By Thomas Miller
This summer I participated in a money and consciousness course, Financial Freedom, led by Karen McAllister, Mindful Money Coach and co-founder of Clear Sky Retreat Center in B.C. Canada. Together with others, like me, who work in the Findhorn Foundation (a spiritual community that holds transformational learning experiences for participants) and co-workers from similar centers around the world, we explored something I’ve always found somewhat challenging: money, and in particular money in relationship to spirituality.
Early on in the course Karen introduced the concept of the eight money archetypes. These are general patterns describing how we relate to money and based on Jungian psychology. My experience of them is that they act like sub-personalities, showing up in certain situations and influencing (sometimes to the point of taking over) how I feel around money, which of course influences how I think about it and – sometimes – to how I behave with it.
Noticing that I was having strong emotional reactions to just the descriptions of money, I quickly assumed that they were describing something that was alive in me. (If you’re interested in taking a free money archetypes quiz, you can do so here).
I took the test, and the results started me down a rabbit hole into my psyche. I’m glad I took this process seriously, because I quickly realized that my feelings around money touched much more of me than I initially knew.
My test results were a wakeup call. I scored highest on the Innocent archetype, and second highest on the Creator Artist archetype. As I read them, I watched my mind react to the descriptions. The more reactive my inner voice became, the more convinced I was that, however uncomfortable, there was truth in them.
The Innocent archetype is described as ‘a tendency to bury its head in the sand in order not to face money and all it brings up’. It’s a natural posture for a child to take, who has to rely on their parents for support. Obviously, though, it becomes problematic for an adult. Especially for someone in a fundraising position, as I am.
I reflected on this, and noticed that just thinking about my financial situation, feelings of helplessness often arose. It was a strange experience: sometimes I became childishly emotional, reactive and I just wanted to shut down and do something to distract myself. At other times, I would become completely numb and blank. As I considered how I’d lived, I could see how this reactive pattern had popped up again and again. I remembered that, just prior to joining the Army, I gave away $15,000 to a friend so she could pay off her debt. As I had done so, I had a sense of just wanting to get rid of the money, not to even think about it.
Clearly, part of me did, in fact, just want to live in a way that I didn’t have to deal with or think about money. It really did feel like a very young child-state of wanting life not to ask me to differentiate and make choices, do things to govern my own destiny. This part of me wanted to be cushioned from the reality of individuation.
Learning #1: It’s not Personal
I was initially a bit depressed and embarrassed. I had accessed very different parts of myself at different times. In the Army, I learned that I could face death or catastrophic dismemberment – and be willing to kill. At Findhorn, I had learned to go beyond my physical senses, to hold others in non-judgmental acceptance and honoring, even when I found it difficult. At different times in my life I had owned a car, rented and so forth, so I could sometimes take an adult stance towards money. Yet I saw clearly that I had done strange things over and over – like give away large amounts of money – that kept me at a minimal financial level.
However, Karen’s explanation that these were collective patterns was key in allowing me to reframe the situation in ways that I found deeply helpful. She explained that these were not personal failings – they were patterns that many people shared as a result of similar early life experiences. In that sense, they weren’t personal at all. My awareness experienced them, but they didn’t have to overpower it.
Just understanding that it was a predictable reaction that everyone naturally experiences when they have certain kinds of early life experience gave me more of a sense of spaciousness. I could watch the avoidant feelings that arose without the sense of shame that I wasn’t more grown up. I wouldn’t give myself a hard time (I hope) if I needed physical therapy to strengthen an arm that had been in a cast for a long time. I would just do what I had to do to strengthen my limb. I would also accept that it wouldn’t happen all at once.
Another thing I noticed was that I could clearly and nonjudgmentally notice others who were having Innocent reactions: spacing out, becoming uncomfortable and talking about feelings when the subject of money came up, and so on. Instead of discomfort, jealousy and sometimes contempt towards others, going through this process helped me feel more fellow-traveler empathy and detached admiration for those who were doing well.
The Creator Artist
The second most active archetype in me was the Creator Artist. It was in contemplating this that I ran into some deep water in myself: the relationship between money and spirituality.
The Creator Artist type, Karen explained, is perhaps the most common type at holistic centers and spiritual communities. This type has high visions and ideals, wants to be authentic above all, and is (like the Innocent) avoidant towards money, fearing ‘contamination’ by mundane considerations. Creator Artists often block the flow of money into their lives because they fear and resist money.
Just reading the description of the Creator Artist made me intensely uncomfortable, I noticed. I spaced out halfway through the description and noticed a strident, angry inner voice come up in me telling me that this idiotic description assumed wrongly that money and spirituality were meant to be connected. I was a bit taken aback by the strength of my own reaction to the description. Clearly I felt this to be a threat to something sacred to me.
