Monday, May 23, 2016

Money Burners - Your Input Needed !

This morning I sent out an email to all the money burners I know.  It was a call for  writing, art, or any other media for Burning Issue The World's first magazine exclusively for the money burning community.

I can't reveal all the details in this public post.  There are some secret activities afoot that would be spoiled by early disclosure. If you are a money burner please email me as soon as possible and I will forward you the email so you can have your say in Burning Issue. Non-burners need not apply.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Money Wisdom #411

" is imperative to realise that alchemy is not creating something 'new'; rather, it is ultimately seeking to render the pristine ontology - the nondual ground of being - present to living perception. This underscores a significant point, for in understanding the goal of alchemy as 'perfection', it must be realised that the perfection in question is not teleological, but perennial. That is to say, the originary or primordial nature does not exist in the future, nor should it be confused with the past; it is, in the words of Gebser, ever-present and ever-originating:
Origin is ever-present. It is not a beginning, since all beginning is linked with time. And the present is not just the 'now', today, the moment or a unit of time. It is ever-originating, an achievement of full integration and continuous renewal. Anyone able to 'concretize', i.e., to realize and effect the reality of origin and the present in its entirety, supersedes 'beginning' and 'end' and the mere here and now. (Gebser Gesamtausgabe Vol 2, 15)
Whether the ever-present origin is cast in terms of the Taoist golden elixir (jindan), the Buddha-element of Tibetan alchemy (bud-dha-dhatu), or, in the western alchemical cosmologies, as the logos or potential cosmos subsisting as both initium and telos in the originary chaos, many of the world's alchemical traditions cohere in viewing the 'goal' of alchemy not as the creation of some future perfection, but rendering the present as a pre-existent, eternal incorruptibility. Whether alchemy proceeds by 'progress' or 'reversal', the core of the process must not be understood as reversion or advancement in a rigidly temporal sense, but rather as a process of 'polishing the mirror'. It is a purification of temporal accretions in order to let the boundless existentiating Urgrund shine forth in an unobstructed, uninhibited manner according to its innate, diaphanous nature. "

Aaron Cheak Circumambulating The Alchemical Mysterium in Alchemical Traditions (2013) p.42-43

Money Wisdom #410

" If alchemy appears elusive. it is precisely because it cuts across categories ordinarily seen as mutually exclusive. For this reason, alchemy maybe better approached not so much as a fixed domain of activity, but as a nondual process. Indeed, its sphere of operation is better comprehended as existing between domains, or better yet, as the medium in which more 'fixed' domains proceed. Like the fusible nature of metals, this medium may be regarded as the 'substance' from which fixed forms 'solidify', and into which they 'dissolve'. As such, it is the conditio sine qua non for transmutation and dissolution, for converting one form into another, and for dissolving and abrogating the familiar boundaries or borders between apparently fixed states. "

Aaron Cheak Circumambulating The Alchemical Mysterium in Alchemical Traditions (2013) p.32

Thursday, May 5, 2016

My Review of Mark C Taylor's 'Confidence Games'

This review appears on amazon here so if it immanentizes your eschaton do be a dear, pop over there and hit the like button. This van-driving philosopher-of-money really appreciates those little one-click ego-boosts, they really help get him through the day. Thank you most kindly.

Religion never goes away. It just takes on new forms.

"For a good deal of this book I speculated that a five star review seemed a certain outcome. I've ended up giving it four. If it were possible with Amazon's star system, I'd give it four and a half. The half-star loss relates to the divide between Taylor's exposition of theory and his application of theory.

In his exposition of theory Taylor delves in to the minds of the most exciting and perceptive writers on money in the last hundred years or so; Georg Simmel, Georges Bataille, Norman O Brown, and Marc Shell are my among personal favorites. Taylor also gives as clear an exposition of the philosophy of Hegel as I believe is possible. On his home ground of the philosophy of religion and in explaining the various strands of theology, Taylor in a magnificently clear writer. For me, the general picture of money that he paints in the book - that metaphysical ideas about Being underlie philosophical theories, which in turn underlie a further layer of economic theories, about money - is uncontroversial and irrefutable, although simultaneously largely ignored or forgotten by mainstream thought.

However when he applies those ideas and theories to create a financial and economic history, the book falters just a touch. It's certainly as good as most things I've read, and in many respects (largely because of his grasp of theology) much better. But it just didn't quite chime for me. The financial and economic histories that dominate the middle section of the book seem like a literature review that has too narrow a focus.. To say I was disappointed would be overstating it - this is still a brilliant book of exceptionally clarity given the complexity of its subject - but what I felt was that he didn't quite manage to deliver on what he (implicitly) promises. The beginning of the book situates the reader quite intimately within Taylor's life. It is written as a response to his young son's question to him after the 1987 stock market crash; 'Where did all the money go?' And although Taylor does reference one of his own financial adventures, as a reader I felt a little short changed in terms of an intimacy with Taylor himself. If the book had been a conversation, I'd have stopped him halfway through and said 'Yeah, but what do *you* think? What does money mean to you?'

