Kabbalah and Money
This article is adapted from the final chapter of It Was Never About The Money
(For an introduction to the principles of Kabbalah please click here)
My earliest memory of money is the small black metal box with a red border in which I could store the coins my father gave me each week. This would have been in the early 1960’s when I was around the age of six and, as the amount accumulated, (I was not a big spender), so a larger container was required. The new box was wooden with a ceramic lid on which there was a picture of Westminster Abbey and I took great interest in sorting the coins into their various denominations. I counted myself rich when the total fund in the box reached around £2 – the 2021 equivalent is about £42.
My involvement in other people’s finances - in addition to my own - first came about at the rather early age of twelve when I was given responsibility for collecting the subscriptions from members of the local Scout Troop to cover the cost of orange juice and table tennis balls at our Saturday Evening Socials.
In retrospect it seems that a financial career was beckoning even at this stage although I couldn’t see it at the time.
During the three years in which I trained to be a chartered accountant I came upon numerous interesting characters as I helped to audit many of the “metal bashing companies” in the West Midlands. These encounters helped alleviate the tedious and mundane tasks which were allotted to the trainees.
Observing these characters and their various colourful attitudes to money and life (one managing director
My first money box was of a similar design to this – it also contained a slit in the top through which I could drop my coins.
referred to accountants as “barnacles on the backside of British industry” – although in slightly more florid terms…..) helped me realise there was much more to money than simply the notes in my wallet or the numbers on my bank statement. This interest remained with me as I climbed the greasy pole of business gaining share options, company cars and something approaching a nervous breakdown through being in too much of a hurry to reach the top (whatever that was).
I left my executive role at the age of 34 and became self employed as a financial adviser for the next 26 years (with a few diversions along the way which further “broadened my experience”) the last six of which I was leading an employee owned financial services firm.
My involvement with Kabbalah in 1992 led me question how that timeless wisdom could be applied to modern situations – an approach which followed that of my teacher, Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi.
Although it seemed (to me, at least) a straightforward matter to set a manufacturing company on the Tree of Life the subject of money itself - and how people treated it - remained unclear.
Then, in 2006, everything dropped into place in what I can only describe as a waking vision – something which had happened neither before nor since – and I was able to formulate the diagram at Figure 2 below.
Figure 1: The Sefirot (Aspects of God) with their English translations on the Tree of Life. This has been synthesised with the key components of the human psyche.
The basic activities which are undertaken by means of a monetary exchange and the levels at which we experienced money all fitted.
The side pillars which express the principles of activity and passivity clearly referred to money either leaving us (activity) or remaining with us (passivity) while the various needs we had from birth to death could be placed on the central column of consciousness.
Moving from the bottom to the top of the Tree – from the most physical to the most ethereal – the various monetary activities in which we took part could be allocated to the Four Worlds which can be shown on a single Tree.
At the lowest level – the physical world of Assiyah – we must deal with the mechanics of daily life.
We need to maintain our bodies (Malkut) with food, soap and water, and clothe ourselves according to the society in which we live (Yesod). Money is held in a current (bank) account which is readily accessible to us (Hod) and the active principle of spending this money on our everyday needs is represented by the Sefirah of Netzach.
Netzach and Hod are part of both the physical world of Assiyah through their connection to Malkut as well as to the world of Yetzirah which corresponds
to our emotions. Thus there is an emotional component to the way in which we spend our money – sometimes with joy and sometimes out of necessity - and how we feel about the level of the balance in our current account.
When the human psyche is set on the Tree the lower side triads represent thought and action – in translating these to the Tree of Money we see they correspond with the gathering of information and the execution of the payment respectively.
The source for making these financial transactions will usually (although not always) be of a recurring nature – it could be from a salary but might also be from a trust fund, investments, pension income or state benefits or the other partner in a marriage or long term relationship. This income corresponds to the feeling triad (Yesod-Netzach-Hod) where the presence of Yesod demonstrates the repetitive or cyclical nature of the money received. Only when the connection to Malkut is made by the activity of spending does the monetary form translate into physical reality.
The thinking triad with the boundary path of Hod-Malkut also has a connection to physical reality but it is a passive connection as information is gathered about the goods which are examined prior to action being taken.
Once all these items are in place then the great triad of Netzach-Hod-Malkut is operable and the cycle can be repeated, week by week, month by month and year by year.
Living only at this level is sometimes referred to as the vegetable level as it echoes the cycles seen in nature where a vegetable grows from seed, distributes its fruit and then dies, the seed of the fruit being reborn the following year. This is echoed in financial terms by living on one’s regular income without seeking to build capital or put aside money for future use where a larger financial outlay is required.
Figure 2: The various ways in which money is used and experienced set on the diagram of the Tree of Life
To “get ahead” (the domain of the awakening triad in psychological terms) a person may seek out other means of generating additional income. Very often this might be seen through a
determination to gain a qualification and/or work harder to gain promotion leading to a higher salary or taking on a second job. When additional money is generated there tends to be a rise in social status -with which may come the trappings of material success such as a bigger car, better clothes and more adventurous holidays.
For many years in the UK the provision of a car by a company for an employee’s personal use was the sign that the employee had “made it” – a mark of having reached the awakening triad. Changes in tax legislation have made it a less common way of rewarding employees so that those who now have a company car belong to an even more exclusive club.
The sefirah of Tiferet (beauty) lies at the centre of the diagram of the Tree of Life. Its place in the Tree of Money is seen as the place where we reach financial adulthood. At this point we no longer live a “hand to mouth” existence but can call upon other financial resources should we be unable to work or where we choose to engage our time in an activity which does not bring direct monetary income.