I had to meditate on my reaction a few times to get inwardly quiet enough to be able to come up with non-reactive ways of facing the strong feelings that were welling up in me. A sense (which I initially imagined was left over from my family’s unusual hybrid of socialism and Calvinist Christianity – and I do think that was part of it) of righteous indignation sprang up in me just thinking about combining money and spirituality.
At one point during the process, I had a sense of physical vertigo and I realized I was about to touch into something very uncomfortable indeed. After some relaxation and stillness, I allowed the awareness to enter. What came up was a memory of seeing my brother’s coffin being lowered into the ground after his suicide. In that moment I experienced a sense of tremendous, almost ludicrous outrage. It was as if something in me had snapped in that moment. I had rejected the experience of being in this place that had been such torture for the person I loved most in the world.
I saw that my strange way of flinging myself into improbable, idealistic projects and life directions was in many ways a result of that horrified rejection. The Creator Artist in me was the thing that wanted to only live out an idealized ‘upper world’ experience, untouched by the ‘corruption’ of pressures to make money, get an education and job, and be respectable. My brother had found himself unable to deal with these and I could see that I had inflamed my own rejection of money and other normal human systems in his wake.
Living at Findhorn, I have met many others who also find dealing with things like money and western assumptions about respectability strange and painful. Some of them have grown up with subtle perceptions and met with only rejection. Some have held high ideals, and found no way to bring them into their lives. I can better empathize with them now, even though I believe they – like me – will only find resolution when they can bring their high dream into concrete reality.
According to Karen, many holistic centers and spiritual communities run into difficulties (and many fail) when their Creator Artist archetype becomes too powerful and they lose themselves in impractical fantasies or expectations.
The solution, though, is to cultivate another archetype: the Magician. The Magician can hold the same ideals as the Creator Artist, but views money and other cultural systems as things to be creatively worked with. The Magician can handle constantly shifting circumstances and complexity while consistently working to weave out of them a concrete expression of the ideal.
The Magician is allied closely with the spacious awareness that studying the archetypes was helping me develop more. It seemed to me to bring together an incredibly generative inner sense of self and possibilities with a very immanent awareness of what is already there.
Meditating on the Magician, I remembered something that happened to me just before coming to Findhorn. I had just left the Army and was trying to get a sense of my next steps. I intuitively sensed I needed to go to Scotland but didn’t know why, exactly. I went to a well-known tarot reader and asked for more information on my next steps. She drew a card depicting a walled garden first and said she saw me in some place reminiscent of a monastery or walled garden, healing and releasing old attachments for a while (I’ve been at Findhorn for more than six years now.) Then she drew a card indicating the final result of this: the Magician. She said she had a sense that after this sojourn, everything would be possible for me.
My sense is that this capacity for creativity and expression is what many of us who are connected with holistic centers are seeking to bring into the world. My personal sense of what Findhorn is doing is helping build a planetary culture of wholeness. As I imagine happens in other holistic centers, I see people come here, transform personally and be able to more clearly, freely sound the unique note they came into the world to sound in ways that enhance the greater whole. For me personally, this sense of enhancing personal and planetary wholeness is why I choose to be part of this community.
And although the experience was often uncomfortable, I found that squarely facing my experience of money is already helping me find more inner space to choose new responses. Karen suggested (convincingly, in my opinion) that many holistic centers need to do this work if we are going to be able to live into our full potential.
Looking at the various challenges our world is going through, and experiencing the life-enhancing reality of the center I live in, I hope many people and many centers can make the necessary journey to step into their Magician potential. I hope that we can remain rooted in our vision and learn to wield money as one of the primary means of making it concrete. For the six course participants here at Findhorn we’re sharing the learning with our teams to help positively influence the culture as we keep exploring our personal relationship with money and spirituality.
Some reflections from our team of FF co-workers:
“The work on the money archetypes and meditating on these was really useful! I could see it wasn’t personal and that took away my judgements. If we all have an awareness of these archetypes, we could collectively engage with these, bring them into our meetings consciously – e.g. evoking the warrior archetype when clear action steps are needed”.
“This course felt like a really practical approach to dealing with the shadow sides of money. I saw that what I was bringing was typical for a holistic centre. I have a lot of Creator Artist archetype. I understand better now how that specific archetype limits what we can do and what’s needed to complement it.”
“It feels like this down-to-earth approach goes right to the core of things: the fact that money has to do with our connection with life itself – and our deeply held beliefs about whether we see it as benevolent or not!”
“What excites me most is the personal growth that becomes possible when we do this work. This is a way in for me and I can really see that if we do the collective inner work, it would change things and transform much more than just our relationship with money.”