Mystery of Money

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

* Book: The Mystery of Money. Beyond Greed and Scarcity. Bernard Lietaer, 2000.


First edition in German: Mysterium Geld: Emotionale Bedeutung und Wirkungsweise eines Tabus. (Munich: Riemann Verlag, 2000)




  • Some Concepts of Collective Psychology 17
  • Archetypes 18
  • Shadows 20
  • 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
  • Judaism 56
  • Christianity 59
  • Protestantism 64
  • 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
  • Conclusion 82
  • Testing the Map 83



  • The Boom-Bust phenomenon 92
  • Reactions by Authorities 95
  • Reactions by Economists 96
  • Economic Man 97
  • Denial 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 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


By Carol Schwyzer:

"Since Bernard Lietaer, however, cannot get to the root of the way people are seen to handle money using Jung's four archetypes he follows up clues like a detective that might help him to solve the mystery. He asks, for example, which archetype has the shadow sides of greed and fear of a shortage of money. His answer: the obvious shadows of our currencies suggest that here the archetype of the Great Mother – largely forgotten in our society – is repressed, since greed and scarcity belong as shadows to the feminine archetype, which symbolises fertility and abundance. Today the shadows of the Great Mother are an unconscious, but quite natural, part of the monetary system. Not without good reason did Adam Smith, whose economic theory from the 18th century dominates economics to this day, say that money was scarce, as if this were the most normal thing in the world.

The presence of the Great Mother in early currencies

Not always has the feminine principle been situated so much in the shadow as it is in the case of our money. Since earliest times the archetype of the Great Mother, of the fertile feminine principle, has been documented in portraits. She was often depicted as a pregnant woman with firm breasts like the famous Venus of Willendorf (early Palaeolithic age, about 30,000 BC). The unrestricted worship of the Great Goddess lasted until around 3000 BC. It is logical that in a society that collectively regarded as holy and worshipped the feminine the feminine archetype also became visible in the currency – which, of course, represents a mirror of the collective attitude to life. Cattle were one of the first means of payment. In the 8th century BC Homer always expressed wealth in head of cattle. Our word "pecuniary" comes from pecus (Latin for cattle) and the term "capital" is derived from capus (Latin for head). Even today the wealth of a cattle breeder is measured by the number of cows he owns. But in the old myths the symbol of the cow is closely tied up with the Great Creator and Mother. In ancient Egypt, for example, she was called "Hathor," the goddess of beauty and abundance, whose full udders were believed to be responsible for the creation of the Milky Way. She is depicted with cow's ears and each day gives birth to the sun, her "golden calf."

The cowry shell, too, one of the oldest and longest used currencies, bears feminine attributes. Its shape is like that of a vulva. It comes from the water, a feminine element, and serves as a vessel for a living creature. Traditionally it was associated with wealth and happiness, sexual fulfilment and fertility.

In China the first metal coins from the Bronze Age also integrated the feminine element. These coins are round with a square hole in the middle, so that they could be tied together for trade and transport. In the 11th century BC the description "huan fa" for the coins as "square in the centre and round on the outside" was very widespread. The reason for the rectangular hole – it would have been easier to make a round one – is to be found in its symbolism: in the Taoistic tradition the circle stands for the sky, a yang symbol, and the square for the yin element, the earth. Here Mother Earth still lay at the centre of money.

The repression of the feminine element as the price for western civilisation

If we now examine the symbolism of the first large trading currency and principal silver coin of the Greek world, the drachma, we see that here a masculine element is already dominant. For the name of the coin is derived from " what you can grasp with your hand" and goes back to the iron spearheads which circulated before coins, when tools were used as money.

Indeed, the gradual repression of the feminine element can be traced through the whole history of the western world: the Indo-European invasions beginning in the 3rd millennium BC resulted in the settled, peaceful, earthbound matriarchal civilisations being conquered by male-orientated, mobile and belligerent societies. The defeated men were killed off and the women raped and enslaved.

In Mesopotamia, too, a patriarchal society prevailed from the 3rd millennium BC in a process lasting over 2500 years. It went hand in hand with the private subjugation of women. The dependence of the men on the king and the state administration was compensated by the dominant position of men as heads of families.

Like all Indo-Europeans, the Greeks, too, were familiar with patriarchal myths, for they developed, among other things, the rational way of thinking, which repressed the senses in favour of reason and intellect – but denied that women possessed intellectual abilities.

The Jews were now the first nation to be guided by a book, the Holy Scripture. It presented the idea of a single male God, who created the world solely through the power of the word, without the help of the feminine principle. The feminine is totally demonised in the story of Adam and Eve, which makes the serpent – an ancient symbol of the Great Goddess – the cause of the Fall. With the New Testament God's position as the absolute male monarch was firmly established – since then only male priests have been able to serve him. The archetypal driad, for example, of Isis – Osiris – Horus in Egypt, adopted a purely male form in the Holy Trinity of God the Father – the Son – the Holy Ghost. The only woman remaining is the Virgin Mary. Her Immaculate Conception, however, makes her unattainable for real women.

