In 2006, I dedicated myself to the Element of Earth for an entire year. Over the course of that year, one of the biggest changes I made involved learning a lot more about how finances work. I wasn't surprised that this happened, because the element of Earth deals with practical matters and survival needs, as well as the connection we create with our environment. In contemporary culture, finances are an inevitable part of survival for the majority of people, but despite that being the case, or perhaps because it is the case, blending wealth into spirituality becomes an area fraught with complications for people.
In the year I did the elemental earth working, I also decided that I should sponsor an anthology on wealth magic, Manifesting Prosperity, to see how people approached incorporating wealth into their spirituality and vice versa. What really surprised me was how few people responded with articles for the anthology. It seemed like there weren't many magicians who actually did wealth magic. Should I have been so surprised?
Likely not. I'd noticed in the pagan subculture a tendency to revile money and treat it as a necessary evil and something that had to be dealt with. I also noticed how rare it was for people providing spiritual services to get paid. In fact, I'd often hear the argument that people offering spiritual services shouldn't charge customers, because money shouldn't be associated with spirituality. Never mind that the people offering those spiritual services might need that money to pay bills and provide a roof and food for their family or that it might've cost those people time, effort, and money to acquire the skills and services they offered. Someone who charges for spiritual services is perceived as cheapening those services, because s/he mixes the profane world of finances with the spiritual world of magic. It's not for nothing that the word stingy is associated with Paganism.
The occult subculture has a similar attitude toward the mixing of wealth and magic. While not as overtly disdainful of spending money for spiritual services as pagans can be, it's still not unheard of to hear the argument that pursuing wealth is counter to the occult subculture or that someone who pursues wealth is a corporate drone, or out to oppress someone else because of the desire to generate wealth. These attitudes are ultimately based in a perception that poverty is somehow virtuous and that people who are wealthy have somehow demeaned themselves by choosing to generate financial wealth in their lives.
When an attitude toward financial wealth argues that having it somehow cheapens a person, it displays a dysfunctional belief, which ironically enough is rooted in the Christian culture, which has argued that being poor and giving up materials goods is the way to live a virtuous existence (how ironic then that many of the Christian people who espouse live an existence based on acquiring wealth and using it gain more power). I don't think every person should go and be an entrepreneur or sell their souls to a corporation. However, I do think that cultivating a better relationship with wealth is not only an eminently practical matter, but also a spiritual one as well. For a person to pursue a spiritual path, some form of wealth is needed to take care of the practical issues that everyday life offers.
Cultivating a spiritual relationship with financial wealth or wealth of any sort relies upon a person figuring out why they feel or think what they do about wealth. Our attitudes and beliefs don't just appear. They are rooted in the patterns we acquire from situations we are in. In fact, usually where people acquire their attitudes, education, and skills with finances is from their parents. I'll use myself as an example. One belief I used to have about finances and wealth in general was that I had to struggle in order to acquire it. I got this belief from my mother who espoused such a view and has always struggled with managing her finances.
I realized just how much this perspective has influenced not just my approach to finances, but also how I lived my life, when I decided to move from Seattle to Portland. I had never liked living in Seattle, and I loved Portland whenever I visited there, but at the last minute I started waffling over whether I should really live in Portland or if I should give Seattle another chance. I was reading T. Harv Eker's The Millionaire Mind and I did some of the exercises he suggested and realized that the root of my sudden struggle about moving to Portland came from this belief that I had to struggle in order to be happy. Once I understood that, I could change that belief and I did. Shortly afterward, I moved to Portland and my life has become much happier with much less struggle.
Clearly the belief that I had to struggle to achieve happiness has affected my approach to wealth and life. It wasn't until I had done the necessary internal work that I could change that belief and adjust my inner barometer when it came to wealth. As a result, when I hear other occultists or pagans offer similar reasons for why they dislike wealth, I recognize it has very little to do with being virtuous or spiritual. Those are rationalizations that disguise the deeper issues at hand, which usually are negative distortions and conditioning about what wealth generates in a person's life.
