A few days ago Stephanie Connolly Reisner posted a great piece on material success and its relationship to magic. This was followed up by some musings from Harold Roth in the Alchemists Garden. Since my first two posts this week were about money magic I thought I might chime in on this topic as well, and just make this a Money Magic Week on the blog…
Obviously as the guy that wrote Financial Sorcery I have been asked more than a few times if my magic has made me rich. On one radio show I did, the interviewer basically laced into me from the start and just asked if I can do Financial Magic why am I not rich, without even checking to see if I was or wasn’t.
Like Stephanie though I am not dripping in wealth. I own a Prius, not a Model S. Like her I have a good life. I work doing something I love as a writer and a Sorcerer. I have enough to own my home, go on vacations, afford the kids and a reasonably good existence without going into debt beyond mortgage and car payments. A lot of people would be satisfied at this, but I am not. Not being in debt is not the same as being secure.
Secure to me means: having a years living expenses in a savings account, having retirement taken care of with passive income streams that will last for possibly 35+ years of old age, having 529′s set up for the kids college and life-cycle funds set up for their adult years and retirement. Like a lot of you I am still working on some of this, so no I am not wealthy even by my own definition, but for someone that left college to study magic and who spent their 20′s and most of their 30′s as a slacker convinced that money was somehow not compatible with the spiritual life – magic has done an amazing job of helping me turning my fiscal life around, so I call it success. That I am now in a position to help other people do the same makes me even more-so.
Harold in his piece notes that a wonder filled and satisfying life makes money trivial. I respectfully disagree. Unless you are the child of someone that gave you a big ass trust fund, money is NEVER trial. One big reason for my taking money onto my magical path is that I have been blessed to know a lot of spiritual teachers who led amazing lives and did fantastic magic but had a very tough time in their later years and were at times a little bitter and regretful about it. It is not a matter of them not being excellent magicians, just a matter of not really wanting to put much energy into that sphere until it was too late OR a matter of viewing financial concerns as somehow antithetical to a magical life.
When you are young and able to couch surf and eat whatever, the life seems awesome. When these folks got a little older and were elders in the community but still in their 30′s and 40′s and 50′s money again seemed not to be a big deal because people would rally around them, or they could travel and teach or whatever. When they got into their 70′s and 80′s however it becomes more difficult.
But should a life of magic be judged by financial success: No. Emphatically No. A life of magic is not a failure because of a lack of financial success or even security – it does however indicate something that maybe could have been handled better.
A lot of people judge Crowley because he ended his life in a boarding house. Anyone that thinks Crowley was not a good magician because he wound up living in a boarding house is judging an entire life by just a few years at the end – which is silly. They are also ignoring the MASSIVE impact that he had on all magic that came later, as well as the overall culture of our times. Whether you like him or not this impact really cannot be denied. Also, an English Boarding House is not exactly ending your life poorly. Its a rather good end to a long life, and he was not as destitute as many make him out to have been. He was impacting people like Arnold Crowther, Gerald Gardner, and Kenneth Grant right up through his last days – we should all be so lucky. That said, I would wager he was not quite satisfied with the way his life turned out. Certainly it would have been good if someone could have managed a more fitting final resting place for him than a tree at a dairy farm in New Jersey ( its a long story).
Money is not the main point of magic. If all you want is money, you should become a Hedge Fund Manager, not a Magus. That said, monetary success is one aspect to take into account when judging success, but it is only one. It should not be over-valued nor ignored. There are a lot of miserable rich people who’s time is dominated by making money doing something they hate, certainly happiness and sovereignty are more important indicators of success than numbers in a bank account. There are also a lot of relatively happy people who get by paycheck to paycheck, but that does not mean that money would make them less happy.
The myth of the happy poor person is a narrative invented to keep people subservient and working. It was an OK thing to buy into 40 years ago when a factory worker could make a comfortable and secure life for himself. It is a suicidal thing to tell yourself now.
In short, I judge peoples success more by their character, happiness, and sovereignty than I do by the amount of money they have. I keep in though that money plays a role in all three of those things.