A shamanic teacher reported to me recently that there was some feedback from someone angry that she was charging money for teaching something spiritual. I have seen the idea that spiritual things should be free - whether that's healing or classes.
I'd like to examine why that thinking is incorrect and where it might be coming from.
It's impractical to expect anyone to provide a service without some exchange
In a moment I'll talk about the supposed moral argument that spiritual healers and teachers shouldn't get paid, but let's focus on the purely practical aspects.
We live in a modern world. I have a family, a mortgage, and I just had to replace the furnace in my home. I find spiritual work extremely rewarding, but I also have to eat and feed my kids.
I have spent thousands of hours over many years learning my craft. I have to pay for travel, classes, supplies. Most practitioners have to pay for their healing space.
Our hearts are in the right place, but we simply couldn't do the work for people without a valuable exchange. In the times before money, there would be a collective caretaking of the spiritual leaders in the community. Housing and food would be provided communally in many cultures.
We don't live in that world. It's just not practical.
Further, spiritual work is work. It's OK to do it for free, but when there is an exchange of energy it can actually be more powerful. Money is a symbol of work - expended energy. You may find a teacher or practitioner willing to teach for other exchanges, on a sliding scale, etc.
I used to train martial arts at a Buddhist temple. I paid for those classes. There were live-in students, however, and their exchange was labor. They cooked, and cleaned, and gardened, and ran errands, Sitting in meditation all day, doesn't sweep the floor or cook the rice.
To paraphrase Madonna, we are spirits living in a physical world. We have to attend to body, mind, and spirit.
Money is unnecessarily seen as evil
You may have heard the quote from the bible, "money is the root of all evil." But this is probably the most often misquoted line from the Bible. The actual quote is, "For the love of money is the root of all evil."
This passage is talking specifically about greed, and how greed leads people off their spiritual path. It is not condemning money.
There is an argument to be made that money itself is a powerful tool of the patriarchy. The Romans discovered that it was easier to march their armies around with coins to buy wheels of cheese and loaves of bread than to cart huge amounts of food. around.
One belief I hold is that power itself is not good or evil, it's in the application. I can use a hammer to build a house or to club my neighbor. Money is a form of power. I can use it to feed myself and support charity, or I can use it to buy something harmful.
And yes, I recognize that the attachment to money has led many spiritual leaders down the wrong path.
We have weird views about money and spirituality
I recently watched the Netflix documentary, Wild Wild Country. This is about the spiritual leader Osho and his commune in the 1980s in Oregon.
His followers did some horrible things, like trying to poison political rivals. There's no argumnt there. But I was struck by how the narrative from the US government, the media, and the people around them focused on two things - sex and money.
Compared to sex and money, we have no worse psychological complexes as human society.
A big deal was made that Osho had a fleet of Rolls Royces and had bought up thousands of acres of land for his commune. This even became the topic of jokes on late-night TV with Johnny Carson.
But not one person who thought this was outrageous would complain that the Roman Catholic Pope sits on a gold throne in his own city and flies on private jets with an armed security force and drives around in a fleet of armored cars. We don't complain about the wealth in the megachurches or gold covered statues in some Hindu and Buddhist temples.
Historically there have always been religious sects which require vows of individual poverty from members. Some of these organizations have wielded extraordinary wealth. The Knights Templar, for example, were rich enough to loan money to countries.
I would argue that it's only our conception, our beliefs about money, that make it bad. There is nothing inherently bad or evil.
Shamans are all about the abundance
Shamans throughout the ages looked after the bodies, minds, and spirits of their community. This meant reading signs and accessing spirit to determine when to plant crops. Shamans would help ensure successful hunts.
Many ancient spiritual artifacts recovered by archaeologists depict figures associated with fertility.
What are fertility and a successful hunt if not material abundance? In days before money, it was all about the food.
In Japan, one might have a Shinto priest do a blessing for a successful business, and provide a charm to ensure prosperity. Likewise, Taoism is full of charms, rituals, and prescriptions for money.
In the US, we have the primarily African American syncretic practices of Hoodoo or Conjure. These practices have mane cures, spells, charms, even scents for attracting money.
In this respect, Shamanic practitioners who help clients are not different in not considering money evil. We all think differently. but I honestly think we should be helping our clients with issues from health to finances.
In my view, everything in this world has a spiritual component. Money is no different, it has a spiritual template and a mental and physical presence.
Shamanic healing may actually help with issues of financial prosperity. The toolbag of shamanism includes psychological wound-healing, clearing ancestral issues, and addressing the shadow. All of these are places where money blocks might occur.
So, for spiritual practitioners. money really isn't an issue, unless it's an issue. There's nothing inherently un-spiritual about an exchange or using money for that exchange. It is only rigid thinking that makes it so.