Thursday, 6 January 2011

Capitalism and spirituality

I've been feeling a bit strange about my addiction to tarot of late.  Previously it manifested in a severe case of one-clickety-itus when it came to new deck purchases.  Back in 2010, however, it moved in a different direction, as I joined the Gaian Tarot Circle.

On the one hand, this is a lovely, friendly group dedicated to studying the Gaian Tarot, sharing learning and insights with one another, and trying to support our beautiful planet.  On the other, it is quite expensive (well TABI, the only other Tarot group I'm a part of, costs about one tenth as much).

And this isn't the only case in point.  Aeclectic now has a membership fee, with special privileges attached.  Likewise, there's Tarot Town where you have to pay a fee to be a full Citizen.

Now, there's no denying that these sites have some fabulous content, and that everyone needs to make a living in our society.  And of course, being a tarot lover, there's a part of me that is happy for my money to go to people and projects that I think are interesting and beautiful.  Still, there is a bit of me that wonders about both those that sell tarot in one way or another, and those that buy it.  Perhaps it's a feeling that something spiritual shouldn't be just another commodity...

I have had similar issues with yoga.  As a teacher, of course, I needed to make a living so didn't just offer free classes.  From the other side of the fence, most people just take classes, and the more capitalist side comes out in things such as multi-class offers and, especially, the yoga shop at the front desk where you can buy ridiculously-expensive-but-lovely yoga clothes, interesting books, DVD's, cards, chimes etc.

Compared to just buying tarot decks, in some ways I prefer the tarot communities where you are part of something, learning and growing.  In other ways, putting a price on belonging feels rather cold.

So what do you think?  Can spirituality and capitalism happily cohabit?  Or is something lost in the process?

Image: Six of Earth from Joanna Powell Colbert's Gaian Tarot.


  1. What about art, like stunning masterpieces, songs and other writings. Breath-taking paintings? Do you feel those things don't come from a deep spiritual place. What isn't "spiritual," especially if it's our passion, our love, our joy?

    So if a painting touches me so deeply that it spurs tears, then that person shouldn't really be paid for his work, right? I mean, if it spurs tears, I'd say that's spiritual. On the other hand, some "art" is blecky, ha ;) So maybe it's fine that these people get paid, lol

    One psychic teacher told me that she doesn't charge for her readings, she charges for her time :) But really, I don't think anyone should feel they have to dance around it like that.

    If someone is giving another their precious life's hours, no matter what field of endeavor, why shouldn't they be paid for it? The circle of exchange.

    Should someone who loves to bake cakes give them away? It truly fills her heart up to the brim (spiritual). I mean, heck, it's easy for her, she loves it, she's just playing, lol--why should she get paid for something she loves to do? ;)

    Note, we shouldn't be doing it if we don't love it. And if we love it, it's spiritual--and consequently beneficial to others.

    Okay, but let's say the cake-baker feels guilty for taking money for something that's like playtime for her. So she gives them away for free. But she still has to pay the rent and buy groceries. So she stops baking cakes all day long, and just bakes for half a day. And she takes a couple of part-time jobs to try to pay the bills. Oh, and of course, less baking means fewer people get to enjoy her heavenly cakes :)

    I think of it this way. If someone has a service or product that I'd love to try, but I don't feel I can afford, then I trust that means, that it simply isn't for me at that particular time. With that philosophy, people can charge whatever they like for their passionate/spiritual service or product, and I have no problem with it :)


  2. I hope you don't mind me jumping in here on this conversation, as it is a topic that is dear to my heart. I appreciate Dove's words so much as she has stated my feelings so articulately.

    For most of the 80's and 90's, I taught Goddess & Tarot classes for very little money and often waived the fee for people who said they couldn't afford it. I also worked essentially a full-time job with no pay for many years as managing editor of The Beltane Papers, one of the earliest journals of women's spirituality. I kept the prices on my artwork very low so that women could afford to buy it. During these years, I was constantly struggling to pay my bills and often lived off my credit cards. I was massively in debt and had no savings for the future.