Perhaps a more grounded criticism than the book's lack of intimacy could be leveled against Taylor's fluid use of the terms money, currency, finance, capital etc. They tended to meld into one another without a proper attempt to delineate, or at least describe each phenomena in terms of their differences to one another, This is a common problem with work on money. It's just a little surprising here, because Taylor seems so interested in the relation between language and money. For example, near the end of the book he gives a brilliant and persuasive dissection of the etymology of 'speculate'. One of Taylor's key notions can be summed up in the psychoanalytical phrase 'the return of the repressed' - or perhaps in philosophical terms the Nietzschean 'eternal return of the eversame'. He is right to highlight these ideas especially in relation to money which has a particularly mysterious relation to time and space.

In relation to these ideas. Taylor makes the key point that religion is not 'replaced' by art or capitalism, but rather merely 'displaced' and that each of them continue to work through one another. However, I'm not sure he manages to escape framing reality in evolutionary perspective - especially when he moves from the exposition of theory to its application. I think that he may have been helped if he could have teased apart money (the idea, outside time and space) and its representations as currency, capital, finance etc (the manifestations of the idea within time and space). A final niggling criticism might be his use of William Gaddis's novel as the theme to link the book together. It felt a little tagged on, rather than organic or intrinsic to the run of the text.

Often in my reviews I tend to criticize rather than praise. So to redress the balance a little I want to end on a more positive note. I was pleased to see him bringing together the work of Freud and Simmel. This is something few academics have done despite, what seem to me, the obvious affinities between their work. Even now, a decade or so after the publication of Confidence Games, and amidst a surge in interest in the brilliant 'Philosophy of Money' by Simmel, there is little written about what is shared in the thought of Freud and Simmel.

'Confidence Games' would be a book I'd put on every Economics 101 course. Making it required reading for economics students would reveal to them what lies underneath the surface of their area of study. Thinkers like Taylor (I could mention here Joel Kaye too) draw out the theological roots of economic analysis. Its to the detriment of the academic understanding of money that thinkers like Taylor and Phillip Goodchild (Theology of Money) are, for the most part, ignored by mainstream economic thought. This is especially true here in the UK where the theological perspective is often treated with some derision even by the broader social sciences (its only really in Literature studies that such works find a home). I have quite a large collection of books on money, and Taylor and Goodchild appear in no more than a couple of bibliographies. In the two best, most recent books on money - Dodd's 'The Social Life of Money' (2014) and Graeber's 'Debt' (2010) - their names and work are entirely absent. This is no criticism of Dodd or Graeber, it merely indicates that there is a gulf between studies of the social, and studies of the divine, that needs to be bridged.

Finally, as proof positive that Taylor has hit a home run with me (despite his mere four stars - he's in the best of company, I gave Norman O Brown's Life Against Death four stars too!!) I've added 'About Religion' to my bookshelf and I'm very much looking forward to reading a book by Taylor where he's writing on home ground. "

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Money Wisdom #409

"As the condition of the possibility of differences, virtual reality eludes the very structural oppositions it nonetheless enables. Neither present nor absent, here nor there, the virtual is spectral. To understand the importance of this point, it is helpful to note that the word specter harbors a tale with an intriguing web of associations. A specter is, of course, an apparition, phantom or ghost. The word derives from the Latin spectrum (appearance, image, apparition) whose stem, spek, means to see or regard. Spek is also the root of speculate as well as species. To speculate means both to mediate or reflect and to engage in buying or selling something with an element of risk on the chance of making a profit. The Latin species means, among other things, shape, form, outward appearance, and by extension, representation, image and appearance. While the English word species is most often used to designate the fundamental taxonomic category that ranks after genus, consisting of organisms capable of interbreeding, a less common meaning is more suggestive in this context. In the Roman Catholic Church, species designates the outward appearance or form of the eucharistic elements that is retained after their consecration. Specie, in contrast to species, is coined money. As I have already noted, in the medieval Catholic liturgy, one of the forms of the eucharistic wafer was a coin bearing a sacred insignia and inscription. The words of the priest perfect a process of transubstantiation through which the fiat currency of the wafer becomes the body of Christ, who is the absolute mediator between God and man. Within this economy of salvation, the divine mediator incarnate in the eucharistic coin is the currency of exchange, which makes redemption possible for human beings. When Christ dies and ascends to heaven, the divine does not disappear but remains to haunt the community of believers as a ghost or specter now deemed holy."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games (2004) p.323

Money Wisdom #408

"Religious visions that remain stuck in the oppositions and contradictions of the past pose a threat to the future. Simplistic beliefs are dangerous in an ever more complex world and therefore must be confronted directly and criticized vigorously. But the criticism alone is not enough. It is also necessary to develop alternative types of religion that might lead to new social, political, economic and cultural realities."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games (2004) p.313