Even the most recent situation in the world economy points to a deeper issue than just people getting greedy over real estate. While it is certainly true that the lack of regulation and the bad loans from banks has contributed to an economic disaster which is similar to the depression, it can also be said that the aversion to handling wealth or dealing with it as necessary part of our lives has lead to a lot of the economic grief as well. No one forced people to take bad loans on houses they bought. Those people could've avoided a lot of economic woe if they had realistically developed a financial plan that would allow them to buy a house when they had the necessary financial resources to do so.
A poor attitude about finances generally results in poor education about finances. The public schools (in the U.S.) generally don't teach finances and unless you get a degree in accounting, you usually won't learn it in college either (and I've also known the occasional accountant that can't handle his or her personal money all that well either). So what's a person to do about this and how does magic factor in with wealth?
Shortly after I started my elemental earth working, I also decided to create a wealth entity. Once I created it, I asked it to manifest wealth. It responded by telling me it couldn't do that until I learned how to handle wealth. It told me to pick up books on finances and start learning how to handle what I did have. Once I could do that, it might be able to help me with acquiring more wealth. So I picked up books on finances and far from finding them boring or uninteresting, I quickly realized there was a lot to learn more about finances and how to manage what I did have. I learned it, and my relationship with wealth changed as I began to realize the possibilities that it could offer me. Instead of focusing on what I didn't have, I started recognizing what I did have as well as the possibilities all of that opened up to me.
This change in attitude also caused the wealth entity to work for me. It knew that until my attitude about finances changed, anything I did with finances wouldn't work, because my internal tapes would tell me that I didn't know how to handle money. Learning how to handle money changed my internal attitudes and also showed me that spirituality could be blended with the so-called dirty lucre. In fact, blending my spiritual practices with how I managed money showed me that my spirituality could have a practical side in everyday life and could also cause me to ask some hard questions about where I was spending money and how I was spending it and whether that was in accordance with my spiritual values.
Since doing that year-long working to Earth, I still do a lot of wealth magic. I have a prosperity jar, which is where I pay my wealth entity with money. That money gets invested in retirement funds, emergency savings, or some other account where the interest that is generated adds to the wealth. I also continue to do a lot of work with my mental attitude about wealth. While I don't believe in the law of attraction as it is espoused in The Secret, I do recognize that the attitude I take with any situation sets the tone for that situation and for the possibilities that arise out of it. By meditating on my attitudes about wealth, I was able to recognize how I closed myself off from potential avenues of generating it. I then changed those attitudes and started manifesting more wealth in my life.
Something else my spirituality has done for me, when it comes to wealth, is recognizing what the concept of wealth really means to me. Money is certainly part of my wealth, but I've also realized just how wealthy the people in my life make me feel. The time spent with friends, family, and lovers are times of wealth for me. They enrich my life. Likewise, choosing to pursue a career where I feel like I'm doing something meaningful for myself and others has also made me feel wealthier. Learning to define my wealth in terms of not just my monetary intake, but also the experiences and people and meaning I find in life has changed my attitude immeasurably and this could not have occurred if I hadn't integrated my finances into my spiritual practice.
Instead of feeling that I have sold out to the man or become some corporate lackey, I feel that incorporating my magical practices into my wealth has asked me to be more authentic with myself about the importance of wealth in my life, financial or otherwise. Instead of feeling sullied for charging for my spiritual practices or for creating a wealth entity to generate more wealth, I feel empowered and more aware of my choices and what they really mean for me. If we are to learn a lesson from the current economy, a good lesson might be what does having wealth really mean to you and what will it give you?
The integration of my spiritual practice into my own pursuits of wealth has answered that question for me and helped me enjoy life far more than when I used to believe that being poor was virtuous and everyone "better off" than me was somehow out to screw me over as much as possible.
Photo by Maury.mccown, courtesy of Creative Commons license.