[Excerpts] Money And The Meaning Of Life

Posted by Deven Shah on Jul 18, 2015
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As I was diving deeper to understand and articulate my relationship with money before the Money + Transformation Call, felt a lot of gratitude for Jacob Needleman and his work around Money and the Meaning of Life. Exploring further on how can money be a tool for inner transformation, sharing a few excerpts from his work:

“Authentic human existence requires the co-presence of two worlds, the inner and the outer. To exist in one world alone is not to exist at all. What, after all, is the point of physical survival without this inner contact? What is the point of eating, sleeping, and reproducing without our being conscious of ourselves?”

“To use money as an instrument for the spiritual search, first create the space in your life for doing things which are absolutely unmotivated by money, which has to do with self-knowledge and spiritual work and serving others in the way they need. There are things we need to do which are totally untouched by money, but in order to do them, we need money! We need to have money in order to engage in the kind of spiritual search and the kinds of activities that money can't buy.”

“When you sacrifice your self interests for the good of the other person, a joy and a sense of meaning that nothing else can give you appears. To be deeply human with another person it doesn't matter what the context brings a current of life into the interaction. We are born to give. Deep down in our essence, love is our nature, and I believe that we have to touch even when we're making our money.”

“A human being, according to the great spiritual teachings of the world, has two natures or aspects: a side that is meant to be engaged in activity in the world, making and doing, having a family, creating, building; the other side has to do with the spiritual, the transcendent, the relationship to God, one's deepest inner consciousness. Those two natures make up who we are. We are called on to find the relationship between these two opposing parts of ourselves, and to develop the kind of awareness that relates each to the other in a harmonious way.”

“We are neither pure spirit, nor pure egos and animals. We are that which relates these two levels or forces together. The meaning of our life in the material world, how we eat, how we work and raise families and create only emerges when it is connected to the spiritual world. The meaning of spirit appears when it's related to our life in the world. While we're on this earth, we are meant to be in relationship to these two worlds. The real meaning of life comes when you feel and know that there is a connection.”

“The conditions of life in our current culture do not support inner experiences, experiences of movement toward a higher part of oneself, that are as vivid as experiences of the outer world and the part of oneself that is drawn to the outer world. And as money has become the principal means for organizing contact with the outer world, there is nothing more vivid—for most of us—than the question of how to have, get, make, and accumulate money. No fear greater—for many of us—than the fear of not having money.”

“Money is the principal means in the modern world for organizing the material part of our selves and our lives. We need to relate with money in a conscious way. It starts by having the courage and sincerity to really look at money, to see how we feel about it and how we relate to it. If we can do this, which very few of us do, we will see our relationship with money to be full of fears and contradictions and conditioning, and it will be quite shocking. But that's the first step toward self-knowledge, to get rid of our illusions about ourselves and our relationship with money. We're all pretty weird about money. Do you know anyone who's "normal" about money? We don't even know what that means. And yet money plays such a central part in our lives.”

“The strange paradox is that money is nothing; it's "just paper," as people say, and yet the "bottom line" is it's taken to be the most real thing in life. The experience of the inner world, for most people, is not enough to give real faith that there is something more important than money.”

"The outer world (alone) cannot give meaning to a being made to live in both the inner world and the outer world simultaneously. We are living in an outer world that pretends to be the inner world. The elements of human life that are primarily rooted in interiority, service to the higher—that is, the realm of relationships, of love, knowledge, creativity, elements that are reflected in family, community, the refinement and perfection of nature (science and art)—all these elements are now embedded in money. Money seems the most real factor of life because our glimpses of the inner world are immediately swallowed by modes of acting and thinking and feeling that are geared to dealing with money."

“The inner world the world of self-knowledge, the world of self-exploration can be immensely more vivid than the world of money, of another quality. But most of us, unfortunately, have a very dull inner world. Therefore, the outer world, the world of money, seems more real. Our society has not helped us cultivate a real inner life.”

“Search for a quality of inner experience that is at least as vivid and intense as our concerns about money.”

“And it will do us no good merely to pursue strong experiences of the inner world unless we are pointed toward equally strong experiences that will enable us to contact both worlds simultaneously. That is, we need to find an awareness that can be in contact with the two worlds. And this awareness appears in the first instance as an acceptance of the incompatibility of these two worlds. We must go through a long period of actively accepting this incompatibility before there can be any question of these two worlds becoming one, harmonizing within ourselves.”

"To experience love as intensely as we experience fear, it is necessary to experience the fear more consciously. From the true consciousness of fear, love must inevitably follow as a result. Why? Not because love is close to fear, but because love is close to consciousness. Such intensity of self-experience, such intensity of self-knowledge, requires carefully guided conditions of living in the midst of ordinary life; it requires the support and companionship of others; it requires knowledge of the structure of man and his possibilities. In short, it requires an authentic spiritual path, the way in life."



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Comments (2)

  • Zilong Wang wrote ...

    Wow, thank you for the heartful compilation, Deven! Really helped me to deepen the appreciate for this frame of inner + outer realities :)

  • Preeta Bansal wrote ...

    Thanks Deven. Another few of my favorite Needleman quotes: "The surprising answer is that the way toward the real inner world is to experience with even greater intensity of feeling the pulls and impulses that draw us toward the outer world! To experience God as intensely as we experience desire, for example, it is necessary to experience desire more consciously, not turn away from it . . ."

    "The first practical step that an individual can take to free himself from the thrall of money is not to turn away from it, but to take it even more seriously, to study himself in the very midst of the world of money, but to study himself with such diligence and concern that the very act of self-study becomes as vivid and intense as the desires and fears he is studying. “The truth shall set you free,” not because it will give you explanations, but because the conscious experience of the truth, even when the truth is hellish, is itself space and light and contact with a higher world."

    "The other world, the 'higher' world, is, as Rilke tells us, this world consciously experienced. 'Outer life,' he replied, 'can support the inner work when the demands of life are taken as a challenge to one’s attention, as a reminder that one needs to cultivate the question of who I am and what in this moment is devouring my attention, taking more of me than I need to give it. In this world we live in, nothing brings that challenge more often and more dependably than the adventure of money.'”

    And, from his Bill Moyer interview: "We are meant to be in contact with or 'of' this higher being, and also out there [in the material world]. We are two. This is our great possibility, and our great sorrow. Human being is uniquely a being of two natures – and our task and our difficulty is to find a relationship between them in this life."