    Around 2000, I gave up teaching spiritual classes, in part because I was so tired of the conversation around whether or not it's right to charge for spiritual work. And I was *very* tired of being poor. I started a web design business with great relief, because it was clean commerce, with no one to question my integrity over charging for spiritual teachings. It was about this time I also started working on the Gaian Tarot, and as you know it took me 9 years to finish it, in part because I had to fit in work on it around my web design business. We all know that making art for the love of it doesn't pay the bills.

    So now I'm nearly 60 years old. My retirement fund is still basically non-existent. I can't afford anymore to work just for the love of it; I have to make money, not only for my current living expenses, but also to put away for my elder years.

    If I put my time and energy into non-spiritual work like web design, not only does my own spirit suffer, but I'm not able to reach out and inspire and help others. I know from experience that I will not have the time and energy to do both.

    I have also learned over the years, that if someone really *really* wants to buy something, s/he will get very resourceful and find a way to do it.

    As far as the Gaian Tarot Circle community goes, it represents a significant cash investment for me, as well as an investment of time. It's not something I could afford to do if I didn't charge for it.

    Were people's lives changed by my web design business? Not really, although I helped some businesses grow. Are people's lives changed by my spiritual and creative work? Yes, they are. I know because they write to me and tell me so.

    So yes, I will go on charging money for the work of my heart, so that I continue to keep on doing it.

    Thank you for listening.

  3. Hi Dove,

    I thought your comment: "Note, we shouldn't be doing it if we don't love it. And if we love it, it's spiritual--and consequently beneficial to others." summed things up very nicely.

    Also, the idea that people will get together the money if they really *need* something on whatever level. It reminds me of one of the stories on the Gaian Tarot Forum - a woman who had wanted the deck since she'd seen the Majors only images, but hadn't been able to afford it. Then she had chosen going to the NY Readers Studio over buying the deck. Once there, though, she won it as a prize!

    I can also actually see an argument for spiritual things costing more, rather than less. After all, should spiritual growth be treated like a Big Mac - cheap ingredients and high turnover, with little or no love?

    I guess this argument also feeds into whether capitalism can or should value all things. Like the underlying economy where women, in particular, do so many things for free without which capitalist society would collapse - raising children (the future workforce) being the biggest of these.

    Perhaps one of the issues is about what value is put on things, and who decides. In that, I really like your comment about people charging what they feel is right or necessary, and others choosing how they spend their money - a prime example of voting with your feet, or in many cases these days, with your mouse :-)

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Dear Joanna,

    I hope you don't for a moment feel this post was meant as a criticism of you. As I say, I have the Gaian Tarot, which I adore, and I joined the Gaian Tarot Circle and think it's a wonderful place!

    I guess part of what inspired my post was precisely what you note - the large number of people who say that "spiritual" or healing services should be done for love rather than profit. I think there's also an element of considering something a "calling" - something we cannot refuse to do.

    This is something which has plagued me, too, first as a yoga teacher, then as a tarot reader, and now moving into counselling.

    I think another part of my issue is because I feel guilty at times about the amount of money I choose to invest in tarot decks, books, and communities. There's a part of me saying I could be giving that money to charity, if I want to do something spiritually up-lifting. But this returns me to the argument about supporting people and communities that are involved in projects I find beautiful, insightful and enlightening.

    Thank you, Joanna, for joining in this conversation, and so clearly explaining your position. You may have noticed that I used the same card to introduce this post as you did to introduce your "Marketplace" on the forum. I wanted something that would speak to sharing a community and the fruits of our labours.

    In this sense, I guess my only worry is about exclusion, but that brings us back to the question of choice and priorities - these are decisions each person must make for themselves.


  5. Oh Chloe, no I didn't feel at all like it was a criticism of me. Like I said, it's a topic close to my heart and I actually welcome a forum in which to discuss it. About exclusion -- there are a lot of free forums out there, like Aeclectic, and I can only assume that Solandia has been doing it as a labor of love all these years, along with a number of volunteers. The same with TABI, perhaps? As I said, I spent many years doing that too, but I just cant' anymore. And you are right, each person needs to set her or his own priorities. Blessings to you too!