After the Reformation the last vestiges of the feminine disappeared from part of Christianity together with the adoration of Mary and pictures of saints. The emotional linkage to the picture of feminine holiness was severed. Parallel to this, the witch hunts dealt the death blow to the old values of the Goddess – respect for nature and the body. From now on the male hero was the ideal: he dominates our thinking to this day as crusader, samurai or superman, as king, magician, priest, scientist or missionary.

Five thousand years of patriarchal rule have, therefore, shaped a way of thinking which separates the spirit from the body and reason from nature, and that down to the last detail. For the Hero had

to learn to bear pain in silence. Thus with the passage of time he lost the feeling for his body and his feelings generally – and thus for the feminine in himself and in nature.

Yang currencies

The systematic repression of the feminine archetype has a great impact on the monetary system of a society. For if the feminine archetype is ousted currencies arise with the yang features of hierarchy, concentration, control and competition. They bear interest and all of them have in common that they favour the accumulation of money by a small elite.

The gold and silver coins that developed in western civilisation and our conventional, centrally controlled national currencies are typical yang currencies. A hierarchically structured authority (state, central bank) created them from nothing. Because they bear interest, they encourage hoarding and drive the competitive economy. Moreover, handling them also produces feelings of greed and fear of scarcity on the financial markets. And these collective perceptions are – according to Lietaer – nothing but the shadows of the Great Mother, of the repressed feminine archetype.

But as so often, one person's sorrow is another's joy: the currencies of the highly developed patriarchal civilisations are – much to the pleasure of the numismatists – made of lasting materials and decorated with beautiful symbols which glorify a ruler, a town or an empire.

Yin currencies

In the few societies which, unlike ours, honour the feminine, two complementary currency systems can and could frequently be observed coming into existence, namely a yang currency for longdistance trade and a yin currency for local use. The yin currency here operates purely as a means of exchange and payment. It circulates on all levels of society without restriction, is available to all and results in long-term investments.

Let us take an example from history: the bracteates of the high gothic (11th-13th centuries) were recalled every year and replaced by new ones with a tax collected in the process. So it was not worth hoarding this money. At the same time the people revered the Virgin Mary, especially as the Black Madonna, and built hundreds of cathedrals in her honour. Cathedrals are, in turn, the prototypes of a long-term investment, as they are built over several generations.

A similar means of payment, the ostracon, or potsherd – actually a receipt for the goods to be stored – are also found in Egypt of the 13th century BC. The value of these receipts decreased in the course of the years, because the costs of storing the food were deducted. So here, too, there was no incentive to hoard. Parallel to this women enjoyed a high status and there were female deities.

Yin currencies have essentially four effects:

1. They bring about economic prosperity for broad sections of society. 2. They encourage cooperation and investments with long-term prospects. 3. They emerge in societies in which the feminine is honoured. 4. They are a forerunner of the present-day movement for local currencies, like, for example, Time Dollars.

The money of the future

Bernard Lietaer observes that civilisations disappear or change when they come up against the archetype they repress. The peace-loving archaic civilisations, for example, fell victim to the IndoEuropean warriors because they had not developed their aggressive nature.

Our civilisation also finds itself in a state of upheaval, because the repressed feminine archetype has awoken. The present crisis of the West is characterised by the return of the feminine. The purely masculine and reason-orientated way of thinking, although admittedly our technical and many cultural developments would have been impossible without it, is losing its absolute claim. A fundamental change in consciousness has set in. It can be seen in the feminist movement, in a heightened environmental awareness, in the interest in holistic medicine or in the chaos theory in physics. Hierarchical structures are being replaced by networks (internet). In addition to intellectual intelligence emotional intelligence is now being discovered and called for.

In brief, we are resorting to the yin energies, which up to now our civilisation has rejected. This also manifests itself in the currency system: the complementary local currencies have exploded, so that today there are over 2500 yin currencies.

Lietaer stresses, however, that a balance between the yin and yang economy is indispensable if the economy is to function sustainably. His model for the integrated economy of the future therefore comprises two complementary cycles: a national currency for business transactions and alongside it complementary currencies for transactions inside the community to promote it.

With his books Lietaer essentially wants to show that we can change our currency systems positively if we become aware of the way money works. How he proposes achieving his aim – creating sustainable prosperity for us and future generations – is certainly worth reading." (


Introduction by Bernard Lietaer

"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 Money, 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 on-going 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?

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."

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."