and expanded it to become in the West the equivalent of Kundalini or life force in the East. After a few paragraphs illuminating how we in the West have a limited view of life force energy, she suddenly launched into a polemic on money.

Where psychology is concerned, however, Western man responds best to something he is paying for. That is one reason why modern psychology works best for him.

This statement is startling enough, in as much as she is saying that because of our Western predisposition, we respond best to psychological or occult teachings when we pay. But then she follows up with the most amazing confession.

I have been on both sides of this fence and as a result I am convinced that the teacher or psychologist who does not charge money for his services, serves best. When we have to take into consideration the patient’s ability to pay, we find ourselves in the position of a house divided against itself.

Okay. So for Western minds, paying for psychological help is what works best, but she refuses payment because it is too hard for her to navigate? Is it just me, or can anyone else smell “ISSUES” swimming around underneath this statement? I would have stopped right then and there, but she goes on to say some pretty profound statements about money in spite of, and some might say because of, her challenges in this area.

… in the West money is our magic talisman … Money is, in fact, libido crystallized ... That is, through working at a job, we transform some of our energy (physical, mental, emotional) into green paper, which we then trade for goods (the product of someone else’s energy).

She then launches into all the other ways a person can receive payment, such as barter, exchange, and, get this, payment of “pure love alone, which is what the good Hindu teacher prizes above all else.” She even calls the AA vow to give comparable service to another, i.e. the 12th step, as a form of payment. I do not disagree with any of these types of payments and I personally have accepted all of them at some point. But it is her next statement that throws me.

By refusing all of these other forms of payment, of dedication if you will, orthodox psychiatry has limited its clientele to one particular kind of patient: the person with money, and the person who values money-that is, who has a money psychology.

So Western psychological treatment works best if it is paid for, but anyone who only accepts patients or students who can pay with money is limiting their clientele to those with a “money psychology”. She doesn’t explain this type of psychology any further, and she then admits that limiting your patient/student in such a way is not a bad thing. Because even “Alcoholics Anonymous limits its clientele to those with alcohol problems.”

Okay. So according to LaDage, it is okay to require payment in cold hard cash, as long as I only intend to teach and/or treat those with a “money psychology”, whatever that is. We westerners apparently also have a money psychology when we pay for our food, housing, health care and education too. But then isn’t this similar to what she just said earlier about Western psychology in general? So is she saying that money psychology is the same as Western psychology? And if Western psychology is a money psychology, whom are we treating or teaching when we do not charge money? Hmmm? Do they cease to have a money psychology simply because they get it for free?

I know I am having a little fun at LaDage’s expense. Because while at the same time as she is incredibly insightful in this area, she continually contradicts herself. And to be fair, she is conflicted over money just like so many of us who are occult and spiritual practitioners here in the West. It is a difficult area to navigate on one’s own. She agrees with this point and provides some evidence of the madness.

“We are psychologically conditioned to believe that if it is for free it isn’t any good, and at the same time we are always looking for something for nothing! This schizoid -attitude toward money must be very confusing to an outsider looking at our culture. The trouble is that we have a long list of well-defined items which are either free or to be paid for. For example, it is not proper (in some locales not legal) to give a person a free ride. Rides must be paid for, in taxis or buses or trains. A hitchhiker (one who has the audacity to ask for a free ride) is a low form of life. But sex is supposed to be for free. A person who tries to charge for sex is a criminal. If a woman suggests to a man that he should pay first in case of fire, he is horrified; she should be "immoral" for nothing! It is all very confusing. The minister who comes to your house to comfort you after a death in the family is supposed to do this service freely, for love of God and you, but the psychiatrist, who provides the exact same comfort, must be paid. It makes no sense at all.”

And to this I say, bingo. Here she finally defines the Western psychology as a money psychology, and schizoid one at that. And I agree with her on all the points she raises. Interestingly enough, I have also read several Jungians who also note this issue, within our Western psyche and within psychology as a profession. But I will quote them at another time; we need to finish with our exploration of LaDage first.

But what has this to do with Western occult teachers, one may ask. An example could be the minister of a parish: he cannot serve his parishioners full time and still work eight hours a day to earn his own living. This exemplifies the position of any occult or Hindu teacher, too. And there is the matter of scholarship also. We understand why an attorney or a medical man may charge for what he has given many years and a great deal of money to learn. …

She starts off strong again, but she ends this statement with another contradiction.

… But beyond scholarship and time, servants of the spirit cannot be expected to serve well if they are concerned about payment. "Where your attention is, there will your heart be also."

It seems on the issue of money, LaDage gives with one hand what she of necessity must remove with the other. According to LaDage, we cannot be concerned with payments, though she accepts that it may be necessary for us to receive them. What?

So we have established that LaDage is herself a little schizoid about money, but then she delivers the piece de resistance that makes me forgive all her earlier ambiguity. She brings up the issue of money within a discussion of life force and now reveals why it is an important element of occult psychology. (The emphasis is mine.)

To try to resolve some of our attitudes toward money is to ferret out some of our feelings toward sex, spiritual values, and toward life in general. Money is the semen of the society, the symbol of its energy concentrated into a tangible object, the medium whereby energy is transmitted one to another and from generation to generation. … Money is therefore central in any discussion of Kundalini, representing as it does the root, the source of power. Our attitudes toward money are carried with us onto the path, and influence how we treat each other and ourselves.

Wow! Now this makes perfect sense to me. Money as crystallized life force does represent the Western libido in ways nothing else can. It is the way we suffuse our environment, our culture, even our spiritual path with meaning and value. And to struggle with money and what it represents would seem to be paramount to any seeker on the path within the Western world. So why do so many occult teachers avoid the struggle by opting out? Even LaDage is clear that this is an area we must all face on our path.

But, as mentioned before, at the same time that we are looking for something for nothing, we are convinced that anything that is for free isn’t any good. A wise teacher who hopes to be of real service to his pupils, must fit himself somewhere between these two stools. If he gives his time and the benefit of his scholarship without charge, neither his time nor his teachings will help the student. If he charges for his time and his scholarship, he will be classified with the commercial movements that serve spirituality in the West.

And so LaDage is issuing a challenge of sorts to all of us, to find a new synthesis within the “money psychology” of the Western world, to find a way out of the maddening cycle of wanting something for nothing while believing that if it is free it is no good.

And so after reading her book online for free, I went to Amazon and bought a copy. And in my own way, I hope I can face this challenge head on. I will be writing more about money, sex and power over the coming months. I hope to stimulate dialogue about the discomfort, confusion and frankly discordant messages circulating within our communities around these powerful yet mysterious subject areas.

Blessings to you and yours,
©2005 Katrina Messenger