The title of my book – It Was Never About The Money – derives from the emotional triggers which the world of finance has upon so many of us. Our
best memories may be of a large win on a horse race or the receipt of a bonus for helping a company to reach its budget but it is not just the monetary amount which gives us such pleasure. In these examples it may appeal to our sense of competition – of making the right call on which horse to back when others did not or the pleasure from sharing the proceeds of the bonus with our family and friends – in both cases our emotional body is activated through the agency of money.
Conversely we may feel great shame in losing money on behalf of a client (particularly if it is a family member) by giving what turns out to be poor financial advice. The loss of regular income through redundancy may also result in having to confess this to our family – we might find it difficult to escape a sense of shame, however sympathetic the family may be.
These memories are stored in what are called the emotional side triads of the Tree – the triad of joy being defined by Tiferet-Netzach-Hesed and the triad of pain being Tiferet-Hod-Gevurah.
If we are generating money which is more than adequate for our everyday needs then we are faced with the decision of how to store this money until we are ready to spend it. The horizon for this may be a couple of years while we gather enough for a deposit to buy a house or much longer term so that we can fund our retirement.
Where to put this money are personal decisions and we can use Gevurah (passive) where money is saved and interest received with no risk to the capital value (apart from inflation) or Hesed (active) where we invest with the prospect of capital accumulation (or depreciation….) but with a reduced income. As a general rule we can say that the higher the level of risk attached to the investment the lower the income.
Over a lifetime the gains or losses that we make through investments, creative output and any other means will accumulate in the Soul Triad – needless to say, the way in which we make this money will reflect in the ease (or lack thereof) which we feel about it.
The practice of saving for a deposit on a car or house or to make ongoing payments such as rent or alimony requires discipline and commitment. This is the quality of the triad of Binah-Gevurah-Tiferet and although we have access to money it may have restrictions upon its use. Perhaps the best example of this is a trust where the wishes of the beneficiaries are subject to the decision of the trustees. This may only apply to a relatively small number of people and the more common example of restricted money is a loan where we are able to use the funds to buy something for which we do not have sufficient capital but where a commitment is needed to repay the loan or else risk losing the use of the asset which was purchased with its assistance.
The opposite quality to commitment is speculation – shown by the triad of Hokhmah-Hesed-Tiferet. This is an extension of investment but where the level of risk is considered much higher. For most people this may be too unnerving but it remains a part of the financial psyche and, even if it is a low level of engagement, the experience of this triad adds to our overall understanding of money – perhaps confirming that it should play no major part in our life
There may be times when we experience financial grace – the gift of heaven which comes to us. Such moments are often seen
Every age has its “bubble” when the prospect of easy money lures investors – who are often financially unsophisticated – into buying a commodity whose value is rising rapidly. The diagram above shows the main stages of the process which is exactly the same for cryptocurrencies in 2021 as it was for tulips in 1634. It is a fertile area for exploring our psyche through money. Particiapting in this process may confirm that financial speculation is part of our life’s objective or that it is something to be avoided in the future.
to be moments of chance or luck since the triad of the spirit includes Hokhmah which represents the principle of unusual events or “against the run of play.” Sometimes these gifts will be exactly timed to meet an urgent need but the triad of the spirit also includes Binah which represents the accumulated effort that has been put into life. It is as a result of this effort that rewards may be received – often in usual ways – as heaven bestows its bounty on the individual (Tiferet) at the centre of the Tree of Money.
Carrying out spiritual work in the expectation of a set or immediate financial reward doesn’t work – the experience of moments of grace are part of that reward and, by definition, come “out of the blue” of heaven.
The grace we receive is, of course, not always financial but it is money which is being considered in this article.
The “non-Sefirah” of Da’at provides an access point to the higher worlds – on the Jacob’s Ladder where the four worlds overlap - the Da’at of Yetzirah corresponds to the Yesod of Beriah where there is no connection to the physical world. Da’at on the Tree of Money therefore corresponds to the decision we make about what happens to our money after our physical death. If we make a will then we actively engage with this aspect of our financial life otherwise the distribution of our assets is broadly dependent on the legislation in the country of our nationality.
At the level of Hokhmah and Binah we are not concerned with our immediate or log term personal financial objectives as we were on the paths between Netzach and Hod or Hesed and Gevurah but the way in which money operates at the level of society.
The governments of the day (or robber barons in feudal society…..) correspond with Binah where part of our personal money is handed over for the good of society although (inevitably) this is not always used appropriately while the principle of Hokhmah is shown by the charity required to support those who live outside society through financial hardship. The path from Binah to Hokhmah shows how governments make institutional payments for this purpose while the reverse direction shows how free money (Hokhmah) is appropriated by governments for the common good.
At the least physical part of the tree the triad of the Divine (Keter-Hokhmah-Binah) we recognise that even those who are spiritual teachers need money to fulfil their daily life and so we support them either by ad hoc donations or by membership of a religious organisation. The semantics of “spiritual” and “religious” can be ignored for the purpose of this discussion, the essential point being that we have an awareness of our own financial needs which are beyond the physical and to use our resources for developing our spiritual body.
At the Keter of Yetzirah we are at the place of the three highest worlds and, in financial terms, recognise the truth of the old maxim “you can’t take it with you.” We have no use for money in the world beyond. Money in the world in which we have our physical existence is needed for us to experience that world and to learn the lessons for our souls to grow. How we use and treat money is part of that process but gold, coins and investments are only the tools, not the final objective.
While the principles which I have tried to set out in this article and in It Was Never About The Money are universal the personal circumstance are inevitably my own and everybody’s story will be different. However, it is the extent to which each of us engages with the Tree of Money which will determine the level at which we understand it and the degree to which we are able to demonstrate God’s image in our financial world
In the end, it was never about the money.
© Jonathon Clark 2021